"I believe in the five gas stations theory of the world.
That's right: I believe you can reduce the world's economies today
to basically five different gas stations.
First there is the Japanese gas station.
Gas is $5 a gallon. Four men in uniforms and white
gloves, with lifetime employment contracts, wait on you. They pump
your gas. They change your oil. They wash your windows, and they
wave at you with a friendly smile as you drive away in
Second is the American gas station.
Gas costs only $1 a gallon, but you pump it yourself. You wash your
own windows. You fill your own tires. And when you drive around
the corner four homeless people try to steal your hubcaps.
Third is the Western European gas station.
Gas there also costs $5 a gallon.
There is only one man on duty. He grudgingly pumps your
gas and unsmilingly changes your oil, reminding you all the time
that his union contract says he only has to pump gas and change
oil. He doesn't do windows. He Works only thirty-five hours a week,
with ninety minutes off each day for lunch, during which time the
gas station is closed. He also has six weeks' vacation every
summer in the south of France. Across the street, his two brothers
and uncle, who have not worked in ten years because their state
unemployment insurance pays more than their last job, are playing
Fourth is the developing-country gas station.
Fifteen people work there and they are all cousins. When you drive
in, no one pays any attention to you because they are all too busy
talking to each other. Gas is only 35 cents a gallon because it is
subsidized by the government, but only one of the six gas pumps
actually works. The others are broken and they are waiting for the
replacement parts to be flown in from Europe. The gas station is
rather run-down because the absentee owner lives in Zurich and
takes all the profits out of the country. The owner doesn't know that
half his employees actually sleep in the repair shop at night and
use the car wash equipment to shower.
Most of the customers at the developing-country gas station either
drive the latest-model Mercedes or a motor scooter nothing in
between. This place is alway busy, though because so many
people stop in to use the air pump to fill their bicycle tires.
Lastly there is the communist gas station.
Gas there is only 50 cents a gallon
-but there is none, because the four guys working there have
sold it all on the black market for $5 a gallon. Just one of the four
guys who is employed at the communist gas station is actually
there. The other three are working at second jobs in the
underground economy and come once a week to collect their
What is going on in the world today, in the very broadest sense, is
that through the process of glo-balization everyone is being forced
toward America's gas station. If you are not an American and don't
know how to pump your own gas, I suggest you learn. With the end
of the Cold War, globalization is globalizing Anglo-American-style
capitalism and the Golden Strait-jacket. It is globalizing American
culture and cultural icons.
It is globalizing the best of America and the worst of America. It is
globalizing the American Revolution and the American gas
station-But not everyone likes the American gas station and what it
stands for, and you can understand why. Embedded in the
Japanese, Western European and communist gas stations are
social contracts different from the American one, as wellas very
different attitudes about how markets should operate and be
controlled. The Europeans and the Japanese believe in the state
exercising power over the people and over markets, while
Americans tend to believe more in empowering the people and
letting markets be as free as possible to sort out who wins and
Because the Japanese, Western Europeans and communists are
uncomfortable with totally unfettered markets and the unequal
benefits and punishments they distribute, their gas stations are
designed to cushion such inequalities and to equalize rewards.
Their gas stations also pay more attention to the distinctive
traditions and value preferences of their communities. The
Western Europeans do this by employing fewer People, but paying
them higher wages and collecting higher taxes to generously
support the unemployed and to underwrite a goody bag of other
The Japanese do it by paying people a little less but guaranteeing
them lifetime employment, and then protecting those lifetime jobs
and benefits by restricting foreign competitors from entering the
The American gas station, by contrast, is a much more efficient
place to drive through:the customer is king; the gas station has no
social function; its only purpose is to provide the most gas at the
cheapest price. If that can be done with no employees at all-well, all
the better. A flexible labor market will find them work somewhere
else. Too cruel, you say? Maybe so. But, ready or not, this is the
model that the rest of the world is increasingly being pressured to
America is blamed for this because, in so many ways, globaliza-tion is
us-or is at least perceived that way by a lot of the world. The three
democratizations were mostly nurtured in America. The Golden
Straitjacket was made in America and Great Britain.
The Electronic Herd is led by American Wall Street bulls. The most
powerful agent pressuring other countries to open their markets for free
trade and free investment is Uncle Sam, and America's global armed
forces keep these markets and sea lanes open for this era of
globalization, Just as the British navy did for the era of globalization in the
Joseph Nye, Jr., dean of the Harvard University Kennedy School,
summarized this reality well when he noted: "In its recent incarnation,
globalization can be traced in part back to American strategy after World
War II and the desire to create an open international economy to forestall
another depression and to balance Soviet power and contain
The institutional framework and political pressures for opening markets
were a product of American power and policy. But they were reinforced by
developments in the technology of transportation and communications
which made it increasingly costly for states to turn away from global market
forces." In other words, even within the Cold War system America was
hard at work building out a global economy for its own economic and
As a result, when the information revolution, and the three
democratizations, came together at the end of the 1980s, there was a
power structure already in place that was very receptive to these trends
and technologies and greatly enhanced their spread around the world. As
noted earlier, it was this combination of American power and strategic
interests, combined with the made-in-America information revolution, that
really made this second era of globalization possible, and gave it its
distinctly American face.
