Trading places with China?

China is undergoing a labor shortage due to its one child policy with its forced abortions, which means that labor costs are climbing.  It may soon reach a point when American companies will do better to keep their manufacturing jobs here.   From Harold Meyerson:

The best news about the American economy isn’t coming from America. It’s coming from China.

The inexhaustible labor pool that has fueled China’s rise as the world’s dominant low-cost manufacturer is beginning to get exhausted. The nation’s decades-old one-child policy has collided with its decades-old industrial development policy to produce something hitherto unimaginable: a labor shortage. China’s labor force will begin to shrink in the next year or two, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The result, as the Journal documents, is steeply rising wages — during the past year, up 14 percent in Shanghai; 18 percent in Guandong (China’s industrial belt); and 28 percent in the inland province of Chongqing, a lower-wage region to which manufacturing has only begun to relocate.

The implications for the U.S. economy are potentially major. With labor costs soaring in China and the yuan slowly rising, while in the United States productivity soars and the dollar slowly declines, the economic advantages that American companies reap by offshoring production begin to dwindle. A Boston Consulting Group study released this month on the return of U.S. manufacturing concludes that “re-investment in the U.S. will accelerate” as a result of these trends.

via China’s bad economic news is not necessarily good for the U.S. – The Washington Post.

OK, it’s not quite so simple, as the column goes on to explain.  But still.  Maybe China and other countries will start outsourcing their manufacturing to us.  If China is becoming the new America economically, maybe America will become the new China.  Not that this would be altogether a good thing.

Emergency cell phone messages from the president

Does anyone see anything wrong with this?

A new national alert system is set to begin in New York City that will alert the public to emergencies via cell phones.

It’s called the Personal Localized Alert Network or PLAN. Presidential and local emergency messages as well as Amber Alerts would appear on cell phones equipped with special chips and software.

The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the system would also warn about terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

“The lessons that were reinforced on 9/11 is the importance of getting clear and accurate information to the public during a crisis,” New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Verizon and AT&T, the nation’s largest cell phone carriers, are already on board. Consumers would be able to opt out of all but those presidential messages.

via National Emergency Alert System Set To Launch In NYC « CBS New York.

It sounds like a good idea.  So why does it FEEL wrong?

Libertarianism vs. Conservatism

I know some of you are libertarians and some of you are Ron Paul fans.  What do you think of Paul’s proposal at the Republican presidential candidate debate to legalize prostitution and drugs?  What do you think of Michael Gerson’s smackdown of Paul and his proposals?

Paul was the only candidate at the debate to make news, calling for the repeal of laws against prostitution, cocaine and heroin. The freedom to use drugs, he argued, is equivalent to the freedom of people to “practice their religion and say their prayers.” Liberty must be defended “across the board.” “It is amazing that we want freedom to pick our future in a spiritual way,” he said, “but not when it comes to our personal habits.”

This argument is strangely framed: If you tolerate Zoroastrianism, you must be able to buy heroin at the quickie mart. But it is an authentic application of libertarianism, which reduces the whole of political philosophy to a single slogan: Do what you will — pray or inject or turn a trick — as long as no one else gets hurt.

Even by this permissive standard, drug legalization fails. The de facto decriminalization of drugs in some neighborhoods — say, in Washington, D.C. — has encouraged widespread addiction. Children, freed from the care of their addicted parents, have the liberty to play in parks decorated by used needles. Addicts are liberated into lives of prostitution and homelessness. Welcome to Paulsville, where people are free to take soul-destroying substances and debase their bodies to support their “personal habits.”

But Paul had an answer to this criticism. “How many people here would use heroin if it were legal? I bet nobody would,” he said to applause and laughter. Paul was claiming that good people — people like the Republicans in the room — would not abuse their freedom, unlike those others who don’t deserve our sympathy.

The problem, of course, is that even people in the room may have sons or daughters who have struggled with addiction. Or maybe even have personal experience with the freedom that comes from alcohol and drug abuse. One imagines they did not laugh or cheer.

Libertarians often cover their views with a powdered wig of 18th- and 19th-century philosophy. They cite Locke, Smith and Mill as advocates of a peaceable kingdom — a utopia of cooperation and spontaneous order. But the reality of libertarianism was on display in South Carolina. Paul concluded his answer by doing a jeering rendition of an addict’s voice: “Oh yeah, I need the government to take care of me. I don’t want to use heroin, so I need these laws.” Paul is not content to condemn a portion of his fellow citizens to self-destruction; he must mock them in their decline. Such are the manners found in Paulsville.

This is not “The Wealth of Nations” or the “Second Treatise of Government.” It is Social Darwinism. It is the arrogance of the strong. It is contempt for the vulnerable and suffering.

