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Thursday, May 30, 2013

David Brooks, "The Romantic Advantage": I Can Hear Them Laughing All the Way from Beijing

I bought my last pair of black New Balance trainers from an outlet store in Boston. I was hoping that this new pair might be from the among the minority of their athletic shoes that are manufactured in the US. Alas, I lifted the tongue of the shoe and discovered that they were manufactured in China.

No, I don't use an Apple iPhone. The image of the safety nets strategically placed under factory windows to catch jumpers is stronger than the brand appeal, and I'm hoping that my Samsung Galaxy is manufactured under more humane conditions.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Romantic Advantage" (, David Brooks would have us know that American companies are better than the Chinese at branding. Brooks concludes:

"At some point, if you are going to be the world’s leading economy, you have to establish relationships with consumers. You have to put aside the things that undermine trust, like intellectual property theft and cyberterrorism, and create the sorts of brands that inspire affection and fantasy. Until it can do this, China may statistically possess the world’s largest economy, but it will not be a particularly consequential one."

Is there still room for affection and fantasy for consumer goods in our brave new world?

I recently splurged on a Panasonic television. I didn't buy it for its brand name. It's simply said to be best in its class, and for once, I decided to buy something for myself before passing out of this world.

Both our cars, one a small hybrid, are Hondas. No, it had absolutely nothing at all do with fantasy. Rather, our experience involving their reliability has been remarkable.

Other recent purchases? Nothing with a brand name, unless you were to include "Luristan bronzes" under this heading. The metalworking of these people was nothing short of outstanding in the first millennium BC.

China? The transparent plastic ruler on my desk says "MADE IN CHINA" in big black letters. You're laughing? You shouldn't be. China holds some $1.2 trillion, or 7.5%, of US debt, making it the largest foreign holder. Not a security threat to the US (see: Maybe not yet, but as the US federal government continues to ring up deficits, this number is not going to get smaller.

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