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[P]
No Smiling!

By randinah in Op-Ed
Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 01:36:48 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

Take a moment to reflect on your job. Chances are, you despise it. You get up at 7AM every morning only to put on some uncomfortable attire that matches the "dress code", you commute through noisy morning rush hour only to arrive at an environment where you have to deal with the office politics and sucking up to an ass of an advisor.

You know you deserve a raise. You also know that no matter how dull or dead-end your job seems, it's not nearly as bad as people who work in sweatshops have it.


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comments (24)
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Sweatshops are dirty. They're loud, sweaty, and restrict the rights of the people who work in them. Speaking from an humanitarian vantage point, they are an atrocity.

The public does not like the idea of sweatshops. They are troubled by the possibility that a 12 year old girl who works 60 hours a week sewed together their shoes. If asked for their stance on child labor and sweatshops, the public would emphatically agree that they are against it. So why is Gap apparel the most lucrative clothing company in America? Why is the Walton family (of Wal-Mart fame) still the richest in America?

Because the public feels distant. We all know that these people work long, horrid hours with no breaks and little pay. But we don't know exactly how little pay, or how many hours these people work. We don't quite understand why these people can't quit their job and look for something else.

What are Sweatshop Conditions Like?

Depending on the factory in question and the country it is located in, conditions range from horrible to downright despicable.

A sweatshop worker can be expected to work an average of 60 hours per week*. If they are asked to work longer, there is little they can do to refuse. After work, these people do not go home to their families, but rather to a camp with their fellow workers. This housing has been found in some cases to be dirty and rat infested.

A sweatshop worker has no choice. Some are lucky enough to make a sufficent amount of money to get by; many are not. In these countries, the factory is the centerpiece of the city, literally. The multi-acre sweatshop usually has a tall concrete wall around it, and the city expands from it. A sweatshop worker can not get up and leave because leaving would not only meaning quitting their job, but quitting their job and moving to a different city. I know as well as the next person that moving can be pretty damned expensive. These workers are paid barely enough money to feed them and their family so it's understandably very hard save up for a big move.

The wage of a sweatshop worker can be anywhere from $1.15 in the Dominican Republic to $0.15 cents in Indonesia, including benefits (but usually without).

It is typical to find signs in these sweatshops that say "No Smiling!", "No Talking!", or "Do Not Listen To Talkers; They are Agitators!" (Phillipines). Workers in Indonesia have tried to unionize in the past, but have found they are just too tired and too busy to band together and organize a protest.

Some sweatshops make workers clock out to take bathroom breaks. When strapped for cash, it has been known for a sweatshop worker to urinate in a bag under the table rather than lose the few minutes it takes to use the washroom.

Conditions in sweatshops are often dirty and in some cases poisonous to the workers. On July 5th 2002 workers in El Salvador were hospitalized for chemical poisoning.

Pregnant women in sweatshops have it worse. In some sweatshops in China, a female worker can be fined for becoming pregnant. In Mexico, some factories make prospective female employees undergo pregnancy tests before starting their job. All women hired in these factories are under a 28-day contract to be renewed only if the woman doesn't become pregnant. In some Mexican factories the women can even be forced to undergo "pad checks" to prove they are menstruating. In Honduras there have been reports of factories forcing their women employees to have abortions if they become pregnant.

What Can Be Done?

1. Boycotts

Pro - People vote with their dollars. If enough people boycott Gap and dirty their public image enough, Gap could find sweatshops generally unprofitable. Boycotting could be cause a serious impact on a company's bottom line.

Con - Wishful thinking, admittedly. Personally, one can feel they are making a statement by not purchasing Gap clothes. Gap doesn't care. Their new fall line is just too scrumptious for the average teenager to think about the sufferings the sweat shop workers endured to produce it. Therefore, Gap's profits don't take a hit.

2. Tax Incentives

Pro - If the government taxes a company like Nike a ridiculous amount of money to import their shoes in from Indonesia (or wherever), Nike just might find it unprofitable to keep going on this way.

Con - This action could have a reverse effect. If the government even did put this issue on their agenda and raised taxes, I don't see why a corporation like Nike would voluntarily take their contract to a more expensive factory. Rather, they'd more likely hike up prices and make the consumer pay.

3. International Labor Union

Pro - Finally, international jurisdiction to speak for sweatshop workers! They could cross the border of any participating country and clamp down on the wrongdoing. If created, an Internation Labor Union could organize and revolt where the labor workers themselves could not before. Remember, most of these sweatshop workers are too overworked and tired to do this on their own. They need someone in their corner.

Con - We know from the struggles that the United Nations has faced that it is very hard to enforce rules across borders. To make an International Labor Union work, all countries would have to be willing to participate. This could prove to be very difficult for countries such as China, seeing as their resistance to such labor organizations would make them a magnet for the majority of corporations in search of cheap labor.

These are just some solutions I have pondered on my own time. I hope that this article can spur further discussion, and I hope to hear ideas that I haven't even considered.

* I obtained much of my information from a book called No Logo, by Naomi Klein. She is a freelance journalist from Toronto who has toured sweatshops all over Asia.

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No Smiling! | 275 comments (272 topical, 3 editorial, 1 hidden)
Help Me (1.80 / 5) (#3)
by thelizman on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 02:00:36 AM EST

I've been wanting to do an article on Activist Consumerism, where I try to convince these idiots that demonstrating in front of the WTO won't get them half as serious as taking their dollars away from Wal-Mart and Chevron and giving it to slightly more responsible corporations (I say slightly because, depending on whose tripe you listen to, all corporations are dirty).

Sounds like you've already got the line I'm looking for.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
thelizman, the reactionist writer.. (2.00 / 5) (#17)
by RyoCokey on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 10:08:08 AM EST

He never posts his own stories, just contrary ones to those that other people post.



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
[ Parent ]
Uh, yeah... (none / 0) (#37)
by thelizman on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 03:12:30 PM EST

Have you looked at my story list?

Look, you make some pretty good points, but don't be a troll...
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
It wasn't an insult (none / 0) (#204)
by RyoCokey on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 10:28:59 AM EST

Just an observation. Look at some of the stuff that appears in the Que. "Has America gone Mad?"



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
[ Parent ]
Shame (5.00 / 7) (#48)
by localroger on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 05:01:37 PM EST

where I try to convince these idiots that demonstrating in front of the WTO won't get them half as serious as taking their dollars away from Wal-Mart and Chevron and giving it to slightly more responsible corporations

Picketing the WTO may not have a direct effect, but it certainly has an effect. It embarrasses the crap out of them. Gandhi and Martin Luther King both demonstrated that great social change can be effected by shaming the miscreants.

It doesn't always work, but when it does it's far preferable to the alternatives.

This, incidentally, is the charter idea behind Greenpeace -- to go where evil things are being done and simply witness. Does it work? It pisses people off enough that they lie all the time about what Greenpeace does, blow up their boats, arrest them, and bring ridiculous security measures to bear when Greenpeace is active in an area. Yet Greenpeace has never done anything more damaging to their "victims" than block the path of a boat or symbolically block an effluent pipe with an easily-removed shield. The reason companies and nations react so strongly to Greenpeace is that they don't want to be watched doing evil things, and they don't want people talking about the evil things they do. They wouldn't be so upset about this kind of activity if it wasn't accomplishing something.

Whether it's enough is a different matter dependent on the individual situation. Tactics which accelerated the departure of an already ailing colonial power, or the abandonment of an already obsolete apartheid, may not be sufficient to overcome billions of dollars in profit motive. But even if you think their activities are futile you have to admit the people who picket the WTO have guts and determination. I have to admit someone who takes the time to do that, however futile, is a better person than I am when I shrug and take the easy road.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Paid Political Activism and Social Consumerism (2.66 / 3) (#71)
by thelizman on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 08:58:34 PM EST

Picketing the WTO may not have a direct effect, but it certainly has an effect. It embarrasses the crap out of them. Gandhi and Martin Luther King both demonstrated that great social change can be effected by shaming the miscreants.
I'm really suprised as to how many times people invoke the names of King and Ghandi without a full understanding of everything these two men did. Neither sought to "embarrass" their opposition; That assertion is rediculous. They demonstrated the politically expedient tactics of passive non-violent civil disobedience. Nothing either of these men did was ever intended to embarass or smear thier opponants.

WTO protests, on the other hand, and pointless conglomerations of cause-heads the great majority of which are utterly unaffiliated with each other. What they figured out long ago is to show up to a WTO protest, add their numbers to the greater masses, and then represent their cause as being the main body of the protesters.

In other words, they are a joke, with no impact what-so-ever. Even the media, who normally feeds off the marrow of such events, is only too happy to parody the events by showing video of the violence and disreputable behavior of some of the more extremist minority politicos.
This, incidentally, is the charter idea behind Greenpeace -- to go where evil things are being done and simply witness.
Whoah, not even close. Greenpeace was founded when a couple of nuts started embarrasing the Sierra Club and got kicked out. Greenpeace was formerly known as the "Don't Make A Wave Committee" - a monicker arising from the idea nuclear testing in the Aleutian Island chain would create tidal waves that would deluge the coast of the Pacific Northwestern American continent. As pathetically similar to a cheesy sci-fi movie plot as that was, the founders managed to attract a lot of attention and cash to their cause by scaring the piss out of normal, typically reasonable, but lesser informed folk. Political hacks though they were, they managed to parley the 'Don't Make A Wave Committee' into Greenpeace so they could keep their political capital, and Greenpeace has been scaremongering their way ever since.
Yet Greenpeace has never done anything more damaging to their "victims" than block the path of a boat or symbolically block an effluent pipe with an easily-removed shield. The reason companies and nations react so strongly to Greenpeace is that they don't want to be watched doing evil things, and they don't want people talking about the evil things they do.
You have any idea how rediculously uninformed that is? Several very active Greenpeace members have been arrested over the years for criminal activity related to properly destruction. Most ecoterrorist groups were formed by more radicalized members of Greenpeace who eventually realized that they were just cogs in Greenpeace's own corporate machine.

Of course, there is the patent anthropomorphizing of Greenpeace as the 'white knight' and corporations as 'evil doers' which totally blows away any semblence of credibility these assertions may have carried.
But even if you think their activities are futile you have to admit the people who picket the WTO have guts and determination. I have to admit someone who takes the time to do that, however futile, is a better person than I am when I shrug and take the easy road.
They're paid. Oh my god you are so naive! These WTO events represent some of the largest gatherings of paid activists in the world! Why do you think the same people go to every one? These aren't Greatful Dead concerts or Phish tours, these people go because they receive a stipend, food, shelter, and transportation. I have a friend who lived on a paid protest tour for three years, and she'd still be doing it if she hadn't fell out of a tree and broken her arm last April (and subsequently received an intervention from her parents during which she found Jesus - but that's a long and often entertaining story not suitable for this point in time).

The bottom line is that the pathetic rabble typically showing up at these leftist protests barely even get noticed anymore. Protests were significant showing sof political sentiment in the 60's, 70's, and 80's, but now they're just the most visible result of paid political activism. The "rent-a-riot" is practically a sanctioned commercial business (albeit very discreet). When John and Jane Doe see a bunch of protesters tossing trashcans through a window to 'protest corporate oppression', there's a very obvious and apparent disconnect that occurs.

The point of all this is, Corporations are capitalist entities that exist for the bottom line. They simply respond to consumer habits. Consumers, being the mindles dolts that they are, only buy something if it's cheap, flashy, sexy, and available at a store near them. Consumers drive the markets, and consumers need to learn how to read labels and investigate matters for theirselves. Most of all, they need to make the hard decision to spend a few more (or sometimes a few less) dollars on a product that may be cruelty free, exploitation free, and environmentally friendly.

For all you schmucks who buy your T-Shirts at Wal-Mart, check the labels. You just help sponsor a radical islamic terrorist school in Pakistan. Three pairs of pants will buy an AK-47 and 150 rounds of ammo, and next week while you're wearing your T-shirt and hunkering over your PC trying to figure out why your network card (made by political prisoners in china) isn't autonegotiating a 1 Gigabit connection, that AK-47 will probably gun down Hindu's in Kashmir.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Paid Political Activism and Social Consumerism (2.60 / 5) (#74)
by thelizman on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 09:01:17 PM EST

Picketing the WTO may not have a direct effect, but it certainly has an effect. It embarrasses the crap out of them. Gandhi and Martin Luther King both demonstrated that great social change can be effected by shaming the miscreants.
I'm really suprised as to how many times people invoke the names of King and Ghandi without a full understanding of everything these two men did. Neither sought to "embarrass" their opposition; That assertion is rediculous. They demonstrated the politically expedient tactics of passive non-violent civil disobedience. Nothing either of these men did was ever intended to embarass or smear thier opponants.

WTO protests, on the other hand, and pointless conglomerations of cause-heads the great majority of which are utterly unaffiliated with each other. What they figured out long ago is to show up to a WTO protest, add their numbers to the greater masses, and then represent their cause as being the main body of the protesters.

In other words, they are a joke, with no impact what-so-ever. Even the media, who normally feeds off the marrow of such events, is only too happy to parody the events by showing video of the violence and disreputable behavior of some of the more extremist minority politicos.
This, incidentally, is the charter idea behind Greenpeace -- to go where evil things are being done and simply witness.
Whoah, not even close. Greenpeace was founded when a couple of nuts started embarrasing the Sierra Club and got kicked out. Greenpeace was formerly known as the "Don't Make A Wave Committee" - a monicker arising from the idea nuclear testing in the Aleutian Island chain would create tidal waves that would deluge the coast of the Pacific Northwestern American continent. As pathetically similar to a cheesy sci-fi movie plot as that was, the founders managed to attract a lot of attention and cash to their cause by scaring the piss out of normal, typically reasonable, but lesser informed folk. Political hacks though they were, they managed to parley the 'Don't Make A Wave Committee' into Greenpeace so they could keep their political capital, and Greenpeace has been scaremongering their way ever since.
Yet Greenpeace has never done anything more damaging to their "victims" than block the path of a boat or symbolically block an effluent pipe with an easily-removed shield. The reason companies and nations react so strongly to Greenpeace is that they don't want to be watched doing evil things, and they don't want people talking about the evil things they do.
You have any idea how rediculously uninformed that is? Several very active Greenpeace members have been arrested over the years for criminal activity related to properly destruction. Most ecoterrorist groups were formed by more radicalized members of Greenpeace who eventually realized that they were just cogs in Greenpeace's own corporate machine.

Of course, there is the patent anthropomorphizing of Greenpeace as the 'white knight' and corporations as 'evil doers' which totally blows away any semblence of credibility these assertions may have carried.
But even if you think their activities are futile you have to admit the people who picket the WTO have guts and determination. I have to admit someone who takes the time to do that, however futile, is a better person than I am when I shrug and take the easy road.
They're paid. Oh my god you are so naive! These WTO events represent some of the largest gatherings of paid activists in the world! Why do you think the same people go to every one? These aren't Greatful Dead concerts or Phish tours, these people go because they receive a stipend, food, shelter, and transportation. I have a friend who lived on a paid protest tour for three years, and she'd still be doing it if she hadn't fell out of a tree and broken her arm last April (and subsequently received an intervention from her parents during which she found Jesus - but that's a long and often entertaining story not suitable for this point in time).

The bottom line is that the pathetic rabble typically showing up at these leftist protests barely even get noticed anymore. Protests were significant showing sof political sentiment in the 60's, 70's, and 80's, but now they're just the most visible result of paid political activism. The "rent-a-riot" is practically a sanctioned commercial business (albeit very discreet). When John and Jane Doe see a bunch of protesters tossing trashcans through a window to 'protest corporate oppression', there's a very obvious and apparent disconnect that occurs.

The point of all this is, Corporations are capitalist entities that exist for the bottom line. They simply respond to consumer habits. Consumers, being the mindles dolts that they are, only buy something if it's cheap, flashy, sexy, and available at a store near them. Consumers drive the markets, and consumers need to learn how to read labels and investigate matters for theirselves. Most of all, they need to make the hard decision to spend a few more (or sometimes a few less) dollars on a product that may be cruelty free, exploitation free, and environmentally friendly.

For all you schmucks who buy your T-Shirts at Wal-Mart, check the labels. You just help sponsor a radical islamic terrorist school in Pakistan. Three pairs of pants will buy an AK-47 and 150 rounds of ammo, and next week while you're wearing your T-shirt and hunkering over your PC trying to figure out why your network card (made by political prisoners in china) isn't autonegotiating a 1 Gigabit connection, that AK-47 will probably gun down Hindus in Kashmir.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
So proud of it you had to post it twice, eh? (4.75 / 4) (#83)
by localroger on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 10:22:18 PM EST

Neither sought to "embarrass" their opposition; That assertion is rediculous. They demonstrated the politically expedient tactics of passive non-violent civil disobedience.

And what exactly do you think it is that makes passive non-violent civil disobedience politically expedient?

Your portrayal of Greenpeace is the usual propaganda. Since there is an abundance of sources "documenting" both our views (all of which we would both discredit as being the other's propaganda) it's not worth getting into it with you over the issue.

BTW, I bet you also would have believed that stupid shit about the peace symbol being an upside-down broken cross if you'd been alive in the 60's.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Yes Indeed, I'm Responsible for K5's Malfunctions. (2.00 / 2) (#90)
by thelizman on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 11:51:48 PM EST

And what exactly do you think it is that makes passive non-violent civil disobedience politically expedient?
It disempowers the other side to act or respond. If they do act with an inappropriate response, then they will face criticism. That is far from the boreful assertion that Ghandi and King deliberately acted to smear their opponants. Such a suggestion is rather insulting to the hundreds of freedom riders who were beaten down, and the thousands of Indians who were beaten by coolies and british troops.
Your portrayal of Greenpeace is the usual propaganda.
Really? Can you point me to the other usual propaganda, or is this your milquetoast attempt at a dismissal. I thought so.
BTW, I bet you also would have believed that stupid shit about the peace symbol being an upside-down broken cross if you'd been alive in the 60's.
I bet you always make up bullshit to rationalize the world around you. It's so much easier than discovering facts. Move along, nothing to see here folks.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
[insulting but funny title cancelled] (4.33 / 3) (#135)
by localroger on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 09:12:57 AM EST

That is far from the boreful assertion that Ghandi and King deliberately acted to smear their opponants.

I did not say that Ghandi and King smeared their opponents, I said they shamed them. Shaming is only a smear if you've done nothing to be ashamed of. Ghandi's and King's opponents had done things deeply shameful to anyone with even a sliver of conscience.

BTW, I am not sure "boreful" is a real word :-)

Can you point me to the other usual propaganda?

You might start here. You will note that there is no mention of tidal waves, though they do mention the Quaker tradition of "bearing witness" which I mentioned to you. The next page does mention earthquakes and tsunamis, as possible consequences to be faced by the Aleutian locals, not the mainland West Coast.

I bet you always make up bullshit to rationalize the world around you.

I did not provide such a good example of that as you did of believing laughably stupid propaganda. Your story of Greenpeace being inspired by the fear of West Coast tidal waves is cut from the same cloth as the upside-down broken cross Peace symbol; a cheap, shallow, and obvious lie which would be believed only by someone who is already too wrapped up in the propagandist's mindset to respond more appropriately, say by erupting in gales of laughter.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Incoherent Wavelengths Here... (4.00 / 3) (#189)
by thelizman on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 01:02:50 AM EST

I did not say that Ghandi and King smeared their opponents, I said they shamed them. Shaming is only a smear if you've done nothing to be ashamed of.
No, that's slander. Shaming someone is smearing, neither of which were part of Ghandi's or King's tactics.
BTW, I am not sure "boreful" is a real word :-)
Boreful..."full of bore". Honestly, adding suffixes is hardly lexicraftology.
You might start here. You will note that there is no mention of tidal waves..<snip>
No, I'm saying that if what I'm saying is "propaganda" then perhaps you could point me to whoelse is echoing my sentiment. Honestly, I figured out how much of a scam greenpeace is all by myself.

As to the "mention of tidal waves", you actually have to read more than a few pamphlets, but Greenpeace themselves will shamelessly admit that to that kind of idiotic and uneducated scaremongering.
I did not provide such a good example of that as you did of believing laughably stupid propaganda. Your story of Greenpeace being inspired by the fear of West Coast tidal waves is cut from the same cloth as the upside-down broken cross Peace symbol; a cheap, shallow, and obvious lie which would be believed only by someone who is already too wrapped up in the propagandist's mindset to respond more appropriately, say by erupting in gales of laughter.
And this is the part where you shut up and live out the rest of this thread in shame. It's greenpeaces very own story. SHAME! The shame of stupidity...that's gotta be the worst.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Slander = smearing. (4.00 / 1) (#237)
by tekue on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 06:21:44 AM EST

No, that's slander. Shaming someone is smearing, neither of which were part of Ghandi's or King's tactics.
From the page at Dictionary.com you've linked to:
Slander [..] syn: defame, smirch, asperse, denigrate,  calumniate, smear, sully, besmirch [..]
"Syn" means "synonym". Smearing someone can ashame him, but doesn't have to.
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]
First hand experience (4.00 / 2) (#206)
by RyoCokey on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 10:44:43 AM EST

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I work for an oil & gas company. I've had first hand experience dealing with these people, generally regarding them suing us to block whatever project is currently on the table. I've also known people involved in these causes, who were at polite acquaintences, at least until I brought up what I did for a living.

Thelizman's comments are right on the money. I especially am unamused by greenpeace's attempts at piracy in the open sea.



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
[ Parent ]
You are an idiot. [n/t] (1.00 / 2) (#106)
by apokalypse on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 02:45:17 AM EST



[ Parent ]
don't forget technical solutions (none / 0) (#219)
by Shren on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 03:11:08 PM EST

It's a knowledge problem. Everybody has a product or a store that they don't like, but we don't live long enough to find out the hard way which products suck and which don't. I believe that people would make kinder choices about which product to buy if they had more knowledge.

Voting systems, wireless computing, and barcode scanners can all combine to give you a device that tells you more about a product by it's barcode.

You scan the barcode and get the following:


109 of your 112 chosen databases queried
21 ratings found for Foobar's Corn Chips
Value: 4.00 of 5
Taste: 3.00 of 5
Morality: 1.00 of 5

[ Parent ]

I want to be able... (4.75 / 4) (#4)
by ariux on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 02:15:51 AM EST

...to tip the people who manufacture my goods. At current prices and exchange rates, a 15% tip on one pair of shoes would feed their family for a week.

Btw, as an option, what about "fair trade" labeling? (For all I know it's a crock, but it seems worth mention and analysis.)

Fair Trade (4.83 / 6) (#10)
by anansi on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 04:42:36 AM EST

I think this is the most promising avenue. If I could look at a label that told me how much of my purchase price was going towards advertising, materials, labor, shipment, taxes, etc... and if these numbers could be verified by a third party, then I could make informed choices about what kind of world I was paying for.

The way this would most likely work is for international unionists to decide what a living wage really means (perhaops as a percentage of the highest compensated corperate officer?) and perhaps an ecological footprint index for the various inputs and outputs. Then companies that wanted to compete for our hearts and minds could document their complience with these standards, and (hopefully) recieve a competitive advantage in the marketplace. I think there's something like that already in place for construction materials.

For that matter, it would be nice if there was a single web page I could visit that documents what the heck 'naturally nested eggs' are all about, or toilet paper made from recycled fiber.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

good idea (5.00 / 2) (#50)
by psinpsycle on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 05:31:37 PM EST

This is actually a good idea.  How many people out there would be willing to tip the workers?  

Imagine if an NGO setup some tables in the mall hallway next to the Gap - or some other offender - and soliciting these tips.  Each month they could feature one sweat shop that would be the beneficiary of all the tips collected.  They would then actually go to the country and give the money to the factory workers.

Using this method you could actually help people, while at the same time try to raise awareness.  

How many of you would drop off a tip?

[ Parent ]

Solutions (3.50 / 2) (#5)
by 90X Double Side on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 03:03:36 AM EST

While solution number 3 would be the hardest to attain, it is the only real solution suggested here. The problem with solutions 1 and 2 is that the company will stop employing people in other countries completely, not improve their factories (especially with #2, and assuming they work at all). Our goal should be to make companies provide good conditions and pay for their workers, not to make the workers loose what miserable job they have.

“Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity”
—Alvy Ray Smith
Problems (4.00 / 2) (#22)
by seanic on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 01:06:33 PM EST

Not only would an international labor union be impossible to form it would quickly outgrow its roots and become the de facto governing body of the world.  In order to perform the functions of its mission it would require an enormous amount of resources and authority, far beyond what any government presently possesses.  Given that absolute power corrupts absolutely, it would not be long until everyone was working for the benefit of this international union government.  There is no system to provide as a watchdog over this massive bureaucracy leaving its officers as oligarchs and the workers in the same position they are in, if not worse.

The description of tax incentives is in fact a description of the old protectionist tariff system and can not be described as an incentive given that it is punitive.

The major reason boycotts don't work is twofold, people don't stick to them and don't make enough noise about the problems.  If people would follow through boycotts would work.

--
"The majority of the stupid is invincible and guaranteed for all time. The terror of their tyranny is, however, alleviated by their lack of consistency" -- Albert Einstein
[ Parent ]

International Labor Unions (none / 0) (#52)
by blixco on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 05:51:11 PM EST

I bring you the International Workers of the World which is an international labor union. Many people who are in the IWW are "dual card" unionists (they belong to a local union and the IWW). The textile industry is one of the biggest in the IWW's rosters.

BUT you'll never see a sweatshop spontaneously go IWW. There's some good resons for this, but the biggest is that the IWW calls for the removal of the "bosses" from the equation. The worker gets the money / benefit of the work they do. That can only happen when the whole chain (from material to sales) is IWW. I don't see The Gap going union anytime soon (outside of TWU and the Teamsters).
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The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]

er....correction. (none / 0) (#53)
by blixco on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 05:52:45 PM EST

International? Industrial Workers of the World. It's embarassing to forget one's own union name.
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The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]
Oh no! The cat! THEY ARE ANARCHISTS! (5.00 / 1) (#96)
by hettb on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:37:24 AM EST

Whenever I see an organization using that retarded cat in their logo, my Crackpot alarm goes off.

[ Parent ]
First Post! (5.00 / 1) (#102)
by blixco on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 01:12:21 AM EST

....er.....

The IWW were the first to use that crazy cat. They've been around for a very long time.

Makes for a great T-shirt!
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The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]

libertarianism is the answer! (4.16 / 12) (#6)
by dr k on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 03:06:31 AM EST

These laborers would do so much better in an unrestrained free market.

Oh, wait...


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Actually (3.28 / 7) (#7)
by bodrius on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 03:48:40 AM EST

Yes they would.

If the workers had the mobility of a free market, many of them would do better, but that would imply open borders.

One of the main reason workers do not save up money and leave the sweatshops is: where to?

Moving is not only expensive as a process, it carries a risk. Establishing yourself in a new place implies finding a new source of income in a strange city you know nothing about.

In most countries on which the sweatshop culture trives, there are few alternatives. An unskilled worker will most likely end up working in another sweatshop, somewhere else, because the country's economy does not support other modes of production. That's why they open sweatshops there in the first place.

The market on which they are forced to work in inhuman conditions has little to do with a free market.
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
[ Parent ]

don't blame the poor (3.71 / 7) (#8)
by dr k on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 04:06:43 AM EST

for being poor. And don't claim that mobility is either guaranteed by or a desirable trait of a free market. Why shouldn't people be allowed to live and prosper where they are, where their families live, where their culture is?

The only happy mobile work force would be an army of robots.


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[ Parent ]

what are you talking about? (3.85 / 7) (#11)
by bodrius on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 05:01:23 AM EST

a) You suggest that the situation we're talking about is a 'free market'. It is not. That's my point: you're barking at the wrong tree.

b) You may argue that a free market exploits the workers. That may or may not be, but this is not the way a free market exploits the workers. This is the way a regulated market exploits its workers.

c) People are not allowed to prosper in a place where sweatshops play a major part in the economy, because the legal framework conspires against said prosperity.
   From tax-breaks to "foreign investors" which are not given to local businesses, government regulated salaries, selective law enforcement, parallel currencies for internal use, emigration controls... state regulation is very much involved in creating and nurturing a sweatshop country.  
   Add to that the fact that the level of collaboration of the government with the foreign corporations is very much dependent on the number of promised jobs (which is inversely proportional to the salaries their willing to pay), and what you have is a closed, very regulated market that ensures the worker does not have any room for negotiation.

    Now, if the situation were still present without the full collaboration of the government and there were no barriers for the worker to seek happiness elsewhere, would this not be the rational action to take?
  Or do you propose to subsidize emotional attachments to particular locations? By what criteria would you consider such subsidy rational?

d) Some of us are either happy mobile forces, or find the issue of mobility a non-issue. Some people prefer sedentary lives. Some people dislike the smell of trash and some detest the smell of hospitals, some want to travel all over the world and some just want to go home. Some want to have kids, some want to have cats and dogs.
   None of us are robots, and none of us need benevolent aristocrats to keep us from being whatever they consider robots. There was a time when some people considered that only robots would be happy by rising a family in their hometown in the protected existence of a 50ish family sitcom.
   That statement was meaningless then, as it is meaningless now.  

Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
[ Parent ]

Sure (2.50 / 4) (#12)
by Spendocrat on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 05:06:21 AM EST

They should be allowed to be. Who's saying that they wouldn't be?

There's no guarantees though. Assuming a free market, if you can't make a go of life how you want it (location, type of employment, whatever) that's your problem. You're not entitled to life as you wish it, but you sure have a right to try.

[ Parent ]

I said: (4.00 / 2) (#70)
by dr k on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 08:54:01 PM EST

"Don't blame the poor for being poor." You seem to think it really is their own fault. There's that old schoolyard joke:

"Daddy, daddy, I can't stop running in circles!"

"Shut up before I nail your other foot to the floor."

In this analogy, "daddy" is the free market.


Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]

Weird (1.00 / 1) (#94)
by Spendocrat on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:05:08 AM EST

I say that I believe that people should be able to live their lives in however manner they choose, and you take that as me blaming the poor for being poor?

How do you make that leap, if I might ask?

[ Parent ]

You say (3.00 / 2) (#125)
by greenrd on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 06:37:09 AM EST

"That's your problem"

In other words, it's your responsibility to get yourself out of poverty.

Which ignores the structural causes of poverty.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

"That's your problem" (none / 0) (#182)
by Spendocrat on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 09:39:23 PM EST

Wow, that's a nice prejudiced interpretation there.

My point was that you can't expect to live an untenable lifestyle indefinitely and hope that others will somehow prop you up or support you.

What's your solution? People should be supported indefinitely in a lifestyle in which they can't support themsleves?

For example, should the rest of Canada keep supporting fisherman in the Atlantic region year after year, despite the fact that being a fisherman isn't enough for them to support themselves and their families? What's your rational?

[ Parent ]

untenable (none / 0) (#193)
by dr k on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 05:52:09 AM EST

At some prior point in history, being an Atlantic region fisherman in Canada actually was a tenable lifestyle. Then something changed. That something was capitalism, creeping in on little cat feet. Oh, so you used to be able to make money at that job, but now you say you can't, well don't expect any sympathy from me. Heaven helps those who help themselves.

Not only are you still blaming the poor for being poor, you are also trying to blame them for subsidies. Bad, lazy poor people. Go get an education.


Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]

No no (none / 0) (#215)
by Spendocrat on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 02:31:54 PM EST

I'm certainly not blaming them for government subsidies. From what I can see the problem never would have occured if the subsidies hadn't been there in the first place.

I'm not sure what you're implying here. Are you saying that there's no responsibility for someone to switch jobs if it becomes impossible for them to find work within their current profession? Should we support indefinitely people whose employment opportunities have dissapeared? I'm not talking about a term on UI - or even government sponsored education - but support stretching into several years.

I'm not saying that a free market would fix the problems that have come from not having a free market. I think that the Canadian government (ie the rest of Canada by proxy) should be helping the fisherman, but to get started in something else, not to keep on living their economically untenable lifestyle. I'm saying that I don't think those problems would have occured in the first place if the government subisies weren't there.

