South Carolina: more than politics


As the candidates pick themselves up off the floor and dash on to Nevada and elsewhere, South Carolina will settle back into another important pursuit.

The news that a Chinese company has decided to plump down with a textile yarn mill in the Palmetto state is another feather in the cap of Columbia’s effort to reverse the national trend toward deindustrialization and escaping capital investment. Actually the yarn mill joins earlier Chinese investments in a golf course at Myrtle Beach and a $500-million investment in an automobile plant by the now Chinese-owned Volvo.

All told, the Chinese have put about $300 million into South Carolina producing a thousand jobs. But more is probably coming as the state’s effort to attract foreign investors has been one of its primary and successful campaigns for a decade. There are about 130,000 workers now in European-owned South Carolina plants, attracted by the intense wooing they have received, tax concessions and a large and willing workforce.

Anything to do with textiles, of course, has a special poignancy for the state which like the rest of the South seduced northern mills to move there in the early part of the 20th century only to see their flight to low-wage countries, including China. Although it has wreaked havoc in many circles [not least the stock market], the Shale Revolution which has sliced energy costs is having its effect. Petrochemical plants with their main feedstock natural gas are finding it attractive to come back to the U.S. as you will notice if you have recently looked for where that plastic film is coming are using in the kitchen

All this to say that with its new energy costs and the abundance of digital expertise, there is no reason why the U.S. should not be creating new jobs and attracting some of those which escaped earlier to overseas environments. It would help, of course, if we had an administration in Washington that believed, first, in the future of America, and secondly, in the free enterprise system that gave this country its high living standards and made it the leader in industrialization since World War II.

The caterwalling which passes for debate among the Republican contestants for the presidency notwithstanding, these are the issues that ought now to be debated. We won’t even mention the Democratic side of the debate. That Bernie Sanders, who claims to be a democratic socialist, is increasingly rolling up the votes and suffocating a wooden Hillary Clinton, is beyond denunciation. At a time when even the old social democratic states of northern Europe – yes, and including Denmark which is where we were supposed to look for Bernie’s model – are turning to competition and even sometimes calling it free enterprise is abundant evidence that democratic socialism doesn’t work much better than its illegitimate offspring, Communism.

Several of the Republican contenders have, indeed, laid out economic plans. But we suspect that in the long run, the important element will be the general attitude of the winning candidate later this year toward “business” in general. That attitude will dictate policies and even legislation which in the end can help – for government in the end has a limited role – turn the economy around and return us to prosperous growth. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do something about banks that are too big to fail, for example. But it does mean that the autocratic demands of Obamacare which have cost jobs and limited expansion of small business have to go – and quickly.

By the way, the last thing a new government should do is promise a new “comprehensive” medical reform. The way to successful reform in this country has always been incremental and, for example, just removing the nice little conspiracy between the insurance companies and most state legislatures to prevent cross-stateline selling would go a long way toward beginning the competition which would be the lifeblood of the medical arts and sciences as the rest our institutions and economies.





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