The conservative alternative to libertarianism is necessarily more complex. It is the teaching of classical political philosophy and the Jewish and Christian traditions that true liberty must be appropriate to human nature. The freedom to enslave oneself with drugs is the freedom of the fish to live on land or the freedom of birds to inhabit the ocean — which is to say, it is not freedom at all. Responsible, self-governing citizens do not grow wild like blackberries. They are cultivated in institutions — families, religious communities and decent, orderly neighborhoods. And government has a limited but important role in reinforcing social norms and expectations — including laws against drugs and against the exploitation of men and women in the sex trade.

via Ron Paul’s land of second-rate values – The Washington Post.

Sin tax for obesity

More creative taxation ideas, combined with the impulse for the government to make us better:

An Illinois lawmaker says parents who have obese children should lose their state tax deduction.

“It’s the parents’ responsibility that have obese kids,” said state Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga. “Take the tax deduction away for parents that have obese kids.”

Cultra has not introduced legislation to deny parents the $2,000 standard tax deduction, but he floated the idea Tuesday, when lawmakers took a shot at solving the state’s obesity epidemic.

With one in five Illinois children classified as obese and 62 percent of the state’s adults considered overweight, health advocates are pushing a platter of diet solutions including trans fat bans and restricting junk food purchases on food stamps.

Today, the Senate Public Health Committee considered taxing sugary beverages at a penny-per-ounce, in effect applying the same theory to soda, juices and energy drinks that governs to liquor sales. Health advocates say a sin tax could discourage consumption, but lawmakers are reluctant to target an industry supports the jobs of more than 40,000 Illinoisans.

“It seems like we just, we go after the low-hanging fruit, where its easy to get,” said state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford. He said the state needs to form a comprehensive plan to address physical fitness and disease prevention, rather than taking aim at sugary drinks.

via Ill. lawmaker says raising obese kids should cost parents at tax time.

What do you think about extending the principle of the “sin tax”–currently levied at alcohol and tobacco–to “sugary” soft drinks?  (Is obesity, let alone smoking and drinking, an actual sin?)  Or to taxing parents for having overweight children?  Are the parents sinning and in need of punishment?  Should the tax code be used to police the behavior and choices of citizens?

Your thoughts for the penny

Ezra Klein highlights some proposals going around Washington that are not controversial and that everyone of any political party should be able to get behind.  Not me, when it comes to abolishing the penny!

In 2007, economist Austan Goolsbee wrote an op-ed article in which he asked, “How dumb do you have to be to mint money at a loss?” Goolsbee is now President Obama’s chief economic adviser, so it would be unwise for him to answer his own question. But I’ll do it for him: really, really dumb. And we’re doing it.

It now costs 1.7 cents to pound out a penny, which means we’d save billions of dollars by retiring the hardy coin.

And it’s time to get rid of it anyway. America has never kept a coin in circulation that’s worth as little as the penny is today. In 1867, when the half-cent coin was phased out, the penny was worth 26 cents at today’s rates. But today we’ve got a coin worth 25 cents. It’s time for the penny to enjoy a well-deserved rest.

via The No-Brainer awards – Ezra Klein – The Washington Post.

I disagree!  The virtue of having pennies is that our financial transactions can have exact precision.  We might as well get rid of the greenback dollar, since you can’t buy anything with that either.

America’s exceptional arrogance in the bin Laden killing?

While we Americans tend to embrace our “exceptionalism,”  people from other countries often see that as a bad thing.  Britain’s prominent Christian author N. T. Wright excoriates America for our presumption in the bin Laden assassination:

Popular author and New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has accused the world of giving America a free pass for violating Pakistan’s sovereignty and killing an unarmed man during the recent attack that killed Osama bin Laden.

The former bishop of Durham sent a short statement to The Times’ religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill in which he pointed out that Americans would be “furious” if Great Britain’s military had staged an unannounced raid against hypothetical Irish Republican Army terrorists and killed them, unarmed, in a Boston suburb.

The only difference, Wright says, is “American exceptionalism.”

“America is allowed to do it, but the rest of us are not,” said Wright, who is now the research professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. “By what right? Who says?”

President Obama, Wright says, has “enacted one of America’s most powerful myths,” the vigilante hero going outside the law to execute “redemptive violence” against an enemy who has rendered the legitimate authorities impotent. “This is the plot of a thousand movies, comic-book strips, and TV shows: Captain America, the Lone Ranger, and (upgraded to hi-tech) Superman. The masked hero saves the world.”

While this myth may have been a necessary dimension of life in the Wild West, Wright says, it also “legitimizes a form of vigilantism, of taking the law into one’s own hands, which provides ‘justice’ only of the crudest sort.”

“What will we do when new superpowers arise and try the same trick on us?” he asks. “And what has any of this to do with something most Americans also believe, that the God of ultimate justice and truth was fully and finally revealed in the crucified Jesus of Nazareth, who taught people to love their enemies, and warned that those who take the sword will perish by the sword?”

via N.T. Wright Slams ‘American Exceptionalism’ in Osama bin Laden Mission | Politics | Christianity Today.

How would you answer him?   Would we, as he says, object if British commandos killed an IRA operative in Boston?  If so, how can we justify what we did in Pakistan?


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