Today, globalization often wears Mickey Mouse ears, eats Big Macs,
drinks Coke or Pepsi and does its computing on an IBM PC, using
Windows 98, with an Intel Pentium II processor and a network link from
Cisco Systems. Therefore, while the distinction between what is
globalization and what is Americanization may be clear to most
Americans, it is not-unfortunately-to many others around the world. In most
societies people cannot distinguish anymore among American power,
American exports, American cultural assaults, American cultural exports
and plain vanilla globalization. They are now all wrapped into one.
I am not advocating that globalization should be Americanization-but
pointing out that that is how it is perceived in many quarters. No wonder
the Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shim-bun carried a headline on
June 4, 1999, about a conference in Tokyo on globalization that referred to
the phenomenon as "The American-Instigated Globalization." When many
people in the developing world look out into this globalization system what
they see first is a recruiting poster that reads: UNCLE SAM WANTS YOU
(for the Electronic Herd).
Martin Indyk, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, told me a story that
illustrates this point perfectly. As ambassador, he was called upon to open
the first McDonald's in Jerusalem. I asked him what he said on the
occasion of McDonald's opening in that holy city, and he said, "Fast food
for a fast nation." But the best part, he told me later, was that McDonald's
gave him a colorful baseball hat with the McDonald's logo on it to wear as
he was invited to eat the first ceremonial Big Mac in Jerusalem's first
McDonald's-with Israeli television filming every bite for the evening news.
The restaurant was packed with young Israelis eager to be on hand for this
historic event. Wliile Ambassador Indyk was preparing to eat Jerusalem's
first official Big Mac, a young Israeli teenager worked his way through the
crowd and walked up to him. The teenager was carrying his own
McDonald's hat and he handed it to Ambassador Indyk with a pen and
asked. "'Are you the ambassador? Can I have your autograph?"
Somewhat sheepishly, Ambassador Indyk replied. "Sure. I've never been
asked for my autograph before."As Ambassador Indyk took the hat and
prepared to sign his name on the bill, the teenager said to him, "Wow,
what's it like to be the ambassador from McDonald's, going around the
world opening McDonald's restaurants everywhere?"
Stunned, Ambassador Indyk looked at the Israeli youth and said. "No, no.
I'm the American ambassador-not the ambassador from McDonald's!"
The Israeli youth looked totally crestfallen. Ambassador Indyk described
what happened next: "I said to him, 'Does this mean you don't want my
autograph?' And the kid said, no, I don't want your autograph, and he took
his hat back and walked away."
No wonder that the love-hate relationship that has long existed between
America and the rest of the world seems to be taking on an even sharper
edge these days. For some people Americanization-globalization feels
more than ever like a highly attractive, empowering, incredibly tempting
pathway to rising living standards.
For many others, though, this Americanization-globalization can breed a
deep sense of envy and resentment toward the United States-envy
because America seems so much better at riding this tiger and
resentment because Americanization-globalization so often feels like the
United States whipping everyone else to speed up, Web up, downsize,
standardize and march to America's cultural tunes into the Fast World.
While I am sure there are still more lovers of America than haters out
this chapter is about the haters. It is about the other backlash against
globalization-the rising resentment of the United States that has been
triggered as we move into a globalization system that is so heavily
influenced today by American icons, markets and military night.
As the historian Ronald Steel once pointed out: "It was never the Soviet
Union but the United States itself that is the true revolutionary power. We
believe that our institutions must confine all others to the ash heap of
history. We lead an economic system that has effectively buried every
other form of production and distribution-leaving great wealth and
sometimes great ruin in its wake.
The cultural messages we transmit through Hollywood and McDonald's go
out across the world to capture and also undermine other societies. Unlike
more traditional conquerors, we are not content merely to subdue others:
We insist that they be like us. And of course for their own good. We are
world's most relentless proselytizers. The world must be democratic. It
must be capitalistic. It must be tied into the subversive messages of the
World Wide Web. No wonder many feel threatened by what we represent."
The classic American self-portrait is Grant Wood's American Gothic, the
straitlaced couple, pitchfork in hand, expressions controlled, stoically
standing watch outside the barn. But to the rest of the world, American
Gothic is actually two twenty-something American software engineers who
come into your country wearing long hair, beads and sandals, with rings in
their noses and paint on their toes. They kick down your front door,
overturn everything in the house, stick a Big Mac in your mouth, fill your
kids' heads with ideas you've never had or can't understand, slam a cable
box onto your television, lock the channel to MTV, plug an Internet
connection into your computer and tell you :
"Download or die."
That's us. We Americans are the apostles of the Fast World, the enemies
of tradition, the prophets of the free market and the high priests of high
tech. We want "enlargement" of both our values and our Pizza Huts.
We want the world to follow our lead and become democratic, capitalistic,
with a Web site in every pot, a Pepsi on every lip, Microsoft Windows in
every computer and most of all-most of all-with everyone, everywhere,
pumping their owngas."