The point I was trying to make originally is that given a free market - without government subsidies and trade restirction across borders - people are free to try out any lifestyle they like. They aren't entitled to any particular lifestyle though, otherwise who decides who *has* to support those people whose lifestyle is untenable? If they can't make a go of being a fisherman, doctore, seamstress, programmer, or subsitenance farmer, (etc) they have to do something else, or do what they want somewhere else.

[ Parent ]

the poverty atheist (none / 0) (#221)
by dr k on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 05:19:41 PM EST

"Should we support indefinitely people whose employment opportunities have dissapeared?"

I don't see anyone standing up to offer them no-cost retraining. If you don't like subsidies, I doubt you're going to want to spend an even greater amount on education - even though it will be cheaper in the long run. And it is still being done on the taxpayer's dime, not through some market magic.

Anyway, you seem to overlook the historic events that led to such subsidies being created in the first place. You don't really believe the gov't created subsidies for absolutely no reason, do you? Further, why are you so concerned that a given subsidy program won't follow a natural lifecycle and quietly disappear? What kind of timespan do you think is appropriate for a subsidy? Is five years of welfare "too much" to help re-educate and relocate an industry that may have been in place for a hundred years or more? It is going to take you at least half a generation, if not more.

"The point I was trying to make originally is that given a free market... people are free to try out any lifestyle they like."

Which is why a free market is a completely absurd and impossible notion. You do realize there is no "restart" button for the world economy? Resources are already unevenly distributed, and many fields have been salted. People simply do not have an unfettered choice to try out a dozen different careers before choosing a viable one - you are attributing the perks of the middle class to a world of poor. You must be a poverty atheist - you don't believe it exists.


Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]

One note. (none / 0) (#238)
by tekue on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 08:10:31 AM EST

It would be too boring to pick out all the errors in your comment, so I'll just choose one:
Is five years of welfare "too much" to help re-educate and relocate an industry that may have been in place for a hundred years or more? It is going to take you at least half a generation, if not more.
You are not re-educating and relocating an industry. You do re-educate and relocate people who used to work for an industry. Those people in general haven't been in place for a hundred years or more.

How long is it going to take to re-educate people to a non-complicated (i.e. non-college) job? I'd say no longer than a couple of years, five would be more than enough. It's harder with relocating, but still, five years should be enough for anyone eager and willing to re-educate and relocate themselves.

You seem to seek someone to blame for every mishappening you find. People who work in an industry that is no longer commercially viable didn't fall victim to the predatory capitalistic market forces. They fell victim to their own belief that they will have a steady job in an industry that is falling apart. They had the choice of training in some other profession, or moving (people used to walk hundreds of miles by foot, it's possible), but they choose not to. Well, that's tough.
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]

errors (none / 0) (#247)
by dr k on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 02:57:19 PM EST

You talk about people, but you fail to understand that people don't live and work in complete isolation - they have families, and extended families, and dependants, and neighbors. How are you going to reeducate a working father, a domestic wife, and two children in junior high in five years? Oh, make the wife get a job. Maybe get the kids to mow some lawns. When you capitalists finally understand that people are not isolated work units it would make the world a better place. Let me say that again in another way: re-education is not about training new skills to a single individual, but involves their family and other social structures.

For example, what about old people? You want to spend a few years retraining them for maybe 2 more years of productive labor? Especially now that you've cleverly swindled them out of their pension funds - "Sorry, Bob, but you need 12 years to get the pension, which is why we're laying you off at 10." No, if you were a compassionate person you would look to their family or support group. Oh, but if sons and daughters have to support their parents, their re-education is going to take longer. Hmmm.


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[ Parent ]

I don't own them anything. (none / 0) (#254)
by tekue on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 08:25:48 AM EST

When you capitalists finally understand that people are not isolated work units it would make the world a better place.
What economic system do you think is better than capitalism then? Communism?
Let me say that again in another way: re-education is not about training new skills to a single individual, but involves their family and other social structures.
On the contrary: re-education is about teaching individuals new skills. People may work on their social structures to make them work in the new situation, but let's not overexagerate this. Changing a job is a relatively small problem (not considering unemployment, etc.), compared to, say, moving to another continent, or having a child. A person might want to talk it over with the family and friends, even get some professional help if it's needed, but let's not go over the top with it — it's only a job.
For example, what about old people? You want to spend a few years retraining them for maybe 2 more years of productive labor?
I think this is where we differ. I'm wondering, where did you get the idea, that I want to spend any years retraining them? I am willing to cough up some dough for their training, but that's about it. And yes, I think it should be avilable for all, regardless of age.
Especially now that you've cleverly swindled them out of their pension funds - "Sorry, Bob, but you need 12 years to get the pension, which is why we're laying you off at 10."
I've swindled them out of anything? Why did they sing their pension fund contracts if they weren't satisfied with the conditions? Or did the pension fund swindle them?
No, if you were a compassionate person you would look to their family or support group. Oh, but if sons and daughters have to support their parents, their re-education is going to take longer. Hmmm.
First of all, little as you know about my ethics, you should probably restrain yourself from making any comments on it. Secondly, this may come as a surprise, but I honestly don't care what will their spouses, or children do. I could care less about who is going to support them.

I do not own anything to those people. You do not own them anything either. Nor does everyone else here, or in that country. If a person wants to live, it should be self-efficient (at least financially). We can — but do not have to — help them.

I guess the point is that I don't want you to tell me who do you want to give my money to. I've earned my money, I should get to decide what I do with the fruit of my labour.
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]

well that was obvious (none / 0) (#260)
by dr k on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 05:51:13 PM EST

".. but I honestly don't care what will their spouses, or children do. I could care less about who is going to support them."

Two points:

1) The correct phrase is "I couldn't care less..." - if you could care less, that must mean you care a little. I'm pretty sure that isn't what you mean, because 2) it is clear from your comments - and it actually comes as no surprise - that you are a complete and total shithead. You are incapable of identifying with other human beings, and have thus chosen to worship money as a kind of religion. We are all grateful that not everyone thinks the same way as you, because then life would be much cheaper than it already is.

Reap what you sow.


Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]

Not surprising. (none / 0) (#265)
by tekue on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:01:02 AM EST

[..] it is clear from your comments - and it actually comes as no surprise - that you are a complete and total shithead.
Well, then thank gods for people like you: nice and well-mannered.
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]
Free money (3.00 / 5) (#33)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 02:45:31 PM EST

Why shouldn't people be allowed to live and prosper where they are, where their families live, where their culture is?

Right! Free money for everyone! That's certainly proven its success.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]

hey, cap'n (5.00 / 2) (#67)
by dr k on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 08:48:12 PM EST

Don't confuse money with prosperity.


Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]

Dude (4.00 / 1) (#124)
by greenrd on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 06:35:39 AM EST

Tax cuts are free money for everyone. Duh.

Also, you should check out Alaska's citizen's dividend model. You might learn something.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Tax cuts (none / 0) (#184)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 10:37:50 PM EST

If one believes that we are taxed far too much already, it's the other way around - raising taxes amounts to taking money away from everyone. If you feel that the government was never entitled to that money to begin with, and that their indiscriminate spending benefits nobody, you wouldn't be in favor of giving them even more money.

I'm already aware of Alaska's dividend system. You should familiarize yourself with the failed welfare system. You might learn something as well.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]

Oddly enough ... (4.25 / 4) (#44)
by Simon Kinahan on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 04:07:20 PM EST

.. being able to move around is a prerequistite for being able to prosper where you are. Think about it: if a worker in Indonesia can double their wages by moving to California, it exerts pressure on their employer to increase their pay. The less barriers there are to moving people (and things) around, the less possible it is for disparities of wealth to persist.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
yeah, but (none / 0) (#73)
by dr k on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 09:00:34 PM EST

disparity of wealth is what a free market is all about.


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[ Parent ]

On what planet ? (NT) (1.66 / 3) (#121)
by Simon Kinahan on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 06:14:17 AM EST



Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Welcome to planet Earth (none / 0) (#137)
by synaesthesia on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 10:00:29 AM EST

Disparity of wealth is what any market under capitalism is about.


Sausages or cheese?
[ Parent ]
Nope (4.00 / 1) (#144)
by Simon Kinahan on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:16:25 PM EST

You'll have to explain that, I'm afraid. It is not really clear what you mean by saying inequality if what markets are "about". You can certainly say that market systems inevitably produce disparities of wealth. That is probably true. However, there's no need for disparities of wealth for a market system to operate.

What is necessary is disparity of ability, of ownership in particular areas, or even just different values. That it necessary to produce gains from trade. If everyone could do the same things, and owned exactly the same stuff (not stuff to the same value, but *exactly* the same stuff), then there could be no market, because it would be easier to do things yourself. However, once people can do different things, own different things, or want different things, there is the possiblity of a market.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

market != free market (none / 0) (#162)
by dr k on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 02:36:15 PM EST

Obviously there must be a difference between simple markets and so-called "free markets" (or to paraphrase synaesthesia, a market under capitalisim), otherwise we couldn't be having a discussion in which one exists while the other doesn't at the same time.

So it is funny that your dissection of disparity has suddenly left the word "free" off of its discussion of markets. Now maybe we should have qualified it a little more - a wide disparity of wealth is what a free market is all about. Not just "I've got a little more than you", but "I've got all the marbles and I'll give you one if you take your pants off."


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[ Parent ]

So ... (3.00 / 1) (#163)
by Simon Kinahan on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 02:41:42 PM EST

You haven't justified your belief. You've just repeated it. I'll assume, until you show otherwise, that you have no idea what you're talking about, then.

I can't be bothered arguing with your aimless verbal nit-picking, so I'll just say goodbye for now.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

tee hee hee (none / 0) (#164)
by dr k on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 03:03:12 PM EST

You're such a good sport. Well, not really.

To make any progress in this discussion, I must resort to "verbal nit-picking". For indeed, on a higher level our differences have more to do with semantics, the possibility that your definition of something doesn't quite match up with my definition of that thing.

For example, what exactly do you think "wealth" is? I think wealth is a concept that only has local meaning - it is something that you are willing to trade for something else, and it only exists within a market. So, for example, if I have three apples and I'm not willing to trade them for anything else no matter what, I have zero wealth.

Everything else follows.


Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]

Still no justification, then ? (4.00 / 1) (#171)
by Simon Kinahan on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 04:24:18 PM EST

Tsk tsk. One might imagine you were trying to change the subject. If you think "free" markets differ from market models in some way that is "all about" disparities of wealth, then you need to explain it. I'm losing interest in your efforts at confusing the issue.

You definition of wealth sounds like a reasonable approximation. Now explain how any kind of interesting conclusion follows ?

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

if it appears the subject has changed (none / 0) (#174)
by dr k on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 05:06:11 PM EST

it is in part due to your failure to follow the subject.

Now that we've got a handy def of wealth, how does it work in a market? Well, two people have different things, and they are interested in trading some of those things. They compare the wealth of those things against one another and agree to a trade. Now this vanilla market has nothing to say about the motivations of the two people - they might be motivated by greed, or charity, or just simple pragmatism - "Hm, I've got two hundred apples I can't eat, and he has an extra horse he can't ride."

The basic concept of capitalism is that you can use the stuff you've already got to acquire more stuff; use your capital to generate more capital. Wealth for wealth's sake. Capitalism doesn't care what that stuff is, as long as the pile just keeps getting bigger.

Now remember that wealth doesn't exist if there is no market for it. So if I own everything, I lose. But if I have almost everything, and I want to keep it - which I do - the best strategy for me is to temporarily trade some of that wealth to someone who has very little, but only for long enough for them to give it right back to me. You win: you get to eat. I win: I get to sell some apples, and have acquired the means to produce more apples. But there is a great disparity of wealth between us.

I apologize in advance if I have misunderstood the concept of capitalism.


Destroy all trusted users!
[ Parent ]

You're boring me now (3.00 / 1) (#179)
by Simon Kinahan on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 07:26:03 PM EST

Your description is fine. However, this isn't getting us anywhere. You describe a situation in which one person owns "almost everything". Such a situation obviously does not actually obtain, now, does it ?

Yawn

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

good (none / 0) (#186)
by dr k on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 11:25:19 PM EST

It seems you were actually paying attention. However, I do not feel any obligation to help you draw the painfully obvious connection between "one person" and "a small minority of the population in general." Nor can I help if you lack the observational skill to see the leviathanic evidence that rich people have a disproportionate amount of wealth compared to the poor. (That is, after all, why we call them "rich" and "poor".) You must be one of those willfully blind people, a.k.a. a libertarian. As such, you may have the final word:

[ Parent ]
Very well then ... (3.00 / 1) (#195)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 07:51:04 AM EST

... I'll take it.

First of all, don't assume you know my politics just because I'm arguing with you. If you were to check my comment history, you'd find nearly as many arguments with brainless libs as with brainless lefties. It is the mindless activism impersonating participation and random sloganising passed off for political thought that pisses me off. Not the actual views expressed.

Secondly, you've still not even tried to justify your revised claim that markets-under-capitalism are "all about" disparities in wealth. It would seem my original assertion that you don't have a fucking clue is holding out, wouldn't it ? We still don't even know whether you meant that capitalism creates such disparities, or whether you meant that it depends on them.

We've now wandered off into some strange nether-world in which your "observational skills" tell you a "small minority" own nearly all the wealth. Even if this were true, which it isn't (check your national statistics, rather than your godlike omniscience), it doesn't justify your original statement, since we still don't know what relationship this supposed state of affairs has to capitalism as a system.

Even if there were a small group of people controlling the vast majority of the currently existing wealth, this wouldn't actually matter all that much. As a good leftie, you should know that all wealth actually originates with labour, and new labour is being performed all the time. Unless absolutely all of it is being performed for this mysterious cartel, some of that wealth is going to accumulate to other people. If the Illuminati are actually abusing their power for any purpose other than accumulating new wealth, someone is eventually going to overtake them.

Similarly, expecting any conspiracy of more than five people to hold together, is, of course, impossible.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Also (5.00 / 3) (#56)
by skim123 on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 07:01:18 PM EST

If the workers had the mobility of a free market, many of them would do better, but that would imply open borders

Also I'm assuming a free market (at least by the liberatarian ideal) would remove the thread of violence for those workers who wished to form a union or spoke out against the company. Or, if not remove the threat of violence, affix penalties to those who perpetrate it.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
they would be much better off than they are now (4.18 / 11) (#13)
by Delirium on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 05:20:51 AM EST

What we currently have is an almost-free market. The "almost" caveat is what hurts the 3rd world. Sure, we have "free trade" -- but we subsidize EU and US products, thus making the imports have to cut their prices to compete. Thus less money flows from the US and the EU to the third world. Simply cutting all EU and US farm subsidies as a start would increase the income of farmers in many developing nations by a significant percentage.

The problem currently is that the US and EU get all the benefits of "free trade", but few of the downsides. As a result, those in developing nations don't get many of the benefits.

[ Parent ]

Problems with solutions (4.42 / 7) (#9)
by bodrius on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 04:24:34 AM EST

1. Wishful thinking indeed. Yet, if you cannot raise the concern enough to make this feasible, no other solution will work either.
   On the other hand, the "developed nations" are notoriously oblivious to the sweatshop situation, when you compare it with ecological concerns, animal rights, etc.
   It seems easier for them to empathize with the sufferings of endangered hummingbirds and go vegan than to stop being fashionable for the sake of 11-years old working chinese kids. Since most people empathize with kids as well as puppies, this would indicate a good PR job could improve things.
   Although completely solving the situation may be as utopian as some of the goals of ecological activists, forcing the corporations to improve their public image by improving the conditions of the shops and exploiting their workers less obviously would be a good start.

2- Bad idea. This would punish the country that hosts the sweatshops, not the companies that operate them.
   It's not like operating sweatshops for a living is an attractive option for a national economy. These countries do it usually because it was the viable option for them. Now you're not only punishing their sweatshops, but also their legitimate economical activities.
   Result: Foreign company moves to a non-sanctioned country, poor country is left with an inmense economic barrier for their legitimate exports, which probably will kill their local, legitimate economical production... which will make workers less expensive in the job market, so the sweatshops could conceivably stay and afford the taxes with no increase or a slight increase in price.

3- If you establish an International Labor Union with international jurisdiction, you're dissolving sovereignity in one of the last spheres where it is typically dissolved.
   The problem I see is that it not only has to face all the barrier other globalization efforts have to face... but that establishing such a body without establishing other globalized rules makes no sense.
    If a world authority can dictate your labor regulations, why cannot it dictate your basic rights, health care, property, emergency control regulations? All of these have as much, if not more, structural importance as the labor situation, and affect negatively the world community.
    Why should we care more about another country's underpaid workers than their forced abortions or coerced prostitutions? It's suddenly not that high on the priority list...

    And then, assuming that the body is actually formed, keeping it efficient and effective may not be as easy.  
    Unions don't have exactly the cleanest, most straight-forward histories as organizations. From corruption to political manipulation, they had their share of abuses of power.
    Most chronic situations of abuse of power that I know of have a common factor: the union officers are not representative of the workers, they are not acting as workers representing workers, but as political appointees.
    How can you avoid this situation when, by definition, the International Labor Union cannot be truly representative of the workers it is, symbolically, representing? How can you make sure the organization does not corrupt itself (or is plain ineffective) when their officer are as related to the workers as a tofu-eating Californian is to a Tibetan farmer?
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...

Your comments about Mexico. (4.71 / 7) (#14)
by Tezcatlipoca on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 05:35:54 AM EST

Are true, but it should be noted that they are illegal.

Unfortunately there are many factors, which most probably repeat themselves in other countries, that allow things like those to happen:

-Workers in these factories are illiterate or with little education, thus are completely ignorant of their rights. When they do know about the nature of what they are asked to do they know that the slowness of the legal system will mean to lose that job and waste a lot of time that they can' afford to invest on this.

-There are not enough inspectors, judges, policemen to deal with this. Many are stuck in the "war against drugs" (in behalf of the US of A, Mexico's drug problems are proportionaly small). Joy.

There are organizations that would help, and even the Ministery of Work, if tipped, would send inspectors in many cases. A journalist witnessing this should inform the authorities, in many cases situations like this have been remediated without inconviniencing the workers affected.
---
"Every duck should aspire to be crispy and aromatic." sleepyhel

Indonesian unionists (4.91 / 12) (#15)
by daniels on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 06:21:51 AM EST

Indonesian unionists who attempt to organize unions and/or strikes are generally abducted, raped, totured and/or murdered. The people who own the sweatshops are generally in conjunction for the army, who will shoot whoever you please for rp. 5000 (~$au1). The army and government generally run for money.

It's not that the unionists are tired/lazy, it's that they keep getting the shit beaten out of them.
--
somewhere in space, this may all be happening right now
The proper place of business (2.28 / 7) (#16)
by RyoCokey on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 10:05:01 AM EST

I've come upon this style argument many times and am still somewhat puzzled by it. The business calls in the police/army to break a strike, which is generally illegal under the countries laws. The police/army does much more than just "break it" and kills/beats/rapes the workers who are protesting.

Is the company guilty in this case? It just asked for enforcement of existing laws. The government is generally supported by the companies via taxes and royalties. What choice does the company have, but to pay these taxes and do business there?

Businesses work with a lot of corrupt governments around the world, because that's where the cheap labor/resources are. If the government is corrupt, the business basically has to leave or go along with it. If they attempt to abstain from said markets, they get done in by competitors with no such qualms.

A company isn't an army. Why do people expect it to resist foreign laws, regulations, and morals?



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
[ Parent ]
Well (4.33 / 3) (#36)
by mindstrm on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 03:04:08 PM EST

If you view a company as solely a profit making machine, you are right.

If you view it as a responsible organisation of people, they could effect change through the economic power.

More developing countries are usually more corrupt, usually because they are poor.

What do you expect a copy who makes 2 bucks a day to do when you ask him for some 'favor' for 10 bucks? That's a week's wages, off the books I might add.

A company could use a fraction of the profits it's making to improve the local area. Help out some schools. Fix a road. Just do a little thing here and there that is NOT directly related to the company. (no obvious profit to be had). Gain some respect.

They could, anyway. Some do.


[ Parent ]

Yes! (5.00 / 3) (#62)
by pyro9 on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 07:45:21 PM EST

Is the company guilty in this case? It just asked for enforcement of existing laws.

I maintain that it IS guilty. If it knows that the government will commit an atrocity in it's name if it calls them in, then it must not call!

It doesn't matter if they beat someone personally or hire someone else to do it, morally and ethically, they are guilty.

In a real sense, so are the consumers who buy their goods knowing how they were made.

Many of these companies have internal budgets larger than the economy of a small nation. In some cases, they actively pay the local governments to look the other way when they violate worker's rights.

What choice does the company have, but to pay these taxes and do business there?

Threaten to take 1/2 of the national income away when they move elsewhere?

They DO have a choice. They choose to exploit low wages and poor worker's rights in one economy and then sell those goods in a different economy where wages are reletivly high and workers have the time to buy things.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
I would respond (none / 0) (#255)
by RyoCokey on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 09:35:45 AM EST

However, after writing my beautiful response, I hit back to check an earlier post, only to rediscover that IE nonsensically doesn't remember the contents of text boxes. I was then too angry to right a coherent response. Oh well.



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
[ Parent ]
Devil's Advocate (3.40 / 5) (#18)
by anode on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 10:20:43 AM EST

None of your solutions seem to address what teh Indonesian sweatshop workers would do to feed their families if one of the "solutions" were to occur. I'm not exactly an expert on the matter, but I would imagine that a dole is not a feature of a sweatshop country.

It's harsh, but (none / 0) (#126)
by greenrd on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 06:41:15 AM EST

If we can find a solution that creates the same or more jobs, with better work conditions and pay, that's got to be an improvement. It sucks for those who lose their jobs, but it's an improvement overall.

Also, if unionists had thought that unionisation would lead to them all losing their jobs, they'd never have got started. There's something fundamentally wrong with that reasoning.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

hm (1.00 / 1) (#250)
by anode on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 01:00:01 AM EST

I agree with you, but wouldn't it be a great idea to maybe work out the solutions to the inescapably resultant labor problem ALONG with the solutions to the sweatshop problem. Lack of foresight is not so fun when you end up in the results of it.

[ Parent ]
How much can we really do? (3.00 / 2) (#19)
by khallow on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 10:31:38 AM EST

I wonder if the real trouble maker sweatshops actually sell in the US directly? My understanding is that outside companies pay better than the local companies because they have to and the conditions are better. Seems to me you have the ready and workable tool, the boycott. No need to pass stupid laws, no need to build world wide labor unions for local problems.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

Financial pages (4.00 / 3) (#20)
by ucblockhead on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 10:58:01 AM EST

It is worth noting that the Gap is hurting financially these days, mostly due to low sales.

Not from boycotts, sadly, but because of fashion trends. Still, this might make them more amenable to boycott threats.

(Nike has had problems lately for similar reasons.)
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

Fashion Trends (3.66 / 3) (#75)
by rdskutter on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 09:07:01 PM EST

I aa inclined to think that these fashion trends have been somewhat influenced by the general public feeling that Nike and Gap are "Bad Companies".

They have certainly had a lot of bad press and I know many people (mostly students) who refuse to shop at GAP because of their sweatshop policies.


If you're a jock, inflict some pain / If you're a nerd then use your brain - DAPHNE AND CELESTE
[ Parent ]

Boycotts, a lost art (5.00 / 5) (#23)
by seanic on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 01:40:15 PM EST

One of the reasons that boycotts are less effective is that people have forgotten how to boycott.  Boycotting is more difficult now than it has ever been given the nature of large corporations.

First one must know who to boycott or follow the money.  This requires doing the research to find out how companies are related.  It won't do half as much good to boycott B and patronize C if both are owned by A as it would to boycott A and all of its subsidiaries.

Second, make noise.  Let A know why you are boycotting it, B and C.  This is works quite well if it is only B that is a problem.  Take out ads to promote your boycott.  Be careful of libel so get as much evidence as you may need, as truth is an absolute defense.  Get as many people involved as you can.  Ask questions, find out why things don't make the evening news (relating back to the previous point, who owns the news).

Finally, be persistent.  You need a long attention span and need to follow through.  Be that chronic rectal itch that CFOs dread.

--
"The majority of the stupid is invincible and guaranteed for all time. The terror of their tyranny is, however, alleviated by their lack of consistency" -- Albert Einstein

boycotts are difficult. (none / 0) (#51)
by treat on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 05:47:22 PM EST

It won't do half as much good to boycott B and patronize C if both are owned by A as it would to boycott A and all of its subsidiaries.

All too common, A is such a large company that the cost to the individual boycotter is far too great. When it turns out that the alternatives all still end up with some portion of the money going to A, it is hopelessly frustrating.

[ Parent ]

Agreed (5.00 / 1) (#87)
by seanic on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 11:29:30 PM EST

I am currently boycotting Disney (among others) for their stance on the DMCA and digital rights(?) management issues.  As it turns out that includes my only local news station (ABC) and others including ESPN.  Given my limited options for getting local information like the weather I watch the local news and write/email the advertisers to inform them they are on my "do not buy" list and inform them why.  On the upside that list includes all the local politicians :-)

--
"The majority of the stupid is invincible and guaranteed for all time. The terror of their tyranny is, however, alleviated by their lack of consistency" -- Albert Einstein
[ Parent ]
What is worse? (3.50 / 8) (#24)
by Silent Chris on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 01:45:37 PM EST

Ok, I'm really going to play Devil's Advocate here.  I know I'm going to piss some people off, but recognize -- I'm actively trying to stir the pot (plus, I'm curious).

What is worse?  Toiling away in health-threatening conditions, where undereducated workers make minimum wage, are treated poorly, and go home to lives basically of servitude OR being intelligent, and realizing you are working at a tedious job with only amenable pay, wasting away what intelligence you have over the course of decades and dying -- with your only "accomplishment" being your feeding of the corporate master?

Now, I know there are advantages in developed countries.  We don't have to work at these robot jobs.  We're given more options to change.  But how many do?  How many people think (like I do) that school was actually harder than work, and the tedium is the most depressing, life-threatening condition of all?

Amen (en tea) (1.00 / 8) (#26)
by Rachel Ellis on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 01:56:43 PM EST



-
Let me know if you're one of those rare "cute coders" (oh, and a guy too) ;)
[ Parent ]
sounds like rationalization (4.50 / 2) (#28)
by wrinkledshirt on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 02:18:09 PM EST

Toiling away in health-threatening conditions, where undereducated workers make minimum wage, are treated poorly, and go home to lives basically of servitude...

Have you actually worked under these conditions? Or are you just trying to create a philosophical relativism whereby the perceived waste of intelligence is the greatest tragedy?

[ Parent ]

I have. (4.83 / 6) (#39)
by carlos HRE on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 03:30:11 PM EST

I have worked in what some people would consider sweatshops (at the factory floor of several mexican "maquiladoras" or manufacturing plants) - nowhere as bad as those described in Indonesia or China, but pretty sweaty.

I can tell you which one is worse, the sweatshop one, but only because the same feelings of tedium, corporate feeding and the rest are also present, on top of the unhealthy conditions.

I agree with the OP that in many senses the situation is not that much better in similar jobs in first world countries (I've also worked in a few manufacturing places there). It may be a bit healthier, but the feeling that "healthy only means more years feeding the corporation" is prevalent.

IMHO, the only way out of this is to find a job that you really enjoy and be good at it.

Cheers.
Carlos, HRE.

--
"[Nethack has] the replayability of a Denise Richards look-alike sex drone." -- MotorMachineMercenary

[ Parent ]

The answer is ... (3.66 / 3) (#86)
by pyramid termite on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 11:12:42 PM EST

What is worse? Toiling away in health-threatening conditions, where undereducated workers make minimum wage, are treated poorly, and go home to lives basically of servitude OR being intelligent, and realizing you are working at a tedious job with only amenable pay, wasting away what intelligence you have over the course of decades and dying -- with your only "accomplishment" being your feeding of the corporate master?

Toiling away like a peon of course. And your working at a tedious job doesn't prevent you from using your intelligence to accomplish other things in your off hours.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Oh, you're quite right (5.00 / 1) (#140)
by synaesthesia on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 10:25:19 AM EST

It's just as well everyone who works in sweatshops is thick as pigshit, eh? Otherwise it's be even more hellish for them. </sarcasm>


Sausages or cheese?
[ Parent ]
education == intelligence ??? (4.50 / 2) (#152)
by Roman on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 01:36:58 PM EST

Son, so you believe that people with less education have less intelligence? How about this - people with less opportunities in this life have less education. How about this - people with less starting capital have less opportunities in this life and thus less education. How about this - people living in underdeveloped societies in general have less capital, which allows for less opportunities and thus less education.
Now please, tell me what this has to do with intelligence?

[ Parent ]
Missed opportunties (2.00 / 1) (#161)
by Silent Chris on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 02:33:36 PM EST

I judge intelligence by the amount that is exercised, not the "inherent amount" a person may have.  This can only be brought into being by education.  

A person with "genius" capabilities, born into an 8x8 white box with no windows, and occasionally given scraps of food, will never demonstrate intelligence in any real sense.

[ Parent ]

the comparaison sucks (2.50 / 4) (#25)
by logiterr on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 01:51:49 PM EST

i do not want to say that work conditions are relative to the national economy and your idea of what comfortable living is. we can try to make a standard and call it human rights to create at least a baseline to evaluate across several countries, but this does not change that fact that i suffer when i work and that mother slaving away in the sweatshop suffers as well.

is my suffering greater? is hers? who knows. but trying to make me feel guilty because you want me to believe the hardships i face where i work are lesss than this mother's because she has to feed her family of 9 kids and i only feed myself is simply manipulative.

what can be done?

boy-cotting wont work: try convince your friends never to go see a sequel to a movie ever again. if you can manage this, get them to convince their friends. and keep this going until no one or at least the vast majority of moviegoers stop going to see sequels, particularly the ones with the number 2+ in them. do remember that you or your friends will never ever see starwars again except the phatom menace which sucks (not the movie but that the fact).

boy-cotting never works without mass (and yes i am saying this as a sweeping generalization).

tax-incentives will not change the situation in a foreign country and this will lead to some bureacrat lining his/her pockets.

international labor unions have the same problem as boy-cotts. they require significant mass. in this case international mass. it doesnt matter how good a rep your org has or whether you are the UN. you need mass. simple. without it, it will just be politics dragged out for years with little change and increased disillusionment with the internatinal involvement. but more often, the locals will live in denial never believing that the foreigners are intentionally doing this to them, they will irrationally keep hope for a thing that exists only in the minds of freelance journalists.

that said, be the best consumer you can and buy every you ever wanted. if you dont have the money get credit. do it now. because the money gets to the needy mouths where it counts the most. this is the nature of your economic system. it works and will keep working. so stop trying to fight it.

Comparisons... (none / 0) (#81)
by randinah on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 10:04:42 PM EST

I would say that the job that allows paid bathroom breaks is the better job.

I would also say that the job that doesn't force abortions on their female employees is the better job.

Every possible solutions has their pros and cons. Just like everything else in life, there is no quick fix.

We are all aware that sweatshops exist, and the companies that we patronize everyday have a hand in exploiting people on a regular basis.

I wasn't trying to imply guilt with this article. I'm only interested in discussing ways that we can fix a system that has obviously broken.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
let me ask you a question (none / 0) (#139)
by logiterr on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 10:23:25 AM EST

and i am not trying to be difficult here but this is a subject that does hit very close to home. i have lost family to broken systems like this.

here are the questions: what is broken? how is it broken? why did it break? what is keeping it broken? how is it keeping it broken? why is it keeping it broken? what is needed to unbreak it? how can those be used to unbreak it? why would those unbreak it? and finally if it were unbroken would it make a worthwhile difference? what is the difference? how does this difference apply to an moral/ethical standard such as human rights?

[ Parent ]

Answers... (none / 0) (#150)
by randinah on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 01:26:07 PM EST

To the best of my ability.

What is broken?

That is hard to say. I wouldn't say there's an entire broken system here rather, one that could use some changes.

How is it broken?

People are being readily exploited all over the world, and westerners in "better" (economically) situations are essentially giving consent to this by buying products from companies that support this.

Why did it break?

Ohh, an easy one!

One word: Greed.

What is keeping it broken?

There is tons and tons of power behind this greed.

How is it keeping it broken?

By continuing to indulge in these practices, I guess. I'm not sure if I understand this question.

Why is it keeping it broken?

Greed.

