Virginia Postrel's Bloomberg View column is about shoes: "One reason for shoes' current cultural prominence is the sheer number of pairs people own today. Americans bought seven pairs per person last year, according to the American Apparel and Footwear Association. That's down from a peak of slightly more than eight pairs in 2006 but still high by historical standards."
That is a lot of shoes, and a reminder that no matter how badly the economy is doing under President Obama, Americans today, by "historical standards" or even the standards of the rest of the world, have it pretty good.
A couple of shoe-related points she doesn't get into: Most of those seven pairs per person were made in another country and imported into America. Statistics from the the U.S. Trade representative show America imported about 2 billion pairs of non-rubber footwear in 2011, about 1.7 billion from China and about 153 million from Vietnam. Americans can afford seven pairs of shoes per person because they are being made in countries in which wages are much lower. That's good for American consumers, and good for Chinese and Vietnamese workers, who now have jobs. Free trade has benefits for both the importer and the exporter. It is worth mentioning, too, however, that China and Vietnam both have Communist governments that restrict political freedom, including the freedom to organize labor unions that are free and independent of the government. When and if that changes, the prices of shoes for American consumers may rise, maybe even to the point where it's definitely a better deal to have your shoe resoled by an American cobbler rather than going to the store and buying a brand new pair.