Warning: this post kind of makes me sound heartless and unfeeling, but I'm really not.
My sociology class and my geography class actually tied in together this week. Pretty interesting stuff, actually--at least to me.
In geography, the professor was talking about the "maquiladoras," or assembly plants built by American companies on the Mexican side of the border. In these plants (she was telling us about auto plants specifically), an auto worker makes about $10 a day. A worker doing the same job in the U.S. would be getting paid about $200 a day. So, understandably, the auto companies would build the plants in Mexico and hire Mexican workers--it saves the company money, they don't have to pay the same (if any) taxes, workman's comp. laws are different, etc., etc. Also understandably, a Mexican worker with any skill would definitely see the advantage in coming across the river (which apparently is only about knee-deep at most) and getting a job here in the U.S. (I should note that I am not at all opposed to immigration, I just think that people who want to live here need to do so legally--and I think that should actually pertain to any country in the world.) Now, I would feel bad for the Mexicans making $10 a day, except for the fact that the professor then went on to say that, especially in interior Mexico, that's actually a pretty good wage. To me, that means that they're living fairly well and are able to buy the things they need, which is good.
So, on to sociology. Yesterday the professor was discussing how capitalism originated, and told us that a German sociologist named Max Weber did a study in communities across Europe, and what he found was that capitalism started up in communities that were primarily Protestant, rather than Catholic. Basically, these Protestant communities believed in predetermination or predestination, and believed that if you were successful at an endeavor, that meant that that was a sign that you were following your calling. And when people were a little bit successful, they tended to look around and see people who were more successful, and they wanted that, so they'd reinvest in their business, and if they were more successful themselves, then that was further evidence that they were following their calling. And they'd look around and see people who were still more successful, so they'd reinvest, and become more successful themselves, and so on. So capitalism, Weber found, stemmed from a religion.
What I found interesting was that besides Mexico, a lot of the other countries that my geography professor talked about where wages are lower are primarily Catholic, or have had a great deal of Catholic influence. Now, this is just my impression after a few weeks, and we've only really talked about North America, Central America, and the very beginning of South America, so I could be wrong. She's also briefly mentioned a few places in Africa, but I seem to remember that there's a good bit of Catholic influence there, too.
And I find myself wondering at what point do we (the more successful countries) stop trying to take care of the rest of the world? I mean, there are places that receive aid from richer nations in the form of money, food, and other goods, but the government officials don't distribute the materials fairly, so the majority of their own people still suffer. And in some countries the governments are corrupt, and the people know it, but can't or won't do anything about it. And then you have situations where a powerful country is asked to help a weaker one to set up a new government, and then the weaker country turns out to be worse off than before the powerful one helped (I'm thinking that's what happened when Saddam Hussein came to power, but I have to look that up to make sure). Is there ever a time when the powerful countries--the ones with the money and the resources--should look at the weaker ones and say, "Sorry, you're on your own. We've tried to help you but you refuse to help yourselves, so there's nothing more we can do"? I definitely don't think the weaker countries should be taken advantage of, but I also don't think that they should always just be handed everything they need--I don't think it helps them, in the long run, to develop as a nation. I think it makes them too dependent on outside help.