“The Singapore model was made explicit for me [Robert D. Kaplan] at the Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park, twenty miles outside Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it is still called by everyone outside of government officialdom. I beheld a futuristic world of perfectly maintained and manicured right-angle streets where, in a security-controlled environment, 240 manufacturing firms from Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, Europe, and the United States were producing luxury golf clubs, microchips, pharmaceuticals, high-end footwear, aerospace electronics, and so on. In the next stage of development, luxury condominiums were planned on-site for the foreign workers who will live and work here. An American plant manager at the park told me that his company chose Vietnam for its high-tech operation through a process of elimination: “We needed low labor costs. We had no desire to locate in Eastern Europe or Africa [which didn't have the Asian work ethic]. In China wages are already starting to rise. Indonesia and Malaysia are Muslim, and that scares us away. Thailand has lately become unstable. So Vietnam loomed for us: it’s like China was two decades ago, on the verge of a boom.” He added: “We give our employees in Vietnam standardized intelligence tests. They score higher than our employees in the U.S.”
This is an example of international manufacturing competition today – intelligent employees with a positive work ethic producing high quality products in predictable and efficient modern factories. This is the standard of production that America must retool to meet in order to successfully compete for business in the world market.
Protecting American companies from international competition through import duties on products, high tariffs, and anti-dumping laws, lowers the bar for American domestic manufacturing, raises prices to American consumers, and induces the obsolescence of American manufacturing capacity. Remember British Leyland? A memory is all that remains of it.
The choice is clear.
Americans can continue to protect themselves, stay on the path toward manufacturing extinction, and become a client state to the various countries in the world who produce goods.
Or Americans can disassemble the protectionist devices shielding our markets, undo the congressional influence-buying and political-patronage system of Customs import duties, engage in international manufacturing on competitive terms that will attract capital to America, and once again enjoy the benefits that follow from a growing economy.
We can either produce, or get used to enslavement.