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Two cheers for the Gilded Age

By Owen Paine on Tuesday September 4, 2007 09:36 PM

Build it here and they will come -- or: Better here than there, Part One.

Over the past 40 years or so, I doubt the People's Republic could easily find many Yankee friends with a significantly greater love and respect for the New China than resides, has resided, and will continue to reside for as long as it beats, in the heart of yours truly, Owen F. Paine.

But that being proclaimed, let me now proceed to toy with the dragon's wrath, as I plunge into my topic for today's post:

Not only do we need to reduce our bilateral trade gap with China as soon as practicable and by all means necessary; we need to liberate ourselves from her wares, as close to entirely as makes common sense.

Let's start with just two numbers: 9 and 180. Each element of the first number can have, all to itself, 20 counterparts in the second number. Yes, the second number is twenty times as big as the first number, and that's apparently the cold quantitative difference -- measured in dead souls -- between two recent coal mining tragedies, the one out west here, and the other over there, inside China.

Can we seriously doubt these two numbers roughly reflect the difference in working conditions here and there?

Now I ask you humanitarians out there, in light of this: where -- at the economists' infamous margin -- should the globe's coal get dug? Here at home -- or over there in China? Moreover: where should that extra coal, once dug, get consumed, to produce more goodies for the globe's most consumer-crap-mad middle classes? In fact, where -- at the margin -- should your goodies, my goodies, our goodies, come from? China, or here at home?

The answer, I think, is obvious: we need to make our consumer shit right here in the land of liberty. At least we damn well oughta try to -- that is, if my beloved class struggle and your good green earth are really really our top priority.

Isn't it obvious and simple? The battle for our red/green future oughta start and finish right here in our backyard, where both these milliennial contests can be fought out with greater chances of victory.

I submit to your considseration the following proposition: sustainable earth, Inc., can only get incorporated under the red, white, and blue: and that's because, at least as of now, it's here -- not China, not India, not Mexico even -- that we little people of earth have a better set of rules of engagement.

et me throw you a further simple synthetic deduction: it's far better strategy to restore our industrial platform and start building more of our goodies back here at home, than trying to export our rules over there. And by making as much of our stuff here as we can, in the process we'll import a nice big slab of their little people, to help us build it all the right way, the clean way, the green way, the high-wage, high-employment way.

Yup, our fair and stalwart nation oughta return to its post-Civil War promised-land gilded-age nation-building paradigm -- updated of course, and controlled this time 'round by the mass of we the people, precisely for the direct immediate benefit of the crass sweatin' mass of us, not by and for the corporate elite.

Here's a nice irony of history: the same type of silk-hat smokestack jackoffs that today profit handsomely from exporting our jobs and importing low-wage foreign substitutes, back then refused to open our markets to the outside world's industrial products. Yes, with true Hamiltonian vigor, the predecessors of today's barons of industry blocked the entry of alien procducts, not alien people! And as a result, in just 65 years, the relatively brief span between the freeing of our 6 million African brothers and sisters from slavery, on the one end, and running smack-dab into the catacysm of 1929, on the other -- in that short 65 years, humble weebles, many flooding in from around the world, built the largest industrial platform on earth.

I suggest we do it again, but this time with a fair-trade, balanced-trade dollar and a chock-full employment job policy.

And note well -- once we get really rolling again here, like we did in 1940, we'll welcome the help of more hands and brains from outside our borders.

Just like back in the day.

Comments (15)


Do not understand this margin business

Worth noting: in Europe there are green parties with substantial parliamentary support

Questions: What effect does moving all the U.S. industrial apparatus back home have on Chinese workers? Could it not result in unemployment?


I think it would result in cataclysm for the Chinese workers. The system is already teetering on the edge in many ways, no?

I also think the United States is incapable of being a manufcaturing nation anymore. Why do we assume that we have some innate ability to run a manufacturing platform better than the Chinese or Indians? It's not ONLY cheap labor.

Finally, if we moved everything back, we would be living at 1920 levels of consumerism-which may be good in and of itself, but how you going to put the genie of $9.99 stereo sets back in the bottle?


Exports counts for about 1/3 of China's GDP. Exports to the US make up about a third of that. I think if we brought our manufacturing home, the CP would have to focus on developing internal markets in order to avoid problems. They'd have to stop the ecocide too, as the jackpot, mad growth policies became less tenable, and they'd have to do better by labor in order to build those internal markets.

So Owen's idea looks pretty good to me on balance. I can't say how popular it would be. I'm all for gold old isolationism and internal reliance. That would help some with our share of the ecocide, as markets and manufacturers depended less on extended supply lines. No more forcing externalities onto others.


Do not understand how losing 1/9 of market causes China to stop ecocide. Pollution arising from transportation of materials? Not trying to be difficult, just don't understand. Or know what margin thing meant, still.

Assume you mean "good" old isolationism. Not sure why you would want to bring back gold standard.

I'm not even for countries, and would like things to improve for everyone at once, while we are dreaming. Still concerned what happens to Chinese workers during transition. Seems like an upheaval and very hard for them?

Will gladly pay more than $10 for stereo if it saves the environment, though.

Do not understand how losing 1/9 of market causes China to stop ecocide.

