Over the last two decades more and more manufacturing has moved ‘offshore’, in other words to Asia. This is strange, if you really think about it. People have traditionally made and consumed items locally, quality was high and even if stuff wasn’t cheap you could afford what you needed.
That’s all gone out the window now. Container ships carrying just about everything (clothing, shoes, furniture, toys and so on) ply the seas with goods manufactured thousands of miles away from the point of consumption. Local manufacturing is limited to a very limited subset of what it once used to be.
This really can’t go on. Eventually either one of two things will happen: the poor areas in the world will have caught up with the rich ones in standard of living and will demand something more than what essentially is a pittance (not to call it outright slavery), or the coming energy crunch will make hauling goods around the planet too expensive.
The first wouldn’t be that bad, it would mean that for once the wealth in the world would be relatively evenly spread.
Of course the people in control of the countries with the ‘sweat shops’ will do everything they can to keep conditions as bad as they are today (with lots of child labour and wage slavery) but eventually I would expect the local situation to change. After all if you continue to pour money into a foreign region eventually the situation normalizes, even if it will take a long time.
Meanwhile, all the knowledge about manufacturing, the industrial base that goes with it and the financial strength that powers it will have moved away from the ‘west’ (mostly Europe and North America).
So, for short term profits the big corps that have made literally untold billions of euros or dollars whichever is your flavour have sold our futures short.
And as long as our buying behaviour is governed by price only we actually encourage them to do just that.
It is my hope that at some point in the future people will realize that this will not help at all, and that we’ll go back to employing a local workforce to produce the goods we need.
For some things the economies of scale are firmly in favour of centralized production (such as chips (the computer variety, not the potato variety), and fuel), but for many other things (such as shoes, clothing, cars and so on) it is quite possible to defend a position that says that these items should be produced within a few hundred miles at most from where they will be consumed.