Globalization and the law of one price
The hype around globalization in early-twenty-first-century political and economic debates may convey an impression that we now are in an entirely new phase of economic development. This chapter will show that the presumption is wrong. A dose of elementary economic history is often helpful when the popular media forget about the past.
Globalization is market integration on a world scale. Market integration means that domestic markets are increasingly dependent on international markets. Prices and hence factor rewards will reflect global rather than local demand and supply conditions. Globalization is the product of intensified trade, capital mobility and migration. In that process prices, interest rates and – with a time lag – wages tend to converge and react faster to international shocks. The first wave of globalization started in the middle of the nineteenth century when barriers to trade, migration and capital mobility were abolished or weakened at the same time as the speed of information transmission increased. In most respects markets were as globalized around 1900 as they were at the beginning of the present century. In fact labour mobility across borders was less restricted before 1914 than it is now. However, there was an anti-globalization backlash early in the twentieth century with two World Wars and the Great Depression. That policy reversal affected commodity, labour and capital markets to the extent that the late-nineteenth-century globalization level was not regained until the 1970s or 1980s, when the second globalization period gained momentum.
Market integration operates through trade and arbitrage and the ultimate manifestation of a fully integrated market is the law of one price. The law of one price proposes that the price of identical goods that are traded is the same in all geographical locations. This is strictly true, of course, only if transport and transaction costs are zero, which they are not.