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01 December 2004

Comments

Karol

I love Wal-mart and wish there was one in NYC.

Blimpish

Misspent - you know it's all lies... as I'm sure JF will tell you, the 'MADE IN THE USA' sticker probably refers to the assembly, but all the parts are manufactured by sweated Chinese labour. Wal-Mart exist in order to hollow out US manufacturers. Haven't you ever heard of the Protocols of the Elders of Walton?

John

"Made in the USA" sticker probably refers to the sticker. And I liked this quote:

"Buying more products in China means more job opportunities, which helps the firm win not only the government's hearts, but also the customers' appreciations," said Wang Yao, director of information department under the China General Chamber of Commerce.

Replace the word "China" with "America" in that sentence, and it's the same thing I've been saying.

The Misspent Life

Yes, but it is much cheaper when the Chinese say it.

Also, if my tinsel was assembled in American, God bless the poor suckers who had to tie each silver thing to the strand.

Blimpish

They're probably working under the whiphand of a Walton family member. But at least they get a badge that say "I'm here to help."

John: Does Wal-Mart need to please the US Government? I'm sure when I was over there, not a month ago, it all seemed free and democratic! Does Wal-Mart need more customer appreciation? Well, any it loses by outsourcing it feels it can gain back by cutting prices.

Inkling

I'll take low prices over jingoism any day. It's funny, on the one hand the left decries excessive nationalistic pride in defense and foreign policy, and on the other hand they encourage it in economic policy. Seems to me it's better to support economic development and self-sufficiency in less advantaged nations through trade, than to stifle trade through tariffs and assuage one's guilt by sending a foreign aid check to the kleptocrats in charge.

Blimpish

Although I'm with you all the way on development through trade, and a liberal line on economics - would you really take low prices over jingoism ANY day?

Monjo

Taking jobs abroad is not a bad thing. Job protectionism is the biggest economic misunderstanding of our time. Everyone here is at least 5% poorer as a result of Job Protectionism. The world as a whole is about 10% poorer than it would be in a truly unrestricted trade economy.

@Inkling: Foreign aid cheques? Are you kidding. The US gives virtually 0% of GDP in foreign aid. We are talking USD $10,000,000,000 out of a total economy of USD $10,000,000,000,000 1/1000th - 0.1%! Of this 60% goes to Egypt and Israel to allow them to BUY 'Made in America' weapons to keep the US Defence Contractors competitive versus their (superior) EU counterparts.

The fact is the US gives in foreign aid about 1/100th of what it spends on its military each year. If the US were to move toward the 0.7% GDP aid recommended by the UN it would need to send out an additional $60,000,000,000 a year in aid.
But the American public is selfish and xenophobic, and even post-"9/11" (9 Sep 2001 terrorist attacks) they still fail to grasp that isolationism, protectionism and ignorance (plus treating others' with contempt) is not justifiable.

Blimpish

Easy on the language - "the American public is selfish and xenophobic" is, well, "treating others with contempt." The US is hardly isolationist (quite the opposite these days!), is no more protectionist than much of Europe, and is ignorant enough that around 90 of the world's 100 best universities are there.

The US is also the biggest contributor in dollars terms. It's also closer to about 1/40th of the defence budget, off the top of my head. The US does use much of aid to support its allies militarily - but that's a perfectly legitimate use of taxpayers' money. It would seem perverse not to build in some dependence over the supply of those armaments. As for US defence producers being inferior to EU ones... That's a very interesting view.

That aside - the record of foreign aid is simply abysmal. There are no obvious examples of nations that have developed through foreign aid, and many of corruption and the support of grotesque tyranny. Nations have been ruined on the teat of western foreign aid. Economic development comes through the development of strong institutions, the rule of law, and stable state structures, coupled with an openness to trade.

You didn't mention that the current Administration, allegedly the representatives of those "selfish and xenophobic" Americans, has also made some significant increases to the aid budget, including a major AIDS reduction programme.

rannva

I would rather go into the forest and get my own spruce and pine tree branches for a wreath. I can't stand fake plastic ornaments.

John Fitzgerald

Blimpish: am putting your name down at the White House for hononary citizenship.

Monjo: am putting your name down at the Elysees Palace for honorary citizenship.

Rannva: indeed.

Misspent: you comment-whore, you; getting in on this wal-mart action . . . .

The Misspent Life

Rannva: Where do you find silver tinsel trees? Do they have those in Finland?

JF: You are right about Blimpish. It is a wonder that he can type, given that he spends so much time shaking hands with the US's governor of love.

Blimpish

JF: Thank you, sir. If the White House grants honorary citizenship, does that mean a ceremony? With a Bush twin of my choice?

