A Thought-Provoking Forward

December 4, 2010 at 11:07 am (By Amba)

Not much hope that enough people will act on it — because in this economy lowest price rules, and because people just won’t be bothered; they have too many worries and diversions on their minds.

But who knows.  Maybe if the right celebrities and media picked up on it.  Maybe it could become a viral meme.

>   One Light Bulb at a Time
>
>   A physics teacher in high school, once told the students that while one grasshopper on the railroad tracks wouldn’t slow a train very much, a billion of them would. With that thought in mind, read the following, obviously written by a good American.
>
>   Good idea . . . one light bulb at a time . . .
>
>   Check this out. I can verify this because I was in Lowes the other day – I was looking at the hose attachments. They were all made in China . The next day I was in ACE Hardware, and just for the heck of it, I checked the hose attachments there. They were made in USA .
>
>   Start looking — In our current economic situation, every little thing we buy or do affects someone else – even their job. So, after reading this email, I think this lady is on the right track. Let’s get behind her!
>
>   My grandson likes Hershey’s candy. I noticed, though, that it is marked made in Mexico now. I do not buy it anymore..
>
>   My favorite toothpaste, Colgate is now made in Mexico . I have switched to Crest.
>
>   You have to read the labels on everything . . .
>
>   This past weekend I was at Kroger. I needed 60 Watt light bulbs and dryer sheets. I was in the light bulb aisle, and right next to the GE brand that I normally buy was an off-brand labeled “Everyday Value.” I picked up both brands of bulbs and compared the stats – they were the same, except for the price. The GE bulbs were more money than the Everyday Value brand – – – but the thing that surprised me the most was the fact that GE was made in MEXICO and the Everyday Value brand was made in the USA, in a company in Cleveland, Ohio!
>
>   So on to another aisle – Bounce Dryer Sheets . . . . . yep, you guessed it, Bounce cost more money and is made in Canada. The Everyday Value brand was less money and MADE IN THE USA! I did laundry yesterday and the dryer sheets performed just like the Bounce Free I have been using for years and at almost half the price!
>
>   So throw out the myth that you cannot find products you use every day that are made right here. My challenge to you is to start reading the labels when you shop for everyday things and see what you can find that is made in the USA – the job you save may be your own or your neighbor’s!
>
>   If you accept the challenge, pass this on to others in your address book so we can all start buying American, one light bulb at a time! (We should have awakened a decade ago!)
>
>   Let’s get with the program . . . we have the power to help our fellow Americans keep their jobs and create more jobs here in the USA.
>
>   I passed this on . . . will you?

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42 Comments

  1. Jason (the commenter) said,

    Interesting idea, but not a well thought out one. If you want to compete with China you should be looking at improving your individual productivity. That means buying Chinese goods if they are cheaper than American ones, and not buying things unless you absolutely need them.

    Become more stingy and stoic. And be more open to change. Is there a cheaper place you could live? Is there a better paying job you could get? Do you need a pet?

    The Chinese did not get where they are today by buying only Chinese goods, they got there by buying the cheapest goods possible and spending the least amount possible to live their lives.

    Give it a try. You’ll have more money at the end of the month than you used to!

  2. amba12 said,

    That means buying Chinese goods if they are cheaper than American ones

    Interesting thought — reward the lean and mean. The problem is, we are a fat empire on its way down and they’re a lean empire on its way up. Americans won’t (and to some extent can’t, because of cost of living) work as hard for as little as Chinese. But our notion of cost of living includes flat-panel TVs.

    Become more stingy and stoic.

    I could hardly become more stingy and stoical. Well, except that yes, I do need a pet. That’s nonnegotiable for me, almost everything else is negotiable. Almost. (We’re all spoiled. Fly in an airport, watch people lining up for their Starbucks and supersized Cinnabons and souvenir T-shirts and shit, and you won’t believe we are in a recession.)

  3. Ron said,

    We got the empire we got precisely because we showed no brand loyalty, or national loyalty either. Here it is not the merchant or the producer or the producing country that is king, it is the consumer. It’s what has made our retail remarkably efficient compared to practically anyone elses.

    We’ve been fumbling the transition to the future, not from the past.

