Terrorizing with Shirts

The New York Times publishes an opinion article from a reporter for Newsweek who just authored a book on luxury:

“Most people think that buying an imitation handbag or wallet is harmless, a victimless crime. But the counterfeiting rackets are run by crime syndicates that also deal in narcotics, weapons, child prostitution, human trafficking and terrorism. […] Most fakes today are produced in China, a good many of them by children. […] Many in the West consider this an urban myth. But I have seen it myself.” (from Dana Thomas, “Terror’s Purse Strings”, New York Times, August 30 2007)

The author accompanied a police raid in Guangzhou (she was taken there by a luxury-good maker that “works directly with the Chinese police to shut down factories”) which was apparently tough: they found children working there, the owner was arrested and the children were sent out (jobless and homeless, because the factory housed them, they incidentally threw bottles and cans to the police and their guest witness). But back to terror:

“If we stop knowingly buying fakes, the supply chain will dry up and counterfeiters will go out of business. The crime syndicates will have far less money to finance their illicit activities and their terrorist plots. And the children? They can go home.” (from Dana Thomas, “Terror’s Purse Strings”, New York Times, August 30 2007)

In his review of a similarly scary book about fake T-shirts and global terror, Thomas Naylor, however, puts forward the following argument:

“True, some people had been poisoned by fake drugs. However, laws already protected the afflicted consumer as distinct from the holder of a patent or trademark. Rolex watches don’t pose the same threat as contraband prescription drugs. Nor is it clear how much they actually dampen the market. People willing to shell out $4000 for a watch are hardly likely to buy a $40 replica. In any case, it is at least arguable that the real fakery is not the imitation but the con job perpetrated by the legitimate companies against clients foolish enough to pay full price – which makes product counterfeiting a rip-off of a rip-off. ” (from R.T. Naylor, “Marlboro Men”, London Review of Books, March 22 2007)




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