SURELY by today’s standards the online retailer Boohoo deserves nothing but praise for introducing its first recycled clothing range – made of reclaimed plastics too, the stuff that otherwise will clog our oceans or landfills. I took a peep at the ads and it looks pretty steamy stuff: trim torsos, clingy cleavages, bare bellies, nude navels. It can only be to our good that all the waste should end up as adornment rather than pollutant.

I saw the website had a men’s section as well, where I found clothes (or “garms”, as Boohoo calls them) I never knew existed. There was an “oversized drop-shoulder tape T-shirt” or a “muscle fit short sleeved colour block polo” or “skinny fit denim shorts with biker panelling”. And none came in at more than £16.50. The stock is replaced constantly. There are 42 new items just today. I suppose the purchaser is expected to recycle them all over again at the merest hint of boredom with them. Faster and faster fizzles the fashion.

Still, I like capitalist exuberance, so it grieved me to find elsewhere so many po-faces sneering at such examples. A fellow columnist (not on The National) actually urged that “government action must end trend for fast fashion”. I have two contrary points. First, isn’t life depressing enough without handing politicians the power to control what we wear? Secondly, they are often not that competent at what they do try to do, so a government, like our own, incapable of suppressing sectarian singing or of reaching satisfactory definitions of the two sexes is hardly going to be an adequate instrument for dictating to us our personal wardrobes.

Boohoo’s latest foray in the cause of consumer choice deserves more than scoffs. A Green initiative is being dismissed as a marketing gimmick.

I doubt if the deep-seated Scottish urge to ban things is going to get anywhere in this instance, because here we also see a perfect example of the digital economy. It already rules the world, and it will continue to develop in ever greater complexity. Scotland is no more capable of stopping that by itself than of reversing climate change by itself. Better to board the global bus than be left standing and watching it vanish into the distance with its payload of happy consumers.

It is in fact as another aspect of globalisation that we should understand the reclaimed plastic. At every turn this process offers consumers a benefit, a blessing, a boon. In terms of industrial development it has brought about a continuing subdivision of manufacturing into specialised operations at different sites round the world so as to take advantage of lower relative costs, to the gain of the consumer. The factories may stand next to oceans or landfills, but they also need a workforce with the right skills and a government that actively fosters investment. Steady increases in productivity result – the key to more jobs and higher living standards.

The garment trade is a good example. Suppose you make an impulse purchase of a “Paisley print oversized short sleeve revere shirt” (the Boohoo catalogue again: £14!). Then you may find that, while the shirt was perhaps finished in Malaysia, the cotton probably grew in India from seeds genetically modified in the US. The artificial fibre for the stitching comes from Portugal and the collar linings from Brazil. The machinery for weaving, cutting and sewing the cloth could have been made in Germany, with the dyes supplied from half-a-dozen other countries: Pakistan, Taiwan, Turkey, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Mexico and so on (it’s a very lively market).

For western fashionistas, globalisation means an abundance of garments sold by giant retailers who can update inventory, make transnational trade deals and co-ordinate a worldwide supply chain of goods at the click of a computer.

What people are consuming may be more than the corporate brand or logo: Nike, Victoria’s Secret, Abercromby & Fitch. They are also consuming the fantasy images of sexuality, athleticism, coolness and hedonism that these brands disseminate in shopping centres and over the internet.

Is this a vision of hell? If so, somebody should tell the crowds that throng Buchanan Street or Princes Street every Saturday afternoon eager to play their part in it. I think it will take a lot to persuade them to swap that for a world where milk and meat pies are banned, or foreign holidays forbidden (which I gather from progressive folk is the ideal).

It will also make things difficult for a political party, such as the Greens, to tell the punters they should really want to be poorer, when our SNP Government is trying to sell a prospectus that it can make us richer.

Even progressive folk might take a more positive view. As images of fashion in magazines, films, television and the internet speed their way round the world, they create a global style across borders and cultures. Blue jeans, T-shirts, sports trainers and baseball caps adorn young bodies, sometimes old bodies too, everywhere from the skyscrapers of Manhattan to villages in Africa. All engage in the mutual borrowing of style and textiles.

In western countries they do so under one roof at local shopping centres, rather like in the oriental bazaars of old except they rely on high-tech. They cater to consumers of every age, gender, race, profession and subculture. And this is a pattern repeated for any number of other classes of goods. Does it not make us all feel a bit closer to one another? Is this not the benign side of globalisation?

Indeed, for if global fashion depends on the assembly line and mass consumption in developed countries, it exerts different effects in developing countries. It introduces the locals to markets much wider than their traditional ones and to technologies that connect them to the outside world: the iPhone is today commonplace in the oases of the Sahara Desert or the pueblos of the Andes Mountains. In Latin America especially, a new economy undermines an old economy, this time one that had been controlled by the state, unprofitable and corrupt. Through restructuring and deregulation, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund imposed deep reforms on debtor nations. Burdensome official controls have been dismantled in favour of free markets and privatised utilities. Once more, the result has been an economic liberation from privileged elites. Today the same goes on before our eyes in Lagos or Mumbai.

In all these places the global, digital economy has arrived. Only in Scotland and a few other backwaters do people regard it as their enemy when in fact it is their friend. It can supply our every whim, and do so through economic logistics that connect us by means of trading links with people in the furthest parts of the world, absorbing them fully into the human family as well.

If the system achieves this by converting floating bits of old plastic into bikinis – well, why not? Progress at the rate we are experiencing in the 21st century is bound to bring glitches. They will best be overcome not by patronising and overbearing politicians but by the citizens of free, capitalist societies.