  4. Tweets that mention A Thought-Provoking Forward « Ambiance -- Topsy.com said,

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Annie Gottlieb, Julia Kolker. Julia Kolker said: RT @amba12: A viral meme, a subversive thought: BUY AMERICAN! http://wp.me/puI4u-YU […]

  5. Donna B. said,

    Since I think the stability and prosperity of both Canada and Mexico are important to our own, I have no qualms about buying products made in either country.

    I’m actually thrilled to find products made in Mexico.

  6. Beth said,

    China has gotten where it is as well because of terrible labor practices, poor quality controls and other cost-cutting factors. We’ve already been through that period, the Victorian Age, and decided there were other values, in addition to monetary costs, that are worth putting into the mix.

  7. E. said,

    My wife bought an 8 ft. bookshelf yesterday at Walmart. She was amazed how well the instructions were laid out, all the parts were extremely well labeled and it was easy to put together and $99. She said more than once how impressed she was with the product. She couldn’t believe it was made in China when things were so clear… it wasn’t

    Made in the USA.

    She intends to email / mail the company and tell them to keep up the good work and how impressed she was with the product.

  8. realpc said,

    Instead of spending time reading labels, I think we should wonder why those light bulbs and things are not being made in the US. There might be some good reasons American companies prefer to manufacture in China or Mexico or Canada. And if an item made in China costs more than the same thing made in the US, that should make you wonder what’s going on.

    The obvious reason Chinese stuff is usually cheeper is the Chinese have no labor laws or human rights. As someone said already, Europe and America used to be like that also. It’s nice we have human rights, but have we gone too far?

    (But Canada has human rights, so that is not the whole explanation.)

    Should a job that can be done by anyone have generous pay and benefits, just because it’s unionized? Didn’t that help to kill our auto industry? And maybe textiles and others? Could we possibly find a balance?

    The rise of China is just more evidence that you can’t make life nice and comfy for all humans in all times and places. The lean and mean upstart will always win over the fat and comfy, sooner or later.

  9. Beth said,

    Americans aren’t stuffing themselves into cargo ships, and hiding in containers to slip through immigration and go live and work in China. There must be a reason for that, and I agree with realpc that figuring out a balance between good labor laws and good profit practices is one key to maintaining the lifestyle we value, and the values that we respect. I don’t see why I wouldn’t want that for Chinese workers, as well, that they can make good money in good jobs, and buy their own products and ours. Chinese profits encourage us to find better way to be efficient; don’t good labor practices and quality control here encourage Chinese people to lobby for those things as well?

  10. amba12 said,

    E.: Well, dang! Way to go, Wal-Mart!

    Maybe (Beth), American ingenuity is turning its laser eye on how to make things as cheaply as the Chinese, but better — and without slave-wage labor.

  11. Jason (the commenter) said,

    China and Mexico. Why do we want their jobs exactly? It’s the Europeans we should be looking at as competitors; they have the jobs we should be encouraging to come to America.

    I’ve been to China, I’ve been in Chinese factories. Talk of unionization, labor laws, and the value of the yuan are pretty much red herrings. I would have us reform zoning laws before anything else if we wanted to compete with China for jobs.

  12. realpc said,

    “American ingenuity is turning its laser eye on how to make things as cheaply as the Chinese, but better — and without slave-wage labor.”

    For a Chinese factory worker, it is not slave wages. They choose to work in the factory because it’s much better than what they had before. They will probably save money and send their children to school, who will have better jobs. I don’t know if you even need unions for this process, maybe unions were just incidental.

  13. realpc said,

    I meant to say, unions in America are credited with improving life for the working class. But maybe life just improved for everyone as prosperity increased.

  14. Theo Boehm said,

    According to classical theory, the perfect economic person seeks the greatest good/utility for the least price. One aspect of utility that is often overlooked is whether or not the goods you buy are poisonous.

    China has become famous for its slipshod quality control and environmental recklessness. They just don’t care, especially about the rest of the world, although it’s bad enough at home.

    Everybody knows about the tainted Chinese pet food, and, of course, there have been other, less well-publicized cases. One, known to me personally, is that of radioactive plumbing parts. I found this out because we sometimes use so-called “nickel silver” or “German silver” in my business, and I have contacts among suppliers. This is an alloy of approximately 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc, often used for musical instrument parts, costume jewelery, keys, coins, etc. It is also the ususal tubing from which pull-out or rabbit-ear antennas are made. And, because it doesn’t corrode and is easy to machine, it’s frequently used for valve stems and other faucet and specialized plumbing parts. Oddly enough, the alloy had its origins in China, Europeans only developing their own version in the late 18th century. It became ubiquitous in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but was displaced to one degree or another by aluminum and other cheaper metals as surface finishes improved during the 1900’s.

