To the capacity that I am a Communist

There are plenty of people that want change, but some of us aren’t sure how to implement it. Some of us are contemplating, dumbfounded by the priorities of humanity and his precious ranking and filing of granfalloons like “liberal” or “black” or “pro-life” or “Californian” or “ivy league”. We don’t get these things. We don’t understand people who see another person as the arbitrary groups to which they belong instead of another person. We don’t understand your gods or your revenge. We don’t understand these wars, and we’d really like to step in and help.

We want nothing more than to help. We don’t like seeing people on the street. We don’t like seeing people bought and sold. We don’t like starvation or poverty. We don’t like watching children clutching Kalashnikov rifles like we clutched baseball bats.

But until the number of people that want real change exceed the number of people that are destroying themselves over matters of nation, ethnicity, and holy book, we can only be brought down with them.

Until their moment of realization, our attempted rescue would be a heroic and noble effort; it would be the definition of sacrifice–but today our forces would be overwhelmed with divisiveness; today our forces, though aiming for the same justice, would disagree on every means of attaining it.

When we create a means of distributing wealth over a nation of 300 million people, who benefits the most? Historically, the ones who live best are the ones forcing this grand redistribution and keeping its bank books. If the people themselves are not the purveyors of this action, they will be trampled by their former liberators who now hold the sword and purse. Even if the liberator is equal to the best caliber of human being that recorded history can tell, who holds the guarantee that the successor of this hero will not be a tyrant? Moreover, if the people are led into this utopia without themselves being awake, isn’t it more likely that they mistakenly hand the scepter to an unscrupulous charlatan?

If I tried to fight for communism, I would be no different than Lenin, seizing the reins of power for noble reasons, no doubt, but all the while inadvertently preparing those same reigns for the self-serving tyrant that succeeded him.

What I mean to say is–in order to implement communism, in order to truly achieve it, you must have the body of the people behind you–the true and real body of people–the farmers and the machinists, white and blue collars. Communism will arise from the genesis of a new enlightenment, just as capitalism did.

Even capitalism created possibility–the ability, regardless of birthright, to make a gain in wealth. It allowed Carnegie (in the 19th century) and Onassis (in the 20th), who in youth were commoners in their home countries, to come to America and amass the wealth of Kings. It allowed unprecedented social mobility and technological expansion.

However, it also signaled the end of royalty-by-blood and the start of royalty-by-greed.

Where once it was necessary to be born correctly in order to exploit others, now one needs only cunning, greed, and the scent of a fool with money.

Communism is incorrectly implemented until the capitalists have had their turn at exploitation so heinous that all the world cries for a change. They must take more from us. They must take so much more that what little comforts we had left would be worth no more than sacrificing our own lives in the name of change. This greed must surge through every city, and the sting of poverty–not this plaintive poverty that we “working-class” Americans perceive ourselves to be in, but the kind of poverty that forces a man to break the law to keep himself alive–must be felt like an earthquake trembles the earth.

If enough of us are spared this feeling, too many of us will still hold faith in Adam Smith. If enough of us live our days without the consequences of greed, too many of us will still believe that mine is more important than yours, that our true goal is just one more acre, one more bedroom, one more vehicle, one more television, one more dollar per hour.

Until that day, we’re only ideologues. Until that day, I can only hope that writing this will rouse one more person from their deceptively comfortable sleep.

Hey, China still cool

With China holding a massive chunk of our national debt and the undervalued Yuan pissing off international traders on our side of the big pond, it seems that we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Setting up tougher tariffs on China’s exports might not be such a good idea–after all, they can recoup those losses easily–our federal bank happens to owe them a lot of money.

Fortunately, particular American material, chemical, and small product manufacturers are temporarily getting a boost without depending on state-imposed tariffs to make their goods more competitive: in the last few months, their Chinese counterparts have been under attack for unsafe products ranging anywhere from pet food to toothpaste to children’s toys.

My generation grew up hearing about the death of Detroit due to booming Japanese vehicle imports, and for good reason–with American auto makers cutting cost-per-vehicle expenses in their manufacturing processes, Japanese auto companies in the early 90’s implemented tougher inspection processes, greater attention to detail, and the product-perfectionist attitude that’s necessary to break (and break BIG) into a new market.

When the Big Three started their march to Washington with an angry plea to save their companies from the superior products arriving from overseas, they failed to understand rule 1 of capitalism: the market decides.

When you decide to save $1.50 a vehicle by NOT spraying that second coat of anti-rust compound, you’re not really saving money–you’re shitting on your customer. When they find their beloved Ford, GM, or Chrysler starting to rust at the runners with only 3 years and 50,000 miles on the car, your losses on the market will dwarf the gains made by those brilliant American penny-pinching tactics on the assembly line.

Well, now it’s China’s turn. In small product manufacturing, quality isn’t always important–so on a child’s toy you can get away with paint that wears off or toy truck axles that bend. When little Johnny is playing with his novelty plastic glider, he doesn’t mind that the color is faded or that the die stamp was a little bit off. Children’s toys–at the dollar store or the supermarket checkout line–aren’t built to last, and parents looking for a quick pacifier aren’t going to question their hefty investment of $1.99 on a bag of injection molded toy soldiers.

If those soldiers contain lead, however, the term “quality” has just crossed the line from preference to necessity. Low quality can and will be tolerated by unsavvy consumers, but safety issues change the problem from annoyance to danger.

In the last twenty years, “grow grow grow” has been the apparent mantra of the Chinese manufacturing body, and like state of American heavy industry at the turn of the 20th century, fast growth comes at the expense of unsafe working conditions and unsafe products.

Add health products like toothpaste, agricultural products like pet food, and sensitive consumer products like baby bibs into the mix, and you have a volatile response on your hands. Why issue tariffs when the end-consumers have perfectly good reason to reject the products wholesale?

China is a tough economy, and make no mistake–these issues are far from a fatal (or even critical) blow. Manufacturers with a strong tie to large American distributors are now bringing in independent consultants and product-safety firms, sometimes on the request of their clients.

Also, we read an eerie entry yesterday in the New York Times saying that one of the men behind the Mattel recall was killed in “an apparent suicide,” but that few details were known. In a similar story just a few months ago involving Chinese prescription drugs (which are not exported to the west,) a man accused of taking kickbacks from the Sino-pharmas committed suicide.

If you want to play Capitalist with the rest of us, making your consumers (or their fuzzy pets) sick is a sure path to losing customers and contracts. You can sell us crap (after all, we’re Americans; we love to save a few pennies,) but hurting us in the process isn’t really a good market strategy. We’re pretty dumb, but we’re not that dumb.

The Chinese are capable of rapid adaptation. While Chinese manufacturers should be (and are being) momentarily shunned by the west, we should also see this as a sign a maturation in our healthy competition across the Pacific.

With the explosion of the Chinese economy (11% growth in the last QUARTER, mind you) and the unstopping steam engine of globalization puffing along, this is no Waterloo. It’s more of another rung that the Chinese are stepping up to on the ladder to top dog.

Let’s hope that as they continue to mature and produce higher-quality products at exceedingly higher volumes, our remaining American manufacturers keep an eye on their progress and remember–above all else–that the market decides.

Staying competitive might become a little bit harder once the Chinese have had their own industrial reforms in safety and quality control. A copy of “The Jungle” in Mandarin might not be necessary–losses from unsafe products and rewards for a consistent safety record may be lesson enough.

After all, they’re in it for the money, even in the PRC. Welcome to capitalism.