This post is inspired by the Brexit vote, but the concerns are truly global and have been accelerating over several centuries. Hard to say exactly when globalization started, but really once humans overcame their distrust enough to trade goods with strangers there developed a rise in our standard of living. Long distance trading was significant well before the time of Christ
Trade brought more choice in food, clothing, utensils. Most people did not directly take part in this and were mostly marginally beneficial. As trade stepped up more people benefited. Marco Polo was an interesting example. He, his father and uncle risked their lives and fortune traveling to China. Trade had been going on over the centuries within and between Asia, Europe and Africa , but for most people we saw only the products brought back. Ideas were also traveling, but the average person was unaware.
People were moving as well. Slavery was often the result of wars with many unwilling people forced to travel to strange places to labor for others. Much of America's early wealth was the result of slave labor forcibly shipped from Africa and dehumanized. Traders sometimes found themselves living far from their homes and some adapted quite well. Other ordinary citizens moved for safety or financial reasons, but often bringing new skills and ideas to safe havens.
The United Kingdom is a blend of Scandinavians, Germans and French among others. Other races left tiny footprints in the British Isles. People went where they could get a job and other countries often reached out for skilled workers and mercenaries. The British Empire, desiring tea grew opium to trade with China who didn"t want any British goods, resulting in Opium Wars.
North and South America were devoid of any humans until people crossed at Alaska--others speculate that Polynesians crossed the Pacific. Eventually Europeans landed in America and started to exploit its resources..
We in the west overlook that Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have taken several million refugees and have suffered much more than ourselves.
Admittedly immigrants do put downward pressure on wages. It seems some downtrodden people are willing to work as hard for a bicycle as we would work for a car. It is not their fault, but as time goes future generations adopt native attitudes. Inequality is even more extreme taken on a global scale.
Communications have been increasingly global from pigeons to cables under the oceans and now increasingly wireless. Language is less of a barrier. We certainly have better opportunities to learn about people on the other side of the world, and so do they. Eventually knowledge will prevail, but many barriers have to be overcome.
Free trade rules are set up by those in power for their benefit. They want new markets, cheap parts and labor. They don't want any regulations restricting their business practices. As a small investor there are funds set up in all sorts of foreign countries. I have invested a small amount in an India fund that I feel confident their hard work and ingenuity will make me seem smarter than I really am.
Multi national companies are reaching out to markets in other countries, setting up manufacturing and even management Corporations are for profit, meaning reducing costs and increasing revenues. That means whenever possible they will have labor done in the cheapest areas with the least restrictions on processes. Taxation often dictates where they operate.
Globalization is viewed by many as manipulation from elite people for selfish ends. Those who make the rules almost always take their own interests to account. The best hope is they take a long range view. Balance is in everyone best interest.
Causes of immigration are always the same: fear and greed. We overlook our involvement--we in the West drive climate change, we voted for leaders that saw violence and deception as the way to solve problems.
Does the average person get any benefit? Well in some cases people who did not have work now do, but unfortunately others lose their jobs or take a hit in wages and job security. In a cultural sense most people would admit they enjoy many things that come from other cultures, although many might not be aware--pizza, tacos and increasingly sushi are eaten everywhere. Movies and music and books are enjoyed across borders. Overall poverty and hunger are being reduced.
All of humanity share future concerns. Inequality, climate change/pollution, automation, (nuclear) war are all to be feared. But there are opportunities. Automation can free up humans from boring, demanding manual labor. The air, water and soils can boost our health instead of degrading it. Climate change is a tough one demanding international co-operation if it is be controlled. Inequality makes it difficult for greater understanding and co-operation for all humans.
Any change to the plans of the elites will be resisted and they are skilled and powerful at manipulation
Some people think the biggest hope is the inter-net. The elites are still trying to control it, but for the most part more people communicate across borders every day. Information is power. Education is also power and there are efforts to control it.
While capital is truly globalized, labor is not. In many countries unions have declined under political pressure. The working class in many cases were complicit in this. For instance in the United States the pro business party has attracted many votes for single issue social concerns such as abortion, gay rights, gun rights but are really more interested in benefiting the elites. Voter education is key, but very difficult.
Germany is an example of a country that works with unions and it is part of their success. Employees are stake holders in a company and often have a longer relationship than investors.
Climate change in many ways has already impacted us, but not to average consciousness. A big part of that, drought created pressures in the Mid-East that have fueled conflict. This can increase stresses elsewhere--forest fires, floods. Israel right now is making it difficult for Palestinians to get water.
International trade agreements will not win the support of the working class if they do not participate. This is true of any strategic plan At a minimum I would like to see a credible representative of environmental concerns and of labor have veto power.
When we work together we are all stronger. Freedom is not given so much as it is taken.