GUANGZHOU, CHINA - a plastic toy exhibition booth during the 110th China Import And Export Fair . (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
The other day I heard a report on the radio that said that the biggest U.S. export to China is--are you ready for this?--the biggest export to China is garbage. That's as in literal trash. Waste products.
We ship tons of our waste to China. They recycle it back into new products and ship those products back to us for us to turn those into more trash to ship back to them. The upside is that at least less of our trash is going into landfills. But what does this say about us as far as our productivity?
In my research on this topic I found a correlation between the United States and the Roman Empire. According to Economy In Crisis, as the Roman Empire reached its fall Rome was importing everything and its only export was garbage. The U.S. still produces a lot of goods to keep it self-sustaining, but we seem to be heading toward the day when we are totally dependent on other countries. Would this be a wise thing to allow to happen?
In all fairness, my research also showed that the United States still exports plenty of goods such as aircraft, automobiles, agricultural products, and many other goods. We are not a non-productive country by any means, but we are becoming less productive. The high unemployment figures are probably a good indicator of this.
Then there is the market anomaly of our largest export on the worldwide scale--fuel and petroleum products. And our largest import? Fuel and petroleum products. Here we Americans sit burdened with high fuel prices in hard economic times and the corporations in control of it all are playing a shell game with the commodities.
I'm sure there is a reasonable explanation to all of this back and forth chicanery and I'm certain that it all has to do with money. But it's money that will mostly not end up in most of our pockets and most of us will never see the benefit of those profits.
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for capitalism, but I'm not sure this system should be synonymous with greed. I can understand the need for businesses to cut operating costs, but at what cost to society? I think of all of the textile and furniture companies that used to be in North Carolina and other places. Many of those products are now being produced overseas and the American factories are shuttered. I look at the "made in" labels and stamps that appear on so many products in the stores. Not many of those say "Made in the U.S.A."
My rant could continue for many more thousand words, but since I try to keep my posts relatively short I need to stop. And like I've said before, there's a lot I don't understand and I'm no economic expert. I don't know that any one person out there can adequately address all of my concerns to appease me totally, and I might not believe them anyway. Besides this is not the biggest thing that is disturbing me at the moment.
Let me get back to the Facebook issue that I was talking about on Monday. One of the sources of income for Facebook and other such companies is the sale of virtual goods. These virtual goods include clothing and accessories for avatars and assets such as tractors and equipment for Farmville or other such games or virtual worlds.
Okay, fun is fun, but escaping into a virtual world might be inclining toward something more scary than we might normally think. If we start letting China make our real tractors while some U.S. internet company is making imaginary tractors that we buy and sell to work imaginary fields on an imaginary farm with---well you get the picture. In fact, you can go to Facebook and get on Farmville and you can see the picture. And if you want, you can become your avatar and do imaginary work.
Whew! That opens a whole can of worms that I won't even get into here. It all just makes me wonder where we are heading. We have been reduced to data, trends, and demographics.
What industries have disappeared in the area where you live? How is your local job market? What is your favorite virtual world? Or do you avoid virtual play? What is your favorite form of escapism? What do you think the economic future is of the United States or where you are located?