The True Cost of our cheap gadgets

Fun with supply and demand.
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The True Cost of our cheap gadgets

Post by kennyc » Mon Nov 03, 2014 1:08 pm

The true cost of our cheap gadgets


As consumers in a rapidly growing world economy, we have an insatiable appetite for the next greatest electronic gadget, like smartphones and TVs. Film for 'We the Economy' asks: Can we consume cheap imported products without exploiting someone in the supply chain? ... KT_Taboola" onclick=";return false;
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Martin Brock
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Re: The True Cost of our cheap gadgets

Post by Martin Brock » Mon Nov 03, 2014 2:51 pm

The tragedy is that some people in parts of Indonesia are still so desperately poor that mining tin as depicted in this video is their best option. Improving these working conditions doesn't necessarily raise the cost of production, but improvements that do not raise cost almost certainly involve automation reducing demand for the labor, and improvements that raise the cost also reduce this demand by reducing demand for the tin. We don't see in this video Indonesians who are not mining tin but are attracted to these mines because their alternatives are even worse, though one person in the video mentions these people.

So what are you proposing? If I refrain from buying a smart phone, or products like tin foil using vastly more tin, how am I helping? Reducing demand for tin only pushes some of the people working in these conditions back into the conditions they left for these. Am I supposed to contribute to some organization lobbying the Indonesian government to order improved working conditions, which would have the same effect all else being equal? Are you proposing a welfare state supporting their living standards, without improving their productivity, instead? Are Indonesian tax payers supposed to provide this support, or are you volunteering too?

As a side note, since an alleged war on women is a talking point these days among U.S. politicians, who flap their lips in far more comfortable working conditions, all of the people working in these appalling conditions in Indonesian tin mines, without a single exception that I saw, have a penis. If women dominated this work, the story would almost certainly have noted this fact, but when men dominate this sort of work, gender discrimination is rarely an issue. This pattern is so obvious and pervasive that we don't see it when it's directly in front of us.
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