Barrett: 'Made in Taiwan' evolves from epithet to badge of honor

Barrett: 'Made in Taiwan' evolves from epithet to badge of honor

March 25th, 2012 by Steve Barrett in Opinion Columns

If you've never met anybody from Taiwan, you're missing out.

I was privileged years ago to befriend some Taiwanese diplomats based in Atlanta, and their Shirley Temple-grade optimism still astounds me. Their homeland is an island a third the size of Tennessee, just 125 miles or so off the coast of mainland China. China is roughly as big as the United States but notably less friendly. It more or less considers Taiwan its property and hasn't been secretive about plans to take possession someday -- one way or another.

And yet, since the 1949 split with Communist China, Taiwan has not only survived but thrived. Its free-market economy grew nearly 11 percent in 2010.

I suspect few Americans recall 2010 with economic fondness, but Taiwan's prosperity isn't something for us to resent but to appreciate. On a per-capita basis, Taiwan's 23 million people are the world's biggest buyers of U.S. agricultural products, and in absolute numbers they are the third-biggest buyers of U.S. corn. Regionally, Taiwan has multiple manufacturing facilities in Tennessee and Georgia, and it accounts for a surprisingly large share of commerce at the Port of Savannah.

Some marvel at the "miracle" of Taiwan's success, as if the nation won the lottery or something. Its prosperity springs not from blind luck, however, but from the dynamism that flows from a commitment to individual liberty and human rights.

Now if only Beijing would take the hint. Everybody talks about the growing Chinese economy, and not without justification. But China would enjoy exponentially greater growth today if it had followed Taiwan's lead -- to say nothing of the fact that a billion-plus Chinese would lead less oppressed lives.

If the plight of the Chinese people doesn't stir you, think what a free China would mean for the United States. We would have vastly larger markets for our exports, because the Chinese would have more money to spend.

But in the name of "the people," China chose a different path -- and most of those people suffer needless deprivation, while Taiwan flourishes just miles offshore.

"Made in Taiwan" used to be a term of derision. Nowadays it's hard to argue that it's anything less than a mark of distinction.

Bristol and Barack

President Obama's pro-woman pretenses have just been drawn and quartered -- in a blog post by Bristol Palin.

In case you missed it by being entombed in a steel vault six miles under the Mojave Desert, the president has made much of Rush Limbaugh's use of a vulgarity to describe Sandra Fluke.

Referring to his own daughters, Obama said, "I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way. And I don't want them attacked or called horrible names because they're being good citizens."

He took the extra step of phoning Fluke to commiserate.

Which makes it more than passingly ironic that he hasn't asked a super PAC that supports him to return a million-dollar donation from "comedian" Bill Maher, whose remarks about the Palin family -- particularly its females -- make Limbaugh's comments on Fluke sound like playground chatter.

In a post titled, "Mr. President, When Should I Expect Your Call?" Bristol Palin pointed out Obama's, shall we say, unsteady approach to misogyny.

"... Bill Maher has said reprehensible things about my family. He's made fun of my brother because of his Down's Syndrome. He's said I was '(expletive) so hard a baby fell out.' (In a classy move, he did this while his producers put up the cover of my book, which tells about the forgiveness and redemption I've found in God after my past -- very public -- mistakes.)

"If Maher talked about Malia and Sasha that way, you'd return his dirty money and the Secret Service would probably have to restrain you. After all, I've always felt you understood my plight more than most because your mom was a teenager. That's why you stood up for me when you were campaigning against Sen. McCain and my mom -- you said vicious attacks on me should be off limits. ... Now that you're in office, it seems you're only willing to defend certain women. You're only willing to take a moral stand when you know your liberal supporters will stand behind you."


Obama had the sense in the 2008 campaign to denounce his malicious pastor of two decades, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- even if that repudiation was sheer political calculation.

It's time for the president to have a Maher moment as well. But methinks we shouldn't hold our breath.