Reflections in Comparative Economics After a Trip Abroad (exerpt)
– Nalin Ratnayake
Our mega-corporations are not all bad; the are the backbone of what provides our huge industrial and economic power. And for all the detriment it has done to the U.S. domestic economy by helping to flood the American // market with cheap Chinese-made goods, WalMart has also used its enormous purchasing power to push for greener practices in its supply chain [ Aston ]. Starbucks has similarly implemented measures to support small coffee growers with its Fair Trade initiative.
But a balance must be made between the benefits of having large-capital corporations, and the need to keep domestic manufacturing viable. Countries like Sri Lanka have a long way to go before they reach the level of labor equity, environmental regulation, and purchasing power of the United States. But they definitely know something that we have forgotten a long time ago: a genuinely local economy that spends wisely is a valuable asset that has no price tag.
As I read the local paper and frown at forthcoming plans to put in yet another suburban WalMart center near Quartz Hill, I fear for the viability of my town’s character; Quartz Hill has long been a pocket of small, friendly, locally-owned businesses. But the powers that be will go with what sells, and that bit of policy is in no one’s hands but our own.
We Americans must realize that there is a hidden price associated with always seeking the cheapest product regardless of anything else and then spending like there’s no tomorrow. But the fault is never in the error itself; it is in failing to learn from it. So, after a gloomy recession year full of bad news and dashed dreams, let us as a nation resolve this year to: a) consume less and save more, and b) when we do consume, to buy local products or domestically manufactured goods whenever possible, even at somewhat greater upfront cost. The long-term effect will be, I think, to make our prosperity more stable, sustainable, environmentally friendly, and good for our nation and the world.
[photo credit: David Shankbone]