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The corporate chieftains who’ve relentlessly pushed American factories and our middle-class jobs offshore, rationalize this globalization of production by declaring that it’s all about efficiency, as though that’s the highest value to which a civilization can aspire.
Values aside, however, the problem with corporate efficiencies is that too often they are not. Not efficient, that is. This is because the corporate scheme of moving stuff from A to B to G to Y in order to achieve the narrow goal of maximizing profits can look so simple, sensible and even slick in a boardroom power-point presentation, largely because it ignores inconvenient realities. Such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear meltdowns.
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For example, Shreveport, Louisiana has been jolted by the horrific one-two-three blow that has pummeled Japan. What hit Shreveport was not a seismic aftershock, but the inherent fragility of the distant supplier networks built by profiteering globalizers. A GM truck plant in this city has had to shut down because one truck-part, made at a factory in the devastated area of Japan, is not presently available. One! Amazing. Cars and trucks have about 20,000 parts, but the inability to get even a single one delivered from abroad can bring an entire assembly line to a halt!
GM’s bean counters had decided at some point that they could have this gizmo made in and shipped from Japan a bit cheaper than making it here. So GM and other globalizers have made themselves – and us – dependent on an unreliable, far-flung network of foreign factories. Moreover, these scattered suppliers also are at the mercy of their suppliers – a plastic gadget-maker in Japan, for example, might rely on a Chinese plant for the chemical to make the plastic.
The “efficiency” of globalization is nothing but a cross-your-fingers fantasy.
“Lacking Parts, G.M. Will Close Plant,” The New York Times, March 18, 2011.