Capitalism: Millions of People Are Being Yanked Out of Abject Poverty Daily

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.

3 responses to “Capitalism: Millions of People Are Being Yanked Out of Abject Poverty Daily

  1. Pingback: Perspective: China Style « Tarheel Red

  2. A simplistic view (ignoring for example, that capitalism cannot, no matter how hard it tries, benefit everyone, and has a saturation point beyond which it can’t progress – it merely continues to shift the bulk of wealth around to a different bunch of people) but one that is worth hearing, if only to disagree with on details.

    I would like to offer another paradigm. In a short comment to a short blog this has to be simplistic and arguable too – that can’t be avoided.

    A corporation is akin to a medieval feudal country. No one elects the ruler(s) – the king or the CEO – except for the possibility that he (hardly ever she) is chosen by the barons and landowners (the major shareholders). Below them the knights (management) keep order, wave the banners, make the speeches to instill patriotism in the rest of the populace and to make them thank God for their anointed King. The serfs (the workforce) do the work, and in years of plenty the harvest is good, they get to eat, and they do bless their King and are contented with their lot, poor though it might be by comparison. But when things go wrong, the groat and the florin are not worth what they were, their lot becomes grim. Many of them may be turned out of their fields – they are told that the King and the aristocrats need the revenue of the land (profits) and can’t afford charity.

    What can they do? They can go to the next-door medieval country (remembering that if their own country was England then it’s a fair swim, unless they can sell their meagre possessions to buy passage on a boat), but there they will be set upon as vagabonds who are trying to steal the bread from the mouths of the honest serfs of that land.

    Their King and his aristocrats may have told them that they were the freest people on Earth, but that will not have made it so.

    Yes, yes, I know, it’s simplistic. But just reflect for a moment. The land of America Inc has had relatively good harvests since the 1930s. A year of bad harvests is dwindling from people’s memories, and no one outside of English majors at college reads Steinbeck. What if the lean years of America Inc are about to begin, and the prosperous years in China Inc are about to happen? Remember, there is only so much wealth, and it shifts from clique to clique. From your point of view you had better hope that the final collapse of America Inc is not in your lifetime, because if it is you will be forced to assess your freedom differently.

    Kind regards.

    • capitalism cannot, no matter how hard it tries, benefit everyone

      Yes and no. It would be hard to argue that not everyone has benefited from the capitalistic advances made in agriculture. However, I get your point; there are winners and losers in interactions.

      continues to shift the bulk of wealth around to a different bunch of people

      Again, I agree kinda. Many people maker the mistake that there is a finite amount of “wealth” or money. I don’t think that’s true.

      If you have a gallon of milk that you want to trade for money while I have money that I wanna trade for milk, we are both going to walk away more “wealthy” than before. I won’t pay more for the milk than it’s worth to me and you won’t sell it for less than it’s worth to you.

      By definition we will only trade if it is to our advantage.

      A corporation is akin to a medieval feudal country.

      Your description begins to fall apart after you get out of the Fortune 50 or so. After that, businesses are very dependent on satisfying the market; the surfs if you will.

      And remember, as a surf, I have the freedom to go and build my own kingdom.

      And last, I really think that people make what they make because of the trade offs they are willing to make or not make. My wife, for example, has been offered several promotions. All of them require more hours in addition to travel. She has turned down each one. It is hard to argue that she isn’t making what she “wants” to make.

      I hear what yer’ sayin’ though. Capitalism isn’t perfect; no one claims that it is. What we DO claim however, is that it is the single best way to organize commerce that we have found. As a result of capitalism, we are the richest, wealthiest, healthiest people in the history of the world. In fact, if you go through the history of the ages, you will find that where man has been the freest in terms of economic measures, he is the wealthiest. Where his rights pertaining to property are restricted, he is most poor.

      Thanks for stopping by; I’ve been over to “lady wot writes”. Looks great!

Leave a Reply