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02/22/2010: "Getting and Spending...."
Some people (not many) have questioned why we choose to have our Bicycle Fixation clothing line sewn in Los Angeles, rather than following the herd and running to cheap Chinese labor. These are people who, of course, would prefer to pay less for our product. (So would we!) But there are numerous reasons we choose domestic production, not just cost (though our own income would rise a good 20% if we went Chinese):As for the argument that employing Chinese labor "helps the workers"--always presented by people who would never condescend to work for Chinese wages, of course: I submit that this is a delusion at best, and specious at worst.

From an LA Times article by David Pierson and Barbara Demick:
China's rapid rise might be the envy of nations across the globe. Yet for all the talk of its economic miracle, Chinese consumers are taking home a shrinking share of the pie. In the 1990s, household income accounted for 72% of the country's gross domestic product. By 2007 it had fallen to 55%, according to a study on Chinese consumption by consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

That's because Beijing has geared China's economy toward production rather than consumption. It's a formula that has provided millions of workers with employment but no quick path to the middle class.

Driving the disparity, experts said, is China's decision to subsidize manufacturing and exports at almost any cost to keep its factories humming. The government has showered its manufacturers with low-interest loans, export subsidies and other incentives to give them an edge over foreign competitors. Beijing has also kept its currency, the yuan, artificially low so that its goods remain cheap abroad.

That has been a boon for Chinese factory owners and other well-connected elites. The nation boasted 42 billionaires on Forbes' most recent list of global tycoons.

But wages for most Chinese workers have grown slowly, while their tax burden has risen to help finance all those business subsidies. Meanwhile, a weak currency has fueled inflation and makes imports more expensive for consumers at home.

The McKinsey study said the average Chinese worker has to put in seven hours on the job to earn enough to purchase the same amount of goods or services that an American worker could buy with one hour's pay.
Nothing against China; we even have collateral relatives there. But outsourcing our production to the PRC--or any other similar country whose main export is not really goods but depressed labor costs--would do neither their workers nor ours any favors, but only support yet another level of predatory bosses. We choose not to do that, though it costs us a bit of cash.

And the money Bicycle Fixation pays out to local labor is, much of it, spent in local businesses--including those that support the very people buying our goods.

As the poet William Wordsworth wrote:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
Those who see cheapness as the only virtue, in spite of the damage it may cause their fellow humans and the earth itself, have certainly given away their hearts.

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