Since 9/11 the wail has been heard across the land of the free: "Why do they hate us so?" Reading these letters as if from afar might make it a little easier to understand.
Of course, China is not a model any American (or European for that matter) would aspire to. Relative living standards should be taken into account as should the human rights of their citizens.
But just stand back for a moment and consider how all this looks to an African or Asian peasant farmer. Quick to preach the virtues of free enterprise and the open-market system to the governments who rule these farmers, the U.S. shows much less willingness to allow them to compete fairly with their huge agri-businesses. Barriers to entry must be erected at every border post and port. The inalienable right to consume 40 percent of the world's resources must be protected.
At every turn the U.S. arrogates to itself the right to be a special case. The international court of human rights should not have jurisdiction over Americans. Americans see no need to sign up to the Kyoto accord if it means they might have to drive a car smaller than a house occupied by 10 people in the rest of the world. One thousand AMERICAN LIVES have been lost in Iraq.
There is much to admire in the U.S. A spirit of adventure and creativeness probably unmatched anywhere in the world allied to the drive and energy to give it life. But when you look out of your continent-wide fastness remember that there are other people in the world who yearn for, and have as much right to, the pursuit of happiness as you do.
-- David Wakerley
Overpopulated repressed Asian masses?
How many of you guys have actually ventured outside of the strip malls of suburban America? Asia is a huge, diverse continent.
All you people who are kvetching about China and India stealing jobs from Americans should know that Asian countries are buying U.S. dollar debt to keep their currencies cheaper relative to the greenback. Why is the Fed issuing so much debt? Because the U.S. is spending more than it earns. Because Americans are hooked on cheap credit.
In other words, Asian taxpayers are bankrolling U.S. spending.
-- Sebastian Tong
Most of the people writing in are vociferous in their protection of the U.S. economy, and they rant on about the terrible conditions in the rest of the world. Two problems with that stance. 1) It's not that simple and 2) Complaining won't help.
Japan has been outsourcing its car manufacturing for decades, mostly to the U.S. It seems odd that they can be profitable in the U.S. while U.S. car manufacturers can't. Letter writers rail against terrible conditions outside the U.S. I've been living abroad for almost 30 years, in a lot of different countries, and it ain't that bad. Sure, you have a few bad situations but globalization will even things out in the end. Unions will finally go international, just as the corporations have.
I agree with Tom Friedman when he says (in his book "The Lexus and the Olive Tree") that globalization is on its way and there isn't anything we can do about it. It is a fundamental realignment of the world economy that reflects reality in the form of advanced technology and new methods of wealth creation.
I taught research scientists in China for a year just after Tiananmen in 1990. They were so good it was scary. They were totally focused on success. A lot better potential workers than a bunch of whiners.
-- Kevin Ryan
Mr. Leonard makes several valuable points in this article. One of the underlying causes of terrorism is the global imbalance of resource use and wealth. As citizens, we must decide whether we want to continue fighting a military war to maintain our standard of living (which will eventually bankrupt the country, not to mention the moral issues in this approach) or find multiple nonviolent ways of solving this imbalance.
If we want our nation to be a global leader in this area, we must bring to bear all the powers of statesmanship, diplomacy and intellect. At the same time, we must support and retrain our workers.
Secondly, Leonard's suggestion that our children learn Mandarin or Hindi is not so far off. Some economists predict that by 2050 China will have the largest national economy followed by the economies of the U.S. and India. Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be well served by knowing the languages of these other two economic powerhouses. Children can learn second languages if they are taught them at an early age. At the very least, the opportunity for learning a second language, whatever the choice, should be there early in a child's education. Currently English may be the language of choice, but it has not always been nor will it always be.
-- Judy Andree
"Currently, there are 170 million Indians with either degrees or advanced degrees in high technology and other, related white-collar industries. Together they could take every job from every member of the American middle class."
Rob Anderson is very worried and upset that people in India might somehow have figured a way into a competitive advantage over the U.S. I work in one of the hardest hit sectors, and yet -- grow up, Rob! The U.S. has been raping the Third World for so long I really doubt anyone is going to feel sorry for us. We just don't deserve it.
-- Issai Chizen
The funny thing about all of these discussions is that hardly anyone seems to consider that there are limited resources. Maybe the way for the USA to get ahead is by developing technologies, goods and methods that actually improve the quality of life without degrading the environment any further.
China, for instance, is now thought to be the source of the doubling in atmospheric CO2 emissions over the last couple of years ... For Pete's sake, let's subsidize our renewable energy processes (like the ones that are currently providing power to cities in the U.S.) and start selling them overseas.
Let's rock this planet by being the techies of a sustainable future: The place to go for what you need.
And why not structure an economic system (or, rather, choose among the many models available: steady state, butterfly, degrowth) that focuses on actual quality of life, rather than just GDP ... which goes up when quality of life goes down, such as when people get sick, and need things like surgery for cancer.
Instead of looking to work as the salvation of the planet, and pleading with or legislating against the "corporations," let's start looking to life as the salvation of the planet: not just jobs, but means to provide quality of life worldwide.
That's what we really want, isn't it?