What is needed to unbreak it?

In the article above, and in comments posted there are some possibilies. (Long shots, but there is no clear cut answer in this situation.)

How can those be used to unbreak it?

Either someone makes it too expensive for western companies to use these factories so they move somewhere else (preferably to better working conditions).

Or somebody goes in and forces these factories to up the conditions in these sweatshops to a human standard.

Why would those unbreak it?

I think it's self explanatory.

If it were unbroken would it make a worthwhile difference?

To me, yes.

What is the difference?

Right now working in a sweatshop is actually life threatening. It's dirty, there are chemically poisonous conditions, if a fire were to break out the people inside would be trapped like sardines (It's happened before; once in a factory that made Disney stuffed toys...sad, huh?) The difference change would make is that these people would not be risking their life so that I can buy a new sweater.

How does this difference apply to a moral/ethical standard such as human rights?

Basically, it would give people a choice. Right now these people are working in sweatshops because they were duped into it. Factory representatives go out into rural areas and entice people to come in and work for them under the pretense that they will have a chance to make it. They will be prosperous, finally. These people fall for it, and get stuck in the city barely making enough to feed their family, much less move back home. For women a lot of the time it's either work in a sweatshop or become a prostitute. Where is the choice in that? Right now there are no human rights in sweatshops. I think it is important to assign some.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
2 things stand out (none / 0) (#155)
by logiterr on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 01:49:47 PM EST

first and most important (or at least easiest to practically fix) are the working conditions. they must be improved.

the second but also important is greed. i am not sure, but greed will not go away. and the current state of consumerism is only proof that greed will find whatever outlet it can. my solution is to educate at he lowest levels. that is educate kids to be better consumers. and at the very least to be better informed of the products they are buying. we can generalize this by saying we need to teach social responsibility as being a logical way to be personally responsible for your actions.

what do you think about that?

[ Parent ]

An ugly situation, but necessary for progress... (3.42 / 14) (#27)
by skyknight on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 02:16:17 PM EST

Sweatshops are not a pretty sight to see. They are dirty, and poorly ventilated. Conditions are dangerous. Treatment for workers is shoddy, and the pay abysmal.

That said, they are a Good Thing. This sounds like a terrible thing to claim, but suspend your horror and revulsion for a moment. Take a trip back in time to the dawn of the Industrial Age in Europe and look at the conditions in those first factories. They were horrible, and eerily resemble the modern day sweatshop.

When you look at a sweatshop today in a third world nation, you are witnessing the beginning of the Industrial Age for another country. Ask yourself why it is that these people go to the sweatshops and work. As far as geography is concerned, the land mass in a third world nation taken up by factories is inconsequential in comparison to the total land mass. Why then do these people go the the sweat shops? It's simple: before they worked in the sweat shop, they were subsistent farmers, working even harder, for even less reward, with absolutely no guarantee of getting anything. If the crops failed one year, then they starved to death. Getting a job in a sweatshop is moving on up in the world for these people.

Another important avenue to pursue is the nature of supply and demand. When the number of potential workers greatly outnumbers the factory jobs available, people will step over one another to take jobs that offer only a pittance of compensation. There might be tens of millions of people in an economically primitive nation that desire factory jobs, but only a few thousand such jobs available. As such, the workers have absolutely no leverage.

Of course, this makes for the cruelest irony: the people who think they are helping the little guy by abolishing sweatshops are actually sentencing the laborers to death. Working in one of these shops is not fun, but it beats starving, and that is often the choice that these laborers make.

Attempting to abolish sweatshops is at best short sighted, and at worst devastating to the economies of primitive nations. These countries don't need fewer sweatshops. They need more of them. As the workers build up to a critical mass they may finally be able to turn the supply and demand tables to their favor.

If there were more sweatshop job opportunities than there were potential laborers, then employers would be forced to offer competitive wages and better working conditions so as to entice people to work for them. This would turn the sweatshops into modern world factories, improving the quality of life of the laborers. That, is what me must strive for rather than to take away what little hope these people have.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
Not the same thing (4.20 / 5) (#32)
by bartok on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 02:45:04 PM EST

It's true that the western industrial revolution was similar to this but the main reason that we ended up with workers rights, unions, etc. is because it happened in democratic countries. Indonesia is a dictatorship under the guise of a fraudulant democratic masquerade. China doesn't even pretend to be that. So when a huge mass of people try to change things, they face real physiqcal danger. Just like slaves.

[ Parent ]
Unions in the U.S. (4.00 / 6) (#38)
by J'raxis on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 03:17:04 PM EST

Perhaps you should learn a little bit of histories about unionization in the U.S. This may be a democratic republic, but union gatherings were just as illegal in the early 1900s (and were dealt with with arrests, beatings, intimidation, murder, and so on) as they are in a dictatorship in 2002. Workers fought the same uphill battle in the U.S. that they may end up fighting in Indonesia or China in a couple decades.

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

you seem to think the battle's over (none / 0) (#218)
by Shren on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 02:53:55 PM EST

If too many people agree with you we'll have to fight it again in 100 years.

[ Parent ]
Not so fast ... (3.66 / 6) (#43)
by Simon Kinahan on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 04:02:03 PM EST

Indonesia isn't a dictatorship. It was, until recently. The democracy is now rather more meaningful. Admittedly those exercising power are not quite a accountable as they would be in an established democracy, but they're no longer immune fromm being turfed out without violence. China certainly isn't a democracy, but the regime is far from wielding absolute power. Industrialisation lets loose interest groups who demand their say in what happens, so a complete dictatorship is not really possible under such circumstances.

You also need to bear in mind the circumstances in the west during the industrial revolution. Universal sufferage didn't come about until around 1920. Universal male sufferage didn't happen until the late 19th century in Europe, and even later in the US due to the problems blacks had in registering to vote. Right up until the early 20th century Britain and America had politicians who resisted the description of the constitution as democratic.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Miami-Dade County (none / 0) (#58)
by elotiumq32 on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 07:22:21 PM EST

Suffrage ...?

...
______________ yeah whatever
[ Parent ]

Doh ! (NT) (2.00 / 1) (#122)
by Simon Kinahan on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 06:14:58 AM EST



Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Beginning of the Industrial Age? (4.83 / 6) (#46)
by rosario001 on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 04:38:21 PM EST

When you look at a sweatshop today in a third world nation, you are witnessing the beginning of the Industrial Age for another country.

What you're not considering is who owns the sweatshops. During the Industrial Revolution, they were owned by national companies, so profits were spent in the same country. Now, they are usually owned by multinationals, so most of the profits go right out of the country and to industrialized nations.



[ Parent ]
Do you have a better idea? (4.00 / 1) (#69)
by skyknight on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 08:50:43 PM EST

What do you propose instead? Trash the multinational sweatshops and hope against all odds that locally operated sweatshops spring up in their stead? Well, there probably already are locally operated sweatshops, and that is a Good Thing too. The more the merrier as this tilts the supply/demand more to the favor of the laborers. Why can't they coexist? If you could some how prove that multinational industries were moving in at the expense of local industry in these countries then maybe there would be more concern. However, I really don't think that the existence of a Nike factory will be detrimental to other industries springing up as well. There are inarguably way more people who want factory jobs than there are factory jobs available, so these countries should be taking every factory that they can get.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
A lot of sweatshops... (none / 0) (#170)
by Russell Dovey on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 04:16:21 PM EST

Are in free trade zones. This means that the multinationals don't even pay taxes in these countries. The wages that the workers earn are much too low for them to save any money, and they subsist on the third-world equivalent of two-minute noodles, which doesn't exactly stimulate the local economy. And these are soulless, dead-end jobs. How were these places good for the economy again?

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

If they are so worthless to the economy... (none / 0) (#176)
by skyknight on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 06:19:22 PM EST

Then how come so many people voluntarily migrate to sweatshop jobs from being barely subsistent farmers? I'm not saying the companies shouldn't pay taxes; that's another debate entirely. I just think that it's way to simplistic to say that these sweatshops confer no value to the inhabitants of these countries.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
pf couse they offer value... (none / 0) (#211)
by Run4YourLives on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 12:00:34 PM EST

they offer $0.50 an hour.


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]
Which is meaningless... (none / 0) (#227)
by skyknight on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 06:57:56 PM EST

when you try to think of it in terms of another country's economy. You're trying to change too many variables at the same time, thus invalidating the comparison. Try to think in terms of how that compares to other wages earned in that country's economy and we have a better basis for making progress in an argument.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
5 cents is still 5 cents. (none / 0) (#245)
by Run4YourLives on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 02:21:15 PM EST

whether or not your buddy is making 5 cents too is irrelevant.

just because the entire country is poor doesn't mean that everything is hunky dory.


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Take a look in America... (none / 0) (#263)
by skyknight on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 10:58:16 PM EST

I'm going to refer to an area with which I am familiar. I know from personal experience that I can buy a particular kind of house for $250k in Massachusetts, and that I'll be able to find the exact same kind of thing in Vermont for about $60k. I'm not making these numbers up; I've been researching it quite actively recently. Furthermore, I also know that the pay in MA is generally higher than it is in VT.

The main difference in pricing is the result of many other factors, such as MA having a high concentration of good universities, as well as containing one of the major cities of the nation, to name a few. This does not, however, mean that the house in VT is any less comfortable than the house in MA.

Never once have I said that everything is, as you put it, "hunky dory" in these third world countries. The thing with which I take issue, however, is the assumption that you can make a direct comparison of wages in different regions of the world and correlate it to quality of life. No, their life isn't great if they are earning 10 cents an hour, but that doesn't mean that their life is 50 times worse than someone who is earning $5/hr in America. That's far too simplistic an analysis.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Actually... (5.00 / 3) (#103)
by apokalypse on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 02:06:54 AM EST


Most critics don't want to abolish sweatshop work, but merely to raise the working conditions to bring them closer to the equivalent working conditions in western countries.

"If there were more sweatshop job opportunities than there were potential laborers, then employers would be forced to offer competitive wages and better working conditions so as to entice people to work for them. This would turn the sweatshops into modern world factories, improving the quality of life of the laborers. That, is what me must strive for rather than to take away what little hope these people have."

Wrong. The "more job opportunities than potential laborers" situation never occurs in Western countries let alone developing or undeveloped nations. To hope for this would be like hoping that pigs might fly.

Unions were required in Western countries after the industrial revolution to stop work being dangerous, under-compensated and exploitative. They are needed today in these countries. Unfortunately many of the governments of these coutnries with the support of the developed nations outlaw and/or discourage unions.

[ Parent ]

Subtle complexities being overlooked... (5.00 / 2) (#149)
by skyknight on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:54:55 PM EST

There are lots of critics of sweatshops who do indeed want them abolished, but you're right, many just want to see improved conditions. Their mechanisms for improvement, however, are flawed in that they make too direct an attempt to manipulate a country's economy without examening the chain of events that they will set off.

These third world countries are not completely devoid of skilled laborers and professionals. There is a great paucity, but it's not a void. For example, third world countries have (while admittedly way too few) medical doctors. In comparison to somewhere like America, they are paid poorly, but in fact they are paid well in respect to the economic capacity of their country. If you charge in there and impose artificial wage controls on factory jobs, you will find that factory workers will be earning more than specialists such as doctors. The specialists will in turn migrate to the factory jobs and you'll find the country without doctors, or teachers, or the myriad other specialists necessary for a country's long term development. I think we can all agree that that would be a Bad Thing.

Quity simply, the rate of change that you desire is not feasible and will result in unforseen consequences. Economies are very complex beasts that nobody quite understands, composed of infinitely many, infinitely small, highly unpredictable factors: people. Change needs to be gradual or you will upset delicate equilibriums, yielding momentary booms followed by violent busts. Gradual changes allow the subcomponents to sync up in their equillibria, thus preventing runaway processes from having catastrophic effects.

As for your comment that the "more job opportunities than potential laborers" situation never occurs even in western countries, you're both right and wrong. Let's reexamine this briefly. There is always a certain level of unemployment in, for example, America, so it's probably reasonable to guess that laborers outnumber available jobs (although that's debatable since many people are unemployed because they don't deign to take work they deem to be beneath them). We do, however, still reap the same benefits as if jobs did outnumber laborers for the simple fact there are often more jobs in a specific industry than there are laborers with that industry specific skill. As such, various industries must compete with one another in an attempt to satisfy their labor requirements. That is precisely the reason why computer jobs commanded such ridiculously high pay for a while: computer companies were at war with other industries in an attempt to attract skilled labor. This happens all the time in developed countries.

Your heart is undeniably in the right place; I want the same things for these people that you do. Just be careful about hurrying things along too quickly or we'll end up with something even worse.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Past & Present... (3.88 / 9) (#29)
by faecal on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 02:32:29 PM EST

What we now call sweatshops are in fact pretty much identical to an industrial British city at the height of the industrial revolution. Maids were pad-checked in many households.

My point? Most of this stuff was an accepted part of western society 150 years ago. We stopped it when we got richer and more developed. Child labour is a perfectly reasonable and necessary proposition when you can't afford to send your kids to school and your family really needs the money. Most western families can afford for their children to live lives of leisure. Much of the rest of the world cannot.

The people purpetrating or suffering these abuses of human rights were your great-great-grandparents. We commonly dismiss these countries as "developing". Why be surprised that they're as we were when we were still "developing" (ya, as if we're done developing now...)?

Okay, so we could do something about the suffering these people are experiencing, right? Well, kinda. We could pay them good wages. So my Nikes now cost me 300. Shit, I'm not buying those! So the Nike sweatshop closes down. Hooray! Okay, their economy shits itself for a few years, but eventually settles into a more sustainable state. That is, until some bright spark thinks of starting a trainer factory.

We used to crush, kill and destroy in wars of aggression, but now we hold up our hands in horror if some other little "developing" country dares to do so. I'm not sure how the optimists are expecting the histories of these countries to play out without going through the same phases that we did.

And more (none / 0) (#141)
by sien on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 11:27:46 AM EST

The question of whether sweatshops lead to further economic growth is a big question but in my mind it's the biggest single one.

The free market people say it does, the third world exploitation people say it cripples economies and cowboy capitalism always choose the lowest price and keep economies down.

Both can point to recent examples that justify their arguments. The Free Marketeers can point to South Korea and Japan, the third world exploitation people to the Phillipines.

On balance my view is that it probably is a phase that has to be endured but can be limited by commitments to develop property law and education.

[ Parent ]

These Are Not Free-Market Countries (5.00 / 1) (#147)
by czolgosz on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:45:33 PM EST

I concur that this is an important issue.

One of the things that the free-marketeers don't address is the simple fact that the conditions in many LDCs are more like serfdom or simple slavery than any "free market." In a free market, workers could freely form unions or organize a non-violent environmental protest without getting murdered, for example. There seems to be some naive assumption that the local elites are accountable to their people (no, they maintain their positions through violence), and that people in such desperate conditions can exercise meaningful choice in their employment, beyond that most basic choice: "Work for the man or die."

Because of this, many of the reasons to oppose boycotts sound a bit like the argument "But if we don't keep slaves, who would house and feed these people?" or "If they don't like it, they can always find another job."

On the other hand, it does sometimes seem that boycotts are organized against the most visible products, rather than against the worst abusers. And I suspect that other approaches such as micro-credit might do more long-term good, since they undermine the local elites' ability to be the only game in town. But micro-credit agents in many countries have found themselves at the wrong end of truncheons or guns.

Ultimately, this is not "pure economics" in some Friedmanesque fishbowl: it's about predatory elites, political power in the service of the rich, and consumers in developed countries denying that this is a moral issue.

As for education: I've known some well-educated, highly-motivated Indians and Filipinos who are sweeping floors in Gulf countries. Yes, education helps, but only if the seed falls on fertile ground. And the fertility of that ground has as much to do with power as the market. It wasn't capitalism that dismantled the Victorian apparatus of exploitation: it was moral repugnance and political opposition to its excesses.
Why should I let the toad work squat on my life? --Larkin
[ Parent ]
Examples (none / 0) (#166)
by sien on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 03:24:57 PM EST

Do you have references for micro-credit being attacked by truncheons or guns ? I am unaware of this happening. I thought that the main problem with micro-credit was that a system of titles didn't exist to allow people to effectively buy land, i.e. not all the infrastructure is there. Anyway, I'd be interested to hear about micro-credit being kept down.

I'm guessing that you are quite anti-global capital, and in my previous post I said that people with these kinds of views tend to ignore the countries where these type of Sweatshops appear to have helped improve the economics of some countries. You ignore the role that these sorts of conditions in the interim had in the transformation of South Korea and Japan. Do you believe that the sweatshops in these countries in the past did not contribute anything to the change of these economies ? If not, what was it then ?

Finally, I dispute that it was only moral repugnance that dismantled the Victorian apparatus of exploitation - it was a combination of that and the fact that slave labour is inefficient labour and finally that demand is crucial to the system and demand relies on more than subsistance pay.

[ Parent ]

Ehem (none / 0) (#274)
by tetsuwan on Mon Nov 11, 2002 at 06:56:29 PM EST

Were there ever American (or foreign whatsover) sweetshops in Japan and when were they bought back by the Japanese?

What people tend to forget is also that (Korea and) Japan have a pre-WWII history of a modern society, industrialization and "system trust". These asian economies were succesful for fairly obvious historical reasons, some being a free market economy, some being benign post-WWII help from the US, some the political and economical ability to use duties to protect their industry, and yet some the local ownership of the manufactoring.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Yep (4.00 / 1) (#157)
by 0tim0 on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 01:51:39 PM EST

If we a) boycott, b) raise tariffs on developing countries or (to some extent) c) unionize those countries thereby increasing wages, one thing will happen -- the sweatshops will close.

But what will the result be? Obviously if these people are choosing to work in these shops, it's better than their alternative (like working 80 hours a week in a hot field praying there won't be a drought).

These countries are developing. They can't go from a starving, uneducated society without any infrastructure to what we have in the developed world overnight. They have to work to get there -- just like we did.

I had a friend who grew up in China and lives in the US today. He was watching a TV program about sweatshops. The reporter was showing the terrible living conditions of these particular workers. They all lived in dorm rooms lined with bunk beds -- looked kinda like a prison in the US. My friend laughed and told me that was what his dorm was like in college -- and he went to a prestigious graduate school.

Believe me, these people will not be thanking you if you organize a successful boycott against their employers. You'd be helping them a lot more if you continued to buy Nike shoes a Gap shirts.

--tim

[ Parent ]

natural != necessary (none / 0) (#192)
by ToastyKen on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 02:58:22 AM EST


I agree that it's a natural phase, and that it's naive to say that it's simply evil exploitation.. but at the same time, that doesn't mean that it's the only way.  We know more than we knew back then, so perhaps we can soften the hasten the growth path...

[ Parent ]
Sources? (4.33 / 3) (#30)
by Yosho on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 02:38:33 PM EST

You make implied accusations against the Gap and Wal-mart, but don't provide any evidence that they rely on sweatshops.  I managed to find some material about the Gap from one of the links you later provided, but nothing about Wal-mart.

That's not to say I don't believe you, but it would've been a good idea to provide links alongside the accusations.

Remember a few years ago... (5.00 / 1) (#80)
by randinah on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 09:59:27 PM EST

To the Kathie Lee Gifford scandal? Wal-Mart claims that all of their products are made in the USA, and people find out that the Kathie Lee Gifford line is made by sweatshops outside of the USA?

It's not a questions these days of what companies use sweatshops but rather, what companies do not.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
Humm.. (4.16 / 6) (#31)
by Rainy on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 02:40:33 PM EST

You say that these workers are threatened to be fired if they misbehave. But if you say boycott the company, and it closes the sweatshop, wouldnt' they *all* be fired, whether they behaved well or not?

The only thing, imho, that you can do is to go down there and open a factory and treat people better than other factories. I think it was Ford who once upon a time raised wages to 4 dollars per day, outraging other factory owners as that created incentive for their best workers to leave and work for Ford.

I think stuff like boycotts are a great way to feel better about ourselves without really doing any good. ("Oh look, I'm such a great person, I bought a jacket at X instead of Gap, spending $5 more on it, why aren't they giving out Nobels to people like me yet? I oughta get a dozen!").
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day

The last capitalist with a brain (3.50 / 8) (#47)
by localroger on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 04:46:34 PM EST

Henry Ford understood a fundamental thing about the economy: If he wanted people to buy his cars, he needed customers who could afford to buy a car. He started by making sure HIS OWN employees could all afford to buy a car. Every one of them, right down to the janitors.

The Ford Motor Company has had its ups and downs since that time, but only a fool would argue that Henry's idea was a failure.

On that note, how many Gap sweatshop employees do you think could afford to wander into a retail Gap outlet and outfit themselves? Right.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

don't need a brain to be a capitalist these days (none / 0) (#217)
by Shren on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 02:48:52 PM EST

You just need a MBA and a knack for beating your competition to the lowest moral denominator. There's no innovation.

[ Parent ]

Grape pickers (4.00 / 5) (#34)
by pla on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 02:53:40 PM EST

Although this topic does raise a few "uncomfortable" points, it fails to take the killing blow...

We enjoy such a relatively comfortable lifestyle BECAUSE people get paid a pittance to work in deplorable conditions to make cheap consumer goods for us.

Grapes. We pay a buck-fifty for a huge bunch of grapes as a *direct result* of some poor bastard earning $0.25 a day to pick them for us.

You talk about boycots, tax penalties, and the like. Unfortunately, those mean nothing. You need to change our entire economically-imperial way of life to make any "real" change.

So, in answer to LeGuin, no, most of us would *NOT* walk away from Omelas. We all live there, quite content in the knowledge that others suffer for our comfort.


Grape pickers et. al. (4.00 / 3) (#119)
by irrevenant on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 05:20:04 AM EST

So, in answer to LeGuin, no, most of us would *NOT* walk away from Omelas. We all live there, quite content in the knowledge that others suffer for our comfort.

I disagree with 'content'. IMO, some few people in the 'civilized world' are too ignorant to know, some few are too calloused to care, but most are uncomfortable. It's just that their concern about what would happen if things changed (how expensive would things get?) combines with their uncertainty as to what, if anything,
    can
be done, to overwhelm their discomfort.



[ Parent ]
However (5.00 / 1) (#220)
by RyoCokey on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 03:34:43 PM EST

If the cheap manual labor were to evaporate overnight, we'd probably just replace it with automation. Many simple tasks are easily automated, yet are slightly more expensive than labor at current rates. Result? Workers go away, prices go up a little, even less of our money flows to poorer countries, while their food is locked out of our markets by tarriffs and economies of scale.

The main effect of "living off other people's suffering" is that we actually hear about it, rather than let them live generation after generation in subsistance farming.

Cheap labor doesn't prop up western society. It just makes our grapes a little cheaper.



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
[ Parent ]
Sweatshops and Modern Society (2.00 / 3) (#35)
by Uhlek on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 03:03:21 PM EST

The sad fact is that, without sweatshops, modern American society could not exist.

It wasn't long ago (50-75 years or so) that sweatshops were a common thing. For the poorer Americans and Western Europeans, it was a way of life, just as it is now for poor third-world nations.

What has happened in the last half-century is that the unskilled factory labor has, for the most part, moved to third world nations. Being isolated from that vision, Americans and Western Americans are now appalled when they see it, but refuse to realize that their lifestyles depend on it.

Sadly, unless we are willing to give up what poorly paid foreign sweatshops provide to us, they will never go away. They went away in America and Western Europe because the "elite" (so to speak) walked among the "masses" and soon, the "elite" were no longer able to turn a blind eye and helped the "masses" fight back. Today, most of America and Western Europe is the "elite", and the "elite" of the nations where this takes place relies on the dollar, euro, and pound for their sustainment. There is no longer any help for the "masses".

The principle of "what I don't know won't hurt me" applies.
-- Uhlek "Be safe...sleep with a Marine."

An important thing to realize (4.20 / 5) (#40)
by chrisq on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 03:39:06 PM EST

is that the lesser-developed countries (LDCs) of today have a lower crude death rate than LDCs of the past, namely those of Western Europe in the late 18th century. This is largely because of advances in medicine, which are infused into today's LDCs before economic conditions warrant a general desire to have fewer offspring. As a result, the natural population increase in today's LDCs is significantly greater than that of LDCs of the past. Previous comments have suggested opening more sweatshops until the number of available jobs exceeds the number of available job candidates. This is unlikely to happen because of the aforementioned large natural population increase that today's LDCs endure. In short, generalizations relating today's sweatshops to those of old in Western Europe inevitably fall short in this sense.

You can't be serious, and yet... you are. (3.00 / 13) (#41)
by ubu on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 03:52:58 PM EST

1. Boycotts

Pro - Nothing. You help to reduce the revenue justifying that workshop, thereby cutting margins, thereby reducing pay, and if successful, removing those jobs from the local economy altogether.

2. Tax Incentives

Pro - Nothing. Even worse than boycotts, you effectively confiscate the revenue that pays worker wages and add it to government coffers. The added burden on costs squeezes wages, increases costs and thereby reduces demand, and generally upsets any potential for improvement in worker uptake from revenues.

3. International Labor Union

Pro - Nothing. Increases the cost of doing business, particularly for the workers, who pay dues and the less tangible costs of collective bargaining. Rarely results in any overall positive change and makes a competitive local employment marketplace nearly impossible to create. It does, however, create several comfortable sinecure positions for the union leaders -- the real beneficiaries of union tactics, who are altogether in favor of this arrangement.

In point of fact, the very best thing you can do for workers in foreign sweatshops is to oppose the governments whose policies form a barrier to local wealth creation: corrupting the law, confiscating wealth, waging war, and otherwise disrupting individual sovereignty.

The second best thing you can do is buy the products they make -- provided you find them compelling and worthwhile. Naturally, it will do their economy little good to subsidize it through senseless purchases, but you could almost do no worse than to boycott their products or tax the proceeeds of their labor. It seems incredible that anyone would actually do such an evil thing in the expectation that they were helping. The funny thing is that those same people will then turn around and talk about an "exploitative class", somehow oblivious to their own behavior.

*groan* It's really almost too much.

But, for our part, we cannot limit ourselves to the consideration of a single cause and its immediate effect. We know that this effect itself becomes in its turn a cause. In order to pass judgment on a measure, we must, then, trace it through the whole chain of its effects to its final result. In other words, we are reduced, quite frankly, to an appeal to reason.
But at once we find ourselves assailed by the familiar clamor: You are theorists, metaphysicians, ideologists, utopians, and doctrinaires; and all the prejudices of the public are roused against us.
   -- Frederic Bastiat, Author's Introduction to Economic Sophisms

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
The Cons (5.00 / 1) (#64)
by chbm on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 08:05:54 PM EST

Pro - Nothing. You help to reduce the revenue justifying that workshop, thereby cutting margins,
Stockholders want money. Money comes from sales. No sales, no money. No money, sad stockholders. Sad stockholders, administration out on the street.
Pro - Nothing. Even worse than boycotts, you effectively confiscate the revenue that pays worker wages and add it to government coffers. The added burden on costs squeezes wages, increases costs and thereby reduces demand, and generally upsets any potential for improvement in worker uptake from revenues.
Get with the program, less than 10% of the revenue pays for worker wages. And, where exactly will they move their factories to cut costs ? Reduced demand, less sales. See above.
Pro - Nothing. Increases the cost of doing business, particularly for the workers, who pay dues and the less tangible costs of collective bargaining.
Unions declare strikes, which is the last resource of the worker. Unless of course you're in a ditactorial regime sponsored by a corporacracy.
The second best thing you can do is buy the products they make
I take it you believe they get a share of the profit ?
It seems incredible that anyone would actually do such an evil thing in the expectation that they were helping.
So, while looking for a gas station to fill the tank of your car you look for the one that manages to run more supertankers into reefs ? Oh well .. you probably do ...

-- if you don't agree reply don't moderate --
[ Parent ]
not easy, but i agree (none / 0) (#65)
by marc987 on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 08:20:14 PM EST

In point of fact, the very best thing you can do for workers in foreign sweatshops is to oppose the governments whose policies form a barrier to local wealth creation: corrupting the law, confiscating wealth, waging war, and otherwise disrupting individual sovereignty.

For this you must also oppose the International Monetary fund policys, the World Bank policys, US international policys and international corporate profit policys



[ Parent ]

Why's that? And why don't you pluralize correctly? (none / 0) (#72)
by Kalani on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 09:00:22 PM EST

nt

-----
"Images containing sufficiently large skin-colored groups of possible limbs are reported as potentially containing naked people."
-- [ Parent ]
policies (i was educated in french) (5.00 / 1) (#259)
by marc987 on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 08:40:10 PM EST

The short answer is the IMF and WB oppose the governments whose policies promote local wealth creation, communal land rights, enviermental laws and public corporations and services , in other words: individual sovereignty.

[ Parent ]
The oft neglected deleterious effects of gov'mint (4.00 / 5) (#77)
by skyknight on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 09:20:02 PM EST

I'm very glad that you've brought this yet largely unexplored facet to the table. People often bemoan the state of the world, griping about poverty, famine and violence. The sad truth is that most of this misery is caused by government, not by lack of resources or selfishness in the private sector.

World hunger is a sick joke. There is absolutely no need for hunger in the world. There is way more than enough food in the world for everyone to have their nutritional requirements met. Virtually all famines in the world today are the result of either excessive government parasitism, or even worse, the use of starvation as a tool of genocide to wipe out rebellious populations. Furthermore, when the sympathetic nations do send relief support, it never gets to the intended targets, but is rather seized by military dictatorships.

As for the primitive state of industry in many countries, that too can be traced to government meddling. Protectionist policies keep foreign investment out, and that which does come through is taxed punitively. Then you have the matter of government subsidies for ridiculously pointless local industries that serve only to bleed the already drained economy dry.

People are so wrapped around the idea that all of their problems can be solved by the government that they fail to realize that most of their troubles are in fact caused by government. It's like people who drink because they have problems, and the drinking causes more problems, and those problems cause them to drink more and so on in a vicious cycle. Tis cruel irony...



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
correction (5.00 / 1) (#98)
by raaymoose on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:52:50 AM EST

The things you describe are the result of bad government with a nice shake of corrupt leaders. Contrary to popular (American?) belief, this is not a property of all government which you seem to be implying.

[ Parent ]
Actually, it is (3.66 / 3) (#112)
by whojgalt on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 04:41:36 AM EST

first, only government provides the means and apparent legitimacy needed for those that are corrupt to have such a pervasive effect. Second, and partly because of the first, government intrinsically creates a survival of the fittest environment in which corruption is the leading indicator of fitness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you can't see it from the car, it's not really scenery.
Any code more than six months old was written by an idiot.
[ Parent ]

but wait (none / 0) (#159)
by raaymoose on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 02:03:36 PM EST

The first point is true without much of a doubt, but the second, while a possible consequence of the first, would be a property of a bad government, not a universal property as you claim.

[ Parent ]
The second (1.00 / 1) (#168)
by whojgalt on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 03:27:56 PM EST

The second is an inherent property of government. This stems from the fact that the defining characteristic of government is its monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and the fact that its only means of accomplishing its goals is through the use or threat of force. It simply has no other means of accomplishing its goals, by definition.

In that environment, the fittest survivors are those most adept at, and most willing to, accomplish their goals through force. The primary goal of an individual politician is getting re-elected. This goes for even the most honest and well-meaning politician for whom staying in office is the first prerequisite for accomplishing anything else. Therefore, being adept at staying in office will be the dominant characteristic selected for. In a situation where force is the only means of accomplishing any goal, the use of force to stay in office will be the dominant behavior.

In democratic societies, this use of force is channeled to tamer things; killing the opposition and herding voters into rigged voting booths at gunpoint will backfire. But things like granting special favors to powerful lobbies and interest groups is, as we see in all governments, still considered acceptable behavior. The fact that a few get slapped down for it, like Traficant, is more about internal politics and power struggles than any serious effort to stem corruption overall.

Governemnt as we know it, at all levels, would cease to function if corruption were eliminated. Of course, many, myself included, would like to see exactly that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you can't see it from the car, it's not really scenery.
Any code more than six months old was written by an idiot.
[ Parent ]

Democracy can and should solve major problems. (5.00 / 1) (#120)
by apokalypse on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 05:31:56 AM EST

"I'm very glad that you've brought this yet largely unexplored facet to the table. People often bemoan the state of the world, griping about poverty, famine and violence. The sad truth is that most of this misery is caused by government, not by lack of resources or selfishness in the private sector."

