Sunday, August 5, 2012

My letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer re: the economic ignorance of writers

Subject: Economic Ignorance: The steep toll it takes
Date: Sun, 5 Aug 2012

Re: Cheap Fashion: The steep toll it takes

Dear Sirs:
Katie Haegele's admiring review of Elizabeth Clines' Over-Dressed: The shockingly high cost of cheap fashion is simply the latest false epiphany by a young person who is ignorant of economic science. Wage rates are determined by worker productivity, which itself is determined by capital investment, which itself is the result of capitalist savings funding successful entrepreneurship. The ever expanding division of labor brings us increasingly improved products at ever lower prices. A capitalist society is not run by evil owners of capital but by the consumer: his decision to purchase or not purchase makes and breaks industrial empires. If women want lots of pairs of cheap shoes rather than one or two pairs of expensive shoes, then that is what the capitalists will fund and the entrepreneurs will provide. Only a spoiled American, ignorant of the workings of our marvelous free enterprise system, would fail to see that the sweat shop workers in China today are better off than their out of sight and starving ancestors. I am old enough to remember when the label "Made in Japan" was viewed as the mark of cheaply made and inferior goods. Not any more. The same can be said of South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and other formerly developing nations. They are "developing" no more and are paid wages approaching that of U.S. workers. Time for writers and book reviewers to learn some basic economic science.

Patrick Barron

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