Misspent: No. Wrong. Bad puppy. They used to sell silver tinsel trees in the cheapo shops here, btw. If you want, I can take a look tomorrow and get one couriered over to you.

The Misspent Life

Take the big-faced one. She's more spunky, but I like the other one better.

I wouldn't mind having a crappy tree here in Richmond. I am sure you can find some at Wal*Mart--that store is heaven!

Blimpish

Thinking about it... there's two of them, do I have to choose? Isn't that, like, so unfair to put me under the stress of decision?

rannva

"In spite of the ever-growing quantity of Christmas-kitsch, one could say that Finns in general prefer tasteful decorations. They like to avoid really bright colours or twinkling lights and use natural ingredients like wood, straw, bark, lichen, cones, clay, wool, linen, cotton etc, instead of plastic."
Source: http://www.dlc.fi/~marianna/gourmet/season1a.htm

Hah!

Inkling

You guys be nice to Monjo. I believe he's looking for a reason to come out as a conservative (note his antipathy toward job protectionism). He's like a skittish fledgling conservative bunny. He's just looking for the right carrot to coax him out of his comfortable little liberal warren. It's cold out here in conservative-land. Protesters spit on you, media mavens mock you, professors flunk you, pretty girls shun you. He needs all the support we can give him.

Monjo

Americans are isolationist. Look at their sports. Watch their news. Bear the fact that less than 10% of Americans hold a passport or have ever left their country.
More Brits hold passports than Americans.

US aid may be most in dollar terms but its barely above Japanese aid (and only overook it a year or so ago), despite over twice the population. In real terms its a quarter of the UK aid and a seventh of what some Scandanavian countries donate.

Plus aid should be unconditional. Anyway Foreign Direct Investment is far more important to global growth than aid. Again US FDI is a lot less than other countries, especially the Benelux ones.

@ John Fitzgerald: Do not assume that anyone who makes a statement opposing American policy is:
1 - anti-American
2 - pro-French

@ Blimpish: correct $10,000,000,000 in foreign aid. About $400,000,000,000 on 'defence'. US defence spending is as much as the rest of the world combined. Though the %GDP levels are still a few points shy of peak-Cold War. Some US commentators reckon the US needs to spend more on defence; but I would favour they spent more on foreign aid.
One could argue the planned $80,000,000,000 to rebuild Iraq is aid. The fact that over 90% of this money will go to US contractors, US companies etc really means it isn't aid at all - especially as US companies will dominate trade (oil) in Iraq to come. I predict Exxon/Esso will win over BP or Shell for all the lucrative deals.


Now is the US isolationist? 97% of all US trade is internal. The UK equiv is 75% (93% within EU). US states that border Canada's trade to neighbouring US states is something like 300% greater than to Canada. US puts huge tariffs on importing steel and other commodities.
It is isolationist.

@ Inkling: Yes. Got flunked. Don't get pretty, umm currently any, girls. Protestors havent spat at me. The media hasn't mocked me.
I am not liberal nor conservative. I am me and have my own feelings about most topics which would put me across a range of political ideologies and parties.

The Misspent Life

Yes, look at the sports. There are increasing numbers of foreign players in basketball and baseball, and people love them (because they usually aren't thugs like most of the other players). Also, golf is a hugely popular sport here and it is not that common for an American to win the big tourneys. Do we care? No! We have no problem with ferriner's winning the Masters or the U.S. Open, even non-Europeans like Vijay Singh.

Americans don't need passports because we can see so much in our own country--mountains, beaches, forests, cities, rivers, lakes, oceans, snow, deserts.


Aid should be unconditional? Oh, how the dictators of the world would LOVE that!! "Yo, Egypt. Take all this money and we don't care what you do with it, so do what you want (destroy Israel)."

The US trades with itself so much because it is so large. We don't NEED to trade with anyone because we can provide most of what we need, other countries NEED to trade with others. Also, I think most everyone here (except maybe JF) can say that tarriffs are bad news, but putting a pox on the US in relation to Europe is not possible. The US is moving the right direction, calling for more open trade in negotiations, reglardless of what political sops are thrown to constituent groups.

Interesting experiment. Have European countries (and Japan since they want to anyway) support their own militiaries at the rate that would allow them to be self-sufficient forces. Let's see how much aid they give. One could argue that just about ALL of US military spending since WWII has been one giant aid check to the world.

Monjo

If you really believe what you just typed... oh dear. US military spending is not a giant aid cheque. The US forced Germany / Japan to not have militaries. Defence spending is also not 'aid' as the wealth stays internal.
It creates lots of jobs and drives technology - all boosting the domestic market.