Hmm. What do you mean by government? Do you mean the crackpot warlords like in Somalia? Or democratic governments like India? Or puppet governments like Saudi Arabia? Government takes many forms, and I don't believe generalisations are that helpful.

"World hunger is a sick joke. There is absolutely no need for hunger in the world. There is way more than enough food in the world for everyone to have their nutritional requirements met. Virtually all famines in the world today are the result of either excessive government parasitism, or even worse, the use of starvation as a tool of genocide to wipe out rebellious populations. Furthermore, when the sympathetic nations do send relief support, it never gets to the intended targets, but is rather seized by military dictatorships. "

The reason there is so much misery is mainly due to economic reasons, not because governments are innately corrupt or parasitic. There is no doubt there is enough food in the world too feed everyone. But not everyone has the same spending power, particularly in times of crisis. Many famines are caused by inflation, when the underclasses no longer have enough money to buy food. Government is *exactly* what is needed in these situations. I am just repeating Amartya Sen here (an Indian economist).

Sure, many Governments are bad. But that does not make Government as a concept is bad.

To nearly go OT, a major reason for the Reformation was that the Conquistadors brought back too much gold from America. This caused inflation which made peasants unable to buy enough food, and so unhappy with the current authorities (i.e. the Church).

"As for the primitive state of industry in many countries, that too can be traced to government meddling. Protectionist policies keep foreign investment out, and that which does come through is taxed punitively. Then you have the matter of government subsidies for ridiculously pointless local industries that serve only to bleed the already drained economy dry."

Protectionist economics in the 19th century made America the economic powerhouse it is today. Some of the biggest subsidies today are given out by the EU and Japan (I applaud the US's relatively open food market) to farmers in order to protect their local industry.

"People are so wrapped around the idea that all of their problems can be solved by the government that they fail to realize that most of their troubles are in fact caused by government. It's like people who drink because they have problems, and the drinking causes more problems, and those problems cause them to drink more and so on in a vicious cycle. Tis cruel irony..."

You neglect to mention what kind of government it is. Obviously a non-democratic government will not serve it's people and is by definition parasitic and useless. But with democratic government, citizens can rightfully expect that government and legislation WILL solve major problems such as the conditions of labour.

[ Parent ]

The generalization was intentional... (3.66 / 3) (#154)
by skyknight on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 01:49:11 PM EST

Did I mean the crackpot warlords like in Somalia? Yes. Did I mean puppet governments like in Saudi Arabia? Yes. Did I mean democratic governments like in India, or even America? Yes!

Democracy is not a panacea to political problems, and a pure democracy is a recipe for disaster. It has aptly been referred to as the "tyrrany of the majority." In the words of Lord Acton:

It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority...from the absolute will of an entire people there is no appeal, no redemption, no refuge but treason.

I don't find it to be any less deplorable for a mob to violently impose it's will on a peacable but dissenting individual than I do for an individual despot to do so. I am inherently distrustful of any large group of people for the simple fact that many people gravitate towards large groups not because of ideas, but simply because the group is large.

I am not alone in my distrust for masses of people acting in concert. Just look at America's founding fathers. They quite intentionally set America up as a Constitutional Republic, not a pure democracy, for they realized an important fact: having a simple majority is not morally sufficient to justify an action by a government. There are certain rights of individuals that should be inalienable, but are often trampled by mobs. That ought to be a key function of governments: preventing not just individuals, but mobs from imposing their arbitary will.

Where is my motivation to start a business if I know that my reward for success will be a democracy voting to nationalize (read: steal) the products of my labors? I've invested time, and risked capital to found something, and now that it has paid off (never mind the failed ventures preceding it) the mob decides it belongs to them. Why is an individual stealing from my business so reprehensible, yet when a mob appropriates (again, read: steals) it, it's ok? One thief is an abberation, but several theives acting in concert is the basis for a government, right?

As for your assertion that government ought to step into the picture in times of famine, I think we really need to back up and look at why there is the famine in the first place. I could be wrong, but I very seriously doubt that inflation will cause people to starve. Inflation might cause you to starve if you're relying entirely on savings, but if you're actively earning wages, the natural course is for the wages to rise with inflation. Sure, it might not always happen that way, but there are external factors that can contribute to such a scenario.

Starvation sometimes happens because an isolated population has spectacularly poor luck across the board with farming one year. More often, however, it is either because someone wanted there to be a famine, someone tried too hard to create a planned economy, or a mix of both. If you're a farmer in a communist or military run society, and everytime you grow something people with machine guns come and collect it from you (yay taxes!), you'll find it hard to live. Or if you're in some non-agricultural area of the economy, but a government bent on genocide is hoarding food and controlling its distribution with an iron fist, again you've got problems.

Then of course you have America on the opposite extreme... Farmers have an entitlement syndrome, in that they think they ought to get paid regardless of whether anyone wants what they are growing. This has another whole set of consequences of which people are scarcely aware. Why do cattle farmers feed their cattle a diet of corn? Well, apart from it helping to fatten them up fast, the corn is also damn "cheap" because the tax payer has already paid for it upfront. Instead of people actually figuring out what they do and don't need based upon their requirements as well as the commodity's cost, the reality is lost in a muddled web of subsidies, handouts and favors, all of which are eventually paid for, albeit indirectly, whether or not the taxpayer realizes it.

This is sort of the same scenario you have with gasoline. Wow, it's so cheap! No, not really, when you take into account the mammoth cost of funding our military that keeps oil producing regions of the world in line. Cheap gasoline is brought to you courtesy of crushing taxes, and the blood of young American soldiers and the people they have to kill. Oil companies have a huge hand in foreign policy and make a financial killing at our expense... oh damn, look who is in the Oval Office right now! We're in a "democracy" right now here in America, but who is it really going to benefit?

As for trade barriers, they are nothing but trouble. It may seem like you're doing the home population a favor by "protecting local industry", but in fact you're just puttting a terrible burden on the consumer, foisting onto them higher prices for potentially inferior goods. By some estimates for certain professions, it costs the American consumer as much as $200k/year to "save" an American job. What on earth does this accomplish for the economy as a whole? Nothing. What it does buy is votes for politicians who promise to put up the barriers. They get some votes, the industry gets unfairly favorable treatment, and the economy as a whole gets hosed thanks to restricted goods availability as well as the vindictiveness of nations against which the trade barriers were erected.

In summary, the best form of government would be one in which I acted as benevolent dictator, but failing that I think a real Constitutional Republic would be ideal. That is what America originated as, but sadly over the centuries we have drifted away from it. I guess we'll just have to wait for another revolution.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Union membership (5.00 / 3) (#92)
by felixrayman on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 11:54:36 PM EST

Pro - Nothing. Increases the cost of doing business, particularly for the workers, who pay dues and the less tangible costs of collective bargaining.

The average premium of union wages over non-union wages for workers in the same industry in the USA is estimated by the National Bureau of Labor Statistics to be around 25%. To assert that union workers are no better off financially than non-union workers is quite frankly either ignorance or propaganda. You can certainly make the argument that union jobs are better but that fewer people will have those jobs, but to try to claim that union membership is bad financially for the employed union member, not a chance.

makes a competitive local employment marketplace nearly impossible to create

The situation described by the author of the article is one of 'company towns' where the employer is the only employer around. This is not a competitive marketplace, it is a coercive one.

Call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to go home. Tell him to come spend a night in our building. - Pfc. Matthew C. O'Dell

[ Parent ]
You're only half right... (5.00 / 2) (#117)
by irrevenant on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 05:06:08 AM EST

Pro - Nothing. You help to reduce the revenue justifying that workshop, thereby cutting margins, thereby reducing pay, and if successful, removing those jobs from the local economy altogether.

In many of these countries, people are literally being paid less than a survival wage (i.e. enough to afford three meals a day). The people there need jobs. They don't need _these_ jobs, and they _certainly_ don't need for these jobs to be the only ones available.


3. International Labor Union Pro - Nothing. Increases the cost of doing business, particularly for the workers, who pay dues and the less tangible costs of collective bargaining. Rarely results in any overall positive change and makes a competitive local employment marketplace nearly impossible to create.

Surely you are kidding? I agree that unionism can go too far (and in some cases has), but look at the history of the twentieth century. Unionism is one of the main reasons that workers of the western world have the rights they do today. Yes, maintenance of that system has some expenses - but because of unionism, workers are actually paid enough to afford them!


The second best thing you can do is buy the products they make -- provided you find them compelling and worthwhile. Naturally, it will do their economy little good to subsidize it through senseless purchases, but you could almost do no worse than to boycott their products or tax the proceeeds of their labor. It seems incredible that anyone would actually do such an evil thing in the expectation that they were helping.

(a) Almost none of the money you spend on those items reaches the workers. The worker who manufactures a multi-hundred dollar athletic shoes is paid under two dollars a day for manufacturing dozens of them (and, no, that's not a lot of money in their country - it's barely a survival wage). If you buy the products, you're investing in keeping that system active, and the money doesn't improve the lot of the workers, just the intermediaries. Buying more fish products doesn't improve the lot of the fish. Supporting the status quo is _not_ the answer - it's an avoidance behaviour.

(b) You're right, however - destroying their 'livelihood' and stopping there is inhumane. As someone else suggested, probably the best solution is to set up rival, ethical manufacturing in those countries. Employ people in decent conditions and pay them (eg) $4 per day instead of $2.

[ Parent ]
competition (2.00 / 1) (#191)
by ToastyKen on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 02:48:16 AM EST

As someone else suggested, probably the best solution is to set up rival, ethical manufacturing in those countries. Employ people in decent conditions and pay them (eg) $4 per day instead of $2.

The problem with that is that your prices will also have to be correspondingly higher.. and while some people will buy your product, just as some people buy free-range chicken eggs, the majority will still opt for the lower prices... So you may be able to command a niche market, but you probably won't eliminate sweat shops.

[ Parent ]

I disagree. (none / 0) (#275)
by irrevenant on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 04:44:24 AM EST

The problem with that is that your prices will also have to be correspondingly higher.. and while some people will buy your product, just as some people buy free-range chicken eggs, the majority will still opt for the lower prices... So you may be able to command a niche market, but you probably won't eliminate sweat shops.

Yes, the prices will be higher but not significantly so in our terms. Currently (eg) a pair of Nike Jordan ABJ 6 Athletic Boots sells for (eg.) $125.00 USD for (Men). The worker who made it is paid ~$2 per day, At a conservative estimate, call it 10c per shoe. Let's say we double their pay, and improve their working conditions equivalent to another doubling in pay.

If there's a pair of shoes selling for $125.00 and an equivalent pair of sweatshop-free shoes selling for $125.50, how highly do you think people will value that 50c?

Of course, there's other elements in the mix, such as Nike's huge advertising budget, but difference in price really should be a non-issue.

[ Parent ]
in your ears, out your mouth (none / 0) (#216)
by Shren on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 02:46:08 PM EST

You say the following about unions:

Increases the cost of doing business, particularly for the workers, who pay dues and the less tangible costs of collective bargaining. Rarely results in any overall positive change and makes a competitive local employment marketplace nearly impossible to create. It does, however, create several comfortable sinecure positions for the union leaders -- the real beneficiaries of union tactics, who are altogether in favor of this arrangement.

Excuse me, but that's all crap. You've been listening to anti-union propaganda your whole life and it shows. If you live in the USA and you get overtime over 40 hours and breaks and government saftey inspections, then you are living advantages the unions fought to bring to you. The government didn't fight to give you those things and the corporations surely didn't one day volunteer. No. People unionized and fought for those things. Or, rather, the craft guilds which industry had been trying to kill for ages survived, modernized, and continued doing what they had been doing for ages - protecting those with a similar trade.

Is every union perfect? No. Corporations arn't perfect either. I'm a lot more Libertarian leaning than a lot of people here, however, the idea of living in a world without labour unions scares me to death.

[ Parent ]

Child Labor a Turning Point for Economies (4.00 / 7) (#42)
by HidingMyName on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 03:53:18 PM EST

The sweat shop environment is oppressive and hard on all, but the biggest problem is the damage it does to children. Consider for example, Mexico. Mexico has abundant natural resources (heck it is right next to the U.S.). However, Mexico has labored under weak/corrupt leadership (the U.S. has corruption too, but not to the same extent) and (perhaps more importantly) many Mexican children work. Working deprives children of education, and stifles long term intellectual, social and economic growth in favor of a very limited short term return.

If we look back at U.S. history, the level of education of our citizens improved when child labor was outlawed. Furthermore, people stopped having kids as a retirement package and instead limited themselves to having a smaller number of better cared for children.

So while we in the U.S. cannot directly influence these countries (it is hard to control purchasing, because of the way middle men work), these countries may need to make a hard decision to forego some short term benefits for the long term well being of their citizens. To avoid catastrophic short term consequences, they could gradually raise the minimum age to work and strictly enforce it. On a side note, Fox (Mexico's President) appears to be concerned about child labor, perhaps there is some hope there.

compulsory education as a child labour ban (none / 0) (#232)
by melia on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 09:22:41 PM EST

making education compulsory is possibly a very good way to reduce child labour - monitoring a child's school attendence is a good way to check if s/he's working or not.

However, bans etc. can have adverse effects - i don't know the original source but Basu and Van (1998) cites a case where the textile industry in bangladesh was forced to fire workers, forcing them into hard labour and prostitution. I did an essay on child labour and learnt a lot - Basu and Van was one of my main sources and is quite a good read. (although i found the diagrams a bit difficult!!) It explains how a properly enforced ban on child labour could take children out of work whilst raising the wages of adult workers, dependent on there being two equilibria in the economy.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]

Perspective (3.50 / 6) (#45)
by Simon Kinahan on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 04:19:47 PM EST

Horrible though it is that people have to work in these conditions, I think a degree of perspective is needed here.

Firstly, as Naiomi Klein says herself, right up until 1920, textile workers in New York were working under almost identical circumstances. British textile workers, again working under similar conditions, even lobbied the British government to maintain the laws that prevented textile manufacturing in India right up until Indian independence. In the early 20th century, the Japanese, in their mad dash to industrialise, were exposing themselves to the same thing. In the 1970s Taiwain and South Korea were doing the same thing again.

If you look at the circumstances in the newly industrialised countries now, the thing not often observed by anti-sweatshop activists is that these factories have huge queues of people outside them in the morning looking for work. While the pay may be bad if you convert it into dollars, by local standards it is typically more than competitive.

Now. This isn't to say everything is OK. We're not in 1920, or even 1970, but it is not clear to me what the difference is. History would imply that what is happening now in China, Mexico and Indonesia will come to and end as the supply of cheap labour dries up, and their capitalists look for higher margins to compensate for more expensive labour. Has something changes that changes this ? I don't see what, but my mind is open to the possibility.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate

Unequal rates of exchange (4.16 / 6) (#49)
by fathomghost on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 05:12:08 PM EST

Are you open to the possibility that our government and our corporate cultures have deliberately crafted a global economic system which functions in such a way that we can reap the benefits of a colonial enterprise without the cost of military enforcement?

It's called imperialism, and it exists to ensure unequal rates of exchange between our nation and the ones we subjugate. On the surface, it is very benign. But it contributes to the "puppet regimes" which dominate the middle east as well as many nations in Africa, South America and Asia. We have created these nations and formed their governments in such a way so as to either provide for the easy exploitation of their resources (the most important of which are their human resources) or to act as a bulwark against the spread of Communism (which also threatened our economic interests) during the cold war. Now that the cold war is over, some of those regimes have become useless.

The United States and most European nations came into their own unchecked by superpowers like the modern U.S. It is not in the interest of the United States to allow most of these countries to mature into democratic, first world nations, because it would offset our economic control of the globe. The reason Japan and Taiwan have developed is due in part to their strategic locations and in part due to their adoption of American cultural practices. Of course, good leadership, good education, and many other factors have surely contributed, but that isn't my area of expertise.

To conclude, I do not think that the poor conditions which exist in these countries are simple growing pains. I believe they are the result of an unethical economic policy which subjugates foreign cultures in the interest of providing U.S. citizens with a better standard of living.

What do you think?

~fathomghost

------------------
"May the source be with you." --The JBoss Group
[ Parent ]
false (3.25 / 4) (#66)
by Phantros on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 08:33:40 PM EST

Your premise seems to be that wealthy countries are made more wealthy by other countries being poor. This is false - knowledge brings wealth, and knowledge is not a zero-sum game.

I am a fisherman. Do I catch more fish if you are:
a) An unskilled laborer that I can exploit, or
b) A skilled boatmaker

Third world countries are not being kept down...that would be contrary to our interests. They just have not yet received a leg up, because when it comes to altruism, it's convenient to wait and hope someone else will do it first.

4Literature - 2,000 books online and Scoop to discuss them with
[ Parent ]

Short term. (none / 0) (#76)
by blixco on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 09:18:31 PM EST

The "teach a man to fish" meme is a great one, and I really think it's the right way to be.

Capitalists think quarter to quarter. Unskilled labor is an endless pool: people reproduce at alarming rates. You make more money taking advantage of the unskilled labor pool than by teaching them skills (beyond what they need to do their job). And it's all about money. Remember that: this is capitalism. It's All About Money.

And it sucks. How do we change that? How do we make it less worthwhile for capitalists to exploit the workers?
-------------------------------------------
The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]

Answer: (4.66 / 3) (#89)
by acceleriter on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 11:43:38 PM EST

How do we make it less worthwhile for capitalists to exploit the workers?

Bullets.

[ Parent ]

Read your Marx (5.00 / 1) (#127)
by dipipanone on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 06:41:19 AM EST

How do we make it less worthwhile for capitalists to exploit the workers?

Can't be done. Exploitation is inherent to the capitalist mode of production. Profit is created from surplus value. Surplus value therefore IS exploitation -- the difference between the cost of producing a good, and the price at which it is sold.

The need to increase profits by driving down the costs of production is inherent in the capitalist mode of production. When other costs are fixed, the cost of labour is the most variable. When you can't drive down local labour costs any more, you move production to a place where the labour costs are cheaper.

And as soon as Nike start to pay workers in Thailand the same money as a worker in the USA, they'll have to raise the price of their shoes to compensate and they'll lose business to Adidas, who pay the local rate and sell their shoes for less.

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
Except ... (5.00 / 2) (#132)
by Simon Kinahan on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 08:57:27 AM EST

... Marx draws a normative conclusion from a positive theory.

Firstly, it should be pointed out that even considered just as a positive theory, the labour theory of value is dubious. There are clear situations where it cannot apply, and price disparities it does not explain, even in an industrial economy. It should also be said that "labour", in the context of the theory, includes those who coordinate and plan production just as much as those who carry it out.

Back to my main point: If we accept that the LTV is valid (which I don't, but this is for the sake of argument), you can't conclude from it the relationship between workers and employers is one of exploitation. That includes an additional assumption: that workers have some moral right to the full value of their labour.

It is hard to see how that can be so within the context of capitalism, since, after all, investors are required to get together the capital needed to make production competitive. Outside the context of capitalism, there are two possibilities. Either there is no market economy at all, in which case the LTV as normally stated, as a theory about the value of goods in a market economy, no longer applies, or alternatively, some worker's cooperatives trade amongst themselves. This latter possibility raises the same problem as occurs under capitalism: those workers who produce capital goods will either need to a paid for them up-front, in which case those buying them will have to raise capital, which takes us back to capitalism, or the manufacturers of said goods will have to take on some of the risk in the enterprise to which they are selling them, and will therefore demand a premium. Either way, noone gets "the full product of their labour".

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

But... (none / 0) (#194)
by dipipanone on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 05:53:19 AM EST

Marx draws a normative conclusion from a positive theory.

I don't believe that his normative conclusion in any way undermines the value of the basic theory though. This *is* how capitalism operates, isn't it?

Back to my main point: If we accept that the LTV is valid (which I don't, but this is for the sake of argument), you can't conclude from it the relationship between workers and employers is one of exploitation.

I think that the notion of exploitation in Marx really just refers to the mechanism by which surplus value is extracted. I'm not making any judgements about the moral rectitude or otherwise of this process. Simply pointing out that the system hasn't really changed since Marx (and Adam Smith, to some degree) originally outlined it's workings.

Of course Marx's theories were flawed. It's hard to find one of the great social theorists whose work doesn't contain flaws -- especially when they start flirting with predictions -- but are you arguing that Capitalism doesn't work along the lines that Marx identifies?

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
Not really (4.00 / 1) (#198)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 08:55:23 AM EST

I'm not really arguing that Marx was entirely wrong about exploitation.

I object to the word, though, because it implies a moral condemnation, which I don't believe is always justified, although it sometimes is. The choice of the word "exploitation" has more to do with Marx's ideas about history, which are much weaker, than it has to do with his economics. If you don't think there's an unresolvable conflict between capital and labour, you wouldn't choose that particular word, would you ?

As I said above, I don't think the LTV is the be-all and end-all of price theory, but I do think the basic, positive, point is true: most value is created by labour, and some of that value is not returned to the labourers, but rather used to pay for capital. If anything, this is even more true now than it was in Marx's day. However, if you adjust it to reality like that, it loses it power as a justification for revolution. If capitalists are actually contributing some value, even if it is not so great, they deserve to be payed for it.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

We agree then (none / 0) (#205)
by dipipanone on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 10:39:48 AM EST

I object to the word, though, because it implies a moral condemnation, which I don't believe is always justified, although it sometimes is.

I see what you mean. I tend to think of his use as somewhat neutral, but it probably isn't and I'm not sure whether that interpretation occurred post-Marx or whether it was inherent in his choice. It may be quite possible to talk about exploiting a resource without the negative connotations we ascribe to the word today -- just as people talk about exploiting a gap in the market -- but I wouldn't swear to it.

The choice of the word "exploitation" has more to do with Marx's ideas about history, which are much weaker, than it has to do with his economics. If you don't think there's an unresolvable conflict between capital and labour, you wouldn't choose that particular word, would you?

I agree that his theories of class conflict as the engine of history are profoundly flawed. However, I'm not at all sure that he's wrong that the conflict between capital and labour is irresolvable. As you say, his theories of history and politics get all mixed in here and he starts going off on a tangent about class consciousness and revolution -- theories that today are wholly unsatisfying -- but I've yet to see anything to convince me that his analysis of the conflict between capital and labour isn't correct -- if you take a medium to long-term view of the issue, as Marx was.

It has nothing to do with the psychology of the actors concerned, and everything to do with how markets work.

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
I think ... (5.00 / 1) (#213)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 01:58:26 PM EST

... there's a constant tension between labour and capital for pretty much the reasons Marx thought. They are, after all, competing in the short run for shares of a pie. However, exactly how that tension works out is, I think, as complex as any other relationship amongst humans.

In actual practice workers and employers need to extablish a chain of working relationships all the way down from the CEO and his board, to the cleaner and her temp agency. All those relationships need to work on a day-to-day basis, in spite of the fact that everyone is competing for a slice of the same pie in the short run. The ways people find of making them work have an almost infinite variety. As with any other human relationship, you stand a much smaller chance of making it work if you think of it as part of a vast class conflict that will end with your supervisor's head on a pole :)

Quite apart from the possibly negative implications of thinking too much about class conflict, and I while I agree with you about Marx being right about short-term conflicts of interest, he failed to spot, because of the time he lived in, that not only does the value of capital equipment tend to increase, but the value of labour also does, as levels of education and automation increase. That has important economic implications: labour does not fall as a percentage of total costs as technology progresses, and thus wages are not squeezed down over time. It also has psychological implications: workers and capitalists in high tech economies more and more see one another as engaged in a common enterprise, and no longer draw such strong class distinctions.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Read your Keynes, too. (5.00 / 1) (#165)
by fathomghost on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 03:13:12 PM EST

Your comments were very thoughtful and helpful, but don't stop with Marx. Marx is a fantastic read, and many of his thoughts revolutionized the way we think, and you are absolutely correct in suggesting that people read him so they'll understand more about economic theory. However, Marx's arguments did not end, but rather created the field of discourse upon which modern economic debates are played out.

Some of Marx's ideas don't hold up to close scrutiny after you've read some John Keynes, who revolutionized economic theory after the Great Depression. I'm sure there's more to read after him as well. So let's all try to bear things that in mind when we go wagging around our college syllabi, okay?

I mean, you wouldn't end your philosophic education with Plato, would you? If anyone knows any good post-Keynesian economic theory, would you please let me know?

~fathomghost

------------------
"May the source be with you." --The JBoss Group
[ Parent ]
He needs a good laugh? (none / 0) (#203)
by RyoCokey on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 10:25:25 AM EST

Between his predictions of workers revolutions utterly failing to materialize, and the failure of those who tried to apply his advice anyway, surely dear old Marx has no credibility left?

How many philosophers get an entire century and a virtual cold war to prove they were completely wrong?



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
[ Parent ]
What on earth are you talking about? (none / 0) (#224)
by dipipanone on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 05:53:35 PM EST

Between his predictions of workers revolutions utterly failing to materialize

Yup, nothing at all happened in Russia, or China. Nothing happened in Cuba or Vietnam. They weren't really Communists that the USA fought the cold war against, but anarcho-syndicalists and Marx had no influence on those events at all.

and the failure of those who tried to apply his advice anyway

And who would they be then? There's nothing that I recall in Marx about the political problems in running a post-revolutionary state. Perhaps you're confusing him with Lenin?

surely dear old Marx has no credibility left?

Can I take a wild guess here and suggest that you've never actually read his work and as a result are talking through your arse?

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure if you're joking (none / 0) (#235)
by RyoCokey on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 10:14:20 PM EST

Having a naive and innocent world view, I can't picture someone using "anarcho-syndicalists" to describe a centrally planned government. However, I'm gonna assume you are serious.

All the examples you list are not revolts against capitalism and industrialization, but agrarian societies revolting against older regimes of monarchy and despotism (Possible exception, Vietnam.) By taking Marx's advice out of context (And the failure of such revolutions to take place in capitalist countries was a refutation unto itself,) they applied his teachings to a struggle and country where it was ill-suited.

As for not commenting about running a post-revolutionary state, he was guilty of advocating a change of government without considering the consequences. Ruined and stagnate states remain as evidence to why this was not a wise idea.

I am familiar with his works, and have read some of them (selections, the Manifesto.) He spoke clearly of what he saw of society, but so rarely has history so clearly and decisively refuted someone's assertions.

He was a visionary of his time, and the father of a movement. However, in the end, when it came to forcasting both political and economic history, he was wrong. Capitalism was stable (Not a neverending means of increasing production) and the workers proved for the most part uninterested in revolution.



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
[ Parent ]
Basic industries (1.00 / 1) (#91)
by IriseLenoir on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 11:53:21 PM EST

We are talking about industry chains that doesn't require a lot of knowledge to run, but many workers.

As for the fishes, well you make more money by having an almost-automated net-using fishing boat with very few trained people on board and a lot of starving, untrained women to arrange fish in nice fillets and ship it to the U.S. (as is currently happening in coastal Africa - think they can't eat because of a lack of food? wrong, they ship you tons of it. Same for India with rice growing, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.)

Knowledge brings wealth only if you have a "monopoly" on knowledge (so you can take basic resources for almost nothing and sell it back as processed stuff for lots of cash), at least in a mercantile society.

"liberty is the mother of order, not its daughter" - Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
[ Parent ]

what?! (none / 0) (#130)
by Phantros on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 08:23:34 AM EST

So what you're saying is knowledge only brings wealth if the other guy doesn't have it? That's crazy! It is always better to be knowledgable than unknowledgable. It's very simple...a higher average amount of knowledge means a higher overall amount of wealth in the world, and a lower standard deviation in degree of knowledge will mean a lower overall amount of "exploitation" because there are fewer economic inefficiencies in the system.

As I said, knowledge is not a zero-sum game. if third world citizens were educated, they could produce more, and therefore keep more of what they produce because they would have higher value to their employers. They could be doctors or engineers rather than operators of Nike factory machinery.

4Literature - 2,000 books online and Scoop to discuss them with
[ Parent ]

True (4.00 / 1) (#111)
by irrevenant on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 04:40:26 AM EST

Yes, but the fish can only spawn at a certain rate. Regardless of knowledge, if you fish faster than that rate, they will be fished out (which is what's happening to a lot of species, incidentally). There's already more than enough skilled fishermen to harvest the fish population - why would you train more? Better to just let the unskilled fishermen be 'beaten to the prize'. Whether or not wealth is zero-sum is debatable. Knowledge or no knowledge the ultimate foundation of wealth is matter. Knowledge can help us use that matter in increasingly efficient ways, but we are using it _much_ faster than we are increasing efficiency. Largely what is happening at the moment is not wealth creation, it's wealth shifting. Wealth is 'growing' by depleting the Earth's natural capital (timber, oil, etc.). Just because this is happening out of sight in the third world doesn't mean it's a good approach as a species. See "The Tragedy of the Commons".

[ Parent ]
Open to the possibility ... (4.33 / 3) (#128)
by Simon Kinahan on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 06:42:44 AM EST

... but it doesn't seem very likely. In my experience, views like the one you describe are usually held by people who do not understand much economics, political, or history, and have a great of melodramatic rhetoric. Fashionable though they may be with the ZNet/Indymedia crowd, and the Greg Palasts of this world, I have never seem them adequately justified. Why does it seem unlikely, well:

1. It is the natural state of humans to be less than dirt poor. It doesn't require any particular effor to make people poor. Making them rich is hard. In fact, we don't really understand what needs to happen in a society for real, bottom-up economic growth to happen. A look at the history of western Europe provides somme hints, but that is all, and they may not be applicable to the world as it stands right now.

2. There is no particular advantage to having poor people around. Rich people buy more stuff, have more time to make better stuff for us to buy, and cause less trouble. The idea that we need cheap labour so badly we're keeping large chunks of the world is a state of abject poverty is preposterous. It is not as if there'd be any shortage of poor people even if Mexico, Indonesia and China all suddenly attained Western standards of living. If everyone everywhere suuddently attained western standards of living, clothes would become slightly more expensive, or more lively technology would emerge to automate more manufacturing process. Big Deal.

3. We do not, have not, and never will exercise economic control over the globe. It is quite impossible. Yes, the US and Western Europe control the IMF and the World Bank, but these institutions exercise what coontrol they have only through their lending programs. Plenty of countries have rejected IMF medicine and have yet to see the USS Enterprise steaming in to bomb their capital city. Some of them have done better than their neighbours who did what they were told. Some of them did worse. The idea that China, for instance, would allow the USA to control its economy is, once again, preposterous. Are working conditions in China very different to those in Indonesia ? No.

Regarding the particular points made in your post, I would point out that the way in which the "developing countries" were created varies widely. The South American nations created themselves, and their borders were set through various 19th century conflicts. Borders in SE Asia represent pre-Imperialist political boundaries that were restored on decolonisationn. Some African borders are similar (Botswana, Lesotho), whereas others are entirely artifical (the DR Congo). Middle Eastern borders are mostly artificial, but some (Turkey, Iran), represent genuine political realities. You can say much the same about the governments operating within those boundaries. The idea that Iraq's regime, which started out as a bunch of near-Socialist Arab Nationalist, was ever a western puppet regime is, once again, preposterous. Did you ever wonder why thhe Iraqi air force flies MiGs ? Regarding Japan and Taiwan: can you say post-hoc rationalisation for me ?

So, yes. I'm open to the possibility. Find me a convincing argument in favour of your proto-fascist conspiracy theory, and I'll argue the point with you.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

You can't have it both ways (3.00 / 1) (#138)
by synaesthesia on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 10:16:22 AM EST

It is not as if there'd be any shortage of poor people even if Mexico, Indonesia and China all suddenly attained Western standards of living. If everyone everywhere suuddently attained western standards of living, clothes would become slightly more expensive, or more lively technology would emerge to automate more manufacturing process. Big Deal.
  1. It is not as if there'd be any shortage of poor people...
  2. If everyone everywhere suuddently attained western standards of living...
These two statements are mutually contradictory.

Also, would you care to explain why clothes would become slightly more expensive if everyone had the same amount of money as one another? Surely you don't mean more expensive in real terms?!


