Surprisingly, in spite of all the garlic that is grown locally, the only garlic I could find came from . . . China!
Not having the time to shop the farm stands, I reluctantly purchased the Chinese garlic even though the possibility of contamination from poorly managed Chinese landfills crossed my mind. Admittedly, it was good smelling garlic, and the price was right . . . but it got me thinking about the increasing prevalence of foreign-grown produce on local shelves . . . the inconvenience attached to finding locally grown produce . . . and the decimation of local agriculture.
Something is very very wrong when it is easier to purchase garlic grown 12,000 miles away than garlic grown 12 miles away.
Those thoughts led to thoughts about the decline in locally produced goods, such as men's suits from Joseph and Feiss, radios from General Electric, garden tools from Union Fork, and textiles from many now-closed plants. In fact, I recently replaced my old broken Union hoe (made locally) with a new Union hoe (made in China). It was upsetting.
"Free Trade" has been a mantra chanted by both political parties in recent decades. Not having majored in economics, it is difficult to counter the statement in Wikipedia:
"[T]he broad consensus among members of the economics profession in the U.S. is that free trade is a large and unambiguous net gain for society.""Consensus" is often a matter of perspective. I can accept the above statement if "gain" is confined to getting products into the hands of consumers at the lowest possible cost, and "society" is global.
The reality, however, is that "society" is not global. Different cultures place importance on different things, which is reflected in their countries' laws. We have laws to protect the environment, and to protect workers, but other countries do not. Our laws raise production costs here in relation to those elsewhere. That causes production to move elsewhere. While some Americans complain that other countries engage in unfair trade practices by subsidizing their agricultural production, subsidizing strategic industries such as steel production, or by manipulating their currencies, aren't we doing the reverse with our environmental and labor laws? If we did away with our labor and environmental protections, would that not arguably be a subsidy?
To paraphrase a common saying, "Free Trade isn't Free."
The cost is to our culture and the things we consider important. What we gain in a clean environment and decently paid workers, we lose in jobs and wealth. . . .
And ultimately lose in National Security.
It is simply amazing that national leaders seem clueless to the security implications of Free Trade. With most of our manufacturing capacity -- and increasingly agricultural capacity -- exported offshore, what is left to protect us if we get into a war? We survived and succeeded during WWI and WWII because we had peacetime manufacturing and agricultural capacity that could be converted to wartime use. What is there to convert now?
Software engineers cannot feed or clothe us.
We are vulnerable and need to do something about it.