    A plumbing fixture manufacturer I know of had a radiation detector in the Port of Los Angeles go off on a container of faucets from China. Why? Well, making the nickel-silver alloy is difficult and requires a flux to help the metals dissolve in one another. Traditionally, this had been, I believe, barium carbonate or witherite, and I think other barytes had been used, too. Barium compounds were banned from such uses starting in the 1930’s because of concerns over toxicity from the leaching of soluble forms of barium.

    Our manufacturer found, however, that not only were there traces of barium in the metal and parts they bought from China, but at least in one case, the Chinese seemed to have been attempting to solve their radioactive medical waste problem by incorporating it into nickel silver parts meant for export. The radioactive waste apparently contained some barium, so, the reasoning seems to have been, why not kill two birds with one stone? Throw the medical waste in the melt: The barium in it will help alloying process, and we’ll get rid of this stuff and dump it in America. Thank God, at least in this example, the radioactivity was strong enough to set off detectors. The unnamed manufacturer has since established on-site quality-control procedures to assure it purchases no more out-of-spec metals.

    But how many other Chinese products are similarly polluted? I know of another instance, told to me by a plastics engineer, where a quality-control supervisor for a consumer products company was getting kickbacks to accept what was described as “Chinese mystery mix” to include in its plastic parts and containers, which, of course, were supposed to meet FDA standards. Did they? Who knows? Certainly nobody on the American side. The engineer left the company largely because of this situation.

    How many other cases are there of Chinese disregard for the health and safety of their customers? The Chinese are famous for their disregard for their own, overlarge population, the ethics seeming to be, “There’re more where they came from.” But until I am persuaded otherwise by proven improvements in the quality and safety of the goods, I try to avoid Chinese-made products like the plague they are.

  15. Icepick said,

    I’m actually thrilled to find products made in Mexico.

    Then buy a new home – that will have been made by Mexicans, which is almost the same thing.

  16. Icepick said,

    Theo, in Central Florida (and I’m sure other places central to the mid-2000s housing boom) we’ve had a problem with contaminated Chinese drywall – too much sulfer, which leaks out and damages everything from electronics to sinuses. And how funny is it that the Florida economic boom was fueled by Chinese construction material and Mexican labor? The only thing American in the whole deal was the cheap dollars, courtesy of the Fed.

    So Jason, buying the cheapest stuff available isn’t always the smartest choice.

  17. Icepick said,

    The Chinese did not get where they are today by buying only Chinese goods, they got there by buying the cheapest goods possible and spending the least amount possible to live their lives.

    All Hail the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution!

    Also, saying that we should just buy the cheapest stuff available misses both externalities and higher order effects. Buying Chinese means subsidising truly horrible environmental practices, among other things. It is a way to keep one’s own environment nice and clean while pissing in someone else’s soup.

    As for the higher order consequences, I’ll turn that over to a talk from Charlie Munger back in 2003.

    …Another example of not thinking through the consequences of the consequences is the standard reaction in economics to Ricardo’s law of comparative advantage giving benefit on both sides of trade. Ricardo came up with a wonderful, non-obvious explanation that was so powerful that people were charmed with it, and they still are, because it’s a very useful idea. Everybody in economics understands that comparative advantage is a big deal, when one considers first order advantages in trade from the Ricardo effect. But suppose you’ve got a very talented ethnic group, like the Chinese, and they’re very poor and backward, and you’re an advanced nation, and you create free trade with China, and it goes on for a long time.

    Now let’s follow and second and third order consequences: You are more prosperous than you would have been if you hadn’t traded with China in terms of average well-being in the United States, right? Ricardo proved it. But which nation is going to be growing faster in economic terms? It’s obviously China. They’re absorbing all the modern technology of the world through this great facilitator in free trade, and, like the Asian Tigers have proved, they will get ahead fast. Look at Hong Kong. Look at Taiwan. Look at early Japan. So, you start in a place where you’ve got a weak nation of backward peasants, a billion and a quarter of them, and in the end they’re going to be a much bigger, stronger nation than you are, maybe even having more and better atomic bombs. Well, Ricardo did not prove that that’s a wonderful outcome for the former leading nation. He didn’t try to determine second order and higher order effects.

