Informing Consumers Won’t Stop Looters—Especially The Biggest Looter: Communist China

December 26, 2021 Updated: December 28, 2021

Commentary

Big brick-and-mortar retailers such as Best Buy, Home Depot, and Target are backing a curious strategy against the organized smash-and-grab looting going on during the Christmas shopping season in cities like San Francisco and Chicago run by Democratic mayors and district attorneys who won’t prosecute robbers. They’re calling for passage of a bipartisan bill that promises to “expose criminals who are selling consumers stolen, fake and dangerous products.”

Congressional staffers were certainly exposed, as frustrated wannabe ad copywriters, with the title they concocted: “The Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers (INFORM Consumers) Act,” sponsored by the Democratic chairwoman and her ranking Republican colleague on the consumer protection and commerce subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The idea is that if you know goods are stolen or counterfeit, you won’t buy them. But ask yourself: if your home were burglarized, would your mind be put at ease if you could be sure that the burglars’ potential customers knew your widescreen TV and your jewelry was stolen? Or would you prefer that the police track the burglars down and the DA prosecute them?

Can federal regulations really dry up the demand for stolen goods when people see the massive discounts, and are inclined not to ask questions? Last year, the editor-in-chief of tech news website Lifewire.com, Lance Ulanoff, pointed out that stolen goods being sold online are already not that difficult to identify—prices that are too good to be true, inaccuracies and misspellings in descriptions, amateurish graphics, and sellers’ anonymity being obvious clues. Moreover, the resale sites themselves profit, and therefore have an interest in turning a blind eye to the goods’ origins.

Can eBay’s more than a billion annual individual listings really be policed effectively? It and other sites, like Fashionphile and RealReal, already use a program called LeadsOnline to help law enforcement detect stolen items. Plus, looters in large cities can and do still make money the old-fashioned way with their hauls—selling on the street and even utilizing the homeless to help.

So it is peculiar to hear Brian Dodge, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, earlier this month tell Fox News that the INFORM Consumers Act is “the solution that exists.” When asked by Fox’s Neil Cavuto if the “federal solution” he is “committed to” includes “more police” and “funding for more guards,” Dodge claimed that “the solution here is not necessarily focused on the police side,” although he conceded that “there’s obviously work to be done there.” But for big retailers, Dodge says “the solution is to take away the easy access that criminals have to unsuspecting buyers.”

Dodge added, “there used to be a time where criminals or thieves would steal products and the only way they could sell them was in a dark alley,” whereas today they do it online. Not surprisingly, he made a point of naming the personification of “online,” the arch rival of his organization’s members, Amazon. Pushed again about beefing up law enforcement, Dodge claimed, “the solution that we have at hand here is focused on taking away the easy access to customers.”

There’s some similarity here to the left’s perennial excuses for not getting tough on drug traffickers, arguing that the problem is demand, not the supply provided by organized criminal operations.

Retailers like Home Depot and Wal-Mart, a significant proportion of whose customers are non-white and poor, are obviously afraid of being labeled as insufficiently woke by the left. Still, let’s not let Amazon off the hook. The online giant may now back the INFORM act (with future changes “to further strengthen the bill”), but in June, Amazon used its clout to kill INFORM as part of a bipartisan bill aiming to rein in China economically and militarily.

Which brings us to the world’s biggest looter, and most notorious criminal reseller of products belonging to others. Beijing encourages and facilitates the theft of American intellectual property, that property’s replication, and the displacement of the legitimate American sellers in the Chinese domestic market, then finally their displacement in the global market. China’s People’s Liberation Army and its Ministry of State Security are both heavily involved.

The widespread propagation of the evidence that this is happening simply will not stop Western consumer demand for cheap Chinese products. Americans and Europeans are already inundated with the horror stories of slave labor, human rights violations like the bloody persecution of the Uyghurs, and the Chinese regime’s objectives in overtaking the United States as the world’s preeminent superpower.

Technology, of course, is the most serious economic sector in mainland Chinese theft, but consider a more mundane example. Amazon offers the impressive Sonnet model fountain pen in “Red Lacquer with Gold Trim” by the long-standing pen manufacturer Parker for a price well over $100. Go to eBay, however, and the same product is apparently available for under $9. Then, a near-to-identical version from mainland China with another brand name can be purchased on Amazon for under $6. In this case, the product description celebrates the pen being “inspired from the long history and splendid traditional culture of China, which contributes to the fine artistic elements and design concept.” No hiding the product’s origins necessary.

There are YouTube videos by fountain pen aficionados comparing the real Parker, the counterfeit, and the copycat with a different brand name, coming to the conclusion that the quality is not all that far apart on the three offerings. So when a consumer has the opportunity to save over $100 for a status symbol that has a good chance of fooling those he seeks to impress, how often will ethical qualms get in the way?

It is clear that only holding thieves in U.S. cities responsible for their thievery by applying the law will deter them. In the same vein, stopping Beijing’s economic warfare against the free world requires passing laws that go beyond tariffs, keeping their products out and ending Americans’ dependency on them. Instead of blaming consumers for being seduced by low prices, retailers must support real measures against Beijing’s criminality—before it is too late, as we watch communist China’s global rise.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Thomas McArdle was a White House speechwriter for President George W. Bush and writes for IssuesInsights.com