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Author Topic: If you are against capitalism, why DO you have an iPhone?  (Read 3461 times)
Illiterati
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« on: March 22, 2012, 10:03 am »

Hi. As you may already know, I am not the smartest person! I do not understand many things, and even if things are explained to me I may still continue to not understand them, so please bear with me on this.

I am asking this question because I have read on the internet (twitter specifically) where a dude said ""if you're against capitalism why do you have an iPhone" is the new "yeah well Marx had a job so obvs even he knew he was wrong LOL RITE"" and (possibly) bad analogy aside, I was wondering if there really is no disconnect between owning a device that directly contributes to the mistreatment of workers (from what I understand of Foxconn) and possibly other Bad Things that ripple through the developing world as an effect, and being against Capitalism (which is Bad).

I know that nobody is innocent; every manufacturer contributes one way or another to slave labor, child-labor, destroying the environment, funding wars, etc. all for monetary gain, and that buying anything at all would make you in some way complicit. But I am just asking if there is any way to reconcile owning super-cool gadgets borne from the sweat and blood of some brown factory worker and being so vehemently against the corporations that own or contract them and their practices???

Please let me know, thanks.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2012, 10:47 am by Illiterati » Logged

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pingollum
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« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2012, 10:37 am »

Dammit Lit, it took a couple of re-reads to determine whether or not your account had been taken over by capitalist iphone spambots.

Maybe a mod could change the thread title's misleading "who" to the appropriate "why".
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Illiterati
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« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2012, 10:47 am »

Title changed for convenience!
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Bettytron
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« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2012, 11:31 am »

This is a thing I've been thinking a lot about, too. I don't think there IS a way to reconcile it, in terms of being totally ideologically consistent. I also think that ideological consistency is probably impossible to achieve, and most of us have our own personal justifications that come after we decide which luxuries we want.

Cord Jefferson wrote this piece for GOOD that advocates simply buying fewer gadgets, only what you need, used or refurbished if possible.

However, in his next column, he wrote this:
Quote
My piece hadn't been live for more than a day when my friend and GOOD's business editor Tim Fernholz told me he disagreed with me. Tim believes that instead of buying fewer electronics to help the poor people involved in their production, the ethical consumer should actually buy more, which will result in gradual but significant upticks in living and working conditions in the Third World. Award-winning New York Times  columnist Paul Krugman agrees. "Since export-oriented growth, for all its injustice, has been a huge boon for the workers in [developing countries]," Krugman once wrote in Slate, "anything that curtails that growth is very much against their interests. A policy of good jobs in principle, but no jobs in practice, might assuage our consciences, but it is no favor to its alleged beneficiaries."

I mean, people ARE lining up for jobs at Foxconn, no matter how Dickensian the conditions seem to us, most of China lives in poverty and Foxconn jobs are a good-sounding alternative. iPhones seem like the most egregious example because the markup is so tremendous, but probably most of the things we own that are made in China have even lower labor costs and are produced in even worse conditions. Does that mean we should exploit these terrible conditions so we can have shiny stuff? Nope! But outright boycotting may not be the answer either.

And plenty of companies take advantage of the weakened economy in the US, too. Amazon and Zappos and similar companies use temp labor in their warehouses to avoid paying benefits, better wages, or offer comfortable working conditions. This Mother Jones piece is worth reading.

Basically, this is where I stand: We live in and are embedded in a largely capitalist society. Even if you pick food out of the garbage freegan-style and upcycle junk and repair worn out clothes, you're still using material that is a by-product of that system. I don't think that trying to cut yourself out of society entirely is either possible or necessarily helpful to any cause, especially because you're never going to convince a large swath of society to go along with you. I think it's possible to reconcile owning a smart phone with objecting to unethical labor practices, and there are ways to be a responsible consumer. Don't buy the latest iPhone every time it comes out, don't use Amazon Prime, and in the meantime be vocal about workers' rights, put pressure on legislators to create opportunities for better jobs at home, and put pressure on companies not to take advantage of bad economic situations abroad. Everybody buy less stuff, all the time.
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jimbob
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« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2012, 03:04 pm »

Here's some articles and graded lists that I got from a google search for ethical mobile phone.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/green-living-blog/2011/may/10/green-ethical-mobile-cell-phone
http://www.ethiscore.org/reports/free/mobile_phones.aspx
http://www.gooshing.co.uk/mobile_phones/#

I'm not very clever today, but there is a huge problem with the argument that we should support the most exploitative companies just because they are likely to be employing the most vulnerable people. Better to support the ethical companies, allowing them to expand and increase their share of the labour market at the expense of the more exploitative companies.
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Bettytron
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« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2012, 04:13 pm »

Based on those links, neither of the first two offer much in the way of a solution, and the top phone on the last link is pretty environmentally friendly, if that is your concern, but it looks like Sharp still uses conflict minerals, and I can't find a source for where the bulk of their manufacturing is done. No fault of yours, but none of those links offered information on working conditions.

