So the 800-pound gorilla "has slapped quotas, tariffs, and antidumping duties" on some Chinese products ("China's trade boss," Asian Edition Cover Story, Apr. 12). It's high time this macho gorilla adjusted to the fact that the jungle is inhabited by certain other large apes. Ignoring their needs and interests and pointing accusatory fingers won't help. Is the Bush Administration sufficiently flexible, wise, and hard-nosed to come to terms with reality?
Michael G. Driver
If America's future is in its intellectual property (patents, DVDs, software, etc.), and we are the world's largest consumer society, with a $124 billion trade deficit with China, then what is so hard about using this leverage with Vice-Premier Wu Yi? China is still a communist society and can change and reinforce its laws very quickly. Either honor our intellectual property now or face complete U.S. sanctions against buying anything from China. Quid pro quo. Or is President Bush willing to be kind to American businesses that are making their products in China at the expense of our country's future?
Schaumburg, Ill. As a student of economics, I am an admirer of John Maynard Keynes and his works, particularly his contributions in understanding business cycles ("Capitalism's savior," The Great Innovators, Apr. 12). His idea of using public finance to revive an economy in depression, however, has been in practice much before the times of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.
Thirumalai Naicker, a king who ruled the princely state of Madurai (southern India) during the early 17th century, did precisely what Keynes would advocate three centuries later, when his state was suffering a depression-like situation and his tax collections were plummeting. Instead of tightening belts, he decided to spend -- renovating and enhancing a huge temple in the city, constructing a palace for himself, and declaring a locally known small-time event as a royal festival. This encouraged trade and tourism in the state, reviving its economy. To this day, these three, the huge Meenakshi Amman Temple, the Thirumalai Naicker Palace, and the Azhagar Festival, remain central to the economy of Madurai city and its surrounding villages.
Madras, India I read with interest the article on Costco Wholesale Corp.'s (COST) practice of paying its employees higher wages than its competitors do ("The Costco way," Social Issues, Apr. 12). Having gained a graduate degree in economics and finance, I can see that it's not rocket science that, despite consumers paying slightly more for their purchases, the net effect of better-paid employees should be more money being spent on local goods and services. These goods and services in a local environment will be providing income to the very people who buy their products from Costco.
Agreed that this is a simple virtuous circle, but the critics of Costco are hardly employing ultrasophisticated arguments, either. In fact, if bank analysts followed their argument for cost-cutting through take-home pay, perhaps they should see their own salaries slashed to pass on savings to the clients of the bank.
London I completely agree with your point of view when you say that Americans need to believe that their political leaders are doing what is best overall for the nation, not just their campaign contributors ("The fat cats are cozier than ever," Editorials, Apr. 12). But this is not only a U.S. problem. Here in South America and, I daresay, all over the world, politicians tend to forget that they have to govern for the whole of their countries, not just for the sector that financed them.
Jorge E. Cedale
Buenos Aires As Jeffrey E. Garten noted ("The right remedy for pricey drugs," Economic Viewpoint, Apr. 12), the U.S. is subsidizing most, if not all, foreign countries with the current price structure -- whereby we pay more for the same pill than, say, Canada. [The high U.S. price] is then purportedly used to fund research for new drugs (not to mention excessive marketing). This foreign aid is apparently available to any country clever enough to use its buying power to negotiate prices with the drug companies, resulting in the untenable practice whereby senior U.S. citizens on fixed incomes are subsidizing many wealthy people in Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy. Worse, it is done without their permission and is a form of taxation without representation, levied by the powerful pharmaceutical companies.
The only real solution is to require drug companies to give Americans the same deal given to Canada, the European Union, and Japan. Price controls are not the answer, but if the drug companies want to sell cheap to the EU and elsewhere, let them sell cheap to the U.S. They will soon cut off the EU et al. if they cannot get a price high enough to maintain profits when they include U.S. sales in the equation. It's a free-market solution, i.e., the drug companies are free to set the price, but it is a price for all of us.
Lakeland, Fla. Several points could have been made in "An amazing jobs machine" (European Business, Apr. 5): Many of the industries now leaving the U.S. left Britain in the 1980s under the twin hammers of a high exchange rate (North Sea oil) and Margaret Thatcher. Manufacturing in Britain is now leaner and more focused than in the U.S. and can cope better with high exchange rates. Britain's public finances have been better managed for the past several years. Fiscal stimulus in the U.S. is much greater than in Britain, but it is not focused on employment or growth and is generating fewer jobs. Britain has avoided U.S.-type financial and governance scandals.
Also, Britain is more welcoming to foreigners. In a service-based economy, finger-printing or photographing your customers like criminals before you let them into the showroom or operating theater is crazy.
John C. English
Bethesda, Md. "Too few cradles, too few graves" (Finance, Mar. 29) on pension reforms in Europe says: "The explanation is simple: Europeans are living longer and having fewer children." Well, the solution is simple, too: Get some more Europeans back to Europe! For a long time, Europe has been sending its children out to the world, to the point that there are more Europeans in the rest of the world than there are in Europe. In some countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa, Europeans are openly discriminated against by government laws and actions, such as denying the right to citizenship to third and fourth generations, the right to ownership, the right to jobs, and more.
It follows that surplus Europeans, who previously helped to build the various European empires and who now are refused employment, can be useful in Europe with their education, knowhow, language skills, and can-do attitude. Not only do they have higher birth rates than their Europe-based counterparts but they also have extended family units and could integrate into modern European society without a glitch. This successful back "trek" would not only benefit European countries, it would also help countries like South Africa, which now has 4.7 million jobs from a high of 8.3 million.
Currently, Britain and Portugal are reaping the benefits of retornados, as they contribute to the growth of their economies. However the potential is for every European country to benefit, from Greece to Sweden, from France to Poland. It is of benefit to Europe to get unemployed Europeans back to Europe.
Benoni, South Africa