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Tee Time

Make sense of the global economy by riding the coattails of a T-shirt.

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This story appears in the May 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Globalization is a hot-button topic that generates strong feelings along with images of boarded-up, independent businesses in America and exploitative sweatshops overseas. But what exactly is it? In The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy (Wiley, $29.95), Georgetown University business professor Pietra Rivoli chronicles the round-the-world odyssey of a T-shirt, from Texas cotton-growers to an African used-clothing bazaar, to reveal how the planetary economy really works.

Along the way, we see how entrepreneurial U.S. farmers team with government-sponsored researchers--and take advantage of subsidies and trade barriers--to dominate world cotton production. Migrant workers from Chinese family farms tell why they regard low-wage jobs in Shanghai sewing factories as golden opportunities. And only in that African used-clothing bazaar do we encounter a truly free market where entrepreneurs--perhaps including some future tycoons of the 21st century--utterly rely on pure business skills and instinct. Whether you feel hurt or helped by globalization, you'll certainly understand it better after reading this fascinating account.

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