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Boycotting the Olympics

Let me first start by digging into a little bit of the History of the Olympics, wikipedia style. The most common story is that after completing his 12 Labors, Heracles walked in a straight line for 400 strides and this distance was called a stadion. This not only lead to our current term of stadium, but also suggest why tracks are 400m long, as this was the distance that Heracles paced off. Initially the games were a sign of pure athletic prowess. It was quite literally a bunch of sweaty, hairy and naked men wrestling, running and performing feats of strength. Shot put. Hammer throw. Hurdles.

Knowing that the games are of purely athletic I think it is important that we realize that these athletes congregate every 4 years to win glory, prestige and honor not only for themselves but for their country. We have even seen this popularized in movies such as Cool Runnings. It’s purely about athletics. They have been training day after day after day to athletically represent their country in front of the entire world.

Recently it has been suggested by Nancy Pelosi and numerous others that we should Boycott the Opening Ceremonies of the games. I gather that this is viewed as a sort of compromise from boycotting the entire games so as to make sure that the athletes can compete. Pelosi was quoted as saying “If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China’s oppression in China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world,”

I absolutely and whole heartedly agree with Pelosi on this one. But my question is why do we suddenly speak out now that the Olympics are in town. Why haven’t we done something since? Umm…I don’t know. 1949? These are incredibly important issues, and we shouldn’t ignore them until we see them in protests or until a time when it is convenient. Why was no one saying anything about Tibet during the games in Athens, Greece? What about Sydney? Atlanta? Barcelona? Seoul? Los Angeles? Moscow?

Why wasn’t it convenient to speak out against oppression during those times? Are oppressed people simply supposed to wait until the Olympics come to their back door before they can rally for change and get international support? Shouldn’t this be something that we consider on a yearly basis? A monthly basis? A daily basis? What about Darfur? Need we wait until their is a summer games in Africa to fully acknowledge, address and bring the international community together to stop genocide.

I have an idea. If we are truly concerned with this issue. Why don’t we boycott Chinese goods? It doesn’t take long to figure out why we wouldn’t do that. Just type in two words to Google Search. China + Trade. Throw in ‘Deficit’ if you really want to get excited. China + Trade + Deficit = Lots of Money going to China. Our trade deficit in 2007 was over $250 billion dollars. In 2008 alone we are already at a $38 billion deficit.

If people are frustrated with China’s domestic policy decisions involving Tibet then why are we helping them to grow their economy to the tune of $250 billion a year. Aren’t we also concerned with the loss of jobs in the United States. We are going to get rocked soon. China is out-working and out-producing us…why are we paying them to do that? If they are such an immoral country in the way that they treat Tibetans, why don’t we adopt similar policies that are in place with other countries? Is it perhaps, because there is a buck to be made?

Interesting. China and California have an association to concrete business ties. Speaker Pelosi, can you perhaps address these issues in California as well. I want there to be change in the rights that Tibetan’s are afforded. But let’s not waste our time with an athletic tradition. Let’s instead focus on economic policy and foreign relations. We are not going to solve problems by trying to embarrass the Chinese by boycotting the opening ceremonies.

We learned our lesson in the Cold War with Russia. If we want change we can’t address these issues separately. They all have to be brought to bear. It’s about linkage. If we are truly upset, which we should be, with the way that China is dealing with Tibet then let’s use our economic connections to make changes. If they are unwilling then let’s make the conditions economically less favorable to do business. It’s about linking our human rights concerns with our economic policies. We have to link aid, or our trade status with China complying to human rights standards. If we aren’t enough, let’s bring in the rest of the G7, United Nations, European Union, whatever it takes

Boycotting the Opening Ceremonies to me is very half-hearted. It’s kind of like saying. Well, we only care about freedom and liberty enough to give you the time of day when the Olympics are in your region, and even then we aren’t going to bring our economic forces to bear. We are just going to ask our athletes to miss out on a cool opportunity that has nothing to do with foreign policy, or human rights.

If we want to boycott then let’s boycott Chinese goods. If you want to rally this country out of our economic slump lets start turning all of our ‘Made in China’ goods into ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ goods. For you economists out there, I’m not blind to the idea of comparative advantage and the fact that it may be better to send certain jobs out to China. But let’s be honest, there are tons and tons of low labor jobs that could be filled in the United States. Right now people invest little prestige in such jobs.. Let’s put some ‘Made in America’ stickers and stitching in products. Let’s give American’s a reason not to worry about whether or not they will have to forclose on their house, but rather a reason to wake up and be proud of a country that not only supports them at home but combats tyranny abroad, and not just when it’s convenient.

D.

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