On Facebook, i commented that i will not shop at Wal Mart, under any circumstance. A former co-worker, also tech savvy, commented that if i limited my choices to buying things not made in China, i wouldn’t have much to choose from.
And he’s correct. But it got me thinking- how is it that i rationalize buying some things from China from somewhere like Newegg but i treat companies like Wal Mart as a metastasized cancer tumor [which, by the way, they are] ?
I buy a fair amount of technology related devices. Motherboards, video cards, hard drives, monitors, etc… I suspect my Centro was made in China as well. First off, i don’t like buying anything from China. Politics aside for the moment, my idea of fair trade is that if i buy a non-durable item that was manufactured in another country, the people who made that item should be able to buy that item with, at most, two weeks of pay. That’s my personal metric. As it stands right now, there is no governmental standard to identify “fair trade” when it comes to this sort of thing.
For durable items, i’d say anyone manufacturing such an item should be able to buy the item they’re producing with a full months pay. Again, this is my personal belief.
I am relatively sure that the people who made my ACER monitor, my ATI 4830 video card and my Centro, have not, nor will be able to afford the products they made with two weeks of pay, if ever. This is something that we, as ethical people, must correct if the free market will survive in the long term. That is, we either consume less, manufacture in places that have a decent quality of life or raise the quality of life in places like China.
But back to Wal Mart.
Wal Mart, under the guidance of Mr. Walton, once stood for buying and selling American products first and treating imported goods with contempt. Since then, Wal Mart has embraced a different model, but one i feel really reflects the short-sightedness that many, if not most, corporations are guided by: The Most Important Thing Are Our Quarterly Profits. The race to the bottom, the belief that quantity is more important than quality, has become the guiding principle for Wal Mart. And in their mind, why encourage an outdated idea like a fair wage for a days work when they could strengthen their position in the market by an unfair wage for several days work by workers in a country where it’s illegal to do things like form unions or demand safe work conditions and fair compensation ?
And therein lies the greatest fear that Wal Mart has- that workers will unify and demand representation for things like fair compensation. Wal Mart has actively worked to subdue, subvert, suppress and persecute anyone that suggests they’re interested in forming a union. One store in Montreal formed a local union. The store was closed within days. Make no mistake- Wal Mart has utter contempt and malice towards anyone seeking fair compensation for their work in their stores. It only makes sense they would look to companies and governments that share that contempt and the belief that the guiding principle in business is the race to the bottom.
But there’s an equally cynical component to Wal Mart’s business model. Maybe it’s an intentional component, maybe it’s a byproduct of their way of doing business, but in their quest to have quantity over quality, they decimate communities and the small stores that have existed there for years or not decades. Why? Wal Mart and Microsoft have something in common- no, not mediocrity- well yes, they have that in common, too. Neither company have any interest in competition. It works out for them pretty well- if you decimate a community’s small business’, you get to have a disproportionate amount of influence on that community. Not just in terms of economic influence, but political as well.
The bottom line is few of us can avoid buying products made from China. What none of us can avoid doing is thinking more about the impact that our buying has. Buying products from China helps send more jobs overseas and helps secure governments who practice in organ harvesting from political dissidents, black houses for those who try to file grievances and whose courts are about as transparent as the waters of Galveston Bay. Believe me, that’s not very transparent. We also have a responsibility, some might even say, a political and ethical responsibility to not support companies like Wal Mart whose existence helps support the Chinese government, but decimates communities across the United States.