Death by China REVIEW
"History doesn’t repeat itself but it usually rhymes,” I often say. During the Napoleonic wars, Europeans needed food and America had lots of land to grow food on. People sensing that agriculture would be a good way to make a living, borrowed money and bought land. When the Napoleonic wars ended, this land would become less profitable than it was when it was purchased and a lot of banks would begin calling in loans, crashing the economy. Simultaniously, British manufacturers converted from making war materials to making consumables and the European continent could not buy them all. Ergo, they had a lot to sell here in America. Here is a sentence from the Wikipedia article on the Panic of 1819:
“American manufacturers faced US markets swamped with British products, produced by low-paid workers and priced well below competitive rates and forcing may factories out of business.”
Rhyme with anything you might be reading about in your papers? The end result is a situation where you have a lot of people who went into debt to buy real estate that turned out to be less valuable than they thought it was going to be at the same time a whole sector of the economy gets whacked by foreign competition desperate enough to make things for less.
Death by China takes the U.S. Government to task for not protecting American manufacturing jobs against Chinese competition. The argument is tightly constructed and laden with graphics (Chines pollution falling on the American flag, a dagger stabbing an American flag, blood splattering everywhere, etc.) Throughout the movie, we are told that when Americans buy Chinese goods, American companies are forced to relocate to China, American workers are laid off, American R&D is sent to China soon after, Chinese workers are abused, the Chinese military is strengthened, American children are killed (by dangerous Chinese products), the trade deficit grows, debt is incurred, unemployment rates go up, life grows bleak for our children, and so on.
It is an interesting debate. I personally do not wish to have a manufacturing job but I understand that many people do. I like working with and assembling ideas out of idea parts. And though I might like to see the percentage of Americans working in such fields raised simply because I muyslef find such work satisfying, I am aware that idea jobs are not what makes everyone happy. I think to some extent, some of the conflicts I have with some students in my classes has to do with the fact that I am trying to educate them for an idea economy when they would like to work in a things economy. I am not teaching them to make anything.
comes down to this: Should we change our workers to fit the global economy or
should we change the economy to fit our workers? Neither will be entirely
possible. But it strikes me as a
conversation worth having in my U.S. History classes this week. Whatever it is
we decide to do, we have to stop thinking with our forward thinking lobes set
on low beam. As a history teacher, my job is to stop teaching the past without
teaching people how to think about the future – a future beyond tomorrow’s
paycheck. We need to stop being so capitalistic, we sell the rope that is going to be used to hjang us.
The subject of the film is an important one I believe. I wish it had been presented with fewer sensationalized graphics. The argument is reasoned in most respects but the graphical side show is addressed to the most simplistic thinkers in the audience.
Question for Comment: When you shop for things, do you care where it comes from as much as you do its price?