Further to my post of December 7th titled “Anti-globalisation? Read on”, I finally located the photocopy I made of the article in the Reader’s Digest by Johan Norberg, who is a reporter in Vietnam – giving the other side to the story of globalisation and international capitalism.

The first significant truth in this article is this sentence: “If you want to be trendy these days you don’t wear Nikes; you boycott them.” That’s really what its all about, isn’t it? Anti-capitalism, anti-globalisation is cool. Even those who have benefited MOST from capitalism and the free market find themselves in a position where they realise they would not be considered trendy if they didn’t identify themselves with the Left. Shame on them, and anyone else who does the same, for biting the hand that feeds them, and in some cases makes them very, very rich.

The rest of the article is devoted to a brief overview of a couple of unique case studies to prove the point that the operations of Nike and other multinationals in the poor places of the world have a positive rather than negative effect on the local economic landscape. As I have said many times before, socialism is not responsible for bringing many people out of poverty – only capitalism could do that (observe the United States). In particular, the following soundbites from the article struck me:

1) “The average pay at a Nike factory close to Ho Chi Minh City is 32 (GBP) a month,” …[anti-globalists would like me to stop here, but]…. “almost THREE TIMES THE MINIMUM WAGE for a state-owned enterprise.”

2) “Eight years ago, when Nike was established in Vietnam, the workers had to walk to the factories, often for many miles. After three years, they could afford bicycles. Another three years later, they could afford scooters. Today, the first workers can afford to buy a car.” [Capitalism in action. The principal is universal.]

3) [Of a young Vietnamese woman called Tsi-Chi] “Sure, she makes five times more than she did [before she joined the Nike ‘sweatshop’], earns more than her husband and can now build an extension to her house…”

4) “Furthermore, a Nike job can mean a regular wage, free or subsidised meals, free medical clinics, and after-hours training and education.”

5) “These facts make Nike sound more like Santa Claus than Scrooge. But it is NOT altruism [or socialism!] at work here; IT IS GLOBALISATION.” [capitals mine.]

6) [A local businessman visited Nike] “…to learn how he could be as successful at attracting workers.”

7) “…exports of coffee, rice, clothes and footwear have surged, the economy has doubled AND POVERTY HAS HALVED.”

8) “In ten years 2.2 million children have gone from child labour to education. It would be extremely interesting to hear an anti-globalist explain to Tsi-Chi why it is important for Westerners to boycott Nike, so that she loses her job, has to go back into farming and has to send her son to work full time.”

If I were an anti-capitalist, I would find this impossible to reconcile. As usual, capitalism proves to be the best way to reduce poverty and create prosperity for more people. As Norberg says, “How long will it take for our own anti-capitalists to learn that lesson?” I suspect that the good of man is not the goal of the anti-capitalist. I think it’s a misguided attempt to prioritize the good of the worker, but it’s based on a false premise (that the capitalist who acts out of a desire to make money always or usually does so at the expense of the worker or the lower class).

Let me emphasise that, although I accept that capitalism (and in particular libertarianism) works better than any of the other economic systems in practice, that is NOT the reason I advocate it. The reason I advocate it is that, in principle alone, I believe in the rights of the individual to human liberty and the freedom to do whatever he/she so wishes, whether that be to start a Vietnam factory or to give everything he earns to Vietnamese children.

I make the following suggestion to those genuinely concerned about the fate of kids in poor nations: Turn your attention from political altruism to promoting a libertarian society, and use the freedom afforded by that society to give as much time, effort and money to those poor nations as you do presently to anti-capitalist schemes.

The best gift we can give the third world is liberty.