Our new Indie Games subforum is now open for business in G&T. Go and check it out, you might land a code for a free game. If you're developing an indie game and want to post about it, follow these directions. If you don't, he'll break your legs! Hahaha! Seriously though.
Our rules have been updated and given their own forum. Go and look at them! They are nice, and there may be new ones that you didn't know about! Hooray for rules! Hooray for The System! Hooray for Conforming!

[Electronics and Labor] - Everyone needs to listen to this story by This American Life

1235»

Posts

  • SaammielSaammiel Registered User regular
    Some overall points, mostly in response to Fallout2Man;

    First - Increased automation won't help these people, it would harm them. Barring prisoner labor and other forms of coerced labor, these people choose to work in sweatshops because the alternatives are worse. Mass exodus from rural areas to urban areas in the developing world is driven by this simple fact. Automation increases unemployment by shifting away from the use of labor. It is good from a productivity and effeciency standpoint and I'm not suggesting anyone actively oppose it, but there are very real consequences.

    Second - The 'decline' of US manufacturing wasn't driven soley by outsourcing, nor by energy prices. You can even argue that there wasn't a decline at all. In Real terms, output has generally increased year over year in the United States, while employment fell. That is due to productivity improvements, including the above drive towards automation. You can certainly argue that policies had an effect on manufacturing output on the margin, but it didn't decline in dollar terms.

    Third - The idea that we can engage in some form of global income redistribution system via foreign aid is fantasy. There are distribution problems, collection problems, basically problems all around. The political process is a terrible way to try to afford non-citizens some basic standard of living. Even when there is consensus and the goals are limited, it usually fails to acheive said goals.

    Fourth - It seems hypocritical to accuse corporations of exploitation and colonialism while at the same time advocating that the Western world's governments actively try to meddle with the policies of foreign governments via foreign aid and other mechanisms. That strikes me as rank paternalism. Why should the United States (or any other state for that matter) be the final arbiter on what level of worker protection is appropriate for the Chinese people? We don't live in a utopia and all countries make trade-offs between economic development and worker rights.

  • PureDekadenzPureDekadenz Registered User
    edited January 2012
    Melkster wrote:
    mcdermott wrote:
    Organichu wrote:
    my mind is having trouble conceiving of a site that employs 300,000 people. even assuming management only works 8 hours instead of 12 and there are three shifts, that's 100,000 people at the same time. that is so fucking huge. how many people work in the pentagon at once? mind baffling.

    I think it's less than 50K at the Pentagon. I think more on the scale of a university, which can have 50K students plus a few thousand faculty on-site every day. And they're often incredibly spread out. So I guess it's not hard for me to imagine such a site, it'd just be pretty dense.

    Also, remember that most of those 300,000 people actually live there too.

    And yeah, I work at a university, one of the largest in the United States. ~65k students, faculty, and staff. And I can't even begin to imagine 300,000...

    I think it might help to remember that there are VERY few machines in these factories. In these factories, the laborers ARE the machines. So pretty much these campuses are just giant places where they can get as many people together as possible to make iPhones, etc, in mass.

    Don't worry. Eventually even the Chinese will find it cheaper to automate than use actual people and then no one gets a manufacturing job in the whole world. :P

    Edit: Damn you for beating me to the punch Saamiel!

    PureDekadenz on
  • MelksterMelkster Registered User regular
    Saammiel wrote:
    Some overall points, mostly in response to Fallout2Man;

    First - Increased automation won't help these people, it would harm them. Barring prisoner labor and other forms of coerced labor, these people choose to work in sweatshops because the alternatives are worse. Mass exodus from rural areas to urban areas in the developing world is driven by this simple fact. Automation increases unemployment by shifting away from the use of labor. It is good from a productivity and effeciency standpoint and I'm not suggesting anyone actively oppose it, but there are very real consequences.

    Second - The 'decline' of US manufacturing wasn't driven soley by outsourcing, nor by energy prices. You can even argue that there wasn't a decline at all. In Real terms, output has generally increased year over year in the United States, while employment fell. That is due to productivity improvements, including the above drive towards automation. You can certainly argue that policies had an effect on manufacturing output on the margin, but it didn't decline in dollar terms.

