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Inhaltsangabe: Every purchase we make is effectively a "vote" with our dollars. When we buy toys from China, oil from Saudi Arabia, clothing from Myanmar, or watches from Switzerland, what kinds of values are we funding? Are we financing the seeds of our own economic and moral destruction?

Vom Verlag: By law, every product for sale in the USA is marked with its country of origin. Every shirt, car, piece of furniture, power tool, bar of soap, computer, television, candy bar, and so on, must be labeled "Made in Country XYZ". But, what do these labels mean? Should you buy a shirt made in Myanmar or the one made in India? What about the one sewn in Bangladesh? These labels can provide a window into the conditions under which the shirt or furniture or television was made. But have you ever tried to find out what the political climate or economic systems are like in Myanmar or Bangladesh or Italy or the United Arab Emirates? Even using the internet doesn’t make it easy. And given the multitude of products we buy each year and the large number of countries in which they are produced, staying informed about them is difficult.

We wrote this book because we have strong views about what is good and bad, and when possible we’d like to support individuals, companies, and countries that are good. By this we mean those that support individual rights, are democratic, have capitalistic economies, and are fair and honest. We’d also like to shun those individuals, companies and countries that are bad, meaning those that prevent individuals from acting in their own rational self-interest and otherwise act to make the world a nastier place. Ideally, we’d like to be able to evaluate each company from which we buy products or services in this context. Unfortunately, in many cases the necessary information isn’t available. In the absence of company-specific information, we concluded that analysis of the countries where products are made serves as a reasonable surrogate for detailed information about particular companies. While the demise of the nation-state has been predicted for a long time, its impending! doom may have been greatly exaggerated. And, in most countries, the sociopolitical and economic systems largely dictate the conditions under which goods and services are made regardless of the company making them. Although there are differences between companies operating within a given country, the disparity between them is generally less dramatic than that between companies operating in different countries.

In grading America’s top 100 trading partners (plus the European Union), we enable consumers to make purchasing decisions that coincide with their values. Today there is much information available about products’ perceptible characteristics, but for most products the actual difference between various companies’ offerings is diminishing. A given product becomes a commodity faster today than ever before due to the speed with which businesses operate and their ability to study and mimic the best practices of competitors. The emergence of "big box" retailers like Home Depot, Best Buy and Wal-Mart has also narrowed consumers’ choices. Brand consolidation is a rapidly advancing phenomenon driven by these retailers as they reduce the number of their suppliers.

Because of these phenomena the perceptible characteristics of products are increasingly indistinguishable and the latent characteristics (principally the environment in which a product is made) are increasingly important. The latent characteristics of products are important in their own right because the future of the world is determined in large part through economic combat. Military might contributed to the fall of communism, but the inability of communist philosophy (and its attendant sociopolitical and economic systems) to adequately provide for the welfare of those living behind the iron curtain ultimately led to its downfall. If the West had bought large quantities of products from behind the iron curtain (thereby funding the continuation of that philosophical system), we might all be speaking Russian.

American consumers vote with their dollars (including those they borrow) every day and, unfortunately, most of us are even more apathetic and ignorant about the philosophies (and by extension the sociopolitical and economic systems) that we vote for via our purchases than we are about actual political elections. Americans are spending more and more each year to support repressive and regressive regimes in places like China, Myanmar, and Vietnam while failing to support (i.e. buy goods from) countries, including our own, that support the values we consider important. In doing so we are selling out our values to save a few dollars. It is amazing that while most Americans would never trade places with a person in China, Myanmar or Vietnam, they will happily fund the expansion of those, and other "evil" governments and philosophical systems with their attendant values, while forcing the very philosophical systems and nations they respect to contract, to become weakened, and ultimately to decline. If you doubt the veracity of this argument, one need only see the extent to which the world’s nations and corporations ignore China’s incessant violations of human rights to take advantage of inexpensive labor, thereby fueling that country’s phenomenal economic growth.

Make no mistake about it, if the transfer of wealth and jobs from virtuous (and often expensive) nations to those that are immoral continues, we will be forced to decrease our standard of living to compete with these repressive regimes. On a more personal level, why would any person give their money to people who hold immoral values and act immorally? We believe that it is each person’s duty to economically support others with moral values and to oppose those holding values that are immoral and that in many cases demand the destruction of our way of life. This support does not come cheap, and consumers voting with their dollars to protect freedom and moral values will likely pay more than when purchasing products from less virtuous countries. This "ethical premium" reflects the real costs associated with maintaining and protecting our liberty and our individual rights.

This is all well and good, but when Mr. and Mrs. Jones are out buying a camping tent for their son’s upcoming Boy Scout trip, they are currently unlikely to be armed with the information necessary to decide whether they should buy a tent made in Vietnam, Slovakia, Mexico, or Honduras. As a result they will probably ignore where the tent was made and purchase based on price and other factors. In writing this book we seek to make it straightforward for consumers to consider a product’s country-of-origin when making purchasing decisions. With the grading of America’s top 100 trading partners across 19 sociopolitical and economic criteria, consumers can easily determine that they would rather buy Slovakian products over Mexican products, Mexican products over Honduran products, and Honduran products over those from Vietnam. Consumers can also use the book to focus on specific criteria that are important to them, such as environmental policies, freedom of speech, the protection of intellectual property, or freedom of religion, to name a few.

In any case, we are confident that you will find the discussion and evaluation of America’s top 100 trading partners to be informative and thought provoking. We learned a great deal putting this book together and certainly look at the world in a new light. We hope you will as well.

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