We’ve abandoned traditional U.S. values
France, Germany, Spain and Italy have been receiving a severe tongue-lashing from America’s conservative financial press. It seems that these countries have stubbornly refused to realize that socialism doesn’t work.
“Socialism,” in this sense means that they are reluctant to give up their traditional high standards for protecting the incomes and working conditions for their working-class citizens.
George Melloan, Deputy Editor of The Wall Street Journal, pontificated, (10/27/04)
“…entire countries, like France … recognize what we at the Journal have been preaching for years, that there really is only one economy that matters, the economy of planet earth. … national governments are increasingly forced to adopt policies that recognize the need to compete with other governments. …
Is Melloan right? Factually, of course he is. But morally, he’s wrong. He’s a persuasive defender of the moral standards of our new financial barbarians-at-the-gate.
It’s like the high school teacher who tells his students that those who don’t give him $5 will not receive a passing grade. Sure enough, those who don’t give him the money don’t pass. Does that prove that the teacher is right? Factually, yes. Morally, no.
Melloan’s own paper, the Journal, recently reported (6/30/05) that Grohe Water Technology AG, a profitable family-owned German producer of premium faucets and showers sold out to a group of British investors who loaded it with debt to finance the buyout. They, in turn, sold it to a group of American investors who “piled on even more debt. … Their plans are to slash jobs in Germany and make bathroom fixtures in cheap-labor countries.”
So, when investors warn workers and nations that, if they don’t accept lower pay and worse working conditions, they will lose their jobs – are they right? Of course they are. Are they moral? Of course not. They’ve discovered a manipulative way to quickly transfer wealth from workers to themselves. In the process, they become members of the world’s new aristocracy by depriving workers of their hard-won standards of living.
When Melloan refers to the rich nations that must reform or die, he’s really saying that developed nations, like the U.S., that have created a strong middle class must sacrifice them to the greed of investors – or they will lose their industries and the foundations of their economies.
In effect, countries like the U.S. and England have abandoned their traditional moral standards regarding the fair treatment of workers, and adopted the standards of such sterling countries like Mexico, Indonesia, India, and China – long noted for their vibrant economies and their respect and concern for the poor and powerless.
If the U.S. government now pursues policies that are biased in favor of the already rich and powerful, what can we expect from the leaders these Third World countries in their treatment of their own workers? Instead of creating a worldwide population of middle-class consumers, globalization – as it stands now – is far more likely to repeat what happened after 1929: incredible wealth in the hands of a relatively few, and masses of citizens who can’t afford to buy the products they are making in the world’s factories.
Indeed, today’s version of international trade, globalization, is not based on true economic efficiencies, such as locating a manufacturing plant in the center of a distribution area, or near the source of raw materials, or capitalizing on a nation’s unique characteristics. It is based almost solely on pitting the world’s workers, of all skill levels, against each other in a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions.
It’s the much maligned countries like Germany and France that are trying to uphold what have long been considered America’s true family values – and the world’s investors, though their governments’ policies – are making sure that they are suffering for it.