We have heard much lately about dangerous Chinese products that have come to our shores, from the lead paint-laden toys to the poisoned food and toxic toothpaste. And it seems that most anything you buy nowadays has a "Made in China" label on the back. But I ask you, do we really need this junk?
You see, I've observed that it isn't just the toxic products that make the news that are the problem; it seems to me that Chinese goods are shoddily made in general. For instance, there's a certain brand of Chinese-made telephone headsets that I and two people I know had the misfortune of purchasing, a very common brand. I'm not exaggerating when I say that in every case the equipment malfunctioned (to the point where one couldn't use it) within a few months of acquisition. The trash only has a 90-day warranty, too, which is not surprising since it seems to be loaded with a self-destruct mechanism that activates after about 90 days. To place this in further perspective, among the three of us we probably had about 10 of these headsets (owing partially to the fact that a few malfunctioned within the 90-day period and the fact that one or two kindly retailers were willing to replace them even beyond that short time frame), and, again, every one malfunctioned. It's staggering.
In my mind, this is just another reason why I can do without "free trade." How does it really benefit us? While we are enjoying cheaper goods over the short term, our manufacturing base has been destroyed; we're filling the coffers of despotic, anti-American regimes; and we've introduced dangerous products into our market. As for the last point, when we buy produce grown abroad -- in Mexico, South America or elsewhere -- do we really know what chemicals it's treated with? If the product is packaged food, do we know how hygienic these Third World factories are? Does anyone in government really care? We should remember that these Third World nations don't have the regulations or standards we do and are rife with disease and corruption. If their packaging plants were infested with rats (a good bet, I'd say), would their governments really care?
I don't propose that we eliminate foreign trade, but I do support the institution of high tariffs, a practice that accords with American tradition. So, no, I don't believe in free trade -- except within these 50 states.
Getting back to these shoddy products, I find it disheartening that modern Americans so readily accept low standards. Not that long ago, people had the expectation that a product might last a lifetime. Now, when you buy an appliance, the salesman will inquire as to whether you want an extended service warranty to cover the product after, let's say, a year's time. If you don't have confidence that an expensive item you carry will last for at least a few years without breakdown, why are you selling it to me?
This is just another example of the complete breakdown in standards in the West. But, hey, in the same way that people get the government they deserve, I suppose they get the products and services they deserve, too. And there really is a connection there, as our products and politicians seem to decline at the same rate.