Friday, July 13, 2012

Gimme A High Wall And A Retractable Roof

Can you believe that our American Olympic athletes are going to be performing in uniforms made in China? The scandal of it all! Every politician from the most rabid Tea Party republican to the most cynical Liberal is up in arms about it. It makes one wonder if they’ve checked the waistband on their Fruit-o-the-Loom underwear lately, or even the tag on their designer suits and sportswear.

I suppose the only way to keep American businesses honest is to build a high wall around our borders and cap our land with a retractable roof so we can keep foreign products out. Without those precautions human nature will win out every time; greedy Capitalists will seek the lowest paid workforce they can find and our American workers will lose out. Of course we’ll need to provide the means for our farmers, airplane manufacturers, industrial equipment suppliers, fast food companies, and a million small businesses to get their products to foreign markets and keep our American workers busy. It is only fair.

Americans have long since ceased to respect politicians as a class. (We do still often think the ones who represent us are a cut above the rest but even that confidence is eroding.) However, the hypocrisy shown by the politicians who are crying foul on this issue is immense. If they are so ignorant that they do not understand the interrelated nature of the world economy, then God help us. They are too ignorant to be in the positions they are in. BUT if they are merely pandering to an outdated notion that the world could operate without free trade between nations, it is worse yet. They are immoral and unprincipled.

Of course we need fair trade between us and our trading partners. But there is no suggestion that the company supplying the foreign-made uniforms for the Olympic team has engaged in any illegal activity. They are only doing what every major U.S. corporation does – and what every small business would like to do – and that is to maximize profits either by utilizing cheap foreign labor directly by manufacturing their product in a foreign country, or by using parts produced, or assembled with cheap foreign labor. It is the American way. It is the Capitalist way. It is the self-interested human way.

No doubt American companies, and American workers, are profiting from this Olympic competition. I suppose, since it is held in London, the Brits could (should) insist that all products used by athletes, news organizations, security details, food and clothing vendors, and on and on, be products produced in England. But it is the 21st century. And there are no high walls around nations (except on the Mexican border). We need to get used to the fact that we live in one world, closely knit together in a myriad of ways, one of which is economically.

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