Golf? Do not make me laugh. The US Pro tour is arrogant and tries to dictate to Els where and when he can play outside the US even though he fulfills his contractual tour obligation.
Plus your 'stars' cry when they lose the Ryder Cup :P

Aid *should* be unconditional. You give aid to those who you think will spend it wisely. That's the whole point of aid, it is not an investment, so your say over how it is spent is ZERO. What you do do, is not give future aid.

LOL: the world is more than geography, it is also culture. Something of which the US has little. Travelling and exploring new cultures is a great way to expand one's horizons. I know its hard because you feel you must defend America(ns) because you are one. You do not need to. I have met many Americans, a lot are as I state.
A few realise there is more to the world than America and love to explore it, even working in the VSO in Africa etc.

Inkling

Monjo:

1. Defense spending is not necessarily a plus for the economy; if anything, it's more of a drag. If it was a plus, then the Soviet Union's economy would not have collapsed (they were spending a far greater proportion of their GDP on the military than was the U.S.) If it were a plus, any country in economic trouble could simply jack up its defense budget and "spend" their way out of a recession. We know how well that works....

2. The rest of the world ought to count their lucky stars that the U.S.'s best pro athletes play sports other than soccer (sorry, "football"). If our best grew up playing soccer instead of American football or basketball, we'd sweep every World Cup.

3. Re: International aid: "What you do do, is not give future aid." I couldn't agree more. We ought to cut off every nation that misuses aid to line the pockets of its political elite. That cuts off just about every recipient, don't you think? But really, please identify one nation (other than the Marshall Plan recipients in the wake of WWII) which has pulled itself out of poverty through international aid. Short-term, directed aid in response to an immediate crisis is fine. But long-term dependency is death for nations, just as for individuals.

4. The reason more Europeans have passports than do Americans is simple: Most countries in Europe are hardly bigger than states in the U.S., and they're all crammed together cheek-by-jowl. If a Belgian gets the urge to visit France, it's physically far simpler than for, say, an American with the same desire, even before the EU. If one needed a passport to go from California to Arizona, say, a lot more Americans would have passports. Passports aren't even necessary for short-term jaunts to Mexico and Canada. Incidentally, how many times have you traveled to the U.S., vs. to the rest of Europe? See what I mean?

5. If an American craves an exotic cultural experience, blue-staters can visit red-state-land, and vice versa. As for exploring foreign cultures, we keep hearing how Americanization is wiping out cultural differences worldwide, so we figure, why bother going overseas when it's all becoming like one giant America anyway? You see one McDonald's, you've seen them all....

Monjo

1 - True. There is a limit. The US at the height of the cold war spent 7% or so. The USSR was spending 30%. It is like any state-funded economy (police, army, teachers, doctors/nurses) in that ultimatly the money has to come from somewhere.
But the point remains that to a degree the more you spend, the jobs you create and the workers created will spend money which will boost the economy - it is the capitalist cycle.

2 - Possibly. The US women's team though got beaten by Norway. The US swimmers (except Phelps) were outclassed by Austalia and South Africa.
Football in Brazil is huge and poverty is a way out. Most top US athletes come from a poverty background.

3 - It isn't always misused. For instance in the 1990s Bangladesh was hit by a flood. The US is rich enough to conver the $10bln damage caused by a hurricane or two - heck holidaymakers will bring in that revenue to Florida next year anyway.
Other countries after a natural disaster *do* require aid.

4 - Most EU countries now have an 'open border' policy. UK does not. I am aware Americans can go to Bahamas, Canada and Mexico easily.
I have travelled to the US two times, spending a total of almost 5 months there). I have travelled to Europe four times, spending a total of about 6 weeks there (my family were too poor to take me more!).
My next desired trip would be New Zealand, or probably realistically if I can find a few more people to stay with, I may go back to the US. Can cover the plane fares because I want cheap laser eye surgery and maybe a GameBoy SP - to ruin my eyes again - and an iPod or similar.

5 - LOL. I haven't been but I reckon Florence would still be worth a visit. And if you want 'big' then try Russia. Everything in Russia - looking at my parents' holiday snaps - makes things in US look small and things in UK look puny by comparison!

Inkling

If you glance back at my comments, you will see the following: "Short-term, directed aid in response to an immediate crisis is fine." I believe that the U.S. provides such aid in the event of natural disasters with great generosity. But it's the regular handing over of blank checks to third-world despots, natural disaster or no, that I object to. This is the sort of aid which does no one any good, save the despot's family and dearest friends (and the Swiss banks which hold their deposits). And there is a good argument to be made that it actually harms the recipient nation, by essentially subsidizing dictatorship and corruption. You have still to identify any nations which have shown significant benefit from long-term, no-strings-attached aid, such as you advocated above. We all eagerly await this list.

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