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What Television Frustration Says About Globalization

Expectations of a relaxing Sunday in front of the television watching football gave way to frustration and disappointment. In the process, I gained insights on the challenges facing G-20 officials when it comes to managing the global economy. Let me explain.

After holding out for years, I succumbed this season to the NFL package on DirecTV. The promise was overwhelming: watch any game; watch more than one simultaneously; and follow summary channels that take you to the best part of all games.

In other words, I could do much, much more that my original objective -- that of watching my beloved Jets every week.

Well, that was the theory. In practice, it has been a volatile experience: one that has mixed enormous football satisfaction with intense and costly disappointment. And the latter have left me feeling powerless and inadequate.

Today was a perfect illustration.

After an early morning of work, I settled in front of the Jets game with sky-high expectations. These came crashing down when the TV suddenly refused to respond to the remote control.

I tried everything. I reset the remote by removing the battery. I pressed (albeit randomly) all kinds of buttons on the hardware. I asked my wife to help me. All to no avail.

The result: no football and the likelihood of yet another costly service call on Monday, or as soon as the "techs" can fit us in.

To make things worse, I don't know who to blame.

Is it DirecTV's fault or that of the "universal remote?" Is it a Wi-Fi problem or due to the overly complex "entertainment system" we inherited from the prior occupants of our home?

I simply don't know. Moreover, I recognize that it could well be the operator's fault -- i.e., my shortcoming. Indeed, my family has often heard me yearn for the old days when all I needed to do was pull the on/off button on the TV, rotate the channel selector and tweak the rabbit-ear antenna.

I suspect that many G-20 officials may experience similar feelings when it comes to their management of the global economy.

Globalization offers so much upside. And officials have seen its powerful dynamics in play during prolonged periods of high growth, productivity gains, job creation and poverty alleviation.

Yet, every once in a while, the globe's inter-connectiveness goes from being a significant benefit to fueling disruption and frustration. The 2008 global financial crisis is a recent illustration; and its enormous damage is still with us today.

I suspect that, like me today, most G-20 officials feel powerless facing this barbelled distribution of outcomes.

Luckily, I have the ability to call an expert to come fix my TV. The G-20 does not have this luxury. Yet their cost-benefit analysis ends up like mine: Continue to aspire to a smooth harvesting of globalization's promising upside; and have to deal with occasional, large and costly letdowns.