Thursday, May 31, 2007

Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy, by Pietra Rivoli

This audio book came free from, was 9 hours and 35 minutes long, and was narrated by Eliza Foss.

An economist is both annoyed and inspired by a protest against globalization by impassioned college students. After hearing one of the open-air speakers demand to know if we know were our t-shirts come from, economist and professor Pietra Rivoli goes to a souvenir shop, buys a t-shirt, and begins tracing its origins...and its destiny.

This is one of the most readable and interesting stories of the economic food chain you are likely to come across. It was a real page-turner with a stunning conclusion, that we all should be able to come to on our own: both the sweat shops and the protesters are important ingredients in the global ecosystem.

If you are a rabid free-trader, you must read this! It will alter your view of those naiive kids and their signs. If you are one of those capitalist-hating anti-globalists, you also should read this. If you have an open mind, it will temper your outrage and help you focus your efforts.

From the heavily protected and subsidized cotton fields of West Texas to the wide open, unregulated global recycling market in Africa, your t-shirt and been places and one things. And then it may come back again as it is broken down and respun into new thread!

Warning: there is lots of history in this book about the folly of working too hard to prevent trade. The English woolens industry kept cotton out of its markets for centuries. But regulations got weaker and weaker in the face of the eager public adoption of cooler cotton clothes. The last regulation to die was the one that required that the dead had to be buried in a wool suit!

Great stuff. Four stars. Oughta be a text book in our schools...

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