It’s a pretty familiar refrain “Everything is made in China, that’s why it’s so cheap!”
This is usually followed up with the typical “slave labor” and “sweat shop” and other oft trotted out horror stories.
I have to admit that I struggle when I am presented with these stories and asked to defend capitalism. My first and foremost answer is that if there is an assault on personal Liberty, I am all for enforcing the law. If someone is being coerced through the reduction of freedom and choice, a wrong has to be corrected.
My second line of defense is to question the employees ability to come and to go. Literally, how did they come to work in this factory? And, second, are they free to leave and go back to the place they were at before coming here to work. Now, this might sound harsh or out of touch. But that’s because we are viewing it from an American perspective. Here, if i lose my job and I go back to where I came from, I just make the same shitty commute home. And there I am. Nothing else has changed; only the fact that now I don’t have a job. But see, in these third world countries, they go back to the farm or the village that they escaped from in the first place.
And that rice paddy is nothing to write home about. 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. The Chinese farmer will allow himself a total of 5 days where he doesn’t force himself out of bed an din the fields by 6:00 AM. These people are poor, bone poor. They rank among the poorest people on the face of the planet.
And my third and last point I try to ask is this “How easy is it for the employee to leave?” Serious. Can they quit and go do something else. Like farm rice?
I rarely make it to the 3rd point. By that time I have been labeled as devil incarnate, given the finger and often left standing in the rain.
Sometimes I mention that, look, people in America don’t like whats going on over there and they are starting to speak with their wallet. See, Capitalism is a vengeful bitch when she wants to be:
In the 1960s, Nike (before it was named Nike) based its business on the premise that the company would not manufacture shoes—it would only design and market them. The physical goods would be produced by independent contractors in countries such as Japan or Taiwan, where labor was, at the time, cheap. In short, Nike would be offices, not factories.
The problem that arose for Nike and many other companies, however, was that the media, starting in the 1990s, began to run stories on terrible labor conditions in factories in Asia….Nike’s case included nasty allegations about child labor—twelve-year-old Americans playing with soccer balls sewn by twelve-year-old Pakistanis, that sort of thing. The company’s stock value sank.
The company suffered real damage. And they adjusted their business practices. The result?
…companies such as mine began to offer their services as independent, for-profit monitors of factory labor conditions. We would act as early-warning systems against shady suppliers who mistreated their workers. Based on the reports we provided, our clients could choose either to sever their relations with a given supplier or to pressure them to improve.
Notice, not one law was passed or changed. Not one tariff enacted or enforced. Not one bullet from even one gun was fired. The market, free to operate in her simplistic fashion, worked.
However, a recent article in the NYTimes [I know, I KNOW–I’m as shocked as you are!] recently pointed out that a change is underway in China:
As American workers struggle with near double-digit unemployment, unskilled factory workers here in China’s industrial heartland are being offered signing bonuses.
Factory wages have risen as much as 20 percent in recent months.
Telemarketers are turning away potential customers because recruiters have fully booked them to cold-call people and offer them jobs.
Far from the death camp mantra trotted out by the Left, the Chinese worker seems to be on a veritable resurgence:
Outside, Liang Huoqiao, a 22-year-old plastics worker, joined a small group of men and women studying a 40-foot-wide list of companies seeking workers.
“You can walk into any factory and get a job,” he said.
Yeah, but jeez Liang, certainly you are getting squeezed by the man, right? I mean really. How much are you REALLY getting paid?
many factories already pay well above the minimum wage.
Rising wages suggest the re-emergence of a worker shortage that was becoming evident before the financial crisis. A government survey three years ago of 2,749 villages in 17 provinces found that in 74 percent of them, there was no one left behind who was fit to go work in city factories — the labor pool was dry.
Wanna know what else is changing? Other non tangible benefits:
The labor shortage is not benefiting workers just through higher wages. Personnel managers here say they are also abandoning the informal tradition of not hiring anyone over 35 — they say they are now hiring workers up to 40 years old, and sometimes older, despite concerns about whether they can keep up week after week with the rapid pace of Chinese assembly lines.
It remains to be seen if Chinese factories will learn from their hiring difficulties now and be less quick to lay off workers during the next global downturn.
Look, does the average Chinese citizen have access to air conditioned homes, heated car seats, Wii, a microwave, fridge, computer or even food other than rice? Prolly not. But they are getting there; quick.
Mr. Liang, the 22-year-old plastics worker, said that he expected his pay to double in the next five years and added that he already had set his priorities.
“For sure, I want to buy a car,” he said. “Car first, then maybe marriage later.”
For the first time in over 16,000 years, Mr. Liang will be the first in his family to own a car. Wanna know why?
Because he had the guts to strike out and getta job in corporate China.