Skip to comments.The Pope and Godless Capitalism
Posted on 05/03/2013 1:09:31 PM PDT by Kaslin
"This is called slave labor," said Pope Francis.
The Holy Father was referring to the $40 a month paid to apparel workers at that eight-story garment factory in Bangladesh that collapsed on top of them, killing more than 400.
"Not paying a just wage ... focusing exclusively on the balance books, on financial statements, only looking at personal profit. That goes against God!"
The pope is describing the dark side of globalism.
Why is Bangladesh, after China, the second-largest producer of apparel in the world? Why are there 4,000 garment factories in that impoverished country which, a few decades ago, had almost none?
Because the Asian subcontinent is where Western brands -- from Disney to Gap to Benetton -- can produce cheapest. They can do so because women and children will work for $1.50 a day crammed into factories that are rickety firetraps, where health and safety regulations are nonexistent.
This is what capitalism, devoid of a conscience, will produce.
Rescuers at the factory outside Dhaka have stopped looking for survivors, but expect to find hundreds more bodies in the rubble.
The Walt Disney Co., with sales of $40 billion a year, decided -- after an apparel plant fire in November took the lives of 112 workers -- to stop producing in Bangladesh. "The Disney ban now extends to other countries, including Pakistan," says The New York Times, "where a fire last September killed 262 garment workers."
Not long ago, the shirts, skirts, suits and dresses Americans wore were "Made in the USA" -- in plants in the Carolinas, Georgia and Louisiana, where the lower wages, lighter regulations and air conditioning that came after World War II had attracted the factories from New England.
The American idea was that the 50 states and their citizens should compete with one another fairly. The feds set the health and safety standards that all factories had to meet, and imposed wage and hour laws. Some states offered lower wages, but there was a federal minimum wage.
How did we prevent companies from shutting down here and going to places like today's Bangladesh to produce as cheaply as they could -- without regard for the health and safety of their workers -- and to send their products back here and kill the American factories?
From James Madison to the mid-20th century, we had a tariff.
This provided revenue for the U.S. government to keep other taxes low and build the nation's infrastructure. Tariffs prevented exploiters of labor from getting rich here on sweatshops abroad.
Tariffs favored U.S. companies by letting them compete for free in the U.S. market, while a cover charge was placed on foreign goods entering the U.S.A. Foreign producers would pay tariffs for the privilege of competing here, while U.S. companies paid income taxes.
Foreigners had to buy a ticket to the game. Americans got in free.
After all, it's our country, isn't it?
But in the late 20th century, America abandoned as "protectionism" what Henry Clay had called The American System. We gave up on economic patriotism. We gave up on the idea that the U.S. economy should be structured for the benefit of America and Americans first.
We embraced globalism.
The ideological basis of globalism was that, just as what was best for America was a free market where U.S. companies produce and sell anywhere freely and equally in the U.S.A., this model can be applied worldwide.
We can create a global economy where companies produce where they wish and sell where they wish.
As one might expect, the big boosters of the concept were the transnational corporations. They could now shift plants and factories out of the high-wage, well-regulated U.S. economy to Mexico, China and India, then to Bangladesh, Haiti and Cambodia, produce for pennies, ship their products back to the U.S.A., sell here at the same old price, and pocket the difference.
As some who were familiar with the decline of Great Britain predicted, this would lead inexorably to the deindustrialization of America, a halt to the steady rise in U.S. workers' wages and standard of living, and the enrichment of a new class of corporatists.
Meanwhile, other nations, believing yet in economic nationalism, would invade and capture huge slices of the U.S. market for their home companies, their "national champions." The losers would be the companies that stayed in the U.S.A. and produced for the U.S.A., with American workers.
And so it came to pass. U.S. real wages have not risen in 40 years.
In the first decade of the century, America lost 5 million to 6 million manufacturing jobs, one in every three we had, as 55,000 factories closed.
Since Bush 41 touted his New Word Order, we have run trade deficits of $10 trillion -- ten thousand billion dollars! Everybody -- the EU, China, Japan, Mexico, Canada -- now runs a trade surplus at the expense of the U.S.A.
We built the global economy -- by gutting our own.
You are ridiculous *rme*
An unlimited flow of cheap crap. The new American system.
What do you know? The new Pope is a Communist.
There are 100's of thousands in this world who would risk their lives to work in this factory for half as much.
There is a kingdom, not of this world.
Does anyone know how extensive Walmart operations were in this building?
As soon as the RCC began advocating for Obamacare, I knew what side is was on.
I wouldn’t expect the Pope necessarily to understand economics but I would have thought Buchanan knew better than this.
And you are full of it. *rme*
In defense of the Pope, he was making this observation in the context of a factory building collapse that had killed hundreds of people. I suspect his comment was about the working conditions, not the wages.
In that case, it doesn't matter if they're getting paid $40/month or $40,000/month. The economic aspect of this story is secondary, isn't it?
note: the article is by Pat Buchanan, he only quotes the Pope, briefly, at the start.
What Pat seems to forget is that the elimination of tarriffs have as part of their root the combination of high prices and poor quality driven by Union Labor in the US. Americans wanted to buy Japanese cars and electronics (Pat only sticks to textiles and avoids having to point out that the issue is larger and more complex) not only because they were cheaper, but also better than their US made counterparts.
More tariffs (taxes) is his solution? Just another old fool who thinks that more money for the government is the solution to everything.
Perhaps the Pope should stick to spiritual matters rather than economic ones. The people in low wage countries are not prisoners, they are not starving. The wages they receive are livable in those locations. If they dont like the work they can try to get a different job. Furthermore, we are not responsible for building codes in haiti or India. Its not our fault some dimwit engineer inspected the building and declared it safe just before it collapsed.
What people don’t realize is that people voluntarily leave their farms and come to these factories because the jobs there are - better - than what they had at home.
Just as they did in England during the Industrial Revolution.
But living conditions in peasant villages in 1800 England or 2013 Bangladesh are “quaint,” and we can idealize it, and anyway they’re back in the boonies where we don’t have to look at them.
People said - exactly - the same thing about factories in Japan, S. Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, etc. Now those countries have worked their way above the entry level and are producing, or beginning to produce, good jobs and lives for their citizens.
It seems conservatives can accept that individuals may have to work their way up, but have trouble recognizing that countries do too. Liberals can’t recognize this necessity at all.
What’s the alternative? Giving people or countries stuff. Which at best has not proven itself to be a desirable alternative.
Exactly! Thanks for putting into words what I was groping for.
Capitalism extends naturally from God’s laws of private property...
do not steal and do not covet.
Christians, a fortiori the Pope — have the right and the duty to speak out on moral issues. Pope Francis is well within his competence in pointing out that a reductionist view of human life in which everything must give way to the free market is anti-human and irrational.
Free markets are a tool to produce useful information. When they become a religion or ideology they are out of control.
I had read recently that the textile industry in Bangladesh receives special government advantages and it’s power is very influential there.
I would not look only at the wage issue in a developing country. Look at the corruption, and the ways that the rich people there are putting their thumb on the scales, not practicing real free market capitalism.
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