Posted by Charity on August 16th, 2007

You might assume that there is a lot of political discussion in the She’s Right household, but you would be surprised at how little we do talk about politics around here. See, Mr. She’s Right – or is that Mr. Right? – does not really like to talk about politics.

But when he does, man, is he on fire.

Last night, I had the rare treat of hearing one of his political tirades. It was about China, brought about by a disturbing Town Hall column by Phyllis Schlafly.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that as many as 20 million chickens and thousands of hogs in several states may have been fed contaminated feed. In May, 900,000 tubes of toothpaste imported from China were withdrawn because tests showed that glycerine had been replaced by diethylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze. This poisoned toothpaste has turned up in U.S. hospitals, prisons, and juvenile detention centers.

The United States imports 80 percent of the seafood consumed by Americans, and China is the largest foreign source. The FDA says that a quarter of the shrimp coming from China contains antibiotics that are not allowed in U.S. food production and cannot be eliminated by cooking.

The FDA rejected 51 shipments of catfish, eel, shrimp, and tilapia because of contaminants such as salmonella, veterinary drugs, and a cancer-causing chemical called nitrofuran.

And there’s more.

We, here in the She’s Right household, have been concerned about China for quite some time. I mean, there has to be something wrong with plastic products that smell like kerosene, right?

Not to mention, we’ve never been comfortable supporting a country like China. As they say, you can tell what you really value by looking at what you spend your money on. Let’s just say, we do not exactly value the policies of China.

At any rate, last night, in the midst of his rant about China, my husband mentioned that one day he caught a few minutes of Walter Williams hosting Rush Limbaugh. Normally a big fan of Williams, he found fault with William’s assessment of free trade from an economic standpoint only.

Yes, it might be true that from an economic standpoint, a free-market is the best model, but there is so much more at stake when dealing with a country like China. Foreign policy, product safety, human rights, to name a few.

We all know that I am as free-market as they come. Well, close anyway. As such, I am by no means going to advocate some convoluted system of government intervention that will only end up doing more harm than good.

So, how do I reconcile my distaste and mistrust of all things Made in China with my penchant for free-market capitalism?

Product labeling.

Yes, it really is that simple.

Not just labels on the cheap, plastic, Made in China junk we buy at Wal-Mart, but on everything.

And when products are made using imported parts or ingredients, that needs to be disclosed, too.

Frankly, I don’t know why this isn’t already being done.

Dr. Williams himself should agree that this is necessary to a true free-market system. He wrote:

First, let’s establish a working definition of free markets; it’s really simple. Free markets are simply millions upon millions of individual decision-makers, engaged in peaceable, voluntary exchange pursuing what they see in their best interests.

But can we really pursue what we see in our best interests without having all of the information we need to make decisions?

Granted, we cannot expect every product to carry a label detailing every piece of information that one would need to know in order to make an informed decision. There has to be some individual responsibility involved in informing ourselves.

But in this day and age of globalization, it is impossible to know where the products we buy are from if they are not labeled.

I can’t in good conscience end without sharing more of that Williams quote:

People who denounce the free market and voluntary exchange, and are for control and coercion, believe they have more intelligence and superior wisdom to the masses. What’s more, they believe they’ve been ordained to forcibly impose that wisdom on the rest of us. Of course, they have what they consider good reasons for doing so, but every tyrant that has ever existed has had what he believed were good reasons for restricting the liberty of others.

Tyrants are against the free market because it implies voluntary exchange. Tyrants do not trust that people acting voluntarily will do what the tyrant thinks they ought to do. [...]

I personally believe that it is not worth the risk to buy goods – particularly food – imported from China, but I am not ready to impose my will upon others.

My suggestion that we are thorough in labeling country of origin, and I am by no means claiming this to be mine alone, would maintain the freedom of others to still choose to buy what they want.

I’m not trying to be a tyrant. I firmly believe that people have a God-given right to make bad choices and do stupid things. I also believe, the name of this blog notwithstanding, that I do not always know what is right for everyone.

I just want to know when I am presented with a product that comes from a foreign country, so that I can freely pursue what I see in my best interest.

5 Responses to “Where Was This Made?”

  1. I have never been one to support free trade or globalization. I used to be a protectionist in the vein of Pat Buchanan (who correctly states that protectionism was the economic gospel of the GOP prior to Eisenhower) until I began doing some reading of the works of the British Distributists and the American Agrarians (Who Owns America by Allen Tate and Herbert Agar is a classic). The problem with free trade with China is threefold: 1.) China’s foreign and domestic policies are oppressive–they are, after all, still a Communist nation, 2.) China’s manufacturing has boomed as American manufacturing has withered, and 3.) the amount of trade debt that the U.S. owes to China is at dangerous levels. Americans need to return to what Swiss economist Wilhelm Ropke called a “humane economy” based on what Kirkpatrick Sale calls an economy of “human scale”. Encouraging local first purchasing power will not only empower individuals, families, and communities, but make American stronger in the long run. Instead of buying cheap junk at Wal-Mart made in Communist China, Americans should start shopping downtown and buying products from their neighbors.

  2. Great comment.

  3. Granted, we cannot expect every product to carry a label detailing every piece of information that one would need to know in order to make an informed decision.

    Why not? Other countries do it.

    I firmly believe that people have a God-given right to make bad choices and do stupid things.

    Not when it affects people other than themselves., which is very often the case with those types of things. And that ‘free-market’ you love so much doesn’t exist, Charity. It never did, and it never will.

  4. Why not? Other countries do it.

    Every piece of information?? So, they include a book with every product that details the research for and against said product? I can only imagine the large volume that comes with eggs. First they are good, then bad, then good.

    Face it, making an informed decision takes a lot of leg work and it cannot be done for you.

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