I don't either. Fortunately, that's not what I claimed.

Assume you mean "good" old isolationism. Not sure why you would want to bring back gold standard.

You shouldn't assume. Look elsewhere for gold bugs.

Still concerned what happens to Chinese workers during transition. Seems like an upheaval and very hard for them?

National economies go through upheavals all the time. China's industrialization has already displaced hundreds of millions and is continuing to displace people at a rapid pace. They need to work on equitable ways to distribute the wealth this huge growth has generated. Both countries need to look after themselves before they can take on more globalism.


at the margin
means n this instancxe
where the next additional quantum
of gagets pants and coal etc
get extracted produced sown up etc

there's no good reason why china can
not co ordinate upping internal demand as external demand cools

with proper scruggsian macro policy
the necessary increase in jobs
to keep life improving over there
is just a matter of organization
and they're quite good at that

as to green earth

the cleaner the aggrewgate world production system....

after all we can require
green factories

we can only suggest them there
by not buying and importing
their ultra dirty production system's output

and besides

lets stick to our own knitting here

sure a borderless world is the only one to fight for

but cleo moves in zigs and zags
don't she ???

not to mention
her throwing in
a few back steps
here and there now and again
just for the sport of it all



i 'm convinced we can
and eventually will
re industrialize

there's nothing we care about
ten milion additional clean factory jobs can't
make plausible

and creating those 10 million clean jobs
is childs play
the arsenal of democracy
surge 40-44

this time
lets make it
the greenpowerhouse of democracy


Scruggs: Please try not to take offense. Not hostile or trying to misinterpret, just dumb. Have lot refrained from posting here in hopes of not diluting the intellectual climate here. Was right to do so; know I am not up to par with the standards of this place, esp. the erudite MJS. Again, apologies. Back in my cave after this.

Assumed you weren't supportive of gold standard. Didn't seem like the type.

Again: ecocide lessens primarily due to transportation?

Gladly concede permanent state of environment more important than temporary discomfort of workers.

OP: Thanks re: margins.

Sorry to intrude, folks.


I think ecocide lessens because the Chinese-American Multinational production system is based on almost no concern at all for the externalities. It is a DIRTY system. read the horror stories about air quality in Chinese cities, the destruction of rivers and riverine ecosystems to get just a little more electric power and irrigation water, the ramping up of the automobile culture, the burning of coal. It's not just transportation.

(Don't stop posting. I ask a lot of dumb questions and make dumb comments, and Mr. Scruggs and the Paines and MJS haven't slapped me around too much yet)

OP: I agree with you but am just being my usual contrarian negativist self. Self indulgent, I know. I'm a midwesterner in my roots, and its weird to see an entire economy (in California) based on ephemera and symbol manipulation. I agree we need to actually do something real as a nation other than manufacturing frightening weapons and inventing new ways of packaging abstract, multilevel "debt products."


Have been to Chinese cities (not long, ~5 weeks): indeed dirty. Looked up externalities. How does switching to internal markets mitigate against negative externalities? Threw up transportation because it was the only immediately obvious one to me.

(Will wait for site owners' imprimatur.)


It reduces externalities because Mr. Paine assumes that American industry would be cleaner than the unregulated hypergrowth-at- any-cost-to-keep-the-peasants-from-revolting Chinese/American Multinational project. Whether or not this is true given the appalling economic crash we are tumbling towards is another question. :)


"Chinese/American Multinational project"

that gets the target right
in fact
its only OUR trans nats
that prevent
the GAP CLOSING sanity i suggest

ruminate on this site wide wish
we need a hundred mz Ps
contending in the comments here
speaking for the painiacs
if "we" provoke decent folks
we be happy


I am not an economist, and I don't even play one on TV, but it does seem to me a reasonable notion that if China were industrializing largely to supply the domestic market, rather than a First World market able to pay what are by Chinese standards huge sums for the products of Chinese labor-rape and land-rape, then the progress of Chinese industrialization might be slower but would probably also be less destructive.


I'm decent folk? Provoked? Nah, just confused.

Not a Mz., just typed in a random word. I guess it has humor value. I typed StO a ways back. I'll be that again.

So if China were restricted to an internal market the rapine would be somewhat reduced just due to slowing of the economy, rather than something else? That I understand at least. Had thought the contention had something to do with China's general mode of behavior changing in that instance, which seemed unlikely.

"Stop the economy—while there's still time!" This shall be my new slogan, and it will be hugely popular.


no need to assume china slows at all

just china loses the north american
open market

and what we consume ..ie our footprint
is more completely under our own control

this isn't ...needless to say
just about clean safe products

ie what we are told we are NOT getting right now from china
after all that takes care of itself...
we stop buying that crap as soon as we know about it

no what we need to do is switch
the production location itself
back here
from china and bengladesh and indonesia ....
places where its built now
and where all brown and miserable hell
gets jointly produced
right along with our goodies

want to improve the lives of chinese ??

let them come here
not doctors of math now

but raw stock like we take in grudging numbers from latin america

btw the us to carry its proper share
of the earths sustainable people burden
will need
-- using conservative demographic assumptions--
to swell past 700 million
--at least--
by the witching hour of 2075

so i say "come on over yellow hords"

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