With Mattel’s recall of several million lead-contaminated toys from China, you may have heard a reporter express an opinion critical of Chinese toymakers and the lax standards applied to the manufacture of goods bound for the U.S. What you haven’t heard is any suggestion that the goods be manufactured here. That would amount to criticism of “free trade,” and reporters know better than to engage in that sort of scurrilous reporting. Some truths are better left unsaid, and journalists know instinctively which topics to avoid. Mattel and Fisher-Price might get mad and withdraw their advertising at any insinuation that they ought to pay U.S. wages to U.S. workers and observe U.S. regulations that protect U.S. consumers.
The story is that toys cost you less if they come from somewhere other than here. The narrators of that story neglect to mention the host of economists who say price is detemined by supply and demand. Toy-makers and retailers will charge the highest prices you’re willing to pay, regardless what it costs them to manufacture what you buy. The worker’s share of the price is nominal and negligible, whether the item is made here or elsewhere. The advantages of manufacturing abroad flow exclusively to the manufacturer and not to you, but you’re not allowed to know that. I’d like to see a report that tells me where I can buy a toy that’s not made by slaves in totalitarian countries, but I can’t find anything like that in the commercial media. I can’t help suspecting that the news is now manufactured in China along with all our other consumer goods.