Monday, January 26, 2009

Seven Degrees To Chinese Imports

The S.S Elderlie awaiting cargo in Fiji.

After hearing twenty people a day complain about Chinese made goods, while holding a bag of them in their hand....

O.K., so this one took some research, so bare with me.

As you stride through the aisles of Target, K-Mart, Wal Mart..just about any "Mart," you see a common thread. Made In China.
I hear everyone complain about it, yet the same people aren't walking out of the store and going to their local neighborhood grocer, market, etc. Why? It's cheap. Money talks, and hand-made wooden toys from grandpa's farm in the country suck, so you buy from China. The good side? Again, it's cheap. The down side is a crushing domestic market that runs small businesses into the ground. Not their fault..OUR fault for being cheap. It isn't without it's precedent, either. There have been "degrees" to a failing domestic market for a hundred and fifty years.

The pivotal point? The day the in 1884 when the S.S. Elderslie set sail. She was the first refrigerated ship, and she changed the global economy for ever. The British had dominated the planet's trade for over a hundred years, allowing their landowners and farmers to sell their goods to their own people at a tidy profit. That kept the wealth IN their country. The hundred year reign of the British Empire came to a grinding halt within a generation after the Elderslie set sail. The British global reach was about to reach out and slap them. The Elderslie began to deliver goods from other countries. Produce from South America, meat and dairy from New Zealand and Australia, all exposed the British population to a global market. By 1905, they were importing sixty percent of their basic food needs, and eighty percent of their grain. Collapse came quickly, and between 1903 and 1909 over nine million acres of privately owned land had to be sold off to pay rising debt.

Eilean Donan castle for sale again, just like it was in 1905.

Sound familiar?

Ahhh..lead. Makes a perdy family pitchur, don't it?

Once the goods of every nation began exchanging hands, the market changed rapidly. It's kind of sad that we can't recall the lessons learned by such hardships in the past. Free trade is amazing for your pocket book, until you find out that the paint on your bike has forty percent more lead in it than trade agreements would allow.

A Fake Tarmac SL being sold in the UK.
Specialized bikes have been dealing with Chinese fakes (and damn good ones too) of their Asian made carbon road bikes that took a long time to figure out..and they still don't know where they are coming from! But they were cheap..of course they have been breaking pretty often too...but they were cheap.

So when you bitch about how bad the economy is, or that "everything's made in China," just remember that you are standing in line with a cart full of crap that just came off the cargo ship from the very place you are crying about.

Oh, and the S.S. Elderslie? She was wrecked in 1905.


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