Boy, are we as a

by francine Hardaway on July 5, 2005

Boy, are we as a nation having difficulty with the realities of the global world! As I work here in my home office, listening to the undercurrent of CNN, I conclude that we’re having a hell of a time coming up with a consistent position. At first, we embraced immigration, which we said made America strong, diverse, and vital. It was “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” Then we embraced outsourcing, which we touted as both a gain in productivity and a way to manufacture things inexpensively.

Now we seem to be trying to reverse those positions, finding new ways to defend our borders against illegal immigrants and bemoaning the loss of high tech and manufacturing jobs to the countries whose citizens we no longer welcome. It’s all very confusing to me.

It’s about to get worse. On July 4th (this must be symbolic), China fired off a missive telling our government to keep out of the free market of economics and commerce. It doesn’t want us meddling as its government-run oil company tries a hostile takeover of Unocal. That’s hilarious position coming from a communist country whose government tries to censor the Internet and still tells people how many children they can have. The government should keep out of WHAT?

We, of course, have self-righteously responded that the Constitution gives Congress the right to regulate commerce with foreign nations. But that�s as we think nothing of acquiring companies in every corner of the world, and outsourcing to those we choose not to acquire.

The only trouble with our current stance is that 1) we have already allowed Daimler Benz to buy Chrysler, one of the big 3 automakers, because we needed a way to bail it out, and 2) we gladly allow the Wal-Marts of the country to outsource all their manufacturing to China so we can have cheap clothing and artificial Christmas trees. And we all try to find cheap (a euphemism for immigrant) labor.

I remember the early days of Wal-Mart. One of Sam Walton’s big slogans — and brand promises –was “buy America.” Wal-Mart was the store from the heartland, where patriotism and middle class values reigned supreme. Now Wal-Mart is a supply chain behemoth, affecting almost every country in the world as it tries to source things every more inexpensively. We are ruled not by a trade policy, but by �squeezing waste out of the supply chain.�

The next big argument will be over CAFTA, the Central American counterpart of NAFTA. Depending on whom you talk to, NAFTA is either a huge success or a terrible failure, sucking jobs out of America and bringing terrorists in. We do, however, need more immigrants for our landscaping businesses, chain restaurants, and janitorial services. Where will we find them? The mining industry has jobs going begging because Americans don�t want to work in coalmines. I bet immigrants will end up filling these jobs.

Looking at this from a systems point of view, it�s hard to ignore the fact that we lack a system for dealing with globalization. We piecemeal it from incident to incident, and to an outsider we must look like we’re on meth; our pronouncements don’t make any sense, and we �go off� unexpectedly, making paranoid accusations of those around us. We�re tweakers all right � we tweak our policy at the margins, instead of taking the time to think through an appropriate response to a global paradigm shift.

We desperately need a coherent globalization policy — a successor to trade policy, economic policy and immigration policy all rolled into one.

Right now, we�re talking out of both sides of our mouths. American business is madly doing business in China, selling it steel, lumber, anything else it needs. Buying stocks on the Hong Kong stock exhange, and opening Mickey D�s in Shanghai. Selling it cigarettes.

And taking China�s money to finance our national debt. Why shouldn�t China think it can tell us what to do? China and the US are like a couple living together in ignorance of the common law. After a certain number of years, we�re married, even if we never took the trip down the aisle.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: