Apple is NOT the Problem. WE are.

Apple has been in the news a lot lately, and not just beating the human birthrate in fourth-quarter iphone sales. Word is getting out about working conditions at the Foxconn plant in China, for instance. This American Life had an interesting piece on the same topic last month.

But let me make this perfectly clear: Apple is not the problem.  Mr. Daisey, in the This American Life piece, makes it clear that these factories in China don’t build just Apple products.  they build virtually all of the personally electronic devices we all like.

And it is not enough that we all like, and have mostly convinced ourselves need, these phones and tablets and netbooks etc. Most of us have also convinced ourselves of these two things

  1. that we deserve newer and better devices approximately every year and
  2. that we ought not have to pay very much for them.

Because we want newer and better gadgets at incredibly cheap prices, China (and other countries) will continue to work people in conditions you and I would never agree to work in.

Apple is not the problem.  We are.

Are you willing to update your phone every 3 years instead of every year or 18 months?  Would you be willing to pay maybe twice as much for a tablet computer or netbook or ultrabook?

Does decent working conditions and fairer wages figure at all into your willingness?

I decided about six years ago that I would buy only fair trade coffee. Thus, I felt, I was doing something to help the people who actually farm the coffee to live better lives.

Would I be willing to purchase only fair trade electronics if there were such a thing?

Would you?

3 thoughts on “Apple is NOT the Problem. WE are.

  1. Yes, I would pay more to have greater assurances that my technology was being humanely produced. I think companies like Apple (and all the others) should start creating “fair trade” programs for consumers so we can start making these kinds of choices.

    BTW — I’ve heard the additional cost for an iPad would be closer to +$50. I’m not sure where you’re getting your “twice as much for a tablet computer” estimate from, but it seems inflated to me.

    And, I agree with you, we need to be taking more responsibility to put pressure on these companies to address these issues. I believe that’s starting to happen, and I believe a popular movement is reaching a tipping point which could lead to this happening quite soon:

  2. Wow, great point. And I think this is where our ingrained American capitalism takes the stage, front and center. We’re trained to think that not only SHOULD we get a new phone or whatever as often as possible, we HAVE to… to support our economy, to be “tech-savvy”, to show off our status with the newest toy… and that we shouldn’t have to pay more than X. But then company B wants to compete so they sell us our toy for X minus $10. We’re told it’s the American way… but it’s steamrolling workers in other countries. A few years ago when I heard all those stories about how horribly Wal-Mart treats their foreign (and domestic) workers, I decided not to shop there. Doing my little “protest” certainly won’t hurt a giant like Wal-Mart, but maybe I need to broaden my boycott. But how to get others to follow suit??? It seems like an impossible task…

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