Sausages or cheese?
[ Parent ]

Glargh ! (4.00 / 1) (#143)
by Simon Kinahan on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:10:22 PM EST

Of course they're contradictory you twit. I was covering two different scenarios. To whit:

Scenario 1: The countries currently doing most of the low-wage manufacturing become rich overnight. There are still lots of poor people. Low-wage manufacturing jobs move elsewhere.

Scenario 2: Everywhere suddently becomes rich. There's now nowhere to do low-wage manufacturing. Prices will have to rise, or else the costs be absorbed elsewhere, or possible more capital investment will take place.

See ? As to your second point: if everyone were paid wages sufficient to give them a typical wester standard of livinng, and nothing else changed, the costs of those operations paying less that western wages at present would rise. Those companies would increase their prices to compensate. Since the majority of such manufacturinng is in the textile industry, the costs of clothes would rise.  

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Ooops (4.00 / 1) (#256)
by synaesthesia on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 09:50:45 AM EST

Of course they're contradictory you twit. I was covering two different scenarios.

Ah. You're quite right. That'll teach me to post before I've properly woken up.

As to your second point: if everyone were paid wages sufficient to give them a typical wester standard of livinng

I see this as assuming the consequent. I don't think everyone can be paid wages sufficient to give them a typical Western standard of living, because the Western standard of living is inflated through the inequity between first and third world countries.


Sausages or cheese?
[ Parent ]

Ideological Differences (4.00 / 1) (#262)
by fathomghost on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 07:51:51 PM EST

Your comments are very enlightening, but perhaps not in the way you intended. I'll do what I can to supply you with a better argument.
In my experience, views like the one you describe are usually held by people who do not understand much economics, political, or history, and have a great of melodramatic rhetoric.
Your experiences are unfounded and most likely skewed. Views like the one I have described are commonly held by people who've studied economic cultural and political theory and who are well read. I am certain that the majority of the U.S. population have never considered the imperialist leanings of their nation.

Fashionable though they may be with the ZNet/Indymedia crowd, and the Greg Palasts of this world
This comment of yours would have been more useful to your argument had you provided us with a link to Mr. Palast's web site. I was curious so I looked him up, and I'm comfortable with his credentials and impressive background. Also, the BBC seems to think highly of him, and that makes for a good reference. I'll have to give him a fair and critical reading in the near future.

As far as the ZNET/Indymedia crowd reference goes, you'd better be careful here--you're starting to wade into the lake of "melodramatic rhetoric" yourself. You didn't explain why you brought them up, so I'll do that now.

Your references to ZNET, Indymedia, and Greg Palast are used to isolate and marginalize my comments and label me as an ideologue through associating my post with what traditional U.S. media would consider an extreme leftist system of beliefs. You are an unwitting, if however witty, accomplice in the Ideological power structure of the U.S. media, which is not as bad a situation to be in as it sounds.

Ideology Theory1 is a subschool of the theoretical movement which has surfaced in the last four decades or so in U.S. and European academic circles, and it lends my argument three very important points.

  1. Ideologies rely on obfuscation and transparency. They deny their own existence.
  2. Everyone is subject to an Ideology. Awareness of one's ideological leanings does not free them from belonging to an Ideology.
  3. Ideologies exist to support social and economic power structures within societies.
For the record, I don't expect any of you to take my word on this, but I also have provided links to some resources and I'll be happy to provide more once I get home to my library. Whether you read the information I've provided or not is of course up to you, but it might prove insightful and enlightening so I highly recommend it. It might help you become more aware of your own Ideological leanings and more capable of questioning them instead of relying upon them in a priori fashion.

1. It is the natural state of humans to be less than dirt poor.
I am not convinced that your understanding of the "natural state" of humans is sufficient to base your first point upon it. Let us read some commentary on the "natural state" of humans by the philosopher John Locke. The following are excerpts from his Second Treatise of Government.
The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being. And tho' all the fruits it naturally produces, and beasts it feeds, belong to mankind in common, as they are produced by the spontaneous hand of nature; and no body has originally a private dominion, exclusive of the rest of mankind, in any of them, as they are thus in their natural state: yet being given for the use of men, there must of necessity be a means to appropriate them some way or other, before they can be of any use, or at all beneficial to any particular man.2

Sec. 27. Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself.3
John Locke's view of the "natural state" of humanity seem at odds with your view. When located near abundant resources, it is human nature to gather those resources and to cultivate life. The concept of "poor" in your use of the word denotes lack of abundance, and suggests that in their natural state, humans are either incapable of gathering resources for life and survival or that they refuse to do so. History and common sense will tell us that this is simply not the case. It is true that humans are capable of living in areas with relatively few natural resources, but we are also highly adaptive and historically have proven capable of adapting our cultures to our environments for the purpose of survival.

For instance, human beings lived and thrived for tens of thousands of years upon the North American continent with a relatively low amount of technological knowledge, and in many cases no concept even of agriculture. They structured their societies in such a manner to provide them with the means for survival and warfare.

One of the oldest and perhaps most prominent motivations behind warfare throughout human history is the acquisition of natural resources. I think that this is common knowledge and does not need illustration. Many natural resources are luxuries, like silk. Others, like salt, are essential to health and sanitation. All can be relied upon to increase the standard of living of a society. However, gathering natural resources requires something that is of infinite value to every human--something of which we are all given a limited amount, something without which we simply die. Time. Gathering natural resources requires a great deal of time. Abstracting this reliance upon time affords us a glimpse at the reasons social structures are formed. An abundance of inexpensive labor is required for the gathering of natural resources. From this notion we derive the term "human resources", which is simply a gathering of time--human labor, work hours.

If you consider it from this angle, all economics and social structures exist to provide man with the means to gather natural resources. Technology increases either our ability to gather the resources or improves the efficiency of human labor--buying us time. The human trends toward automation, robotics, computing and the advancement of technology all support this claim as contextual evidence.

fact, we don't really understand what needs to happen in a society for real, bottom-up economic growth to happen
In fact, we do. We've done it since our nation's founding, and we have proven quite successful at it. Bottom-up economic growth will follow if we secure access to the natural resources upon which we rely and if we secure inexpensive means by which to gather them.

The British did not rush to colonize the globe out of a sense of wanderlust. They used their technological and cultural advancements to capture access to its scattered resources and to subjugate native populations for the purpose of gathering and transporting those resources. I'll use Rhodesia as an example. There were diamonds there, which were valued for technological and cultural reasons. The British conquered the African kings who ruled that region with their overpowering technology, and enslaved the population to mine the diamonds.

Britain did this all over the world. They used military force to subjugate native populations and gather natural resources which they shipped home.

After WWII, Britain could no longer afford to support the military occupation of its colonies. However, they no longer needed to. It is much more efficient to develop economic and political cooperation by subverting the political infrastructure of a weak nation. Local warlords can be given economic and political support by Britain or the U.S. in return for their complacence regarding unequal rates of exchange between the two nations. By purposefully keeping large sections of the native populations uneducated and economically deprived, they can be forced to work in sweatshops for inhumane amounts of pay.

There isn't a legislative committee dedicated to maintaining this state of affairs. It has nothing to do with a conspiracy. It relies upon an ideological power structure which supports and justifies the poor treatment of distant societies in the name of domestic economic growth. It really is as simple as that.

There is no particular advantage to having poor people around. Rich people buy more stuff, have more time to make better stuff for us to buy
Your assertion here is naive. You would never catch J. Edgar Hoover working in a ceramics factory on an assembly line making toilets. Have you ever used a toilet?

We do not, have not, and never will exercise economic control over the globe.
Do you think the Soviet Union collapsed because people there wanted to buy Dockers? We crippled their economy by forcing them into an arms race they could not afford, and systematically deprived them of the client states they depended upon for economic growth and standard of living. If you don't think we can cripple any economy we want to, go spend a few years in Cuba or Iraq. You may find reason to change your mind.

As far as China is concerned, we're playing the long game with them. They don't have the military or economic clout to compete with us, and our incredible political and military interests in Taiwan and Japan should be enough to prove how we fully intend to bring them and North Korea into the democratic free market we thoroughly dominate.

I hope this clarifies my position on the matter. If you think of anything I've missed, please let me know.

~fathomghost

  1. I will be more than happy to provide a list of reading materials on this topic for anyone to peruse. Let me know if you find this neccessary.
  2. There is a great book on Locke's state of nature called On the Edge of Anarchy: Locke, Consent, and the Limits of Society. I highly recommend it.
  3. Locke vigorously defended the sovereignty of the individual human being and plays a colossal role in american political theory.


------------------
"May the source be with you." --The JBoss Group
[ Parent ]
Several Points (4.00 / 1) (#266)
by Simon Kinahan on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 12:06:49 PM EST

I find it very interesting, in arguing with people who hold the kind of views you do, that it becomes extremely difficult to hold any kind of rational discussion. There seems to be an extreme difference in focus that means we're basically talking past one another. You spent at least half of the parent comment talking about where you believe the origins of my views to lie. In terms of cogency of argument and the use of references, it is by far the better part of the post. The latter part, where you actually tackle some of my arguments, is much weaker, and consists mainly if trotting out bits of "common knowledge" that do not stand up to examination.

Regarding ideology: I am tempted to just file this under the genetic fallacy and move on. To put that another way: the origins or social function of a statement have no impact on its truth or falsehood. To say "oh, that's just capitalist ideology", or "not more establishment propaganda" might pass for a refutation on your planet, but it doesn't on mine. I will read your references on ideology later, but I'm afraid I don't expect them to have much of an impact, since I'm somewhat familiar with what I'm likely to find already.

On a personal note: You don't know who I am. Aside from the ones I've actually expressed, you don't know my political views. Please bear that in mind. You've made at least two errors in your assumptions about me. I'll leave it to you to figure out what they are. Assuming your opponent holds precisely the opposite of your own views and lives in the same cultural context is a good way not to progress an argument anywhere useful.

Regarding Greg Palast: I didn't know he had a website. He's an excellent investigative journalist, but his interpretation of what he discovers never seems well supported. Same goes for many of the other journalists ZNet is in the habit of exerpting (I read said publication regularly, incidentally). I attribute to you (and them) an extreme leftist system of beliefs because that is what you appear to have. I have no particular problem with that. There are several leftists around here (greenrd, for instance) who I consider to be among the most interesting K5 posters. More generally, the left has historically played an important role in driving social change.

The problem I often have, however, and this is true for many left-wing journalists in the mainstream press (have you figured out your mistake yet ?), is that the left in recent years seems to have given up on rational argument and even on empiricism, and started to rely on "that is just ideology" as an answer to almost everything, while moving away from coherent theory and towards a mish-mash of "common sense" beliefs and "radical" activism. This seems both lazy and futile. Thinly veiled insults to people's intellectual integrity may "win" an argument, but they don't convince people. Standing in the street wearing a silly hat may be fun, but it doesn't achieve actual social change.

That isn't a blanket judgement, BTW, it just appears to be the trend. You may or may not be an exception, but I recommend that if you want to continue this conversation you stop telling me where you think my beliefs come from, and start telling me why they're wrong.

Right, on to the substantive part of your post. I think it is worth repeating what I was trying to show, previously: that "imperialism" is not really a very good model for explaining the relative poverty of some parts of the world, or the existence of sweatshops.  

A common theme appears to run through your direct disagreements with my points above, and it is probably worth focusing on that. We seem to have a different understanding of what makes a society prosperous. I want to avoid the term "wealthy", because it is too easy to get confused with individual wealth, which is different. You want to emphasise the role of natural resources: the society which control the most oil fields, sugar plantations and coal mines, is the most prosperous. I want to emphasise the productivity of labour: the society that has the most productive workers is the most prosperous.

There's a degree of truth to both of these views, but I believe the productivity view subsumes the natural resources view. The thing that makes labour more productive, of course, is the other factors of production: land and capital. If you control an oilfield, your labour is more productive, because oil is valuable. But similarly, if you have better oil extraction technology, your labour is more productive. So far, we don't disagree much, except that we can explain why, say, Taiwan, is rich in spite of having no natural resources through its high level of technology. This way, we can explain kinds of wealth that have little to do with natural resources: software, fine craftsmanship, high art, and so on ... If we look at the modern, developed economies, we find that of the total value of goods and services, very little of the value actually originates from natural resources.

So, to the state of nature: I'm not sure why you're dragging Locke into this. He was constructing an argument for the right of a people to depose their government. His version of the state of nature makes a nice argument for individualism, but it is not intended as a scientific theory, and many aspects are clearly not correct, from the perspective of modern anthropologists and archaeologists. They don't need to be, for his argument to work. Nozick, who resurrected the argument, called it a "potential explanation", which seems a good way of looking at it.

If we look at genuinely ancient societies (pre-Sumer, that is), what we find it that their labour was much less productive than ours. It took a man several days to make a good bow or spear. A vast number of hunting rifles can be made by less than a hundred men in the same time. They did not even know oil *was* a natural resource, let alone know how to extract and refine it. This is what I mean when I say the natural state of man is to be dirt poor. Life was not quite as "nasty, brutish and short" and Hobbes thought, but they had a life expectancy of maybe 40, ate a monotonous diet, had a fantastic infant mortality rate, and so on ... Our advance over them isn't that they suffered scarcity of natural resources, but we know more about how to make better use of those resources than they did. Oh, and don't bring Native Americans into this. The pre-Columbian history of the Americas is almost entirely obfuscated by things people would like to have been true, and what we know post-Columbus is contaminated as evidence by the presence of Europeans.

We can apply the same perspective - supplied by seeing societal wealth as the productivity of labour - to the colonial system. The great powers reserved to themselves the capital intensive manufacturing industries, and made their colonies undertake resource extraction and agricultural activities, to the extent they participated in the imperial economy at all. Even in India, most people remained subsistence farmers - more on that later. They gained from this because the industries they reserved to themselves were those that made most use of education and heavy capital, so the productivity of their labour was greater. The colonies bought expensive manufactured goods and sold cheap raw materials. The mother country did the reverse, and also traded manufactures with the other great powers. This system undeniably retarded the development of the colonies, and in the case of India, it did untold damage to what had been the manufacturing power-house of the world (which is why the British went there to begin with). In this, I suspect, we do not disagree, but even under the colonial system countries had very different fates: constrast, for instance, the destinies of Ethiopia and Japan, neither of which was ever a colony (at least, not till WWII).

Where we do disagree is that you believe this system has persisted and I do not. I gave you three reasons previously why I think you're unlikely to be right. I want to come back to that later, because I think you've rather missed the point, but right now I want to compare todays economy with that of the early 20th century, and point out the differences.

Firstly, and I would have thought obviously, capital intensive manufacturing industry has all but vanished from the former great powers, and yet they have surpassed even their former standard of living. That manufacturing industry has relocated to countries that were formerly very poor in Asia, and, to a lesser extent, South America. Those great powers, including the US, have largely transformed their economies to focus on economic management activities, services, and high technology. Manufacturing now comprises less than ten percent on the US or EU economy.

Those countries to which industry has tended to move: Taiwain, South Korea, Singapore, and so on, have by and large transcended their former status as parts of the developing world. Their economies are moving in turn towards higher end manufacturing.

Meanwhile, in the developing world, almost everyone is still a subsistence farmer. Life has not changed much since the Iron Age, except that in some places crops have been improved sufficiently that famines are now much less common. Partly because of those agricultural changes, a great population shift towards the cities has occurred. Those cities - much bigger than anything in the West - are not very nice places to live, but the people living in them are richer than their fellow citizens in rural areas: that goes back to the productivity of labour again. Most people living in them work is local manufacturing, or some other local indutry.

The places we're concerned with in talking about sweatshops are on the economic boundary between the developing world proper and the newly developed countries (S. Korea, Taiwain, etc). Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Mexico, and so on. They still have mostly farming, rural, economies, and somewhat developed cities, but are starting to play a role in the world economy.

Does this state of affairs look very like the mercantile system ? No. It does not. The extractive industries are still in the developing world, but that is about the only similarity. Those countries are now able to produce manufactures, which under mercantilism they were not. Indeed, it is the lower-end manufacturing that is happening in newly industrialising countries about which you are complaining. The highest parts of the value chain are still quite largely located in the west, that is true, but they are now quite different, and actually possessed of a largely western focus: western marketing, software development, stock trading and so on don't affect Malaysia much, let alone Burkino Faso.  

Now to return to the second from last point: I said there's no particular advantage to having poor people around. You think that's naive, because J Edgar would never work in a toilet factory. Well, probably true enough, although I don't really see its impact on the question at hand. If we take the productivity view of prosperity, then richer people are more productive, because that is why they are rich. More productive people get that way because they work with more advanced technology (capital) or have more education. Therefore in a richer society, less people have to make toilets, and those who do don't have to apply ceramic glaze with the toungues, or whatever is so unpleasant about making toilets. Richer societies provide better markets and more opportunities for investment for outsiders and well as better lives for those living in them.

Compare that with the putative benefits of poverty, which basically consist of low wages, and wealth seems to win, doesn't it ? even from a capitalist's perspective.

A couple of final points: You say "ideological structure", I say conspiracy. The only differences seems to be that you suppose those participating in the process are too stupid to know what they're doing, and only a few marginal left wing commentators are clever enough to see the truth. That doesn't do anything to make the argument more credible. I believe people are smarter than that, by and large. I also note the similarity of the trend away from rationality and towards conspiracy theory on the left at present to be distubingly like the movements that gave rise to fascism.

As to your ad-hoc explanations of things the US might not have found so desirable that actually happened in spite of its total control over world affairs, I don't think they're really worth reply to, do you ? You'll just dream up more ad-hoc hypothesese to compensate. If you really want to convince me, you'll have to describe what the mechanism of this supposedly air tight control actually is.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Why you're wrong. (none / 0) (#270)
by fathomghost on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 02:48:27 AM EST

I recommend that if you want to continue this conversation you stop telling me where you think my beliefs come from, and start telling me why they're wrong.
Okay. Read on.

"imperialism" is not really a very good model for explaining the relative poverty of some parts of the world, or the existence of sweatshops.
The model you've suggested is unfeasable, though. I know no other model to explain these phenomena. By the way, that's really a word. You don't need to encapsulate it like that.

A common theme appears to run through your direct disagreements with my points above, and it is probably worth focusing on that.
I appreciate that.

We seem to have a different understanding of what makes a society prosperous.
You want to emphasise the role of natural resources... I want to emphasise the productivity of labour:
We can't emphasize either, for they are both required for a capitalist economic system to function.

I believe the productivity view subsumes the natural resources view.
It doesn't, as I'll show you.

The thing that makes labour more productive, of course, is the other factors of production: land and capital.
You forget that land is capital, and also a natural resource. I'd like you to logically prove to me that capital infusion makes labor more productive if you could. I think this is an interesting assertion and I'd like to see if it can be backed up with an example.

If you control an oilfield, your labour is more productive, because oil is valuable.
If you control an oilfield, you've only guaranteed access to the resources. Productivity and access are wholly disparate factors. Value is another world all its own. You can't simplify your argument this much.

But similarly, if you have better oil extraction technology, your labour is more productive.
Not true. It is more efficient. Efficiency is the relation of production to human time, which is also a limited natural resource. That's why human labor is a natural resource.

So far, we don't disagree much, except that we can explain why, say, Taiwan, is rich in spite of having no natural resources through its high level of technology.
It has incredible human resources, which are natural resources.

This way, we can explain kinds of wealth that have little to do with natural resources: software, fine craftsmanship, high art, and so on ... If we look at the modern, developed economies, we find that of the total value of goods and services, very little of the value actually originates from natural resources.
If you discount human resources as natural resources, which I do not.

So, to the state of nature: I'm not sure why you're dragging Locke into this.
Because your comments directly opposed his. You said man in his "natural state" was dirt poor. Locke defined the "natural state" as one of abundance, a state before competition for limited resources caused structured societies and division of labor to develop.

It took a man several days to make a good bow or spear.
A vast number of hunting rifles can be made by less than a hundred men in the same time.
This is also not true, and it points out the fundamental flaw in your understanding of modern economics in relation to human labor. In order for manufacturing like this to exist, a considerable industrial base is required. For instance, before 100 said hunting rifles can be created from scratch, you need the following components:

  1. A considerable source of iron ore
  2. A considerable source of stone
  3. A considerable source of coal
  4. A coal refinery
  5. A steel foundry
  6. A ceramics materials plant
  7. An automobile factory to transport the goods
  8. A system of roads to transport the materials
  9. Vast amounts of farmland and pastureland
  10. Everything neccessary to train engineers in the construction of firearms
  11. A workforce to mine, manufacture, farm, and transport materials.
  12. Access to lumber for building materials
  13. Tools to gather resources

The list goes on and on. In comparison, making a bow or spear from raw components only requires a single day, provided some sort of access to
  1. rock, and
  2. wood
is available. One can walk naked into the rocky mountains today and live functionally using stone age technology, with no need for an industrial base or a societal structure at all were it not for external societal conditions. It could easily be argued that their work was much more efficient than ours is today as far as it sustained human life.

Oh, and don't bring Native Americans into this.
The pre-Columbian history of the Americas is almost entirely obfuscated by things people would like to have been true, and what we know post-Columbus is contaminated as evidence by the presence of Europeans.
Get off your high horse. All archaeological and anthropological studies contaminate evidence and ruin any claims to objectivity simply by being present in a foreign culture or studying its remains outside of its original context. Claude Levi-Strauss pointed this out thirty years ago. There's an entire field of study called comparative literature that stems from this notion. The American Indians have nothing to do with this argument--certainly not for the reasons you've written here. All history is obfuscated in the way you've described, and so your comment becomes nothing more than a truism with no relevance on the discussion at hand.

Where we do disagree is that you believe this system has persisted and I do not.
This is true.

Firstly, and I would have thought obviously, capital intensive manufacturing industry has all but vanished from the former great powers, and yet they have surpassed even their former standard of living.
Those great powers, including the US, have largely transformed their economies to focus on economic management activities, services, and high technology.
Manufacturing now comprises less than ten percent on the US or EU economy.
This statement is untrue and unsupported by factual data. Don't expect us to just take your numbers on faith. Please support claims like the one you just made with some evidence if you could. A little extra legwork would save us all a lot of irritation.

In 2001 Manufacturing income in the U.S. was $1,132,200,000,000 out of a GDP of $8,053,500,000,000. That makes for 14% of our economy.

If we take agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, construction, and manufacturing, all of which are capitol & labor intensive industries we come up with $1,751,700,000,000 which is closer to 22% of the GDP, or nearly a quarter of our economy.1

Furthermore, we know that the Finance, Wholesale Trade, Retail Trade, and Service sectors rely to a large degree either upon the domestic Industries listed above, or upon Industry distributed in nations such as Australia, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Taiwan. Without the industrial base, this chunk of the economy would immediately crash.

A quick look at international labor trends for the U.S. will show you the reasons my theory is valid.2
=========================================
International Wage Comparisons (2000)

Country or Area % Wage $
United States ........... 100 19.86
Canada .................. 81 16.16
Mexico .................. 12 2.46

Australia ............... 71 14.15
Hong Kong SAR 1.......... 28 5.53
Israel .................. 65 12.88
Japan ................... 111 22.00
Korea ................... 41 8.13
New Zealand ............. 41 8.13
Singapore ............... 37 7.42
Sri Lanka ............... -
Taiwan .................. 30 5.98

=========================================
Exchange rates, 2000
(National currency units per U.S. dollar)

Country or area

United States ........... 1.000
Canada .................. 1.486
Mexico .................. 9.459

Australia ............... 1.720
Hong Kong SAR 1.......... 7.792
Israel .................. 4.077
Japan ................... 107.8
Korea ................... 1131
New Zealand ............. 2.189
Singapore ............... 1.725
Sri Lanka ............... -
Taiwan .................. 31.26
=========================================
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2001.

Here we see the completely disproportionate wages of a selection of countries in East Asia and Oceana. Note the Exchange rates and extrapolate the actual value of a foreign laborer's wages. The advantages of exploiting overseas labor forces become very apparent if you look at these tables. Note that these figures are for the average wage. The link below provides information on direct hourly pay jobs, which pay worse than the above figures.

Those countries to which industry has tended to move: Taiwain, South Korea, Singapore, and so on, have by and large transcended their former status as parts of the developing world. Their economies are moving in turn towards higher end manufacturing.
This is true, and they are doing well by their involvement with us. However, their relationship to our country has less to do with their cultures naturally tending toward higher productivity. Without exception, each country on the above list has experienced manufacturing growth due in large part to their strategic value to the U.S. during the cold war. Countries with lesser strategic importance are left to be exploited by the newly developing countries.

Does this state of affairs look very like the mercantile system ? No. It does not.
What could you possibly mean here? This state of affairs also does not look very like the feudal system. If you meant something by this, please explain it.

The extractive industries are still in the developing world.
And because (as you pointed out) developing nations have much lower levels of technology available, the amount of human labor required to extract the resources is considerably higher.

Those countries are now able to produce manufactures, which under mercantilism they were not.
But their manufacturing capacity relies upon the resources and labor of the developing world, just as our service and trade capacity relies upon their manufacturing. At all levels wages are decreased and native populations exploited for their cheap labor.

Indeed, it is the lower-end manufacturing that is happening in newly industrialising countries about which you are complaining.
I'm not complaining about that. I'm complaining about how our economic system relies upon the exploitation of human laborers in order to function successfully.

The highest parts of the value chain are still quite largely located in the west, that is true, but they are now quite different, and actually possessed of a largely western focus: western marketing, software development, stock trading and so on don't affect Malaysia much, let alone Burkino Faso.
You have grossly underestimated the importance of manufacturing and resource extraction to all aspects of modern economies.

Now to return to the second from last point: I said there's no particular advantage to having poor people around.
And you were wrong as I've illustrated.

If we take the productivity view of prosperity, then richer people are more productive, because that is why they are rich.
Except this "productivity view" is illegitimate and based on no concrete data. It is a spurious fantasy at best. Rich people are rich because they either inherit wealth, or because they learn to use the capitalist system to exploit human laborers and leverage their assets.

More productive people get that way because they work with more advanced technology (capital) or have more education.
One must have capital wealth in order to leverage it. This almost always comes from inheritance or familial ties. Higher education has always been a privelage for the upper class. Of course, students can work exceptionally hard in order to gain acceptance into better schools, but this often requires a familial support structure that lower-class households commonly lack.

Therefore in a richer society, less people have to make toilets, and those who do don't have to apply ceramic glaze with the toungues, or whatever is so unpleasant about making toilets.
As often as you complain about illogical arguments you sure have a knack for them. I used toilets because everyone's got at least one, and we never think about them. Just like we don't think about door handles, zippers, and water pipes. All these things must be manufactured, and we all have them here. It seems to me that your arguments forget just how dependent we are on manufactured goods in the U.S. I used toilets as an example to see if you'd pick up on that. I guess you didn't.

Richer societies provide better markets and more opportunities for investment for outsiders and well as better lives for those living in them.
On the whole, this is absolutely true. However, these "better lives" come at a high cost to the rest of the world population.

Compare that with the putative benefits of poverty, which basically consist of low wages, and wealth seems to win, doesn't it ? even from a capitalist's perspective.
Global economic growth is certainly in the best interests of capitalists, yes. However, the benefits of this economic growth will be distributed disproportionately to benefit the upper class of the U.S., who will pass it via inheritance to their children, and we've got an aristocracy all over again.

A couple of final points: You say "ideological structure", I say conspiracy.
I know you do. I don't think you understand Ideology Theory in the context of my posts. I on the other hand don't believe in conspiracies. If you haven't yet, please read "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses" by Louis Althusser. If you can topple Ideology theory and sell me on your beliefs that it's complete horseshit, I'll help you tear it to the ground all the way. I'm not using "Ideology" as a buzzword, or as a way to automatically "win" the argument. I'd just say "Tres Absurd" (Dan Akroyd) if I wanted to do that. You actually can't argue against that! I would really like to talk with you about Ideology in an intelligent way, because I can see you are clearly a shrewd individual, and I highly value your opinions and your critical eye. If you knew what I meant when I used the word, we could get to that point and use it for its intended purpose, which is as a critical device in cultural studies. Right now I see it as a discursive obstacle that is keeping us from communicating. Althusser called it "secular religion" once. Not conspiracy, Simon. System of values.

The only differences seems to be that you suppose those participating in the process are too stupid to know what they're doing, and only a few marginal left wing commentators are clever enough to see the truth.
Ideological leanings have nothing to do with intelligence. I have different ideological leanings than most Americans, but that has nothing to do with my intelligence, which appears to me quite normal. Furthermore, I have made absolutely no claims at "truth", whatever that is. Truth is decided by rhetoricity. It is malleable. However, what we take for "truth" also has very real physical effect on human lives. That is why the study of rhetoricity is so important to me. It has nothing to do with an intellectual elite (mind you that intellectual elite founded our nation) or being clever. I simply treat the world critically. I think it could be improved and I'm trying to figure out how.

I believe people are smarter than that, by and large.
You're not alone here. They are intelligent enough, but they haven't had enough exposure to the write literature if you ask me. Still, that's a different discussion.

I also note the similarity of the trend away from rationality and towards conspiracy theory on the left at present to be distubingly like the movements that gave rise to fascism.
Please also note my careful attention to detail and tendency to back up my assertions with references. This should strike you as a refreshing divergence from the largely affect-driven rhetorics of the American political body and indy-media. Please do not write me off as a "brainless leftie" or a "brainless lib" because of my political or intellectual leanings. Finally, hauling fascism out of the closet here in reference to my commentary is insulting and a blatant strawman trope. If you really think the modern left resembles the conditions that preceded fascism, let's put together some information on it and write a story. I'd be happy to help you explore this idea.

As to your ad-hoc explanations of ... its total control over world affairs
The United States does not excercise complete control over world affairs. This is also a strawman, and it blows my comments out of proportion. We do not control the world, but our economic system is designed to exploit world labor markets, and it does so unchecked at the expense of much of the globe's population. It is designed to take advantage of unequal rates of exchange and is supported by a social and political infrastructure that actively discourages the development of alternate economic models. To date, nothing has been able to stop it, and there is no end in sight.

If you really want to convince me, you'll have to describe what the mechanism of this supposedly air tight control actually is.
Please remember that when people rate your posts, they take your tone of voice and attitude into consideration. I don't remember ever writing that the U.S. had airtight control over world markets, and I resent having words put into my mouth. I suggest that if you want to continue this conversation you try to be a little more polite. I like some of your ideas and highly respect your conversation but I find the implied author quite offensive at times. This is unneccessary. I'm going to try to be less abrasive and garrulous. Please try to do the same.

~fathomghost
------ Reference Materials
  1. http://www.bea.doc.gov/bea/dn/nipaweb/TableViewFixed.asp#Mid
  2. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2001.
  3. For more information on foreign labor trends, visit http://www.tradeport.org/ts/countries/


------------------
"May the source be with you." --The JBoss Group
[ Parent ]
Holes in my argument. (none / 0) (#271)
by fathomghost on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 01:37:00 PM EST

The productivity view Simon mentioned works with Real Estate industries and it also works with things like sharecropping.

You buy a chunk of land and then rent it out to people so they can farm it. I don't know that I'd consider this an exploitation of labor forces, particularly because it gives rise to a middle class.

As a friend of mine recently pointed out, "the study of capitalism is just the study of how things naturally are, it's not like a conscious or purposeful phenomena."

I think there's a lot of merit to this point of view.

~fathomghost

------------------
"May the source be with you." --The JBoss Group
[ Parent ]
Last Thing First (5.00 / 1) (#272)
by Simon Kinahan on Tue Aug 20, 2002 at 05:35:46 PM EST

I apologise for the abbrasiveness of my tone. I'm afraid I find blogs quite a frustrating form of conversation. I find your posts interesting, so don't take it personally.

Regarding ideology theory: I shall read the source you recommend when I next feel up to it.  I find theory rather hard to read, and not always that enlightening once I figure it out, but it sounds as if it might be worth it. Your point about truth being malleable is well-taken, although I'd prefer to say that truth is dependent on the framework within which you're working. For example there are true statements within the standard framework for modern economics that stand up to examination within that framework, which have been coopted into the ideology propounded by many "market-friendly" politicians, but should be subject to criticism as a part of that framework. Being overly sensitive to the possible ideological implications of statements might lead one to misunderstand the actual context in which they are being used. Incidentally, when I put a word or phrase in quotes like that, it is because I'm using it to refer to the thing it usually refers to, even though I think the implications of the word or phrase are wrong: in this instance market friendly politicians are usually more friendly to businessmen with fat wallets than to actual markets.