    If you try and talk like this to an economics professor, and I’ve done this three times, they shrink in horror and offense because they don’t like this kind of talk. It really gums up this nice discipline of theirs, which is so much simpler when you ignore second and third order consequences.

    The best answer I ever got on that subject – in three tries – was from George Schultz. [Schultz was an MIT economics professor before becoming Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of State.] He said, “Charlie, the way I figure it is if we stop trading with China, the other advanced nations will do it anyway, and we wouldn’t stop the ascent of China compared to us, and we’d lose the Ricardo- diagnosed advantages of trade.” Which is obviously correct. And I said, “Well George, you’ve just invented a new form of the tragedy of the commons. You’re locked in this system and you can’t fix it. You’re going to go to a tragic hell in a handbasket, if going to hell involves being once the great leader of the world and finally going to the shallows in terms of leadership.” And he said, “Charlie, I do not want to think about this.” I think he’s wise. He’s even older than I am, and maybe I should learn from him.

    Not encouraging. The text of that whole talk can be found here. I originally caught that gem at Steve Hsu’s site in this post.

    Incidentally, Jason, how do you feel about energy independence?

  18. Donna B. said,

    I’m actually thrilled to find products made in Mexico. –me

    Then buy a new home – that will have been made by Mexicans, which is almost the same thing. –Icepick

    Oh really? You think having illegal immigrants from Mexico working outside our laws and regulated economy is the SAME as them having jobs which can support their families in Mexico?

    The problems with Mexico are not in the same ballpark, or even the same game, as those with China. Do you honestly think a common border makes no difference? If China were in the same economic shape Mexico is in, we wouldn’t be worrying a lot about China, would we?

    The email Amba quoted emphasized Mexican imports as the ones we should shun. “MEXICO” in caps. Four product examples given, one from China, one from Canada, two from Mexico.

  19. amba12 said,

    The drug violence in Mexico, especially around the border, has reached devastating proportions. And U.S. users are the customers who are feeding those gangs and making them strong. Surely a healthier legitimate economy in Mexico would make a difference, as well as a healthier political culture.

  20. Jason (the commenter) said,

    Icepick: But which nation is going to be growing faster in economic terms? It’s obviously China. They’re absorbing all the modern technology of the world through this great facilitator in free trade, and, like the Asian Tigers have proved, they will get ahead fast. Look at Hong Kong. Look at Taiwan. Look at early Japan. So, you start in a place where you’ve got a weak nation of backward peasants, a billion and a quarter of them, and in the end they’re going to be a much bigger, stronger nation than you are, maybe even having more and better atomic bombs.

    This basically just a white supremacist argument. People in other countries having the same standard of living I do does not scare me.

  21. wj said,

    The basic economics point about comparative advantage is that, even if you are better at everything, you are more better [sorry, but I can’t come up with clearer words to express it] at some things that at others. So you specialize in producing the things where you have the greatest advantage. Thus, if the US is better at making both computers and cars than China, but our advantage is bigger in computers, then we specialize in that, and let China make the cars. And, by trading the things we are best at for the things others have an advantage in making, everybody is better off. Repeat: everybody, on both sides, is better off than they would be making everything themselves. And that includes there being more jobs in both places than there would be without trade.

    But that simple version assumes that for each item in question, they really are interchangable — which means that price is the easiest way to determine advantage. If the quality, or other factors (e.g. the amount of pollution generated) are not the same, then that becomes part of the comparison in deciding which producer has the comparative advantage. [NOTE: the same applies to two individuals in the same country/town who make things. Price is how you decide what to buy if things are equal; when they are not, you include the other factors as well.]

    One other point. Yes, conditions in Chinese factories leave a lot to be desired. And the sooner they improve the better all around. However, the real tradeoff is not between working conditions in a Chinese factory and working conditions in an American factory. The tradeoff is between working conditions in a Chinese factory and working conditions on the farms that those Chinese workers mostly come from. The reason that there are lots of cheap Chinese factory workers is that conditions there (deplorable as we may find them) are vastly better than on the farms that they otherwise would work on. So, just be clear that, if you refuse to buy a Chinese-made product, you are not helping to improve the working conditions of people in China; rather the reverse. You may still make that decision, but don’t delude yourself about the impact there.

