Derry Connoll President
New Catholic University
San Diego As an Orthodox Jewish alumnus of the University of Chicago, I was struck by "Economists are getting religion" (Economics, Dec. 6). That economists are focusing on religion is no surprise -- the only surprise is how long it has taken. After all, the U.S. is both the wealthiest country in the world and the most overtly religious of any developed nation in the West. Many of those most identified with the "religion" side of this issue will be tempted to see such studies as dismissive of our beliefs and values. In fact, such studies indicate that beliefs and values are at issue far beyond the walls of our religious institutions. They are in the showrooms and in the boardrooms that drive our nation's economy -- a clear opportunity for both religion and the economy itself. The fact that people "choose religions like they choose cars" is the clearest indication of the sacredness of choice and the importance of the individual -- central tenets in both our market economy and Western religious tradition.
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield
CLAL-National Jewish Center for
Learning & Leadership
New York The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) filed a 20-year report showing the output of its 10-acre photovoltaic array ("Tax credits put wind in the sails of renewables," Industry Outlook, Jan. 10/17). The data: 31.3 gigawatt hours of electric energy. A typical nuclear plant has a capacity of about one gigawatt. The 10-acre solar plant required 20 years to produce the energy that a nuclear station will generate in a bit over one day.
Richard C. Hill
University of Maine
Orono, Me. I feel that while the China economic threat is very real, "The China Price" (Special Report, Dec. 6) has been overly rosy on the China situation. Based on my short one-year-plus stint in China, my opinion is that while the country is capable and has huge capacity, generally it lacks quality in its local brand products. The local Chinese openly tell me that given the money, they would much prefer foreign brands and products over local brands, since many local products, from cell phones to cars, lack the quality of their foreign competition. For example, local China brand cell phones like Konka Group, Bird Electronic, and TCL are not made to as strict quality standards as, say, a Nokia (NOK
), though all are made in China. The difference is in the quality-control standards imposed by the foreign company (often in a joint venture) in China.
Pricey products do not necessarily imply quality, but quality products do imply and necessitate a certain price premium.
The real price of globalization is being paid by the Third World, including China. For example, unemployment and job losses have been much more severe in developing nations than in the U.S. Tens of millions of Chinese have become jobless as a direct result of the privatization of state-owned enterprises and imposition of other "free market reforms." You also fail to address the fact that a significant portion of the trade deficit that the U.S. has with China is nothing more than U.S. intra-business trade in which American corporations set up production in China to make goods with cheap labor and then "import" these goods back to the U.S. for consumption -- after a substantial price markup. The U.S. corporation makes a killing on profit margin from this trade. U.S. consumers get inexpensive products that would cost much more if made in the U.S. And the Chinese worker gets sweatshops.