Regarding productivity and prosperity, it looks from the sibling post as if you somewhat revised your views on this after posting your initial reply. I'm not going to go point-by-point through the disagreements in your post, since I don't think that would get us anywhere useful. I want to clarify a few things around productivity, though. In conventional economics, the productivity of labour is the monetary value of goods produce per currency unit spent on labour. It is not a good measure for our purposes, because it doesn't rise if, for instance, an increase in worker education causes workers to produce more stuff, but also causes wages to rise. Instead, I would suggest the monetary value produced per worker hour as a measure. That is harder to measure across an enterprise or country, but we're not really concerned with actually measuring it right now. It is also not strictly applicable in a non-money economy, but you could still imagine some slightly vaguer concept of benefit accrued per hour of work.

Sort-of-quantified this way, you can increase productivity in several ways: you can switch to producing more valuable goods, you can increase efficiency by changing techniques, or using better equipment, or you can improve the skills and health of your workforce, enabling them to work better. If, as you say, you consider the "human resource" to be a natural resource, then your view of prosperity is really very close to the one I'm propounding, except its easier to reason about productivity than about resources, and you still can't accomodate improvements in wealth due to capital investment. Come to think of it, you asked for a logical proof that capital infusion makes labour more productive: well, it doesn't always. Obviously a firm raises a round of financing then decides to spend it changing its name to "Monday" and running an ad campaign, the productivity of labour isn't affected. However, if the firm spends the money wisely, by actually buying new machinery or whatever, it will take fewer workers the same time to produce the same stuff, which means increased productivity.

I was perhaps remiss in my previous post in not really explaining just why I think this measure corresponds well to, or even is the same thing as, a society's prosperity. Is there an indepedent definition of prosperity we can use ? Economists generally used GDP per head, which generally grows over time, and measures the value of the goods and services that change hands in a given time period. For some purposes, a more general quality of life measure, like the human development index, is preferred. That includes GDP per head, but also levels of education, health-care and so on. Apart from when trying to make distinctions between countries at very close levels of prosperity (such as the US versus Canada, or Cuba versus Botswana) the two usually produce similar rankings, so I'll stick with GDP, because it is easier.

So what increases GDP per head ? People could be working longer hours, or people could have entered the easily measured, waged part of the economy from, say, home-making or informal work, but most increases in GDP are thought to be due to increases in productivity in the usual sense of the ratio of the value of goods produced to the cost of the labour needed to produce them. Such an increase might be due to an across-the-board cut in wages, but as a matter of historical fact real wages have risen over time (although wage disparities have increased), so most growth must be causes by an increase in the value of goods produced per unit of time, the definition of producitity given above.

Now, you might say GDP doesn't correspond to any concept of prosperity you'd be prepared to accept. That's fine, up to a point, because I think its a crude and hard to interpret measure myself, but if you do feel that way, I suggest you indicate a definition of prosperity you would accept, and I'll try to phrase my argument in terms of that. Please note that I'm trying - not always successfuly it seems - to clearly distinguish the state of living in an economically developed country (prosperity) from the state of owning lots of stuff (wealth). There is a relationship, in that one of the things that makes a economy prosperous is capital stocks, but there are lots of other factors - education, health, and so on - that aren't directly related to owning anything.

We started down this track because I started out making an argument that the current state of those countries that currently have sweatshops is a phase of development that has occurred in all developing economies. To reiterate that point: We agree wages in the developing world are low in general, and in particular are low in areas that compete with the west. They're low even if you convert them at purchasing power parity (which means measuring how much stuff you can buy and quantifying that in dollars, rather than using the exchange rate), but not as low measured like that as they are measured using the official exchange rates. The exchange rate obviously provides some incentive for employers to employ labour in the developing world, but it is important to realise that it doesn't have a direct impact on the standard of living of the people employed. Where we disagree is on the causal mechanism behing that state of affairs: I would suggest it comes about because of the as-yet limited capital stocks, and relatively poor education and health care in these countries. I think those things will come in time, because so far they have done. I'd be interested in knowiing what you think the causal mechanism is, in more detail than "imperialism", and what can be done about it.

 

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Now we're getting somewhere (none / 0) (#273)
by fathomghost on Thu Aug 22, 2002 at 09:56:12 AM EST

Simon,

I'm enjoying this thread tremendously, but I have to cut out for a bit. It's finals week, and I have to finish two big essays by Monday. I'm going to spend some time researching post-Keynesian theory so that I can get a better grasp of the big picture. That should help the thread. I also spoke with an old mentor of mine and got a list of books on modern social theory and the history and development of imperialism and its study. One of them is a book on ideology that appears tremendously easy to read--little to no discursive jargon.

Soon I'm going to put a bibliography on my user info page for people to check out. I've found that going to college for me really has been about collecting bibliographies. Have a great weekend.

~fathomghost

------------------
"May the source be with you." --The JBoss Group
[ Parent ]
Ratings (none / 0) (#268)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 09:39:42 AM EST

fathomghost,

I notice you've just been through my recent comments and rated a substantial number of them to "1". In fact, I noticed you'd rated several apparently reasonable comments of mine the same way the other day. On that occasion, I retaliated by doing the same to 2 of yours in the same thread, which is my normal policy when I think someone is rating on the basis of disagreement; a habit I dislike intensely.

I'm not going to retaliate on this occasion, because I suspect you might have conceived of your actions as retaliation for mine, and I've no desire to start a ratings war.

If your last batch of ratings are on the basis of disagreement, I suggest you read the site FAQ,  and I would actually be interested in a reply to my last post. If you think I'm trolling I suggest you try to get out more.

In the event that you were just retaliating for my retaliation, I have an offer for you: I will rerate all the posts of yours I rated to "1" in the last few days to whatever I would normally have rated them to (that being somewhere between 3 and 5, since I think they're quite good), if you will do the same. What do you say ?

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Sounds lovely (none / 0) (#269)
by fathomghost on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 06:59:37 PM EST

I thank you for your consideration. I understand you've worked hard on your posts, as I have. I want to keep that level of quality on the site.

~fathomghost

------------------
"May the source be with you." --The JBoss Group
[ Parent ]

So what I'm reading here is... (3.33 / 3) (#54)
by blixco on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 06:17:39 PM EST

....there is no solution.

In fact, it's necessary for the sweatshop to exist. In fact, it's a good thing, since the person working in the sweatshop would have to be unemployed were it not for the sweatshop.

And unions are illegal / immoral / get people killed.

So. That's what apathy looks like these days, right? Hopelessness? The lack of ideas? All the discussion here is about the same fine points, and no one is really suggesting anything. "We're sorry," and we get to say this with a straight face, "but there's nothing that can be done. We've examined all the angles, and this is the best option: status quo."

Well then. Let's see if we can't rev this up a bit, make some ridiculous arguments, and get you damn people thinking for a change.

Solutions to the sweatshop problem:

1) There is no problem. The people complaining are bleeding-hearts who seem to feel guilty about their wealth (and mine). Sweatshops are just places where hard work is rewarded with low pay. That's the way The System works. Stop trying to read between the lines: there is no "in between the lines." This is Capitalism, and it's what Works.

2) Arm the workers, and create a new society. Encourage armed, violent revolution. Complete re-distribution of the wealth. One thousand like-minded reasonably wealthy westerners could back the entire thing (with the right connections in the arms-sale industry). Violence is the only language these countries speak, besides money. None of this wishy-washy crap: take control. Take charge. If anything, this would cause The Gap et. al. to pull right the hell out of the area, and leave things in a self-sufficient agrarian state.

3) Export the workers. Offer better pay and easier work offshore, with a streamlined visa process. Take the labor pool away from the sweatshops.

4) Import better work. Sweatshop workers make 1.00 an hour? Start offering work @ 2.00 an hour, doing some basic manufacturing. Of what? How about weapons, to arm the workers. How about 2.00 an hour to learn a new language? A few thousand bleeding-heart types with a few thousand bucks could fund the whole thing, take the labor pool away from The Gap, et al., and force them to either raise wages or move on. Society moves back to an agrarian economy, and things generally improve.

Heck, get the sweatshop workers to start planting cofee and marijuana, and you'd have some serious cash flowing back in (if cash is what you want). Have them grow food (because someone needs to feed your grandkids). Let 'em learn Perl. Let 'em learn how to make transmissions. Something new, skiled, and multi-disciplinary. Or...let 'em grow crops.

These solutions have a common theme: remove the capital from the capitalists. I mean, if you want to solve the "problem," you have to define the "problem"...which seems to be: money.

I'm all over the map here, how's about some focus? What do you think about more extreme measures? Is the world really so locked into it's current path that it cannot be changed at all?


-------------------------------------------
The root of the problem has been isolated.

Break out the Molotov's (4.00 / 2) (#55)
by ape descendant on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 06:47:38 PM EST

Armed revolution is the solution in my opinion.  The main problem is what to do afterwards.  The people funding the revolution also need to fund some sort of education system.  Call it a loan maybe?

[ Parent ]
Maybe. (none / 0) (#59)
by blixco on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 07:33:46 PM EST

Heck, that might work. Re-structure from the ground up. And of course, I'm all for violent revolution (in just about every situation). I think it would be interesting in countries not too far removed from their agrarian roots.
-------------------------------------------
The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]
How little have you learned from history (3.50 / 2) (#129)
by Johnny Mnemonic on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 08:05:04 AM EST

Cast your mind back to 1848. In England, the peasants had left their apparently idyllic agrarian lifestyle (according to idiot posters) to go an work in sweatshops.

How come they're not in sweatshops any more? Because of free trade and capitalism. The armed revolution route was tried, remember? Communism was going to be the wave of the future. So how come that people in the only communist agrarian society are currently starving to death (eg, North Korea) ?

I can't stand this type of wooly, liberal, guilt-ridden "thinking". If you want people in Indonesia to be better off then ENCOURAGE FREE TRADE AND DEMOCRACY for them. That's what did it for us. You don't need to search around for a magic formula.

In 1723 when Voltaire visited the (according to your kind of thinking) industrial hellhole England from rural dreamland France he said "Commerce has made the English people rich, and this has made them free".

By the way, I'd bet that the workers in Indonesian Nike factories are amongst the best paid in the country. I'd like to see the posters in this thread confront those workers in person and explain to them why they want to take those jobs away from them. "Hey, you can starve but at least I'll feel better about my sports footwear".

[ Parent ]

How little you *know* history (5.00 / 2) (#131)
by pyramid termite on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 08:55:54 AM EST

Cast your mind back to 1848. In England, the peasants had left their apparently idyllic agrarian lifestyle (according to idiot posters) to go an work in sweatshops.

Partially because they were being forced off of their land.

How come they're not in sweatshops any more? Because of free trade and capitalism.

And because they raised enough hell and got the government to pass laws against them - you kind of skipped over that part.

In 1723 when Voltaire visited the (according to your kind of thinking) industrial hellhole England from rural dreamland France

England had industry in 1723? Do tell ...

By the way, I'd bet that the workers in Indonesian Nike factories are amongst the best paid in the country.

Well, you could always look it up with a web search, couldn't you? Here's one place you could have looked, if it was actually important enough to you to be informed about it.

At the time we did our research, the workers were receiving Rp 300,000-325,000 as a basic monthly wage. There has since been an increase in the legal basic minimum wage in the region to Rp 440,000 per month, due in large part to the tremendous efforts of local Indonesian organizers and workers (many of whom work in factories producing for Nike). Though this minor wage increase is beneficial, workers still cannot meet their basic human needs.

Every worker we spoke with stated that in order to meet their essential minimum needs they would need Rp 700,000 per month at the very least as a basic wage, not including transportation allowances, attendance bonuses, overtime pay, etc. At the currency exchange rate on 5/20/01 ($1 USD = Rp 11, 390), Rp 700,000 would be $61.46 USD, making the wage increase $22.82 USD per month, or $0.76 USD per day, per worker.


Hmmm, I guess you were wrong about that, too ...

I'd like to see the posters in this thread confront those workers in person and explain to them why they want to take those jobs away from them.

Increasing their wages wouldn't take away their jobs - Nike is spending most of their wage money on promotion and marketing. I don't buy Nikes because I can't see paying more than 25 bucks for a pair of sneakers, so they're not getting my money anyway.

"Hey, you can starve but at least I'll feel better about my sports footwear".

Or, "Hey you can spend a few years working at a sweatshop, get used up like a Dixie Cup, crumpled up and thrown away, and THEN starve and I'll feel good about free markets and democracy."

Free clue - economic systems compete too - if you want people to stay with our system, make sure it rewards them better in the short run than the Communists will. There's been countries that failed to do that.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Aid instead of trade? (none / 0) (#223)
by Johnny Mnemonic on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 05:48:00 PM EST

Selamat malaam, tuan.

England had industry in 1723? Do tell ...

He was commenting on "commerce" not "industry". I used the word industry to contrast with your fantasy rural past, but I used Voltaire's quote deliberately, because he was contrasting rich England with poor France and one of the key reasons why France was poor was trade barriers and tariffs.

I don't buy Nikes because I can't see paying more than 25 bucks for a pair of sneakers, so they're not getting my money anyway.

Which is what capitalism and free trade is all about. You are FREE to choose whether to buy Nike or not. So don't buy them: are you buying something else from Indonesia instead or have you found some other way to help the workers here?

By the way, I'd bet that the workers in Indonesian Nike factories are amongst the best paid in the country.

Well, you could always look it up with a web search, couldn't you? Here's one place you could have looked, if it was actually important enough to you to be informed about it.

At the time we did our research, the workers were receiving Rp 300,000-325,000 as a basic monthly wage.

How does this contradict me? I didn't say they were making US-level wages. These figures don't mean anything unless you know what other people are earning.

Terima kasih, tuan.

[ Parent ]

I'm sorry. (3.66 / 3) (#134)
by blixco on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 09:01:23 AM EST

But if you call me an idiot again I'll hunt you down and prove otherwise. Don't be stupid.

What exactly has free trade done for us? As a whole? Are we really better off? I agree: communism has no chance. How about something else? Is the only choice capitalism and sweatshops?

According to you, not only are they the only choices, they're the best possible choices. I think that's pretty narrow thinking. I hope the education system in this country encourages better than that...but that's what you get for free, I guess.

By the way, what about armed revolutions that weren't communist? Wasn't the US born that way? Didn't France turn to democracy that way? Why is the only choice of revolution communism for you right-wing types? Hey...here's a scenario: armed revolt, then a general election. Then, some rich son of a rich guy could step up and steal the election from the people, enter into a perpetual war, turn himself into a virtual dictator, and ensure the survival of the corporations that create the sweatshops.

Kind of like we have now.

Would that be the perfect place, or what? "America Junior!" We could encourage free trade, while keeping wages so low that people starve. We get away with this because people breed for free, thus we have a limitless supply of future workers! No guarantee of wage, no guarantee that we'll allow the kind of economic or worker development that we had in the west in the 1800's. No chance in hell that would happen, in fact, because money is more important than life, and you get more money from sweatshops. Thus, the status quo will remain the standard: the guys in charge get to stay in charge, the money stays in the corporation, and the people in the sweatshops replace themselves with their children.

Unrestrained free trade = unrestrained slavery. Maybe that's not the way it has worked in the past, but I just don't see these huge corporations allowing anyone to cut into their profits for any reason now....and the less you encourage them to be fair, then less they'll do to help their workers. It's the way the system works.

So what's the choice for the workers? Get rid of the corporations? Burn them to the ground? Make their own destiny? Get rid of trade laws? Start growing cash crops? Just lay down and accept their fate?

I don't know...but there has to be something that will allow the workers to share the profits of their labor.
-------------------------------------------
The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]

Good grief (none / 0) (#222)
by Johnny Mnemonic on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 05:28:05 PM EST

What exactly has free trade done for us? As a whole? Are we really better off?

Obviously you are, otherwise you wouldn't be in the position to decide whether to buy the sports shoes or not.

[ Parent ]

Are threats the liberal version of "debate&qu (none / 0) (#225)
by Johnny Mnemonic on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 06:10:56 PM EST

But if you call me an idiot again I'll hunt you down and prove otherwise. Don't be stupid.

Although I find your threat objectionable, I take it as evidence that I'm winning the argument. But just one quick point: in my message I said that "idiot posters" are talking about a return to agriculture as a better future for workers in developing countries. I stand by this comment 100% and I think the evidence for it is transparently obvious: we ALL used to live like that and we didn't like it.

[ Parent ]

Enjoy slavery? (none / 0) (#241)
by blixco on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 10:48:36 AM EST

Speaking for yourself alone, at this point, I take it.

My family worked in industry because they had to, not because they wanted to. They went from being landowners (in the classic sense) and farmers to being industrial slaves because the industry in the area poisoned the water, created inflation, and stole their land. Industry was given tax breaks, incentives, welfare. Industry enjoyed low-interest loans, while my family was swindled. Yeah, we really like this industrial / techno bullshit a lot more, let me tell you.

You tell me what sounds better: having total control of your life, or having no control of it. Think carefully; your future depends on it.

As an aside, I rarely resort to threats, unless someone chooses to take one of these pointless and silly online discussions personally. I don't really appreciate being called an idiot, especially for an opinion. You know precisely nothing about myself....or anyone else that you aren't acquainted with. Thus, you have no basis outside of these posts for making personal attacks. I'm used to right-wing nutjobs acting that part out, but you seem to be more rational than that.

It would also be a mistake to call me a liberal. To do so puts me into a political spectrum that I take no part in. I hate whiny liberals as much as I hate nutjob conservatives. To me, there's no difference: they're both narrow minded zealots masquerading as humans.

Hrm. It's my disctinct belief that you shouldn't limit yourself to other's philosophies. It's a bad habit, and one that won't gain you much in the long run. Questions should be asked, all sides should be considered, especially those that you do not agree with. You've become so complacent that defense of your own ideas is all you know. At least, that's the feeling I get from your many posts. As I mention, though, I don't really know you. I have a feeling that if I did, I would probably treat our discussions with more civility.
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The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]

faux free markets, and thinly veiled fascism (5.00 / 1) (#243)
by skyknight on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 01:02:56 PM EST

Unfortunately this is what we see in practice in many places of the world, and in the alledgedly "free markets" of America. Often these days you hear about the collapse of various S. American nations and the inevitable "free markets and capitalism have failed" rant. They haven't failed, but rather never really existed in the first place.

For a market to truly be free, the consumer must be the only one making decisions about whether a company lives or dies, and this decision must be made only by a voluntary choice to either purchase the company's goods and services, or to abstain. Far more often what we see are undeserved loans and grants from the government, often the result of political favors. Property rights of citizens are often sacrificed of political/corporate interests, either directly through taxation to fund subsidies, or indirectly through turning a blind eye to irresponsible polution control. You don't have to look long and hard to find examples. In my native area, New England, I can cite the MA and VT dairy farmer subsidies as seizing tax revenues they have not earned, and various coal mining techniques being used in PA that result in destruction of surrounding towns due to mudslides that bury homes. Then there is the new stadium for the Patriots... I get to pay for something that only causes me to get stuck in traffic. That reminds me... The President of our country got rich by having a sports arena built for him on tax payer money too... BAH!

I totally understand when you gripe about the expoitations of labor by industry. I'm the antithesis of a communist, but I'm not mindlessly "pro-business" like many Republicans are (here we go, I'm letting my libertarian flag fly). I think it's important to be neither "pro-business" nor "pro-labor", because as soon as you start getting special interests backed by the government (who is doing its damndest to have a monopoly on force) you start to see real injustice. I don't have a problem with people getting rich off of their own work ethic and organizational skills. I do, however, have a serious problem with people who get rich by leveraging government power, regardless of the sector from which they are coming. That is where we run into real problems in purportedly free societies.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Again.... (none / 0) (#244)
by blixco on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 01:27:34 PM EST

....outstanding comment.

Maybe some of the newer users will learn that k5 is about this kind of discussion, and not belligerent name calling or argument.

Or maybe it is about that, but this kind of thing is much more refreshing.
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The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]

And maybe... (5.00 / 1) (#246)
by skyknight on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 02:47:03 PM EST

Pigs will fly :)

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
The illegal, the imoral, the dead. (2.75 / 4) (#61)
by chbm on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 07:44:26 PM EST

In fact, it's necessary for the sweatshop to exist. In fact, it's a good thing, since the person working in the sweatshop would have to be unemployed were it not for the sweatshop.
I supose you're unemployed as you obviously don't work at a sweatshop. How else would you have time to write this ?
And unions are illegal / immoral / get people killed.
I'm sorry, in what backwater 1960 south american fascist regime do you live ?

I'll stop now.

-- if you don't agree reply don't moderate --
[ Parent ]

Heh. (4.00 / 1) (#63)
by blixco on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 07:54:16 PM EST

Thanks!

Actually, I was merely parroting what the other folks on this thread have been saying....all of it is damned annoying, too. Thus the title. The quotes you have were my examples of the posts I've seen so far.

As for me....dig into my comment history past, oh, july of last year.

As for unions, I'm a member of the IWW, and I'm from a family of blue-collar unionists....pipefitters, teamsters, meat cutters, electricians, autoworkers, etc. But the solution for this problem doesn't lie in unions. Much more radical action needs to happen. I don't know what action it will need to be, yet, but why not at least make an effort to figure that out?

Thus, the post.

So...what do you think? Are there "traditional" responses to the sweatshop issue?
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The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]

Hello, Advocate? This is the devil... (4.00 / 2) (#78)
by skyknight on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 09:37:02 PM EST

Ok, so you mention armed revolution, but what shall they be revolting against? Perhaps they could burn down the Nike factories, but then that would pretty much rule out any foreign investment ever again. Or maybe they could just steal the Nike factories? Well, what then? Nike isn't going to buy shoes from the recently looted factory. Well... Nike shoes for all the peasants! A good idea until you realize that you can't really run a factory without raw materials channels, and educated individuals to do accounting, engineering and maintenance. The factories might be able to keep it up for a couple of weeks, but then that would be that. If the revolutionaries target the factories, all you're really going to do is have some brief fireworks and then leave a lot of people unemployed and starving.

Awwwwww! But I wanna have an armed revolution!

Alright, but let's find something better against which to revolt. I nominate the oppressive government regimes. Oust the governments that support corrupt bureacracies and enact anti-business policies that keep people in squalor as subsistent farmers or sweatshop laborers. You can have a grand old bit of bloodshed, and then you still have your factories, as well as a good chance of seeing lots more. Everybody will get rich! And while we're at it, we could use a little revolution here too. We can go to the Boston Harbor and use Lipton's Iced Tea bottles for molotov cocktails. Let me know when is good for you.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
So what's the solution? (none / 0) (#79)
by blixco on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 09:47:28 PM EST

Note that I mention...at least twice...that any revolution would result in a self-sufficient agrarian economy. Who needs your money? You.

So the factories pull out. Why do people hae to starve? They have all this arable land. They would have some type of backing (as noted in my comment). They would require some form of leadership.

So....get rid of the government, get rid of the factories, and get rid of foreign involvement. Would that work?

Wouldn't it be fun to try?

In the meantime, here's what I do: I buy things made by folks here in the US, made by union labor. That does *nothing* so I'm all for whatever works. No one has suggested anything that would work. When all else fails, destroy the system. Worked for the French and for the US.
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The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]

There are more complications than on the surface (5.00 / 1) (#95)
by skyknight on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:11:24 AM EST

Would a revolution in which the factories were destroyed result in self-sufficient agrarian economy? You bet! Would people starve in the process of this revolution? You bet! Farming just doesn't have the same level of instant gratification as many other trades. I write a chunk of computer code and as soon as I've finished it I kick it off and it runs. Farming on the other hand requires not just tools, but also several periods of labor, as well as a huge amount of patience. Your crops will grow over the course of months and in the meanwhile, you can pass the time by starving to death. You can't just decide one day "I'm going to be a farmer" and go about it without supplies to tide you over to the harvest, if you're lucky enough to even have a successful harvest.

Quite frankly, I don't see what destroying the factories does for anyone. The people can leave the factories anytime they want and try their hand at farming. You wanna farm? Go right ahead. Nobody is stopping you. You may notice, however, that these people prefer to work in the sweatshops, because whatever they were doing beforehand was even more miserable and less rewarding.

You want to know what the solution is? Quite frankly I'm none to fond of "solutions." Hitler had a "solution" as have many misery causing men of history. I don't believe in solutions. I believe in freedom. It can be a terrible burden at times, but it's almost always better than the alternative. I think the natural human tendency is to make progress in the absence of oppresive government regimes. Leave people alone and they will find ways to gather knowledge and create wealth. Bury them in government regulations and manipulate them with violence and you get what we have today.

If you want to think some really depressing thoughts, take a look at modern america. I am concerned that our current trend here is actually one of decay and decline. Sure, things are still really good compared to the rest of the world, but how much of that is the result of current capability, and how much is the result of past input of energy? Is it possible that we are simply running off of momentum? If you look at the direction in which the founding fathers set us in motion, and the path upon which are currently traveling, you will note that the two are quite divergent. To quote someone famous that you may have heard of:

"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." -- John Adams, 1814



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Well spoken. (none / 0) (#99)
by blixco on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:56:32 AM EST

This is precisely what I remember k5 being capable of.

Thanks.
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The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]

5) Hack reality (long term) (3.50 / 2) (#82)
by pyramid termite on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 10:15:29 PM EST

Use nanotechnology to ensure that useful items are made cheaply and that less people have to work to have them be made. Ensure this technology is low cost and widely available. Watch amused as privilege and eventually money as we understand it cease to mean anything and those who have benefitted from the system most squawk and try to tie up things with patents.

While we're waiting for that to happen many years from now, we establish a minimum wage for what we will import into our country. Less than that, the product won't get imported.

Remember that much of the cost of Nikes, of Disney T-shirts, and of all the other items that are often talked about in this context is advertising. Raising wages would have a minimal effect on the end price. You're not buying the steak when you buy Nikes, you're buying the sizzle. Most of the labor costs are for advertising executives, media workers and marketers, NOT the people who actually make the shoes. Do I really need to subsidize all those people just to have a lousy pair of sneakers? (I wear Spauldings @ 20-25 bucks.) And I buy many of my clothes second hand - it saves me money and doesn't support the powers that be as much.

Most importantly, remember that no matter what you do, some of the things you do, or buy, will have good consequences and bad consequences. Even in a much fairer world than ours, this would still be true. You are inevitably an accessory to exploitation AND liberation. The key is to tip the balance for good when you can - there's enough people who tip the balance the other way as it is.

And keep bitching at people about it. The number of people who are concerned about this issue is growing.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Nanotech = Free Food Machines. (3.50 / 2) (#172)
by Russell Dovey on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 04:51:21 PM EST

The first great social change that will come from nanotech. Free food machines = no more hunger, no more people working shit jobs just to eat.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Problem with Revolution (4.50 / 2) (#84)
by Evil Petting Zoo on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 10:46:49 PM EST

Because many of these companies are American, the American government has an interest in keeping the status quo. I doubt the American government would turn a blind eye to Nike's and the host government's calls for help. This action could be military, or could be economic (like the US embargo of Cuba). Propaganda would be prevalent, calling the actions communist or terrorist in nature, and a threat to capitalism.

[ Parent ]
Need alternatives. (none / 0) (#101)
by blixco on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 01:04:34 AM EST

Why are these companies important? Why is money important?

I agree with you that the companies involved would not sit idly by and let the workers take the economy from the capitalists. It saddens me that the world has become the playground of those with money.

There has *got* to be an answer. There *has* to be a way to deal with being owned.

I just do not know what it is. But maybe we can figure it out.
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The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]

I Agree (5.00 / 1) (#110)
by Evil Petting Zoo on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 04:28:51 AM EST

The concerns of companies are important in any government because they are the most effective tools of employment and redistribution of wealth. Most governments cannot afford to severely alienate or restrict companies trying to operate in their country. Developing nations who attempt this will see companies locating in countries with less restrictive legislation. Unfortunately, this fear will fight against any change in these policies.

Some possible changes we could try include:

  • Force American companies to provide a livable wage to all employees, not just those in the United States.
  • Require companies to disclose the range of wages they pay to their employees.
  • Encourage other governments to pass minimum wage laws.
  • Make it more difficult for companies to restrict the formation of unions.

The problem is that most of these solutions can be avoided. To counter paying higher wages, companies can find some fees (mandatory housing?) to take away the wages they are paying. American companies could sell their sweatshops to foreign companies, who can run the company without the restrictions American companies are under. Companies can try to control any labor union their workers belong to.



[ Parent ]
I urge you to consider the ramifications... (none / 0) (#158)
by skyknight on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 01:56:18 PM EST

Minimum wage laws will cause a whole huge mess of problems you're not considering. Please refer to my comment, #149, titled "Subtle complexities being overlooked..." I don't think you'll like the results of wage controls.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Agrarian economy is not an improvement (5.00 / 2) (#88)
by dinkum on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 11:37:34 PM EST

Violence is the only language these countries speak, besides money. None of this wishy-washy crap: take control. Take charge. If anything, this would cause The Gap et. al. to pull right the hell out of the area, and leave things in a self-sufficient agrarian state.

[...]

Society moves back to an agrarian economy, and things generally improve.

Why do you think that people are better off in an agrarian economy than an industrial one? Subsistence farming is not easy and fun as you seem to imply. I've seen first-hand the conditions in factories and on farms in China, and there is a reason why people try to leave the farms, move to cities, and work in factories if they can.

Some people romantically believe that working on the farm may be hard, but that it's good, worthwhile, and fulfilling. After seeing wrinkled old men listlessly pushing plows through the ground and tired, sunburnt women trudging through fields to harvest crops in sweltering summer heat, I can understand why a rural Chinese would move off a farm even if it means working a 16-hour day at a repetitive, lowly paid job in a hot and poorly ventilated factory. You say that "Sweatshops are just places where hard work is rewarded with low pay," but farms are places where even harder work is rewarded with even lower pay. About 80% of China's population lives in the country and relies on subsistence farming. They work on the farm almost every day of their lives just to make enough to feed themselves and their families.

It is true that the working conditions in factories are terrible and the pay is low, but it's still a great improvement over farm labor. You throw around figures like $1 an hour for sweatshop workers. Actually, in China, a wage of $50 a month plus room and board is typical for moderately skilled workers in the city (such as masseuses or craftsmen). I'd imagine that those working in truly sweatshop-like conditions make even less than that, but the work is no worse than on the farm and they have a chance to earn some money, learn new skills, and improve their life. On the farm, there is no chance to make money, acquire valuable skills, or room for advancement.

Heck, get the sweatshop workers to start planting cofee and marijuana, and you'd have some serious cash flowing back in (if cash is what you want). Have them grow food (because someone needs to feed your grandkids). Let 'em learn Perl. Let 'em learn how to make transmissions. Something new, skiled, and multi-disciplinary. Or...let 'em grow crops.

Chinese farmers are starting to grow more cash crops such as tea, but it takes time and money to develop the transportation and distribution infrastructure for efficient export. It's not as simple as just planting some seeds in your field; someone has to pack it, ship it, and sell it, and very little of that "serious cash" flows back to the farmer. As an economy develops, I would expect to see increasing specialization in cash crops as well as increasing industrialization, but I see these as complementary and not opposing forces. And many Chinese workers are learning Perl and learning how to make transmissions; their economy is developing at a blazing pace, following the precedent of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan when they industrialized.

I agree with you that factory conditions in many developing countries are hideous, but you must understand that it's still an improvement over farm work. Currently four fifths of China lives on the farm. That's nearly a billion people performing backbreaking labor on the farms every day. The way I see it, the quickest way to improve their quality of life is for most of them to move into cities and do skilled work, not to stay on the farm and "grow crops." Sure, computer programming and engineering jobs are better, but people who grew up on a farm aren't going to be able to just jump into those fields. If Gap and Nike build more factories that give poor farmers an opportunity to move to the city, I say it's a good thing. Once the people move off the farms and into the cities, then we can push for better jobs and better factory conditions.

[ Parent ]

Money. (none / 0) (#100)
by blixco on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:59:34 AM EST

Why money? Your argument centers around the fact that farming is worth less (and requires more work) than sweatshops. Why is money the answer? What is it that is required for life?