It seems like even then you have to pick and choose among your causes, right? If we're talking about working conditions and workers' rights, it doesn't seem like there IS an ethical alternative, although hopefully the negative press Foxconn's received will at least make it more widely reported among various manufacturers.

I'm not very clever today, but there is a huge problem with the argument that we should support the most exploitative companies just because they are likely to be employing the most vulnerable people. Better to support the ethical companies, allowing them to expand and increase their share of the labour market at the expense of the more exploitative companies.

On this I completely agree with you. I thought the Krugman thing was worth pointing out just because he's smart and seems like he knows what he's talking about, most of the time? I don't know enough about global economics to begin crafting a rebuttal of his points, although Jefferson's article above seems more persuasive, which is why I'd advocate buying less stuff in general.

If I knew of an electronics manufacturer with ethical working conditions I'd certainly buy from them and encourage other people to do so. In the meantime, I don't think that buying an iPhone automatically negates someone's political opinions, for the reasons I stated above.

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RummyLu
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« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2012, 04:31 pm »

Richard Stallman manages to do it but the side effect is that he's horrifically insufferable and lives in some weird disconnect.

I may elaborate in the morning when I'm not well into a bottle of wine OR I MAY NOT. Who knows (or cares.)
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« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2012, 04:52 pm »

I may elaborate in the morning when I'm not well into a bottle of wine

There will not be such a morning, surely?
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« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2012, 04:58 pm »

I've got an app that predicts this somewhere...
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« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2012, 06:22 am »

Betty touches on an important issue in this context: With a lot of goods, right now there is no ethical choice. Virtually all clothes are made between India, Bangladesh and China, in horrible working conditions, whether it's cheap store-brand stuff or fucking Armani. Fair clothing stores are few and far between, and usually not affordable (at least for me). They also often cater to a specific subculture and don't make a lot of things you could wear to the office.

But we still have to function in society.

What do we do? Not owning a mobile phone is not a real option for anyone, as many humanitarian and ecological concerns you may have about them, but not using it is not the only viable consequence of having an opinion or even a conviction against something. The point of protesting against Chinese working conditions is not to change the cultural outlook toward iPhones wherever you are. The point is changing the working conditions.
Now, personally I think that protest via wallet is a very effective method that people should use, but it's not the only one. Everyone has to decide how far they want to follow through for themselves, and as long as you're not beating a sweatshop worker for not working hart enough with your protest sign, I'm gonna assume that you're serious about the cause.
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« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2012, 08:03 am »

Side note: Karl Marx didn't have a job, he pretty much relied on some shitty book sales and the good will of his mate Friedrich Engels who had a pile of money.

As you were.
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werty
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« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2012, 01:48 am »

You could buy used electronics. I believe they have kids (and adults I've sure, but it's extra screwed up that kids have to do it) in other countries pick through them for useful components, or salvage.

So if you buy a used iPad it's like a double win -- nobody has to suffer to make another one, nobody has to suffer to clean it up.

The super-cool features of an iPad are mostly marketing anyway.
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Tenebrous
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« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2012, 11:51 pm »

It is a ridiculous question to ask.  It's like asking, if your against car accidents, why do you drive?  You are contributing to the problem by driving yourself.

Even the Soviet Union had consumer goods.  They were poorly, hard to come by, and had little to no selection, but if they were still around I'm sure they would have iLenins or some or some other shitty mp3 player.

Being "against capitalism" is far to broad a brushstroke to be anything but a strawman, so it is hard to go into any more detail, but something can be said.  Usually someone who is "against capitalism" is look for the wealth range to be narrowed.  Far greater taxes on the rich and corporations and better wages for the bottom rungs.  If apple made its working conditions in its factories better, and got taxed more, it could still make profit, but it might be more along the lines of 1 billion instead of 6.62 billion it made in net profit (not revenue, profit), in a fiscal quarter last year.

This doesn't mean no more iWhatevers.  Just more people can afford them, and the richest don't get as much more richer.
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Chronicles
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« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2012, 12:08 am »

And your response to claims that you blow whale dick?
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Tenebrous
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« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2012, 12:10 am »

My mouth just isn't that big, no matter how hard I try
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« Reply #15 on: April 24, 2012, 12:12 am »

Noted
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