  22. Icepick said,

    Oh really? You think having illegal immigrants from Mexico working outside our laws and regulated economy is the SAME as them having jobs which can support their families in Mexico?

    Donna, I was joking. Seriously, however, those jobs DO support families in Mexico, as I’m sure you’re aware. That’s why I can find houses within a mile of where I’m living in which a two bedroom house has been converted into a ten bedroom house. (God, I love living in the ‘hood.)

    As for Mexicans working outside our laws and regulations – hardly. The laws on on the books but they almost never get enforced. THat means our lords and masters don’t actually want the laws enforced. If they did I wouldn’t have gangs of Mexicans running up to me whenever I drive a truck through a Home Depot or Lowes parking lot. So the laws are as meaningless as those seventeenth century morality laws that get highlighted by comedians every so often.

  23. Icepick said,

    This basically just a white supremacist argument. People in other countries having the same standard of living I do does not scare me.

    First, attribute the quote correctly Jason. Second, don’t call me a racist you worthless shit. Third, Munger’s point isn’t about keeping other people down. There are several points. The first is security. If you don’t think dealing with a more prosperous & more populated nation isn’t dangerous then look at the history of Texas and the Mexican-American War, as well as the history of European colonialism in the 19th century.

    A second point is the erosion of absolute living standards HERE. As we ship jobs overseas (or south/north of the border) we’re not just losing jobs here. We’re losing industries and skill sets. And despite the claims of many, everyone in the US can’t become an investment banker. (In fact we have too many of those right now – and they won’t go away because they’re being subsidised by the government.) Furthermore we’re not just losing garment worker jobs. We’re also losing engineering and science jobs. I was reading an article the other days about engineers in certain industries losing their jobs because as the factories get shipped overseas so do the engineering jobs. It’s becoming a common story.

    SO it isn’t JUST about racism, you dimwitted slack jaw. In fact, it isn’t about racism at all.

  24. Icepick said,

    So, just be clear that, if you refuse to buy a Chinese-made product, you are not helping to improve the working conditions of people in China; rather the reverse.

    True, But I don’t see why the condition of people in China is my concern at all. That’s the concern of the Chinese. Likewise, I don’t see why the condition of people in America is any concern of the Chinese. Let them take care of their own and let us do likewise. Charity begins at home. It should probably end their too.

    (I come from a long line of people that believe the greatest public virtue is minding one’s own business.)

    But there is another aspect to your arguement. Namely the externalities to which you allude in passing. One doesn’t just support that factory worker by purchasing cheap goods. That cheapness comes with the externalized cost of more pollution than a more expensively made product in the US. So please be aware that the great bargain you’re getting comes with an extra dose of filth being put into the environment. THAT doesn’t get priced in.

  25. Jason (the commenter) said,

    Icepick: First, attribute the quote correctly Jason.

    You’re the one who let him speak for you; and it’s not like people can’t follow who’s saying what.

    Second, don’t call me a racist you worthless shit.

    Because name calling is bad? If you want to use a racist argument you can’t get angry when people call you a racist.

    SO it isn’t JUST about racism…

    That’s admitting it is about racism.

    …you dimwitted slack jaw…

    Again, you are not able to address my points. Saying racist things and then saying “but this isn’t racist” doesn’t make your comments not racist.

  26. Theo Boehm said,

    “…you worthless shit.”

    Icepick, surely you exaggerate.

    * * *

    I just knew the racist canard would waddle into this discussion at some point.

    That particular bird pooped radioactive waste (see my comment above) into products built for an American company for North American consumers. Looks like he got loose from the duck pond at the Boxer Rebellion Memorial Plumbing Supply Co.

  27. Jason (the commenter) said,

    Theo Boehm: …the racist canard…

    How is it a canard? I remember this exact same discussion except with Japan. And what is China’s big crime? Supposedly acting like we did when we were in the process of industrializing!

  28. Jason (the commenter) said,

    In my opinion, the type of thinking a lot of people are expressing here is what is wrong with America. When I was in China people were talking about how they wanted to be like Singapore. They had a vision of the future, they were working towards it, and they were literally conscious of the fact that they needed to change their ways.

    We don’t have to be like China to compete like China. We have plenty of examples to choose from: Singapore, Germany, even states in America. Look at how manufacturing jobs in the United States moved from the North, to the South. Has the North revamped its laws to match those of the South? No.

    We deserve 10% unemployment.

  29. amba12 said,

    For the record (not making any particular point), I’ve bought lamps (a 3-way torchiére with a reading lamp attached) from Wal-Mart that were made in China. They cost under $15 each, screwed together simply, and were quite nicely designed. They make them in more colors now than when I bought them. Whether they are toxic or radioactive, I have no clue.

  30. wj said,

    I don’t see why the condition of people in China is my concern at all. That’s the concern of the Chinese.

    I’m not saying that it should be your concern. All I was (attempting to) say is that nobody should claim that their reason for not buying Chinese-made goods is that refusing to do so will improve the lot of Chinese workers. Since reality is rather the reverse.

  31. Theo Boehm said,

    “This basically just a white supremacist argument.”

    THERE’S our little racist ducky waddling in.

    “People in other countries having the same standard of living I do does not scare me.”

    It’s not about the standard of living. Icepick’s argument, if I understand him correctly, and mine as well, is concern that, “…in the end they’re going to be a much bigger, stronger nation than you are, maybe even having more and better atomic bombs.” That’s not just economic success, but an expansionist, aggressive nation with different ethics, business and otherwise. This is the nub of the problem with China. As someone who values our somewhat tattered Enlightenment foundational ideals, I do not wish to empower a nation intent on having “better atomic bombs,” and which has proven it not only does not does not share our ethics and ideals, but is positively hostile to them in nearly every practical way.

    I returned a couple of months ago from a business trip to an obscure corner of Western Europe, the old Duchy of Limburg. It encompasses mostly rural areas of Belgium, Holland and Germany. I’ve been, of course, to European cities on both business and as a tourist, but this was my first time in the Western European equivalent of fly-over country, driving around on my own, and it was an eye-opener. I hate to say it, but everything was nicer and better than the equivalent here: The roads, even rural ones, were better; the food’s better; the cars newer; the houses are in better condition, although smaller; the people are better-looking; and the beer is a WHOLE lot better. This is a prosperous, pleasant area with what looks like a higher standard of living than is typical of the US.

    Does this bother me? Not at all. More power to them. Does it bother me that Japan is prosperous? Singapore? Switzerland? Germany (these days)? No more than Belgians driving Audis on pleasant country roads.

    Trade with the aforementioned countries has few of the externalities some of us have been complaining about of Chinese trade. It also lacks much in the way of the second- and third-order effects that Icepick nicely explained. Trade with these countries mostly does what Ricardo observed, and push the production possibility curve upward for everyone involved. So what if the EU has a bigger economy, and Switzerland, say, has a higher per capita income than the US? Great. Let’s all learn from each other, compete on an equal footing in a dynamic and essentially free economic environment and all get richer together.

    From what I see, that is distinctly NOT what China has in mind.

  32. amba12 said,

    Of course, China is playing catch-up; it is in an earlier stage of economic development than we are. We also had some values, in our age of rapid industrialization, that we would not approve of now, like no suffrage for blacks or women, and leaving the prairie dotted with dead, rotting, skinned buffalo. Economically, China has a dangerous combination of reckless galloping-growth frontier “ethics” (or lack thereof) with postmodern technology. This is made even more dangerous by what we never shared, a completely undemocratic form of government. All this has only a coincidental relationship to “race” (which never even comes up any more with regard to Japan, though it certainly did during WWII). It is about culture and history, and how an imported idea (communism) blended with a native cultural tradition (Confucianism) to create a particularly toxic hybrid. Invasive ideas are like invasive species, even more dangerous in cultural environments where they did not originate and have nothing to keep them in check. Think of what both Pol Pot and Sayyid Qutb did with French existentialism, or what it did to them.

  33. realpc said,

    It is not racist to make an accurate observation. We know that most people in China were, or still are, extremely poor. We know that Europe and the US industrialized before China did, and that we have been ahead technologically for a long time. I don’t know if this can be blamed on communism, since Africa is even poorer than China, and I don’t think communism was the major factor in African poverty. In African, misery has been created by over-population and corrupt governments, for example.

    There has been extreme poverty in most of the non-white world. It is not racist to point that out. Are we supposed to pretend an obvious fact is not true, just for the sake of political correctness?

    I think European civilization developed technology and capitalism because of a series of events that could have happened anywhere. It wasn’t whiteness that made Europe, and then the US, rulers of the world. It had to happen somewhere first.

    So now that Europeans and Americans all have indoor plumbing, heat, air-conditioning and Prozac, anyone who doesn’t have those things is considered desperately poor.

    I do not think our civilization is better, but it is powerful and has trampled over all other ways of life. It is not racist to notice this. I think the usual progressive attitude, of wanting everyone to be just like is, is the real paternalistic racism.

  34. amba12 said,

    China playing catch-up can be probably be explained (insofar as it can be) by cultural and sociopolitical factors LONG predating communism — a very hierarchical, authoritarian organization of society and the fact that after a tremendous burst of technological innovation and nautical exploration, Chinese emperors chose to withdraw. Perhaps they understood that these developments threatened their authority.

  35. amba12 said,

    There has been extreme poverty in most of the non-white world

    Singapore? Hong Kong? South Korea?

    It’s all about the evolution of institutions, not race. As Nobel Prizewinning “new institutional economist” Douglass North has pointed out.

  36. amba12 said,

    And cultural traditions affect the evolution of institutions.

  37. Jason (the commenter) said,

    realpc: There has been extreme poverty in most of the non-white world. It is not racist to point that out. Are we supposed to pretend an obvious fact is not true, just for the sake of political correctness?

    That’s not what is being done. Other commenters here are saying the Chinese do not have the right to the same standard of living as we do, that they can’t pull themselves out of poverty the same way we did, and also that they can’t find their own way out of poverty.

  38. Jason (the commenter) said,

    Trade is the best way to promote peace.

  39. Theo Boehm said,

    I, for one, am NOT saying the Chinese do not have the right to the same standard of living we do, and, frankly, I don’t see that in others’ comments, either.

    In fact, no one nation has a right to any standard of living, save the bare necessities that international charity may supply to those basket-case countries that for whatever reason have an impossible set of conditions to deal with.

    Nations and groups of people have to earn their standards of living. That area of Western Europe I mentioned above was not always prosperous, although it always had great agricultural potential. For that reason and its geography, it’s been overrun in war since antiquity, the 20th century being particularly nasty, what with the Western Front running through parts of it and fierce battles fought by retreating Germans in WWII. This left the place devastated. Aachen, for example, was almost completely in ruins in 1945. Its fat and happy circumstances today are the result of a number of factors, including the Marshall Plan, but first and foremost, the culture, intelligence and hard work of the population. And its recovery was done without resort to vastly polluting industries, shoddy and dangerous products, and aggressive and dodgy business practices.

    Are the Chinese any worse off than war-ravaged Europe in 1945? Europe made a recovery in the modern age, without resort to either the technology or business practices of, say, Manchester in 1819, which the Chinese seem determined to recreate in a vast and particularly nasty postmodern form.

    It’s true that, in general, trade is the best way to promote peace, although WWI is sobering to recall in this regard, the Great War having broken out among countries engaged in intense mutual trade.

    But other than black swan events such as WWI, the marketplace remains, I hope, the best arbiter of behavior, both individual and national. By my own avoidance of Chinese goods, I am sending the message that current Chinese behavior is unacceptable. If and when they clean up their act, environmentally and politically, then I will be as happy to buy their goods as I am German, Dutch or Belgian ones.

  40. realpc said,

    “Trade is the best way to promote peace.’

    Is there evidence for that? I thought you promote peace by having the greatest military strength. As long as the US has unrivaled potential for violence, no one dares to threaten us.

    I don’t think peace results from trade, or from rational people discussing things calmly.

  41. Theo Boehm said,

    Well, trade may not be the best way to promote peace, but enough of it sure makes war expensive, especially against your trading partners. Europe found that out the hard way in 1914.

  42. Icepick said,

    Theo (not that you’re likely to still be following this thread) J(tc) is indeed worthless. See above regarding this comment of his:

    Other commenters here are saying the Chinese do not have the right to the same standard of living as we do, that they can’t pull themselves out of poverty the same way we did, and also that they can’t find their own way out of poverty.

    You will find nothing of that in anyone else’s comments above. The closest you will find to that is me stating that I don’t see why I should care about the Chinese (per se) one way or the other. I DO think that we are fools for giving away so much of our industry to the Chinese in order to make a few bucks. That’s like selling off assets to make the current cash flows look better – it may achieve the temporary goal, but only at the cost of eventual destruction.

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