Food, shelter.

What can people do on their own?

Create food, and shelter.
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The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]

Not about money (4.50 / 2) (#105)
by dinkum on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 02:35:20 AM EST

You're right, I do believe that working in a factory is more valuable than subsistence farming, but the money itself is not the issue. It just illustrates that everyone is better off if people specialize and do more than just work on the farm (in economic terms, the production possibilities frontier expands due to the comparitive advantage of different workers).

Even if you believe that all you need is food and shelter, it's not clear that it's possible to achieve a good standard of living under subsistence farming. The diet of subsistence farmers in China is not that great; mostly rice with little bit of vegetables, and maybe even a piece of meat a few times a year. And would you consider a small, leaky hovel with no toilets, running water, or electricity "shelter"? And when they get sick from the unsanitary conditions, there is no hospital they can go to.

There are better ways of producing food and shelter than for everyone to work on the farm. It was sobering to see how hard the farmers work in China, but it was shocking to see how crude their methods were. I saw people plowing fields by hand. Not a horse drawn plow, or even an ox drawn plow. This man was pushing a plow by himself. People crushing stone with sledgehammers for building material. These are not the best ways to produce food and shelter. I hardly saw any machinery at all; maybe a couple pickup trucks in the village nearby and a few motorcycles, but the farmers' daily lives were essentially the same as their ancestors' a thousand years ago. A purely agrarian economy simply cannot provide much more than the bare minimum to survive.

To improve the nutrition and shelter of these farmers, they need more efficient farming methods, better construction equipment, and a sanitation and utility infrastructure. All these things require better tools and machinery, factories to make the tools and machinery, and people to work in those factories. The point isn't that the factory workers make money, it's that the factory workers can produce things that the farmers need but can't produce on their own.

[ Parent ]

Then why don't they? (4.50 / 2) (#113)
by rcs on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 04:43:38 AM EST

If they can do it, and it's better than working in these literal sweatshop conditions, why don't they do it?

Is there some big secret being kept from these toiling masses? Maybe they have something higher in mind than just being an animal with food and shelter to survive.

--
I've always felt that there was something sensual about a beautiful mathematical idea.
~Gregory Chaitin
[ Parent ]

Re: why don't they do it? (none / 0) (#228)
by abdera on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 07:15:57 PM EST

Is there some big secret being kept from these toiling masses?

Not at all. Sweatshop foremen are sure to keep workers informed as to why exactly they should not leave: They won't get shot to death by the armed guards as they attempt to scale the barbed-wire fences.

Maybe they have something higher in mind than just being an animal with food and shelter to survive.

More like being a living being without bullet-hole sin thier skulls.

#224 [deft-:deft@98A9C369.ipt.aol.com] at least i don't go on aol
[ Parent ]

They don't do it on their own (none / 0) (#133)
by pyramid termite on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 09:00:55 AM EST

They do it with land, rain and good weather. If they don't have enough land, rain, or good weather, they're screwed.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
International Labor Organization (5.00 / 7) (#57)
by Neil Rubin on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 07:21:26 PM EST

3. International Labor Union

Pro - Finally, international jurisdiction to speak for sweatshop workers! They could cross the border of any participating country and clamp down on the wrongdoing. If created, an Internation Labor Union could organize and revolt where the labor workers themselves could not before. Remember, most of these sweatshop workers are too overworked and tired to do this on their own. They need someone in their corner.

Con - We know from the struggles that the United Nations has faced that it is very hard to enforce rules across borders. To make an International Labor Union work, all countries would have to be willing to participate. This could prove to be very difficult for countries such as China, seeing as their resistance to such labor organizations would make them a magnet for the majority of corporations in search of cheap labor.

Something sort of like what you describe already exists. The International Labor Organization (ILO) is actually the only remaining organ of the old League of Nations and has since come under the UN umbrella. I don't know why it isn't better known in the U.S.

The ILO is not labor union, but rather "has a unique tripartite structure with workers and employers participating as equal partners with governments in the work of its governing organs." This structure grew out of the French corporatist model of the early twentieth century.

The ILO mainly provides technical assistance to governments seeking to improve their own labor practices. It also has produced nearly 200 international labor conventions, of which the U.S. has ratified 11 (see Treaties in Force, page 404).

A recent push has been to encourage all countries to ratify eight fundamental conventions, dealing with so-called core labor standards in the areas of forced labor, freedom of association, discrimination, and child labor. Of these, the U.S. has ratified two.

Anyway, the ILO is not exactly the International Labor Union that you describe, but it is working to establish uniform standards of worker protection through multi-lateral treaties and domestic laws. It would be worth looking into.

The closest thing to an actual international labor union with presence in the U.S. of which I am aware is the Industrial Workers of the World, but they are tiny. It's my understanding that they were quite prominent in the U.S. in the time before the First World War. During and after the war, they were violently repressed in favor of the far less radical American Federation of Labor.

4. quit your job (3.50 / 2) (#60)
by turmeric on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 07:42:14 PM EST

if you hate it that much chances are you have no say in whether the company uses products made in sweatshops.

do you think the supply chain management flunkies at apple or microsoft were all born loving the idea of shipping all their factories to china? no, they are all ass kissers who have learned slowly over their careers to be subservient to their managers, and never criticize things like that.

in some areas, such as the Chavez boycotts in the agricultural fields of california, he got help from other labor organizations who would do things like refuse to load the products on boats or whatnot.

unions of different industries will sometimes come together and help each other.

that is why a white-collar computer labor union might work against sweatshops, for many sweatshops are involved in producing computer components.

4. Education (none / 0) (#68)
by Phantros on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 08:49:41 PM EST

Educate the people of the third world countries.

Pro - I'm trying to restrain myself from typing the "give a man a fish...teach a man to fish..." cliche...darn, failed. It's a permanent and realistic solution, unlike boycotts and such. Great investment in the long term, much like the Marshall plan.

Con - This takes decades and a bit of money.

4Literature - 2,000 books online and Scoop to discuss them with

Stop telling them to slash public investment (4.50 / 2) (#123)
by greenrd on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 06:24:45 AM EST

How about telling the International Monetary Fund to stop fucking with their education and healthcare budgets.

How's that for starters?


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

i'm not defending SAPs (none / 0) (#230)
by melia on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 09:02:05 PM EST

but the whole purpose is to get a budget deficit sorted out as quickly as possible. There isn't a bottomless pit of money that the IMF has, it comes out of your pockets, and my pockets, and as a group i shouldn't think we'd vote to pay. It's true that in the long-run education and health are key to prosperity, but the long-run is tens (plural) of years and there simply *isn't enough cash in the world*

Third world governments are like individuals, they need to have managable debts before they can start improving on their assets.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]

Well (3.50 / 2) (#85)
by Hefty on Sat Aug 10, 2002 at 10:49:08 PM EST

I'm sure that most of those workers in the sweatshops would rather be sewing clothes together then working even longer hours in the hot sun doing agriculture. Take away their sweat shops jobs and then those workers are back carrying mud brick across their back for community housing or planting rice in a water field. For them a $1 a day is like a $20 dollar an hour job to us.

I don't know why you're complaining (4.14 / 7) (#97)
by aonifer on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:41:55 AM EST

I'm only punching you repeatedly in the face.  I could be punching you repeatedly in the nads.

[ Parent ]
On the Contrary.. (5.00 / 6) (#107)
by randinah on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 03:28:32 AM EST

There is a page in Naomi Klein's book, No Logo that devotes itself to this subject.

When she was touring sweatshops in the east she had the opportunity to interview the managers and workers. When she talked to the managers they boasted that they were saving these workers from the toils of working all day long in the hot sun for nothing, and enduring back-breaking physical labor. They boasted that these factories were a welcome solution to farm labor.

When Ms. Klein spoke to the factory workers, who are mostly rural types who were brought into the city with the promise of prosperity, she mentioned what their managers had said. The factory workers were furious. They whole heartedly stressed that factory work is not better than farm labor in anyway. They were duped into coming into the city in the first place with the promise of better wages and opportunity, which was not fulfilled.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
Choice (none / 0) (#175)
by 0tim0 on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 05:50:12 PM EST

I've never read her book, but I don't think one source is enough to make such a broad statement. It seems to me that people would go back to their farms if that was better.

If you'd like some anecdotal evidence from the other perspective, try this article in the NY Times.

Logically, it seems that with no sweatshops, these people have no choice. It might be better if they have a choice to do something you might not want to do. Rather than have only the one choice you think is better.

--t

[ Parent ]

RE:Choice.. (5.00 / 2) (#177)
by randinah on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 06:22:59 PM EST

The comments I am getting seem to be stuck on payroll. Yes these are jobs. Yes these people use this money to feed themselves and their families. That's wonderful.

But there is a myriad of things wrong with the system. These people get no bathroom breaks. They work 16 hour days (60 hours a week), and if they are asked to work more than that, they can do little to refuse. These factories can turn into death traps if they catch fire. A sweatshop in China that was making Disney stuffed animals caught fire a few years ago causing the deaths of hundreds of people.

This is a black and white issue for a lot of the people who have posted comments about this article. It has become popular opinion that there are two choices: close the sweatshop and people lose jobs, or keep them going and support these economies. We forget the gray: Why don't we back the thought of having somebody step in and say, "If you don't treat these people like human beings, there will be hell to pay." ?


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
It's all about the money (none / 0) (#181)
by 0tim0 on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 09:35:14 PM EST

I appreciate that you care for these people and you want to do the right thing, but you seem to have a very naive view of the business world.

Companies make products. They would like to sell those products for lots of money, but if they do they will be undercut by their competitors (if there is a market). In order to make as much money as possible, companies will sell their products at the highest price the market will bear and try to produce those products for as little money as possible. Don't feel bad about this fact. This is the very reason our (the West) standard of living has improved every year.

When the production of a product is labor-intensive, companies look for labor markets that are cheap. This will have a dramatic effect on the cost to produce the product. When the labor market is expensive in a given country, companies will look overseas. Again, you shouldn't fell bad about this, this is the main reason companies develop poor countries.

In underdeveloped countries, there is no economy. No infrastructure to support businesses. No skilled labor. Most people can only survive by growing food and maybe selling some.

Businesses that like to take advantage of cheap labor in these countries are taking a big risk. There isn't much in the way of 'rule of law', there could be a revolution at any day and they could lose their investments, the government could change the rules of business with no recourse for the companies. And they still have to ship that stuff to another country.

And while businesses are only there for their own benefit, there are positive side-effects of them being there. They stimulate (or create) an economy (albeit only a burgeoning one ;). That stimulates the development of an infrastructure. And, most important of all, it creates a positive balance of trade. That's right, when you buy shoes from Nike, some of your wonderful American (or European or whatever) dollars are going into the economy of that country.

Sounds very mutually beneficial, doesn't it? It is. "But they earn so little", you say. Or, "they get no bathroom breaks." Let me ask you this, if you were offered a job where you had to work 16 hours a day, in dangerous conditions, without (heaven forbid) bathroom breaks for almost no money, would you take it? Well, how desperate would you have to be to consider it? That's where these people are.

The best thing that could happen to these countries would be for more businesses to open factories. Then there might be a little competition for the workers, and then they might get better money. And more dollars would be flowing in. Increasing labor laws or making sure there is "Hell to pay" for employing poor people at a standard lower than ours is a surefire way to scare companies away from investing in these poor countries. Once you increase the cost of running a sweatshop, you take away the incentive to develop in those countries. (Instead, companies will invest that money in automated factories in this country and leave those people to starve.)

It's the responsibility of the government to create laws to protect workers. In these countries either the governments are corrupt, or they realize it's better to work in a sweatshop than starve. That's why they don't have stronger labor laws. Either way, it's their choice. If it's corruption, then that's what you should be protesting -- don't take away these poor people's only jobs.

If you want to do something good for these people, promote democracy in their countries -- and keep buying shoes. (And don't worry, those economies will grow and the standard of living will continue to improve just like it did in the West over the past 200 years.)

--tim

[ Parent ]

The Point is Missed Again... (5.00 / 1) (#183)
by randinah on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 10:04:34 PM EST

Let me first pose a question; How can an economy develope in a place where the people are paid barely enough to feed themselves?

Sounds very mutually beneficial, doesn't it? It is. "But they earn so little", you say. Or, "they get no bathroom breaks." Let me ask you this, if you were offered a job where you had to work 16 hours a day, in dangerous conditions, without (heaven forbid) bathroom breaks for almost no money, would you take it? Well, how desperate would you have to be to consider it? That's where these people are.

This sounds a little naive. Factory representatives who recruit people don't say, "I am going to offer you a job, but you'll get no bathroom breaks, you'll work sixteen hours a day, if we ask you to work over that we expect you to say yes or your fired. Oh yeah, and your barracks will be rat infested. Did I mention that there is no fire escape in our factory? If a fire breaks out while you're making cute little stuffed animals for Disney you're best hope is to wrap yourself in cloth and jump out of a 7th story window. So, would you like the job?"

Rather, these representatives promise these people the chance for prosperity. They promise they'll have loads of money to send back to their families. All they have to do is move to the city.

It's the responsibility of the government to create laws to protect workers. In these countries either the governments are corrupt, or they realize it's better to work in a sweatshop than starve. That's why they don't have stronger labor laws. Either way, it's their choice. If it's corruption, then that's what you should be protesting -- don't take away these poor people's only jobs.

It may be the responsibility of the government to creat laws to protect workers, but it is our personal responsibility to say we won't contribute to those standards in any way by buying products made by these people.

If you want to do something good for these people, promote democracy in their countries -- and keep buying shoes. (And don't worry, those economies will grow and the standard of living will continue to improve just like it did in the West over the past 200 years.)

Lord knows that there is no hope for Bangledesh becoming a world power if all they do is entice western companies in by means of cheap labor. Conditions for these people will not get better if the system stays corrupt. And as long as there's western corporations willing to support a corrupt system nothing will change. And lord knows I'm not going to keep buying shoes, as you say. I do not back the exploitation of people under any circumstances. I just can't justify it.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
Are you sure? (none / 0) (#185)
by 0tim0 on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 10:45:54 PM EST

I'm not sure why I'm wasting my time, you clearly don't want an honest debate. If you want to believe that boycotting Nike is going to do any of these people any good, go right ahead.

You seem to give these people no credit. You read one page in a book about some people who were duped and you immediatly apply it to every poor person in the world. Yes, some people may have been duped into taking a job, but they can always quit and return to the farm. I've already posted another page from another reporter that says the exact opposite, but you conveniently ignored it.

But I will answer your question, "How can an economy develope in a place where the people are paid barely enough to feed themselves?" Because they do get paid enough to feed themselves. They use that money to by food from farmers who (finally) have a market in which to sell their goods. Those farmers use that money to buy goods and services from someone else. And so on and so on.

That's the start. It will grow if it's not snuffed out by some wannabe-dogooders. How long do you think it will take for their economy to develop if there is no foreign investment? How long did it take for Western economies to evolve to where we are today?

It sounds like you've never visited a third world country. I have. It may be anecdotal, but I can tell you that the things I've seen people do to survive are much worse than sewing tennis shoes all day. When you have a solution for that, then you'll have something.

I know it's cool to hate those Big, Evil corporations, but sometimes (more often than not) those corporations improve the lives of people -- even if it's just a side-effect of their greed.

--tim

[ Parent ]

Yes I'm Sure... (5.00 / 1) (#187)
by randinah on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 12:34:45 AM EST

No I did not "conveniently ignore" the article you linked to. I read it and it is just as biased as Naomi Klein's book may be.

Also, not all sweatshops are the same. There are some that force women to have abortions, yet there are others to be found that let a woman work throughout her pregnancy. Just because the author of the editorial you linked to happened to find two or three boys and girls who were happy to have a job (and quit school no less to get these jobs (!) [talk about reverse affect]) doesn't mean that's the way all circumstances are.

You read one page in a book about some people who were duped and you immediatly apply it to every poor person in the world.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if I remember right, I read the entire book. Naomi Klein visited numerous sweatshops in numerous countries, and from those experiences developed an opinion on the working conditions of these factories. And again, it is just as biased as the editorial you found. Naomi didn't find these "good" sweatshops that Nicholas D. Kristoff found and vice versa. For instance, what is the point of having a sign that says, "No Smiling!" or "No Talking!" Other than to instill hopelessness, and turn these people into drones? In my opinion signs like those are an unnecessary cruelty, just like a lack of fire exits.

Yes, some people may have been duped into taking a job, but they can always quit and return to the farm.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. These people do not have the choice of going back into the farm they were taken away from. It takes money to travel. Money these people do not have.

That's the start. It will grow if it's not snuffed out by some wannabe-dogooders. How long do you think it will take for their economy to develop if there is no foreign investment? How long did it take for Western economies to evolve to where we are today?

There is foreign investment, and there's corruption. I love the thought of foreign investment! More power to Nike, Gap, Disney, and WalMart Corp to give work to these nations. The problem starts when they turn a blind eye to the blatant abuse inflicted on these people on a day to day basis, all the while pretending they're doing them a favor.

I know it's cool to hate those Big, Evil corporations, but sometimes (more often than not) those corporations improve the lives of people -- even if it's just a side-effect of their greed.

These corporations improve the lives of people who live in third world countries only if you turn a blind eye to the ways these corporations have a hand in endangering the lives of these people. It's okay to take advantage of the cheaper wages of a lesser economy, but again, it is atrocious to think it's okay to exploit people. (And these people are exploited regularly. You cannot debate that fact.)


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
Ok then (none / 0) (#197)
by 0tim0 on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 08:13:18 AM EST

Alright. You've convinced me. We should have factories in these countries that apply our standard of living.

So, instead of boycotting these companies and taking away these crappy jobs from these people, why not do something productive?

I think you should go to one of these countries and open your own factory. I don't think the capital investment would be that big (especially given the exchange rate). I mean, what do you need really? A building, a few dozen sewing machines, a dorm, maybe a brick wall (BTW that's to keep people out not in) and a few guards.

You can make sure your workers are all 18+ (although you'd have plenty of kids lying to get jobs so they wouldn't starve). You could have 8 hour work days with two breaks and an hour lunch. You could pay double what the other shops are paying. And you could put a sign on the wall: "Smile, your boss loves you!"

With the quality of living you provide for your workers, you have to beat them back with sticks. There is no question that you could recruit the best workers in the country!

And then, if you can turn a profit, you could use that money to open more factories. It would cause a revolution. Every company would be competing with you for the workers, so they'd have to start being nicer to their employees. Shorter work days. Generous bathroom breaks. Pro-smiling policies. A worker's Utopia.

Really, if you want to do something good for these people, then do something. Sitting in your suburban home complaining about how terrible it is for these workers to all your yuppie friends isn't going to do them any good. Boycotting the GAP (however hard that is for you) isn't either.

And if you don't have the rocks to go open a shop yourself, start a foundation. You and your yuppie friends can pool your leftover sneaker money and donate it to a non-profit organization who can set up profitable, 'socially conscious' factories in poor parts of the world. You can solicit donations on K5. There are plenty of people posting on this topic who feel the same as you do. There is no reason you couldn't raise the money needed to open a shop in short order -- I'll start you off with $1000, myself.

And if you're wrong, and you can't turn a profit, you haven't really hurt anyone. The only thing you would have done is to take the air out of the anti-sweatshop lobby. Which, you would have proven, is the right thing to do. So it's a win-win situation -- all you have to do is put your money where your mouth is.

--tim

[ Parent ]

How Unnecessary... (none / 0) (#208)
by randinah on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 11:23:16 AM EST

I have to honestly say that I resent you calling me a yuppie. I'm quite sure you know nothing about me.

That said, I wrote an article on K5 regarding sweatshops. Why? Because I read a book and it reminded me of just how bad it is for some people in the world and it is the expense of corporate greed. There are many, many other things in this world that aren't pretty. Sweatshops are just one of them that I chose to write an editorial about. Does that mean I'm committed to become a Mother Theresa and use the rest of my life to fight for this cause?

Us westerners forget sometimes and become what we are supposed to become these days; mindless consumers. Is it wrong to be a conscious consumer that tries to reward more ethical companies with money?

As for the solution you mentioned, you make it sound seventy million times easier than it really is. I think you've forgotten the step where I get myself killed over in Bangledesh because I have become a threat to these companies that already have power. I highly doubt they would just 'go with the flow', and meet the new factory standard that little ol' me started. Why not just get rid of me?

Boycotting is not useless. If anything, it raises awareness and embarrasses the company in question. It is at least an attempt at change. I also think it's better than sitting in a computer chair trying your hardest to justify the fact that you still want to buy Nike shoes and devising an half-assed arguement that actually defends sweatshops the way they are run now.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
Developing Economies (none / 0) (#242)
by wnight on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 11:13:51 AM EST

It may suprise you to know that not every do-gooder boycotts third-world products, or feels that they should.

Some companies have moved to Indonesia, Guatemala, and other very poor countries and started factories, ones that are getting international recognition. If the minimum wage is $.15 per hour, they pay $.20, enough to let people get ahead over time. If they want 16h a day of work, they hire two shifts, they install fire escapes and don't lock them. They then match the wages they pay with public-works projects. Building roads, closed sewers, and the like. Bringing real infrastructure to the country.

And they still manage to make a dirt-cheap products because even $.50 / hour (after doubling and expenses) is pretty cheap when only two hours are needed to make a pair of sneakers, or a purse.

There are shades of gray between staying out of poor countries and going in to exploit them. When you're so very much richer you're able to find alternatives that benefit you both.


[ Parent ]

THere's farming, and then there's farming. (5.00 / 1) (#108)
by Apuleius on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 04:09:05 AM EST

Yes, they'd rather work in a sweatshop than say, a coffee plantation, but what if they could have homesteads? THis varies from country to country.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Boycotts (4.00 / 2) (#93)
by hettb on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:03:12 AM EST

Con - Wishful thinking, admittedly. Personally, one can feel they are making a statement by not purchasing Gap clothes. Gap doesn't care. Their new fall line is just too scrumptious for the average teenager to think about the sufferings the sweat shop workers endured to produce it. Therefore, Gap's profits don't take a hit.

My latest attempt was to organize a boycott of USAmerican and British products and services as part of my fight against the belligerent Anglo-saxon upper-class and its amoralism and imperialism; in particular the invasion of Iraq and the planned occupation of the Saudi-Arabian oil fields. I believe it is important that everycome become aware of the hideous crimes being perpetrated by a few wealthy industrialists and entertainers.

But now that I've read your article, I guess I know why my boycott failed. :-( Could anyone please tell me how else I could raise awareness of this issue?

Thank you for your help.

Ooh... another name for Americans (4.00 / 2) (#202)
by RyoCokey on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 10:21:29 AM EST

USAmericans. Well I suppose it's an improvement over USian.



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
[ Parent ]
The aim is to raise conditions NOT destroy work! (3.00 / 2) (#104)
by apokalypse on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 02:31:21 AM EST

I have read this like 5 times already:

"Boycotting products/abolishing sweatshops is bad because people WANT to work, and you will be punishing the workers by destoying their employment"

OK, nobody is questioning that people WANT to work in sweat shops - obviously nobody is putting a gun to people's heads and forcing them to work. And I heartily agree that working in sweatshops is *much* better than working on the farm.

But all that is being questioned are the working conditions: which CAN and SHOULD be changed to bring them closer to Western standards.

As one poster pointed out, even in western societies unions were outlawed in the early 20th century. So we know that unions are necessary in developed countries, even if many people find them distasteful for ideological reasons. So why should we wait for the same slow process of evolution to happen in these countries? Particularly because in most of them democracy and human rights are NOT values like in Western nations.

The real problem is that multinational companies have a choice of many different countries in which to contract labour, and so each country is locked into competition with other countries for companies to come and employ workers. So the countries get into an arms race of cheaper labour and lesser working conditions.

If every country with sweatshops raised their standards of working conditions by legislation, then companies would still be able to get a very cheap deal compared to western workers. The companies wouldn't have a choice, and so would have to accept it, they would still have to employ the workers.

Once there are better conditions, individual workers won't have to work 16hours/day so MORE can be employed to do the same work, which will be fairer and a better distribution of wealth.

The same amount of real economic work would be done, but The GAP and NIKE would lose some of it's huge profit margins and workers might get paid 3c instead of 0.5c for every shoe/garment they make. And we might have to pay a little more for our shoes and shirts.


gun in people's heads. (none / 0) (#114)
by jagbot on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 04:47:24 AM EST

OK, nobody is questioning that people WANT to work in sweat shops - obviously nobody is putting a gun to people's heads and forcing them to work

when cassius clay (muhammad ali) said he wont be drafted in the vietnam war, the judge awarded him 5 years in prison. the jail term is metaphorically the gun on ali's head. if a guy and his family will go starving and have to commit suicide for a release, he will go and work in a sweat shop. its not as bad.

the entire sweat shop thing is due to a stupid exchange rate that is being exploited because different nations went different routes (communism, capitalism, socialism) to become prosperous and only captialism succeeded. only when we all unite as one world and have one currency will this thing go away. for example, can france have a sweat shop in spain? (both are in the EU, have same currency).



[ Parent ]
Some people are questioning the WANT (5.00 / 2) (#115)
by Kwil on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 04:48:07 AM EST

OK, nobody is questioning that people WANT to work in sweat shops - obviously nobody is putting a gun to people's heads and forcing them to work. And I heartily agree that working in sweatshops is much better than working on the farm.

There is a comment below regarding Naomi Klein's questioning of the people.  These are generally poor farmers who are told that there is great opportunity at the factory, go there and all will be well.

Often these people sell their land and possessions in order to be able to afford the trip. Then they get there and find that what they were told is basically a lie. Unfortunately, now they have nothing more to sell to make the trip back, never mind to re-acquire their land. No, they aren't forced to work at the sweatshop, but given the choice between sweatshop work and starving because they were deceived about the quality of work available they rationally choose the sweatshop work.

When interviewed by Ms. Klein, however, they emphatically denied that sweatshop work was better than farming - it's just the choice to go back to the farm has been removed.

The only way to really help is to lobby our own government to ensure that foreign owned companies can sell their products to us as easily and cheaply as possible.  This means drop all import tarriffs and taxation.  Certainly put rules on what we want or are willing to export, but absolutely anything legal to be sold in our country should be able to do so without having to pay extra to get across the borders.  While we're doing that, we need to start lobbying our own government to stop allowing domestic corporations to write off investment in foreign countries from their taxes.

And then to really help, we need to ditch all immigration restrictions beyond those required for national security. The more that labour is able to take advantage of better conditions, no matter where in the world they are, the better conditions will tend to get everywhere.

Finally, we need to eliminate corporate welfare on a global scale. Stop paying the airlines because their business took a hit. Stop paying the insurance companies because their business took a hit. Stop giving companies breaks on taxation unless you're lowering the general level of taxation. Use the money that's saved from this to fuel a much needed improvement in the education systems and R&D.

And while I'm dreaming..
..I'd like a pony.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


[ Parent ]
Root causes: inequality, ignorance and violence (4.22 / 9) (#109)
by damon on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 04:20:50 AM EST

How many people realize that in places like Indonesia and the Philippines dictators were supported by Western governments, so long as the dictators gave open access to their countries resources to Western capitalists? People are poor in these countries partly because of Western greed, arrogance and violence. It's an undeniably ugly history when your grandfather (for instance) was involved in killing a couple of hundred thousand Filipinos last century.

How many people realize that life in rural areas can be miserable because powerful families own all the land while ordinary people own nothing? When people own their own land in rural areas, life can be productive, good and satisfying.

People work in sweatshops because they are desperate to provide a better life for their children, and they feel they have no choice.

Clothing store distributors and marketers who make fabulous profits while the people doing the hard work desperately slave away under miserable conditions are none other than brutal oppressors trapped in the illusions of their own greed.

The fault does not lie with the workers. The fault lies with the men and women who created the system that allows this to happen. It starts at the top in the highest levels of the IMF, World Bank, WTO, and the in the board rooms of companies, in the governments of rich and poor countries.

It's a familiar story: the poor slave away while the fat gluttons praise the virtues of the dribble down economy.

Some will blame the victims, others will claim it is the natural order of things, and some will take comfort in the fact that brown and not white skinned people work in these horror houses, but the fact remains: defending oppression because you are not the one suffering is for cowards.

Damon

Asian Reflection
http://www.asianreflection.com

What if US wins "War on Drugs"? (3.00 / 2) (#142)
by MeanGene on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:07:18 PM EST

Horrors! Horrors!

Colombian peasants are given a choice to work at sweatshops for Nike or sweatfarms for Chiquita instead of growing coca under strict but fair supervision of CIA-approved pistolleros.

Sometimes you just can't win...

[ Parent ]

Workers do so much better when left to themselves (none / 0) (#201)
by RyoCokey on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 10:20:14 AM EST

Excellent post! Shining examples of communism and the abolition of the capitalistic structure abound.



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
[ Parent ]
International labor union? (4.00 / 2) (#116)
by Apuleius on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 05:03:01 AM EST

What you're describing is an international labor arbitration board. And that is not going to happen. No way, no how. What is already happening is labor unions in places like the US engaging in solidarity programs because better conditions for workers in one place means better conditions everywhere. It's already happening, but not likely to be as much good as we'd like.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Better than boycotting: support Sweat-X (4.87 / 8) (#118)
by dmazzoni on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 05:17:07 AM EST

The problem with boycotting the Gap is that you still need to buy your clothes from somewhere.  Is J. C. Penney's or Nordstrom's any better?  What about Target or Mervyn's?  Not likely...

I'm only aware of one company that sells clothing that is NOT made in sweatshops:

  http://sweatx.net/

They're just getting started, so I think that for now they only take bulk orders, like if your organization wants 200 sweatshirts with your company logo on it.  But over time they intend to sell a full line of clothing.

When you boycott the Gap, they don't know that they're missing the business.  But if SweatX starts posting tens of millions in revenue, the Gap will realize that there are a lot of people out there who would prefer to buy clothes that weren't produced in sweatshops.

For shoes, I am very happy supporting New Balance.  Their shoes are mostly made and assembled in the U.S. under good conditions.  They don't advertise or sponsor athletes either, they just make good shoes.  They also make more shoe sizes than Nike or Reebok - I'll bet there isn't a person on Earth who couldn't find a New Balance shoe to fit their foot, while I know lots of people whose funny feet don't fit into any Nikes.


New Balance (5.00 / 2) (#226)
by abdera on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 06:57:54 PM EST

Despite New Balance's push for a squeaky clean image, reality is not so kind. Most of their shoes are made in China under despicable conditions. They're not the only shoe manufaturer that feeds their consumers a line of bull about being "labor friendly".

#224 [deft-:deft@98A9C369.ipt.aol.com] at least i don't go on aol
[ Parent ]

a 'brand' with no logo and no sweatshops (4.50 / 2) (#136)
by three-pipe on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 09:53:05 AM EST

okay, okay, i realise the subject is a bit self-contradictory... but there is another company making sweatshop-free clothes in the US (in Los Angeles no less), and the kicker is this: they dont put a logo on their shirts. in fact, they seem to sell their clothes on the quality of the workmanship and the uniqueness of their cotton weave. and its good-lookin clothes to boot. would naomi be proud?

they even tried riding adbusters' coolness in a recent print ad, which in my opinion was earnest, but to which (surprise, surprise) some reactionary adbusters reader took offense.

americanapparel.net

(pardon also the shamless plug, but i'm not on the payroll :D )


-chad \\ warfordium.org \\
Perhaps they are necessary (4.00 / 4) (#145)
by awgsilyari on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:19:32 PM EST

Having thought about this myself for a few years (not constantly, but the occassional pondering and mulling over) I've come to the conclusion that these kinds of hard-labor shops are necessary.

That is, necessary to the existence of the United States and other supermodern industrialized countries.

The growth of the US technology industry can only be assured if there is a significant base of native workers with the skills and ability to do technology work. If we had to make all our own menial products (e.g., Gap sweatshirts) there wouldn't be as many people left to do the world-domination-type stuff we do on a daily basis.

The US way of life is fattening and selfish, and can only be sustained by oppressing, manipulating, and using the third world as if it was just another mechanical TOOL. To put it succinctly, lifestyles like those in the US simply can't exist without making a whole lot more people absolutely miserable.

