The Great Global Retreat

Coca-Cola CEO Roberto Goizueta’s motto was “Think Global, Act Local.” Confused by this message, one of his successors, Doug Daft, changed it to “Think Local, Act Local.” Does either apply now? 

In 1965, media philosopher Marshall McLuhan coined the term “the global village.” That was 40 years before New York Times columnist Tom Friedman celebrated global interdependency in his 2005 book, The World Is Flat. In fact, in 1996, Friedman even more optimistically proclaimed that no two nations that both had McDonald’s franchises would wage war. Sadly, that wasn’t true in Africa, the Middle East or Central Europe back when he wrote it, and the 110 McDonald’s restaurants in Ukraine and 860 McDonald’s in Russia underscore just how naive the sentiment remains today. 

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink recently remarked on the fizzling of the era of globalization in his firm’s annual report. “The Russian invasion of Ukraine has put an end to the globalization we have experienced over the last three decades,” he wrote. 

This sudden shift in sentiment has come as something of a shock to business leaders and CEOs, given that the promotion of business economic interdependence beyond simple mercantile colonization has been a steady drumbeat since economist David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage.

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