Besides being asked to tie together those three subjects, I’ve been asked to “focus on the urgency of striking a balance between ‘culture’ and ‘enterprise’ — crucial today as global capital and labor markets alter the traditional routines of economic life in first‐, second‐ , and third‐world societies.” That assumes that culture and enterprise need to be balanced, which implies that as one increases, the other decreases, and vice versa. More culture would mean less enterprise, and more enterprise would mean less culture. Moreover, we were told that finding the right balance is a matter of “urgency.” I see no reason to make such assumptions, although to understand the issues better it might help to focus first on what is meant by the terms culture, enterprise, and globalization.
The best place to start is with some rough definitions. Here is how I will be using terms:
1. “Culture” is used in a multitude of ways, including the cultivation of certain human capabilities; art (typically the term is reserved for “high” art; reaction against that has fueled much academic study of “popular culture”); and the concrete forms of life that people lead in common. The focus of this conference is on culture in what Peter Berger calls “its conventional social scientific sense: as the beliefs, values, and lifestyles of ordinary people in their everyday existence.“1 In particular, I will use “culture” to refer to the norms and systems of norms that structure and guide behavior. Used that way, the concept subsumes the virtues as guides to behavior, as well as the systems of incentives more commonly studied by economists.2
2. “Enterprise” refers to the willingness or ability to undertake projects or transactions. The term could be used without reference to the nature of the project itself, such that one might be an enterprising thief (e.g., one who undertakes to take away what does not belong to him), or an enterprising farmer (e.g, one who undertakes to improve the productivity of his land), or an enterprising merchant (e.g., one who undertakes to buy goods where they are relatively plentiful and cheap and take them to where they are rare and expensive). I’ll limit my use of the term to those undertakings that do not involve force or fraud, setting to the side the enterprising thief, mobster, or shakedown artist. Thus, for “enterprise” one should understand the implicit modifer “free,” as in “free enterprise.”
3. “Globalization” refers to the diminution or elimination of state‐enforced restrictions on exchange across political borders and to the increasingly integrated and complex global system of exchange, commerce, and production that emerges as a result of such diminutions or eliminations of state‐enforced restrictions on exchange across political borders. Globalization is the assertion of legal equality among transactors, without regard to political borders. If two or more persons on the same side of a border are legally entitled to undertake a project or exchange, allowing the same freedom when one or more is on another side of a political border is nothing more than recognizing the equality of human rights.
Globalization is an old process, although it has proceeded sometimes more rapidly, sometimes more slowly, and sometimes interrupted by retrograde motion, as was the case between 1914 until after the Second World War. Ethnic mingling is hardly a modern phenomenon, despite the fantasies of romantic nationalists and racists. As William H. McNeill noted, trade played a key role in the process of what the enemies of the market often refer to as “mongrelization”: “a factor in civilized life that assured ethnic mingling: the exchange of goods across cultural boundaries through some sort of organized trade.“3 As McNeill notes, the presence of resident aliens, often in the form of merchant or mechanic subcommunities, is as old as recorded history: