America: Made in China

I discovered that my mother owns an American flag with a “Made in China” tag on it. It’s times like this when I wish I owned a camera. Pictures can be far more effective than words at conveying such symbolic irony.

So what am I implying? That I’m against the advancing global economy? Not entirely. But when corporations move their factories overseas and cut deals with oppressive governments that put children to work in sweatshops for five cents an hour*, support lucrative violence and genocide (look up East Timor, and let’s not forget the diamond industry), and buy up indigenous resources so the citizens are forced to work for the corporations in order to pay for things they once obtained for free, then, yeah, I guess I have a problem.

But, hey, it makes for inexpensive products at Wal-Mart like U.S. flags.

Keep shopping cheap, America. You’re only helping to screw over less fortunate people thousands of miles away. Out of sight, out of mind. Right? We can all afford to be ignorant—literally speaking, that is.

* I recently watched a pro-Wal-Mart video filled with straw men, biased statistics, and flimsy anecdotal evidence. In it they tried to justify child labor by claiming that it provided work for children who might otherwise seek money from prostitution in order to pay for bare necessities. Here’s an idea: Pay parents a living wage so their children don’t have to work at all! How big an asshole do you have to be to justify child labor? (And if you want to consider the plight of third world workers, ask them personally how they feel about their situation instead of consulting a lone economist analyzing money matters from afar.)


5 thoughts on “America: Made in China

  1. America shopping cheap does not screw less fortunate people! The GDPs of China and India has increased many times since they started trading with India and that is a fact! The % of people living in poverty was 36% in 1991 when India was a closed economy but today it is only 21% (We became a capitalist open country in 1991). I living in india until 1997. When I visit India, I can tell you that people working for these bad corporations you complain about are very happy indeed. My wife used to work for D.E.Shaw’s India software division. She made quite a lot of money doing that.

    If you want to limit globalization because of a mistaken belief that it affects americans, the that is your business (eventhough economists will tell you that you are dead wrong). But do not feign a false sympathy for third world people. They are doing just fine because of globalization.

    The world is not poor because of trading with the US. The part of the world that trades with the US is rich or getting richer (Europe, India, China, Singapore, S. Korea etc etc.). Partt of the world that is isolated from the US is poor or getting poorer (Iran, N. Korea, Africa, Latin America etc etc.).

    There are no losers in free trade.

  2. First, recall that I didn’t say all globalization was necessarily bad (and, for the record, globalization affects us all: first, second, and third world countries alike. That’s why it’s called global-ization). I’m sure many individuals and groups are better off as a result of expanding capitalism. That’s not what I was protesting. I brought up very specific issues such as child labor. Perhaps you’d make a better argument if you responded directly to my points instead of knocking down a straw man.

    Second, a country’s gross domestic product means little in terms of progress without taking into account economic and social inequality. China has a high GDP, but it also has a very low base income. India is ravaged by sharply uneven wealth distribution, a pervasive caste system, and a high degree of corruption including bribery, tax evasion, and embezzlement. These problems threaten India’s economic stability. And are Indians happy? According to the World Map of Happiness published last year, India is the 125th happiest country in the world. Not so good. [April 29, 2006: I was being contrary when I wrote this. India does appear to be improving on all fronts. Let’s hope it continues in that direction.]

    Third, wealth is not the sole measure of a society’s well-being. What evidence is there to show that money buys happiness? The East Timorese used to live in financial poverty, but they were a peaceful and gratified people who didn’t have or need money because they lived off the land. Now they’re mostly dead and horded into camps having been invaded and murdered by Indonesia using arms sold largely by U.S. companies (who were aware of what their weapons were being used for, I should add). When free trade amounts to genocide, people lose. Wouldn’t you agree?

    “But do not feign a false sympathy for third world people.”

    Wow. Do you honestly believe you have the ability to read my mind and know my true intentions? We’d be more likely to see eye to eye if you came down from your pedestal.

  3. Jason, hello. Hope you are well.

    Freetochose: “there are no losers in globalisation”.
    Er..even standard economic theory says that whilst overall there are no losers certain groups within society will lose out (see A. Wood for empirical evidence).

    The poverty figures are, of course, highly contested (and also a narrow way of measuring poverty..see Sen for a more sophisticated approach) and you say nothing of rising inequalities in both countries (as well in America). In fact, one can make the argument that as result of neo-liberalism inequalities have increased (see David Harvey’s Neoliberalism).

    the idea that South Korea etc have grown becuase of free trade or the markets is not really seriously believed any more-even by the ideologues. Again, you may want to see Stiglitz’s online paper, his Prebisch lecture.

    And Latin America getting poorer can be traced, in part, to the structural reform programmes. Africa’s problems are far more deep rooted than your superficial ‘analysis’ allows for.

    Jason makes an excellent point about Child labour. Jason, you may want to look at the work of Basu where he states that some of America’s interest over child labour issues was really a cover for protectionist forces. A very good (non-technical) summary of child labour issues is by my supervisor, S. Lahiri , called Child Labour: theory, policy and evidence. If you have JSTOR you should be able to find it.

  4. sorry, forgot to add-and I think this tops your story- I once saw a commerce magazine that showed Swastikas and Nazi memorobilia were being produced in Sialkot, Pakistan. Imagine the look on some neo-Nazis face when he saw that they were made by ‘impure races’!

  5. Khalid,

    Good to see you again.

    Thank you for your input and for the information on child labor. And, yes, the Swastika production you mentioned is definitely a much greater irony!

    My best to you,


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