ONE WORLD, ONE CELL-PHONE STANDARD
As an international traveler, I feel little sympathy for Qualcomm Inc., Motorola Inc., and the other U.S. manufacturers of cell phones ("Cell phones: Europe made the right call," Science & Technology, Sept. 7). I have long envied the European move to the global system for mobile communications (GSM) standard. Every time I travel to Europe or Asia, I lament the fact that I cannot take my cell phone. Yes, technically better solutions were born from the competition fostered by the Federal Communications Commission, but true value to me is being able to use my phone anywhere. Have we forgotten Beta vs. VHS so soon? If third-generation code division multiple access (CDMA) is the wave of the future, then let's get on with it. The big money is made through volume, not bickering and turf wars.
John J. MacDonald
San Ramon, Calif.Return to top
WHY KOREAN WORKERS PLAY FOR KEEPS
In "Korea Inc. Wimps Out Again" (International Business, Sept. 7), Moon Ihlwan makes observations typical of an outsider armchair economist's analysis. Moon asserts that the auto workers' strike at Hyundai Motor Co.'s Ulsan plant shows that the Korean people are massively resistant to change and that the government intervention in the potentially "bloody confrontation" sends a signal to the chaebol that mass layoffs are off-limits.
Moon seems to advocate that Korea's blue-collar workers should take the brunt of the economic crisis and assume all responsibility--for the good of the country, of course. What he does not seem to understand is that Korea does not have the social support systems that the U.S. and Sweden have. In Korea, once workers are laid off, they have no income. There is no social net, no Social Security, no unemployment insurance. Additionally, as typical Korean families are structured, the male head of household is the only source of income. Laying off 1,500 workers, therefore, marks the end of subsistence for 1,500 families with wives and children. Why is it wrong for these workers to protect their means to survive?
I believe that the expression of anger and protesting against what is deemed injustice is healthy for a country like Korea. In the 50 years of the republic, Korean workers were exploited beyond imagination by the chaebol and the government. It is only in the last decade that the government allowed them limited free expression. For the government to thwart the people-led protest, using police and military force, would be a giant step back for Korea.
Brooklyn, N.Y.Return to top
HOW PRICES GET TWISTED OUT OF SHAPE
Robert Kuttner places the blame for Britain's prices on the wrong party ("Globalization's dirty little secret," Economic Viewpoint, Sept. 7). The answer to his question "Why, then, do Levi's jeans cost double in London what they cost in New York?" is simple: It's the government, stupid! The fact that Britons pay nearly double for some goods has nothing to do with "monopoly pricing" or U.S. multinational greed. Only when governments intervene (through regulation, tariffs, favoritism, etc.) does the law of price break down.
The exorbitant prices in Britain are the result of British government collusion with foreign corporations. If governments let corporations compete without intervening via regulations or by playing favorites, competition will ensue and lower prices will prevail. The solution is less government, not more.
Lance M. McInerney
Bronxville, N.Y.Return to top