Doesn't it feel great to be American?

--------
Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com

What's with this "Whimper whimper we suck&quo (2.00 / 1) (#156)
by jubilation on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 01:51:24 PM EST

the US simply can't exist without making a whole lot more people absolutely miserable.

Doesn't it feel great to be American?
In fact, it does. I love hearing these statistics on how the poor oppressed workers only make 15 cents per day, quelle horror! These numbers never, ever come attached to figures like how much rice can you buy with that money. In short, the (for us) ludicrous salaries sweatshops pay will buy a lot more in Indonesia.

That said, it is obvious that sweatshop jobs suck. How come nobody ever asks what these oppressed people were doing before the factories came in?

How stupid do you think the Indonesians are, that they'd go from being happy farmers to factory slaves? They wouldn't do it unless there were something in it for them.

So go ahead, boycott Nike and put all those factory workers on the street.

Doesn't it feel great to be Fifth International?

[ Parent ]
You're missing the point (4.00 / 1) (#160)
by randinah on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 02:07:42 PM EST

wouldn't it be great to work 16 hours a day in a labyrinth of a factory with no fire exit?

btw...12 cents a day is barely enough to feed their families in Indonesia.

How stupid are these people? They're not stupid, but they're naive farm workers from the country. factory representatives explicitly go out to rural areas to dupe these people into thinking they're getting this great opportunity and the chance of prosperity. When they actually get to these jobs they're barely paid enough to feed themselves and their family, much less save up to go all the way back home.

They don't have the choice to go back to being happy farmers.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
hello republican (none / 0) (#261)
by milovoo on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 06:00:12 PM EST

you're tired of people saying that the united
states could be better, more ethical, more
compassionate?  you know ... maybe you're
right, we should all just give up and put you in
charge, you and your big foam "america #1"
finger could decide all the tough issues
for us whiners.  How about you remember
that the people who do care about others,
are equally tired of hearing from you, maybe
that will help you cope.

-milo

[ Parent ]

Elaboration (3.50 / 4) (#146)
by awgsilyari on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:43:13 PM EST

This is an elaboration on my previous comment.

If everyone boycotted, e.g., Gap clothing, and if the end result actually was the destabilization and collapse of Gap, then (as others have pointed out) there would be a lot of workers suddenly unemployed. BUT, that isn't even the real problem.

If we don't buy our clothes from Gap, then where do they come from? Chances are, no matter which megamall store you go to, sweatshop labor was involved in the production of many of their products. The real problem is, how can we possibly boycott ALL sweatshop-produced products?

In reality, we DEPEND on these products. Say we all switched to guaranteed sweatshop-free products like those from sweatx. How many people will it take to produce these products (through manual labor)?

Suddenly we need hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of native workers, working at good wages, to produce the clothing for the entire US. What sort of economic impact does that have? Can the US even sustain itself if so many of its workers are doing menial tasks?

The US has a highly misengineered labor pool in the sense that many millions of Americans do tasks that are "nonessential," like operating a marina that rents jetskis on weekends, or managing a Starbucks cafe, etc. If we had to migrate labor from these less essential areas into things like clothing production, farming, and the other things we ultimately DEPEND on, we would no longer be able to live the stereotypical American lifestyle.

The US is a bloated pig that just can't sustain itself without sweatshop labor and a thousand other ways of raping the third world. We need the third world to exist -- at least, as we are currently.

--------
Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com

Sweatshop Labor... (5.00 / 3) (#153)
by randinah on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 01:39:42 PM EST

is cruel. It doesn't have to be. American companies could easily go on employing these people and see that they get bathroom breaks without too much detriment to their bottom line.

I'm not against cheap labor. I know that people in less developed companies are ready and willing to work cheap. That's wonderful, but it's not acceptable that they are exploited.

The way it is right now they literally risk their lives to go to work. The conditions are poisonous, chemically. The barracks they live in are rat infested. If a fire were to break out they would be trapped like sardines. (This actually has happened a few times. Once in a sweatshop that was making Disney stuffed animals.)

I'm not against overseas factories. But I am against sub human levels of working.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
what is the problem? (3.00 / 2) (#148)
by khallow on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 12:49:36 PM EST

I was reading about failure analysis and wondering how to apply it to economic failures. That got me thinking about this particular thing. The first thing to do in the case of a failure is identify what the failure is. Ie, what is the bad event. I can't figure out from the above story what that should be.

I guess it is that people are working under bad work conditions in many countries. However, does this indicate a failure of some sort has occured? I don't think so. My argument is that things are better now for a lot of people than they were before. You are seeing a snapshot of a situation going from incredibly bad to better. Further, this trend will continue. You will see greater salaries, greater unionization, and greater prosperity. IMHO, no one has put forth a compelling argument that there is a problem that requires my attention.

Instead, I think the real problem is that good paying jobs are fleeing developed countries. But rather than seem selfish by complaining directly about the job loss, we latch on to the exploited third world worker as our mascot. Ie, we pretend to ourselves that we're doing this to protect Jose in Manila rather than to get that extra dollar or two per hour. Take care that you don't kill the golden goose.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

Failure isn't the right word... (3.00 / 1) (#151)
by randinah on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 01:34:04 PM EST

For businesses, success in this case would be a better word.

They get loads of dirt cheap labor, and all they have to do it exploit a bunch of people who, (I guess this is how they justify themselves) would be working in the rice fields if it weren't for them.

In Naomi Klein's book, No Logo she addresses this.

When she toured some of the factories out east she was able to talk to the managers and the workers. The managers were very proud that they'd saved these people from the backbreaking toil of farming under the hot sun all day. They claimed that they offered a better life for these people.

When Naomi Klein spoke to the workers she mentioned what their managers had said. The workers were furious. They adamantly agreed that factory work is in no way better than farming. If they had the choice, they would go back to farming. But see, when you're only paid enough to feed your family (barely), it's hard to save up the money to move back.

This situation isn't getting better, it's getting worse. At least in the rice fields these workers actually saw the sun.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
some thoughts on clothing and labor (4.00 / 1) (#167)
by Xia on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 03:26:44 PM EST

In Spanish speaking countries, these factories are known as maquilladoras. Not all maquillas are as horrible as you describe, but even when the employer is decent, there are problems with housing, water and other resources. Also, maquillas provide employment, which is desperately needed in these countries. Interestingly, maquillas were embraced by governments in Latin America because they needed a solution to male unemployment, but instead the majority of workers in maquilladoras are women.
I think the general feeling in countries with these factories is that it's a mixed bag. One problem is (partially) addressed but creates new ones.
One more thing to think about: how much would your clothing cost if it was all manufactured in places with good, living wages and a good work environment? Would you be willing to pay extra for that? Could you afford to? Don't be mislead by thinking that people can get by on less money in all countries with swaetshops. Maybe they can in some places, but especially in countries like Ecuador which have adopted the US dollar, the cost of goods and housing is similar to what you find in the US. One of my professors last spring said that she went to a grocery store in Ecuador after dollarization and the groceries cost about the same as they do here in Seattle.
I make a lot of my own stuff, and I've started paying more attention to what it costs in materials and time. If a handknit sweater costs me $1000 in materials and time, and you see a handknit sweater from Peru selling for only $50 at a shop in the states, how much do you think the woman in Peru is actually earning per hour? People will buy a handcrafted thing from elsewhere in the world where the artist isn't getting a fair price over the one from the US where the artist does get paid fairly, simply because they think they're getting a good deal. There's a lot more here that needs fixing than just making sure that employers in factories don't abuse their workers.

yes, (4.00 / 1) (#188)
by auraslip on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 12:42:40 AM EST

they would be more expensive. But think of the money they spend on advertising. So yes, while it may not be economicly plausable for a company who is trendy to not use sweat shops, the other companys will be fine. Also, gap clothing cost 15 dollas for a t-shirt. At minimun wage that is 3 hours. If you work in a factory, where most things are mechanical and computer guided, how many shirts can someone make in 3 hours? Quite a few. So I don't think It's not enonomicly possible to pay your workers minimun wage. Gap and nike are just trying to squeze every last penny out of the world.
124
[ Parent ]
minimum wage vs living wage (4.50 / 2) (#200)
by Xia on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 10:06:26 AM EST

Minimum wage in the US is not by any standards a living wage, which is part of my point. If we paid everyone fairly for what they do, the costs of everything we consume would go up, because currently most of the people who are involved in food or textiles production around the world don't get paid enough. Which is not to say we shouldn't aim for that, just that it would have a significant economic impact, and might be very difficult to completely implement.
BTW, the reason this issue comes up around clothing so much is that garment construction is one of the most difficult things to automate. Every seam in your clothing was stiched on a machine by a real live person. On a t-shirt that's not too slow a process, but on more tailored garments there are more seams, which takes more time...
Also, I don't think the worst problem is with trendy retailers. I think the biggest problem is with clothing sold at places like K-Mart, places people go expecting to get the cheapest stuff possible. The clothing costs so little, there's no way that all that much per garment can possibly trickle down to the factory, let alone the workers. As long as there's consumer demand for very cheap clothing, there's support for low wages and poor work conditions.
Just one more comparison and I'll shut up. I've never shopped at the Gap (it's not really my style), but I do buy clothing from Land's End from time to time. I suspect that the costs they list are a pretty good reflection of what things cost under better employment practices, because they like to profile the mills they use, and generally seem to focus on quality. Also, they don't seem to advertise much, and overhead is probably low because they sell online and through a catalog. A t-shirt from them costs $12. A pair of slacks probably starts around $30, and a dress is in the $50 range. Oh, and my roommate bought a blouse from a local seamstress earlier this year for $30 as well. Anyhow, so there's something to give a general sense of what clothing should probably go for under decent labor conditions.

[ Parent ]
comparative wages (4.20 / 5) (#169)
by tunesmith on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 03:54:52 PM EST

Just a nitpick. I'm definitely inclined to be brought to a state of indignance on behalf of sweatshop workers, by articles such as these. But there's always one statistic that is brought up that drives me up the wall - their hourly rate. They say $0.15 or $1.15 per hour and they don't say anything about how expensive their costs are. It certainly sounds low but without a frame of reference it comes across as something only said for shock value and it robs the thesis of resonance. It's distracting.

15c/hour means nothing to me. For all I know they can actually feed and clothe a family on 15c/hour like a 20k/year family can here - with major painful difficulty, granted. But it could be like 20k/year or it could be like $300/year. I don't know. What would be helpful is a frame of reference. Is that like me making $2/hour or $0.15/hour over here?

What would be cooler is that if there is a really wide difference of money value over there - if $100 could get a family out of there or if $3000 could set one up for life - there should be some sort of advertised system to help them. Like Sally Struthers with her skinny kids. If I had an easy way to not only find out about, but funnel my money towards a link to a completed sewage system in some country needing $50 (whereas it would take 5-10k here), I'd seriously think about sending my $50 there rather than dinner and a movie with a date.


Yes, I have a blog.

Re: wages are relative (5.00 / 1) (#180)
by iso on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 09:17:51 PM EST

This is absolutely true. Wages must be "normalized" to some sort of country average to be of any use. And in fact, there are even more problems with simply raising wages arbitrarily.

For example, if a manufacturing plant were to suddenly start to pay, say, $15/hour to their employees, it can have profound effects on the rest of the (often shaky to begin with) economy of that nation. Think about if, in your country, a factory just suddenly started paying $500/hour. Everybody would want one of those jobs! Nobody in their right mind would want to be a doctor, or a lawyer or an engineer. Why bother when factory work pays considerably more, and requires no advanced schooling.

Ultimately there are some sweat shops in the world that pay far below a "livable wage," and in those cases, something must be done, but arbitrarily raising wages to that of a first world nation isn't the solution either. An excellent and economically-realistic analysis of this problem can be found in the book "Good Business: Making Money by Making the World Better," by Steve Hilton (ISBN: 1587991187). I would definitely recommend it to anybody curious about how to go about solving the sweatshop labour problem.

- j



[ Parent ]
it doesn't take rocket science (4.00 / 1) (#190)
by livus on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 01:35:14 AM EST


It isn't exactly difficult to figure out. The cost of our sort of lifestyle in Indonesia for example isn't famously cheap -it's slightly less than that in the US.

Then, look at their development, education, nutrition, etc -  you'll notice that it is way below what it should be. Conclusion: they're not getting paid very much, hence the standard of living isn't very high.

But, I agree. While it does point out how cheap it is for the factories to talk in US cents, it is more indicative of the workers conditions to compare their minimum and average wage to the estimated living wage of their country. Which usually turns out to be even worse that we thought. You might prefer something like this:

http://www.cleanclothes.org/campaign/liwa99-11-3.htm

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]

True, but they are still very low (4.00 / 1) (#196)
by mudrat on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 07:55:53 AM EST

I would think that Dollar buying power in South Africa is much closer to that in the countries listed than in the US itself. Minimum wage in SA is .66 ZAR an hour (.52 in the Northern province, no idea why). The Rand/Dollar exchange rate is approximately 10.50 to 1 at the moment.

If we take the $1.15 an hour at a reasonable work week of 40 hours then a worker (working a reasonable week) is getting 184 dollars a month. This corresponds to 1900 South African Rands. At the South African minimum wage, the worker would get around  R1070 a month. While the South African minimum wage is low, it is high enough to support at least two people above the poverty line. In rural areas it is probably enough to feed, clothe and educate a small family.

So, this wage is not very bad. While that does not justify the shocking working conditions, wages at the top end of the spectrum are not shockingly low.

The other end of the quoted wage spectrum is ridiculous. At $.15 an hour the worker is getting around R250 a month. This wage is not enough to feed, clothe and shelter a person in South Africa. So, at the lower end of the spectrum the wages are extremely low. Coupled with the bad working conditions it is obvious that extreme exploitation is taking place.

[ Parent ]

I'm looking into it (4.00 / 1) (#207)
by Quila on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 11:08:20 AM EST

I'm thinking of having a certain product made in Afghanistan. I would be doing this through an Afghani friend who wants to legally funnel some money to his friends and family in Afghanistan in the form of honest jobs. There is the silent majority there just trying to make a living, and finding it quite hard to do so.

The labor costs would be very low, far too low to sustain a person in a Western country, but those Afghanis would be making more money than most of the people around them (this was one of my demands).

They make money, my friend makes money, I make money, and people get a good product at a fair price. I love capitalism. Everybody wins when it's done right.

[ Parent ]

What We Can Do (4.00 / 3) (#173)
by Russell Dovey on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 05:02:10 PM EST

The absolute best thing that each of us can do about this is to up and move to one of these countries and start up an ethical business employing locals, and spend your profits in the local community as much as possible. That is what the people need.

It is actually easier in many ways to start up a business in a developing country, for there are so many oppurtunities. You might even come to love the place.

I'm going to do this when I've built up enough seed money back here in Australia. Anyone else game?

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan

this is of course (4.50 / 2) (#210)
by squinky on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 11:36:39 AM EST

exceedingly dangerous.

I don't mean to discourage anyone from doing this, but you should think about what you're getting into.

My wife's grandfather, in rural Michigan USA, became very unpopular with other farmers by paying his migrant labor more than minimum wage. (he was, of course, popular with the workers).

I'd imagine if you do this in another country you can expect death threats at least.

Good luck. Perhaps you could keep a diary about what happens?

[ Parent ]

Government regulation (none / 0) (#178)
by aldarion on Sun Aug 11, 2002 at 07:01:09 PM EST

One solution I think has been overlooked is simply for the government to prohibit companies from using sweatshops, with the threat of hefty fines or criminal action. And lets not forget some society-concious companies actually care a great deal and guarantee that their products are not made by forced labour. Isn't it time for legislation to level the playing field as it were, and make all these companies compete in an honorable fashion? Or do we think "anything goes" in modern capitalism and the pursuit of profit?

-- A Polar bear is a Rectangular bear after a coordinate transform

"Made in the USA" Label (5.00 / 3) (#199)
by Shren on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 09:57:34 AM EST

I just wanted to throw this out - it's relevant to the conversation and I hadn't seen it mentioned.

Many people buy "Made in the USA" labeled clothes because they believe that this is a guarantee against sweatshop labour. After all, nobody could run a sweatshop in the United States and avoid the press, right? Lots of commercials with smiling caucasions have led people to think that "Made in the USA" means that the clothing is made by humane standards.

Last time I looked into this, nothing could be farther from the truth. The USA has a couple territories, far from the mainstream, mainland press, that are technically part of the USA and thus are made in the USA. Out in these fringes, there are places with working conditions as bad as any place in the third world.

It can be very hard to tell what has been made in a sweatshop and what hasn't. The very sweatshop owners know what the label of 'sweatshop' can do to thier sales. Thus, Indian silk, which is often made under harsh conditions, often moves through Italy and becomes Italian silk.

Money launderers could learn a trick or two from the misdirection stunts used to hide sweatshop labour.

Yep! (5.00 / 1) (#209)
by randinah on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 11:25:16 AM EST

That is exactly the trick that Abercrombie and Fitch pulls.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
Fringe areas... (5.00 / 1) (#212)
by otis wildflower on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 12:26:15 PM EST

The USA has a couple territories, far from the mainstream, mainland press, that are technically part of the USA and thus are made in the USA. Out in these fringes, there are places with working conditions as bad as any place in the third world.

Yep, fringe areas, like Manhattan, NY..  Ever been to Hell's Kitchen?  Sweatshops are alive and well in western midtown..



[ Parent ]

I love my job! (5.00 / 1) (#214)
by Dilligaf on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 02:13:54 PM EST

I wear jeans and t-shirt or polo shirt.  I sit in front of a computer and play all day.  Eerr..rather, I keep an eye out on security updates, software updates, and tech breakthroughs, and I make computers compute.  The life of the sysadmin is awesome in this corner of the world.

"Get Moose and Squirrel!"


ponderings (5.00 / 1) (#229)
by melia on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 08:51:12 PM EST

Before I carry on, obviously it's abhorrent that people can work in what are undoubtedly terrible conditions. But, things like this need to be thought right the way through. Incidentally, I'm not terribly good at putting together an argument unless I have about three weeks, so forgive me.

The wage of a sweatshop worker can be anywhere from $1.15 in the Dominican Republic to $0.15 cents in Indonesia, including benefits (but usually without).
Telling me the wage of a worker doesn't really tell me anything. I can't form an opinion on this wage unless I know the cost of living in DR/Indonesia, and unless I know a comparative wage from say, agriculture or even office work. For all I know, this is a really good wage in Indonesia and is three times an Indonesian bus drivers wage. You see my point, anyway.

Boycotts
Pro - People vote with their dollars. If enough people boycott Gap and dirty their public image enough, Gap could find sweatshops generally unprofitable. Boycotting could be cause a serious impact on a company's bottom line.

"Ban it!!" is immediately the response to everything a society finds horrible, from smoking to child labour. But, it's not always the answer, because bans, and indirect bans through boycotts, have massive repercussions. Ban smoking, and does the government lose more money than it spends on treating cancer? I don't know, but you should find out first. Fair enough, it's a cold hearted approach, but it's a pragmatic one.

Let's say that you decide to boycott clothes made with sweatshop labour. What happens? The people in the sweatshop will lose their jobs, it's that simple. As the price of something rises, demand for it goes down. It's already been mentioned that these people have no choice - if Gap takes its business away from these sweatshops, will they starve? Is there anywhere else for them to go? Surely this needs to be considered. Perhaps the argument is that a boycott will cause Gap to improve conditions. But to what level? To that of a US factory? Any time you increase the wage of these workers, you decrease how many are wanted.

Tax Incentives
Con - This action could have a reverse effect. If the government even did put this issue on their agenda and raised taxes, I don't see why a corporation like Nike would voluntarily take their contract to a more expensive factory. Rather, they'd more likely hike up prices and make the consumer pay.

No, the Con is that Nike might decide to make it's shoes in America. Cue hundreds of sacked, starving Indonesians, cue an Indonesian/Global economy crippled by poor trade, and cue more expensive shoes. Anybody who wants to hear a lengthy rant about protectionism and how it is incredibly RUBBISH apply here, btw. Hey, maybe i should write something...

3. International Labor Union
This perhaps could work, if it were possible, but as you've said, it probably doesn't. Essentially what you're suggesting is to raise the wages of every sweatshop worker at once. However, do this, and the price of the Nike shoes goes up, and so you say to your employer "I need a pay rise to afford these Nike shoes" and you're back where you started in terms of real wages. Of course, i haven't really expressed that very well, but it's twenty to two in the morning.

It's all very well to consider this sort of thing and say how dreadful it is but at the same time you have to look at the realistic alternatives, something which many of the books i've read really don't do.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong

I've come to (mostly) the same conclusions.. (4.00 / 1) (#231)
by randinah on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 09:08:15 PM EST

3. International Labor Union This perhaps could work, if it were possible, but as you've said, it probably doesn't. Essentially what you're suggesting is to raise the wages of every sweatshop worker at once. However, do this, and the price of the Nike shoes goes up, and so you say to your employer "I need a pay rise to afford these Nike shoes" and you're back where you started in terms of real wages. Of course, i haven't really expressed that very well, but it's twenty to two in the morning. It's all very well to consider this sort of thing and say how dreadful it is but at the same time you have to look at the realistic alternatives, something which many of the books i've read really don't do.

This is the only point of yours that I would like to clarify a bit. I'm not stuck on just raising wages for these people. I'm going for shorter working hours, (which wouldn't really cut productivity because you can split into shifts and have the factory going 24 hours like most American factories. Heck, it's already probably that way out east except 16 hour shifts rather than 10 hour.), working fire exits, bathroom breaks, rights for women (especially pregnant), and the reduction of child labor. (meaning, say, 13 and under.) I realize that people in different parts of the world *do* have to grow up faster, but you gotta put a limit somewhere, no?

But just like you, and with the help of the rest of the commenters, I too have come the the conclusion that the only feasible answer to the sweatshop problem is a labor union, however unlikely it is to happen.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
can't really think of a good title :) Sorry... (none / 0) (#234)
by melia on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 09:53:19 PM EST

I'm going for shorter working hours, (which wouldn't really cut productivity because you can split into shifts and have the factory going 24 hours like most American factories.
This confuses me a little. You've confused productivity with output, i think.

You won't get a reduction in output per factory, but per person, if you reduce hours, you'll get less output, unless, you improve productivity per person, in which case it would be fair to pay that person more.

working fire exits, bathroom breaks, rights for women (especially pregnant),
Working fire exits, bathroom breaks, they're all (extreme) examples of payments in kind. They cost money to implement, and that's equivalent to an increase in wages. Once again, i'd like to point out that my moral objections are left aside here.

and the reduction of child labor. (meaning, say, 13 and under.)
This points to what i believe is the way forward. I don't believe in violent revolutions or quick solutions, i think the road to prosperity is hard and long. The best that we, as priviliged people can do, is try to help these people carry the worst burdens as best we can. This is pretty much what we're doing, as an example read the ILO's conventions on the worst forms of labour, and also their minimum age conventions.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]

Right (5.00 / 2) (#236)
by epepke on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 11:50:21 PM EST

No, the Con is that Nike might decide to make it's shoes in America. Cue hundreds of sacked, starving Indonesians, cue an Indonesian/Global economy crippled by poor trade, and cue more expensive shoes.

Right. Everybody knows about the successful boycott of grapes 40 years ago, which was backed by trade unions and largely led to improvement. Nobody remembers the unsuccessful boycott of potatoes 50 years ago, which led to all the potato pickers getting fired and replaced by machines.

International Labor Union This perhaps could work, if it were possible, but as you've said, it probably doesn't.

Look, I know I'm the geriatric member of K5, but does anyone else remember the "Look for the Union Label" song on the television commercials by the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union? No? I didn't think so. I suppose there isn't anybody who remembers how, a few years later, everyone who thought highly of that sentiment was attacked as some sort of right-wing Nazi, against all of the poor third-worlders? No, I didn't think so, either.

It's all very well to consider this sort of thing and say how dreadful it is but at the same time you have to look at the realistic alternatives, something which many of the books i've read really don't do.

I agree with you, but there's also a point beyond even this vapidity where it becomes a matter of pure bulldada. These things tend to go in cycles, with a period greater than the average Outraged Young Person's attention span. Nyquist and Shannon are not mocked. I can remember times when Argentina was a model of a fine progressive Hispanic economy, food drops were considered a good way to relieve famine, belly dancing was "ritual Feminist dancing," and economic sanctions were the Left's perfect answer to make war obselete.

So, what's the answer? Well, there will always be oppression, and there will always be outrage and simplistic solutions, and there will always come more oppression as a result of the simplistic solutions. One can only hope that the muddle of humanity will itself tend to balance out in time, not because of but in spite of short-sighted meddling.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
RE: Right (none / 0) (#248)
by randinah on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 04:13:58 PM EST

So, what's the answer? Well, there will always be oppression, and there will always be outrage and simplistic solutions, and there will always come more oppression as a result of the simplistic solutions. One can only hope that the muddle of humanity will itself tend to balance out in time, not because of but in spite of short-sighted meddling.

Until humanity balances out, (and it won't happen on its own, enough people have to get angry at the way things are to effect any sort of change), I personally cannot justify buying products from companies that partake of exploiting people for the sake of greed.

In the world there are two types of people. The ones that sit back and say "eventually things will happen and get better, but until than, there's nothing we can do." And there are the other type that, no matter how big of a wall there is to climb, they at least try to illicit change because not doing so is essentially giving permission to these corporations to abuse people.

It's up to the individual to decide which one to be.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
but... (none / 0) (#253)
by melia on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 07:36:28 AM EST

I personally cannot justify buying products from companies that partake of exploiting people for the sake of greed.

But it's been pointed out that by not buying the products, you're making the situation these people are in worse.

And there are the other type that, no matter how big of a wall there is to climb, they at least try to illicit change because not doing so is essentially giving permission to these corporations to abuse people.

This is not a case of "at least i tried" - if you try, and end up making the situation worse, there is no excuse or consolation. I've never said that we should sit back and let people be abused, but we should shy away of quick solutions that at first sight, sound as though they can solve the problem.

I remember being taught in some geography class about the US dropping a great big load of grain on some starving country. Sounds like a great idea, but the glut of grain depressed the price, so a lot of small farmers went out of business and next harvest there was an even smaller crop. An example like that makes you think a lot more carefully about... stuff.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]

Double Edged Sword.. (none / 0) (#258)
by randinah on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 05:08:40 PM EST

I'll use Nike Shoes as an example. If I buy them, I'm telling the company "good job, you've convinced me that owning Nike products is essential to playing good sports and I have no beef with your coporation!" If I do not buy Nike shoes, I'm essentially telling them nothing. I don't need them, I don't play sports, the advertising hasn't worked on me, or maybe I feel a moral obligation to not support the activities that Nike involves itself in. It's my duty to take it one step further and tell Nike that the last reason is indeed the case, to try to illicit change in the way Nike turns a blind eye towards 3rd world sweatshop abuse.

This is not a case of "at least i tried" - if you try, and end up making the situation worse, there is no excuse or consolation. I've never said that we should sit back and let people be abused, but we should shy away of quick solutions that at first sight, sound as though they can solve the problem.

When I choose to not buy Nike apparel, I'm not trying to solve the problem in that one action. It's silly to think that that alone would illicit any wort of reacion. It's like pricking an elephant with a pin.

I also think that through not buying Nike shoes I am making any situation worse. Nike could have any one of a billion reasons for taking jobs away from people who need them in say, Afghanistan to people who need them in Sri Lanka. Perhaps people in Sri Lanka are willing to work for less, perhaps the Sri Lankan government allows looser export laws, perhaps the Sri Lankan government is willing to put a military force behind Nike's decisions. Nike does not consider the consumer when they make their business decisions. They consider the dollar.

So in conclusion, I don't feel bad about boycotting Nike. At least I get to prick the big elephant with a pin and see if it reacts.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
action in the singular (none / 0) (#267)
by melia on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 06:41:43 PM EST

pickin' daisies by the road, you shouldn't do it, cos if everyone did, there'd be no daisies left.

Don't take antibiotics for colds, neither.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]

Consumer demand meanderings from Bbonnn (5.00 / 1) (#233)
by Bbonnn on Mon Aug 12, 2002 at 09:46:38 PM EST

I remember hearing in a late 1990s college journalism class that American companies spend about $700 per year on every person in the United States for advertising. (Please pardon the lack of source; it was thrown out as an example in a class. Regardless of the ability to source the statement, we all know that it costs a ridiculous amount of money to run a TV or print ad. Add up the total advertising dollars spent, divide that by the number of people in the United States, and you'll see what I mean -- if not exactly $700, then, well, a lot).

We bewail a $79 pair of shoes that actually cost $5.37 to make, with the rest of the price devoted to convincing us we needed to buy the shoes in the first place -- paying celebrity endorsers, sponsoring sports events, paying for the actual TV time of ads, producing the ads, paying the administrators, paying the store to stock it visibly, etc. And yet, many analysts insist that the market is supposedly driven by consumer demand, and not desires created by ads. Fine. Let's use that to our advantage.

I agree that to boycott a company's products ultimately punishes the workers producing the goods. However, we're also told to "vote with your dollar" to encourage change at multinational corporations. How do we do that? Especially when we know so many of our dollar-votes are going into advertising?

Above, a poster suggested education of workers as a solution. I suggest the opposite as well: educate the consumer. Show how effective a smal-dollar guerrilla ad campaign can be. Hold rallies outside popular stores like the GAP et al and tell people to go ahead and buy the clothes just like in the ads, but also ask them to urge the GAP et al to change their labor practices. A large number of viable (important concept: people who actually buy the stuff) consumers contacting these companies, urging them to be accountable for workers' conditions, and indicating that they would monetarily support fair labor practices, is a different way to "vote" with the dollar. As in, "I buy your stuff. I have proven that I am interested in the products you purvey. Here is what I will buy in the future."

Not to start another tirade, but rather to use as an example ... SUV manufacturers claim that it was "consumer demand" that "forced" them to produce more SUV's for the public. All righty. Let's use consumer demand to "force" sweatshop contractors to produce what the public wants -- products that were made the way we "demand."

What are the alternatives? (3.00 / 1) (#239)
by werner on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 10:22:36 AM EST

India tried to reduce child labour. Deprived of a source of money, many children were forced into prostitution. Sweatshops ain't good, but whoring is worse, and until a viable alternative exists, they remain the lesser of two evils. Better a shit job than selling yourself / crime.

Shit Jobs (4.00 / 1) (#240)
by randinah on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 10:45:07 AM EST

It is not necessary to take jobs away from people to make the sweatshop situation better. If there were an organization powerful enough, they could 'force' factory owners to improve the conditions of these sweatshops.


"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
Missing the bigger problem. (5.00 / 1) (#249)
by HypoLuxa on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 04:45:26 PM EST

The bigger problem in my mind is why these children had to work in the first place. They suffer from the sweatshop system because their parents suffer from the sweatshop system. Without their parents being able to make a living wage, the children have to bring in extra income. The problem with child labor has nothing to do with how children work, but why they have to in the first place.

--
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons.
- Leonard Cohen
[ Parent ]
my thought (4.00 / 1) (#252)
by jmd2121 on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 03:59:24 AM EST

food grows on trees.

why do we all have jobs again?






No Logo - Naomi Klein (4.00 / 1) (#257)
by thycotic on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 04:21:15 PM EST

I noticed the author of this article mentioned that he was inspired by the book "No Logo". A friend gave me this book as a gift and I honestly couldn't put it down! I knew very little about marketing, branding and the change in labor markets but it was very educational. I thoroughly recommend this book if you want to know more about this topic.

More reviews of the book here [amazon.com]

And no - I don't have an interest in selling the book! :-)

Swaetshop products = Cheap quality (4.00 / 1) (#264)
by the shape of water on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 11:47:59 PM EST

Want to get teenagers without more than 2 braincells to avoid Nike and Gap?  

Get it into the teenager society that since their products are made in China and other places where the work is cheap, the quality of those clothes is crappy.  Engineer cool to be the slightly more expensive brands (carefully research these as not to pick a sweatshop brand).

This will cause peer-pressure to take over and before you know it they'll be making fun of anybody who cannot afford good quality.

It's not easy to break into the teenager society but once you do it's like dominos where one will carry the message on to the others and so forth.

No Smiling! | 275 comments (272 topical, 3 editorial, 1 hidden)
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