    Third - The idea that we can engage in some form of global income redistribution system via foreign aid is fantasy. There are distribution problems, collection problems, basically problems all around. The political process is a terrible way to try to afford non-citizens some basic standard of living. Even when there is consensus and the goals are limited, it usually fails to acheive said goals.

    Fourth - It seems hypocritical to accuse corporations of exploitation and colonialism while at the same time advocating that the Western world's governments actively try to meddle with the policies of foreign governments via foreign aid and other mechanisms. That strikes me as rank paternalism. Why should the United States (or any other state for that matter) be the final arbiter on what level of worker protection is appropriate for the Chinese people? We don't live in a utopia and all countries make trade-offs between economic development and worker rights.

    Haven't you ignored the idea that there are some standards that we can fight for in terms of making sweatshop labor more humane for the people involved? Things like: Cut the 12 standard work day, with often overtime, to a standard 10, max 12 day. No child labor. Allow laborers with grievances to be heard and their cases legitimately arbitrated. Pay them enough so they can graduate from sweatshops someday. Establish genuinely safe working conditions and reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries. Establish guidelines to make the sweatshop work less painful or demeaning -- like, allow workers breaks, allow them to speak, allow them to sit.

    Whatever needs to be done to make the above happen, should be done. Maybe the most we could do is petition Apple and other manufactures to increase their auditing processes and standards. Or maybe we can go further than that and establish some kind of public policy that would help make that happen. I don't know. The point is, there's a middle ground between between doing nothing about horrid sweatshop conditions and hope the world improves some day on its own (which you seem to be suggesting?) and doing the most drastic thing, like cutting off sweatshop labor completely.

  • SaammielSaammiel Registered User regular
    Melkster wrote:
    Haven't you ignored the idea that there are some standards that we can fight for in terms of making sweatshop labor more humane for the people involved? Things like: Cut the 12 standard work day, with often overtime, to a standard 10, max 12 day. No child labor. Allow laborers with grievances to be heard and their cases legitimately arbitrated. Pay them enough so they can graduate from sweatshops someday. Establish genuinely safe working conditions and reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries. Establish guidelines to make the sweatshop work less painful or demeaning -- like, allow workers breaks, allow them to speak, allow them to sit.

    I don't really see a problem with applying pressure to Apple (or even the Chinese government) to try to remedy whatever particular problems a person or group of people see. But Fallout2Man's suggestions seemed to go far beyond that into inducing nation-states to take up the issue. Which is IMO where things get problematic.

    And maybe we can agree to some standard, but keep in mind those standards have draw backs and nations are going to push back on account of those. It is a cliched saying, but there is no free lunch. And at some point you have to ask why legislate a 10 hour work day, and not say 6? I just have a hard time seeing how one can come up with universal standards. If we are going to push for anything, I'd rather push for more political autonomy so citizens can set their own standards on what is or is not acceptable for their society.

  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    Melkster wrote:
    Haven't you ignored the idea that there are some standards that we can fight for in terms of making sweatshop labor more humane for the people involved? Things like: Cut the 12 standard work day, with often overtime, to a standard 10, max 12 day. No child labor. Allow laborers with grievances to be heard and their cases legitimately arbitrated. Pay them enough so they can graduate from sweatshops someday. Establish genuinely safe working conditions and reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries. Establish guidelines to make the sweatshop work less painful or demeaning -- like, allow workers breaks, allow them to speak, allow them to sit.

    Absolutely this.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • YarYar Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    They were just fine before we got there. The only reason half of the world is like it is today is because of a long history of European and American Imperialism run amok. We have every reason to be there but not as a business to exploit their population, but rather as a government of humans, who understand empathy and are smart enough to know our history and wish to make amends for the wrongs we may have contributed towards?

    Woefully wistful and naive. How exactly is today's China a result of European and American Imperialism?

    This again assumes this is the absolute only way we can ever improve living conditions somewhere. Why is that? Because any other plan upsets the wealthy investors who've spent the last few decades buying out government as if it were a hostile takeover?

    Your proposed alternative is that we raise taxes and use that money to make China a better place. I... really I don't need to say anything else but that.

    Or we could fund local schools, support local independent businesses with smart virtual interest free loans and offer consultation to help the people and their government function like a first world nation without having to figure out that Slavery is bad? Why don't we do that?

    First of all, we do that. About as much as they'll let us. Secondly, what the hell does any of this have to do with Foxconn and iPhones?

    We'd basically need to reconfigure our entire trade policy and require statements of all wages and labor that went into the manufacture of products as well as the materials. But we'd then also need to regularly inspect importers and exporters to ensure their records were accurate and be willing to go nuclear trade-wise against anyone found violating the requirements. If we were willing to do that then I agree we could monetize compassion somehow and perhaps urge people to only use non-exploitative products. But we'd be in for a real challenge getting something like that started.

    All of these kinds of things are what have to be done now to call something organic or fair trade.

    Yar on
  • Fallout2manFallout2man Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    Saammiel wrote:
    Some overall points, mostly in response to Fallout2Man;

    First - Increased automation won't help these people, it would harm them. Barring prisoner labor and other forms of coerced labor, these people choose to work in sweatshops because the alternatives are worse.

    Why can't we provide better ones then? Why must we let big business prey upon them? Why not instead try and make their lives better instead of just using that as a vain excuse to cover up that we're effectively enslaving them?
    Saammiel wrote:
    Mass exodus from rural areas to urban areas in the developing world is driven by this simple fact. Automation increases unemployment by shifting away from the use of labor. It is good from a productivity and effeciency standpoint and I'm not suggesting anyone actively oppose it, but there are very real consequences.

    I have a fundamental disagreement with the idea that someone should be required to work for the private sector and be entirely subject to its whims just to stay alive. I find our modern economy in many places incredibly Barbaric and set up to reward sociopathy and punish compassion. Which tends to suggest it's an engine of social disease.
    Saammiel wrote:
    Second - The 'decline' of US manufacturing wasn't driven soley by outsourcing, nor by energy prices. You can even argue that there wasn't a decline at all. In Real terms, output has generally increased year over year in the United States, while employment fell. That is due to productivity improvements, including the above drive towards automation. You can certainly argue that policies had an effect on manufacturing output on the margin, but it didn't decline in dollar terms.

    True, productivity has hit record highs. The problem is that because of how our laws and economy work all that value generated from productivity increases goes straight to the top and does not affect the workers. That right there is a flaw if ever there was one. Outside of a scant few remaining professional positions most non-executives are considered disposable and they are only required to be paid just enough to placate them while the value the worker generates goes to a secondary pool of compensation which pays execs/CEOs and then investors.

    There is a failure in here somewhere that has to be addressed as well. We kind of need to fix our economy first before we can help the developing world and that starts by figuring out a way to reward the right people the right amount for their economic contributions and by loosening the strings corporations use to coerce compliance such as through health insurance.
    Saammiel wrote:
    Third - The idea that we can engage in some form of global income redistribution system via foreign aid is fantasy. There are distribution problems, collection problems, basically problems all around. The political process is a terrible way to try to afford non-citizens some basic standard of living. Even when there is consensus and the goals are limited, it usually fails to acheive said goals.

    Why? Is there actually a reason other than "The people in power are just too greedy to let it happen?" I'd really like to know the practical problems, not problems of political will. Because lately it seems that's the only reason half of this shit gets canned before it sees the light of day. So while yes it may be a "Fantasy" in terms of today's geopolitical climate it's not a "Fantasy" as in "That's physically impossible and you're crazy!" but rather "You'd need to spend the next few decades shaming the world leaders and maybe, just maybe it'd work" sort of fantasy. The latter is achievable but takes a lot of generational will. The former is never achievable. As well, even if we were to never really be able to get it off the ground it'd be at least better to waste our resources trying to do this then bombing more brown people because they don't like that we forced them to sell the rights to their rainwater to one of our big companies.
    Saammiel wrote:
    Fourth - It seems hypocritical to accuse corporations of exploitation and colonialism while at the same time advocating that the Western world's governments actively try to meddle with the policies of foreign governments via foreign aid and other mechanisms. That strikes me as rank paternalism. Why should the United States (or any other state for that matter) be the final arbiter on what level of worker protection is appropriate for the Chinese people? We don't live in a utopia and all countries make trade-offs between economic development and worker rights.

