Made In The U.S.A.

“Please give us your sweatshops.”

In Adventures on October 20, 2009 at 12:10 am

I don’t particularly have an agenda. At least not an agenda that reaches beyond my own personal growth and that of mankind in general. So while I don’t particularly like Wal Mart, or what it represents, or what it’s done to our society, or what it feels like to shop there, or any number of things about the consumptive behemoth, I’m always up for interesting reading–even if it means reading a pro-Wal-Mart article such as this one. I suggest you read it too. If you don’t have the attention span… some highlights:

Between 1990 and 2002 more than 174 million people escaped poverty in China, about 1.2 million per month. With an estimated $23 billion in Chinese exports in 2005 (out of a total of $713 billion in manufacturing exports), Wal-Mart might well be single-handedly responsible for bringing about 38,000 people out of poverty in China each month, about 460,000 per year.

There are estimates that 70 percent of Wal-Mart’s products are made in China. One writer vividly suggests that “One way to think of Wal-Mart is as a vast pipeline that gives non-U.S. companies direct access to the American market.” Even without considering the $263 billion in consumer savings that Wal-Mart provides for low-income Americans, or the millions lifted out of poverty by Wal-Mart in other developing nations, it is unlikely that there is any single organization on the planet that alleviates poverty so effectively for so many people. Moreover, insofar as China’s rapid manufacturing growth has been associated with a decline in its status as a global arms dealer, Wal-Mart has also done more than its share in contributing to global peace.

I suppose I should step in here to say that the site from which this is taken also posts a current story advocating schools “get back to worksheets” in order to improve our educational system. As the former spouse of a schoolteacher, I can tell you that most good schoolteachers I’ve met think worksheets are a bad idea. Representative of a caustically close-minded “it worked for me” approach to raising good humans. Beyond that, the content seems pretty nauseatingly right-wing (based on my 45-second look around). Anyway, reader beware.

I should also point out that the author of the piece is the co-founder, along with the maybe awful CEO of Whole Foods, of an organization called FLOW. It sure looks nice and friendly. And their agenda involves “cultivating human flourishing, practicing non-violence and radical tolerance, embracing freely chosen mutually beneficial solutions and criticizing by creating.” That really sounds nice and liberal and wonderful. Except for the whole CEO of Whole Foods connection, which makes me wonder if he’s maybe not so bad, or FLOW is maybe not so good. It’s hard to see things as other than black and white sometimes.

The point of all this mumbling is this: there is undoubtedly some good that comes from things as awful and abhorrent as buying junk you don’t need from Wal-Mart. I suppose the question ultimately is… is it worth it? Depends, like most things, on who you ask.

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