Fast-food in Rome? Superstores in China? Sports shoe factories in Brazil? In my travels I have noticed more and more signs of world economic integration. This means that consumption and production are becoming less stratified and more recognizably American. Sometimes when you travel these days, it seems like you never quite leave the United States.
Some see this as a form of imperialism. But several points are worth noting. First, there are far more free economies in the world today than there were even ten years ago. Eastern Europe and China have opened up, and this has wrought a permanent change in the dynamic of world economic production.
Second, this transformation is good not only for these countries and people, but for the U.S. as well. It permits workers in all countries to specialize in what they do best and to trade with others based on the division of labor. Every person has a contribution to make, and free economies are the God-given means to help us all peacefully fulfill this ideal.
Third, no factory or retail shop in a free economy opens or thrives without the will of the people. Consumers must be willing to buy the products, and workers must be willing to work the production lines. From our vantage point, these jobs in the developing world appear difficult, even exploitative. But what is the alternative? The choice is always between an imperfect freedom and a hopeless despotism.
Until the Golden Arches in Paris or the Wal-Mart in Beijing closes because enough people choose not go there, they will exist because of consent and will continue to bring jobs and prosperity to places in need.
The integration of the world economy is a wonderful thing to behold. It is not perfect, but it is enormously encouraging for those who pray for peace on earth and good will toward all people. This is our prayer at the Acton Institute in this holiday season. We are grateful that you have joined us in our efforts.
Rev. Robert A. Sirico
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