    Well we do owe some countries some responsibility for our past intervention in their affairs. That's just a matter of being a responsible nation state I would think. But at the end of the day we DO have a vested interest in, at the very least, making sure that any company we want doing business in the U.S.A. does not engage in practices globally that would result in mass civil unrest if tried here. You can't stop Chinese companies from exploiting workers, but we can do our best to try and be an example of one country who refuses to allow an economy based on wealth predation and slavery.

    I guess some people aren't willing to accept the cost that might come with that but honestly I would.
    Yar wrote:
    Woefully wistful and naive. How exactly is today's China a result of European and American Imperialism?
    D'oh, I would forget Japan. Although I don't think Japan really got interested in carving up China until we'd already shown them how we were doing the same elsewhere.
    Yar wrote:
    Your proposed alternative is that we raise taxes and use that money to make China a better place. I... really I don't need to say anything else but that.
    Priorities of course, we need to start here. But rather then act as if these practices are in any way justifiable we should call them what they are and start by removing the problems here then worry about helping foreign economies work without having to resort to slavery.
    Yar wrote:
    First of all, we do that. About as much as they'll let us. Secondly, what the hell does any of this have to do with Foxconn and iPhones?
    Because there's this idea that the only way to put money into a local economy is to allow a Big Business to set up shop in a developing country and essentially enslave a small chunk of its population.
    Yar wrote:
    All of these kinds of things are what have to be done now to call something organic or fair trade.

    So there are labor statements that come with imports now as well as lists of materials? We regularly audit these? Maybe things changed since I worked for that Pearl company with a factory in China but I never saw any sort of labor statements inside our supply packages, just a list of materials.

    Fallout2man on
    On Ignorance:
    Kana wrote:
    If the best you can come up with against someone who's patently ignorant is to yell back at him, "Yeah? Well there's BOOKS, and they say you're WRONG!"

    Then honestly you're not coming out of this looking great either.
  • MelksterMelkster Registered User regular
    I feel like there needs to be an internet rule against quoting and responding to small pieces of what people write, instead of quoting the whole thing and then writing a response to the quote as a whole. Grr...

  • SaammielSaammiel Registered User regular
    Saammiel wrote:
    Some overall points, mostly in response to Fallout2Man;

    First - Increased automation won't help these people, it would harm them. Barring prisoner labor and other forms of coerced labor, these people choose to work in sweatshops because the alternatives are worse.

    Why can't we provide better ones then? Why must we let big business prey upon them? Why not instead try and make their lives better instead of just using that as a vain excuse to cover up that we're effectively enslaving them?
    Saammiel wrote:
    Mass exodus from rural areas to urban areas in the developing world is driven by this simple fact. Automation increases unemployment by shifting away from the use of labor. It is good from a productivity and effeciency standpoint and I'm not suggesting anyone actively oppose it, but there are very real consequences.

    I have a fundamental disagreement with the idea that someone should be required to work for the private sector and be entirely subject to its whims just to stay alive. I find our modern economy in many places incredibly Barbaric and set up to reward sociopathy and punish compassion. Which tends to suggest it's an engine of social disease.
    Saammiel wrote:
    Second - The 'decline' of US manufacturing wasn't driven soley by outsourcing, nor by energy prices. You can even argue that there wasn't a decline at all. In Real terms, output has generally increased year over year in the United States, while employment fell. That is due to productivity improvements, including the above drive towards automation. You can certainly argue that policies had an effect on manufacturing output on the margin, but it didn't decline in dollar terms.

    True, productivity has hit record highs. The problem is that because of how our laws and economy work all that value generated from productivity increases goes straight to the top and does not affect the workers. That right there is a flaw if ever there was one. Outside of a scant few remaining professional positions most non-executives are considered disposable and they are only required to be paid just enough to placate them while the value the worker generates goes to a secondary pool of compensation which pays execs/CEOs and then investors.

