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We live in an increasingly global world and that snowball is likely to keep rolling down the hill of society and continue to grow larger. In the United States we receive a staggering amount of our goods from countries on nearly every other continent. Large corporations have been heading down this road for decades due to cheap foreign labor looking quite attractive in the face of unions in America that have gained so much power that in a lot of cases they have a stranglehold over the operations of corporations. I remember a few years ago when the Hershey Foods workers went on strike. A couple years later the company decided that they were going to move most of the company’s operations to another state and to Mexico. And is anyone surprised?
But what is appropriate for us as individuals? Should we not buy products from China because it takes jobs away from Americans and because they have poor human rights standards? Let’s take a look at the first one. Companies exist to make a profit and if they are able to accomplish that much easier by using foreign labor then they are simply acting out capitalism as it was intended to be and their shareholders I’m sure have little problem with this. So what about the human rights aspect of the Chinese government? Like many others I am not comfortable with this aspect of Chinese goods but I wonder what life would be like for the citizens of China if the United States wasn’t pouring billions of dollars into it’s economy every year.
What if you are an individual who is trying to run a small business successfully? I know that I could never afford to have a personal assistant, but Virtual Assistants from India are cheap and do excellent work. The Epson R220 printer that I use to print my cds uses six different ink cartridges which at retail in the US costs me about $80 for a full set. More than I paid for the printer itself. Thanks to the Internet I was able to find generic cartridges that are compatible and paid $10 for an entire set. And you know what? They work great. How about a writer that wants to self-publish a book. He or She could spend about $4000 for a thousand copies in the US. Using a foreign printer however the author could get the same thing for a fraction of the cost. If the author couldn’t afford local prices and so wouldn’t use local services anyway, then what has the local economy lost?
On a psychological level I am all for supporting the local economy but when it comes to real life I rarely am able to support the local economy because I can’t afford to. I can’t help that local companies charge much more for the same thing that I can get cheaper through the Internet from another part of the country or another part of the world. Dealing in a global economy does have some inherent drawbacks that can’t be ignored either though. The author getting his book printed can’t easily proof the work of the foreign printer he is using and if he gets a thousand copies of screwed up books it could be a mess that costs him even more money to fix. Communications barriers are often a bit of an issue with global dealings as well but the cost savings of all the options that a global economy has to offer an individual make it hard to not go this route at least some of the time.
As someone who supports self-sufficiency I would be remiss to not mention it here. As I said, on a psychological level I want to support the local economy as much as possible but more so I’d like to just be relying on the economy of myself. But I’m not there yet and hard economic times don’t always afford me the idealism of supporting local economy when there are literally billions of people around the world just waiting to do work for me for less money.