Conclusion

My T-shirt's story is really just an extended anecdote, and so is unable to confirm or discredit a theory, or to settle definitively a debate between opposing views on trade or globalization. My T-shirt's story also cannot be generalized to broad sweeps about globalization. The industries, the point in time, the product, and the countries are each unique. Yet the story of even this very simple product can illuminate, if not settle, a number of ongoing debates.

During the past decade, the backlash against trade liberalization that began in street protests in the late 1990s has evolved into more mainstream reservations about global trade on the part of citizens the world over. This evolution was abundantly clear in the economic downturn that began in 2008, as Americans were increasingly concerned about free trade agreements, the China threat, outsourcing, labor and environmental standards, and a host of related issues; it was even clear at the 2008 Olympics, as a broad coalition of activist groups protested against the alleged sweatshop conditions under which the athletes' sportswear and other Olympic-themed goods were produced.1 As the business establishment and most economists continue to laud the effects of free trade and competitive markets, a wide array of other groups fear the effects of unrelenting market forces, especially upon workers and the environment. Yet the debate over the promise versus the perils of competitive markets is at least somewhat displaced ...

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