    There is a failure in here somewhere that has to be addressed as well. We kind of need to fix our economy first before we can help the developing world and that starts by figuring out a way to reward the right people the right amount for their economic contributions and by loosening the strings corporations use to coerce compliance such as through health insurance.
    Saammiel wrote:
    Third - The idea that we can engage in some form of global income redistribution system via foreign aid is fantasy. There are distribution problems, collection problems, basically problems all around. The political process is a terrible way to try to afford non-citizens some basic standard of living. Even when there is consensus and the goals are limited, it usually fails to acheive said goals.

    Why? Is there actually a reason other than "The people in power are just too greedy to let it happen?" I'd really like to know the practical problems, not problems of political will. Because lately it seems that's the only reason half of this shit gets canned before it sees the light of day. So while yes it may be a "Fantasy" in terms of today's geopolitical climate it's not a "Fantasy" as in "That's physically impossible and you're crazy!" but rather "You'd need to spend the next few decades shaming the world leaders and maybe, just maybe it'd work" sort of fantasy. The latter is achievable but takes a lot of generational will. The former is never achievable. As well, even if we were to never really be able to get it off the ground it'd be at least better to waste our resources trying to do this then bombing more brown people because they don't like that we forced them to sell the rights to their rainwater to one of our big companies.
    Saammiel wrote:
    Fourth - It seems hypocritical to accuse corporations of exploitation and colonialism while at the same time advocating that the Western world's governments actively try to meddle with the policies of foreign governments via foreign aid and other mechanisms. That strikes me as rank paternalism. Why should the United States (or any other state for that matter) be the final arbiter on what level of worker protection is appropriate for the Chinese people? We don't live in a utopia and all countries make trade-offs between economic development and worker rights.

    Well we do owe some countries some responsibility for our past intervention in their affairs. That's just a matter of being a responsible nation state I would think. But at the end of the day we DO have a vested interest in, at the very least, making sure that any company we want doing business in the U.S.A. does not engage in practices globally that would result in mass civil unrest if tried here. You can't stop Chinese companies from exploiting workers, but we can do our best to try and be an example of one country who refuses to allow an economy based on wealth predation and slavery.

    I guess some people aren't willing to accept the cost that might come with that but honestly I would.

    These piecemeal quotes are driving me nuts, so I'm going to respond in paragraph form.

    What mechanism are 'we' using to provide these higher quality jobs? And what quality is good enough? The world is full of scarcity. At current levels of development we simply cannot afford to make every Chinese citizen have an American standard of living overnight. And we are not enslaving them, either effectively or not, barring actual state sponsored enslavement. These people choose to work there because the work is better than the alternatives. There isn't a jobs fairy that is going to come down and gift them all with well paid service sector jobs. These things have to be built over time.

    I have literally no idea what the failure of redistributive policies in the United States has to do with the situation in China. Yes, gains haven't been shared equitably in the United States. But that has nothing to do with whether or not manufacturing should be alllowed or encouraged in China. Wealth inequality is large in China, but in this case the rising tide has lifted almost all of the ships, some simply haven't been lifted as high as others.

    The beauty of trade is that we don't need to 'fix' anything in China. We can continue to simply do business with them while concentrating on whatever our own problems are. In doing so we are indirectly improving their standards of living through people's own self-interest. It certainly has its problems, but it seems better than the alternatives.

    And the problems with using the strings of foreign aid are well established. You cannot just posit a scenario where you magic away those problems with 'government will figure out how to make it work'. The problems are legion. For one, local agents often siphon away aid directed at impoverished people through corruption and theft. For another, governments have severe problems allocating diffuse information and acting on it properly, so it is hard to even determine what exactly a given culture would need to improve its standard of living. One would think this is trivial, but history has shown that even giving out basic foodstuff leads to a ton of complications. You also need to be worried about making any investments self-sustaining rather than increasing dependancy on the host country. They don't just fail because of greed, even selfless actors have had a hard time rendering effective foreign aid. And they have been trying for decades.

    And the 'cost' that would come from engaging in some sort of trade war with China would be widespread misery in both nations, but especially in China. I don't really feel bad that I'm not in favor of that scenario.

    My basic problem is that you seem to think governments are some sort of omniscient planners that can simply pick and choose the Best Path Forward and that what is holding them back is apathy and/or greed. That is not the case at all. The world is full of ambiguity and trade-offs.

1235»
Sign In or Register to comment.