Sunday, August 02, 2009

Fair prices, Frenchpeople, and tennis

Well, tennis first. I saw a real live tennis match last night. The "Bank of the West Open" was going on at Stanford U., where I was visiting my parents (my dad was teaching in a "trial academy" there last week). My dad likes tennis a lot, so he took us to the match that was going on last night, which was a semifinal match. It's an all-women's tournament. The match was between Samantha Stosur (an Australian who beat Serena Williams the day before) and Marion Bartoli (a Frenchperson). We rooted for Stosur, because Bartoli is apparently kind of a jerk, and also a Frenchperson*. She lost, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1.

*You should know that the Frenchpeople are out to get my dad. Their leader is Al Gore. It's like a gang of villains. Al Gore and the French. See, as bears are to me, Al Gore and the French are to my dad, in that they're things we hate and are terrified of, while everyone else thinks we're nuts. (I'll let you draw your own conclusions.) I should draw some cartoons about this sometime.

I had only seen a tennis match once before, I think. It was fun to watch. It's very different: everyone is quiet the whole time! I mean, if you made a loud noise, I guess you'd startle the tennisers. The stadium is pretty small. It's kinda genteel, but my game of "count the not-white people" actually turned out a pretty high number. And tennis itself has a lot of quirky rules and stuff, which is kind of fun. (for the record, I think I'd enjoy 43-Man Squamish.)

Also, I can't post a thing without linking a few times, so here's a Good article about fair-priced ipods. Would I pay more for a fair-trade ipod? Super yes. See, consumption is difficult nowadays (I mean buying stuff, not tuberculosis). Either you consider not only price and surface attributes but also all the effects of your purchase (which is hard), or you just add to the problem (which sucks). If you had the option to know that you're not adding to the problem, that would be really nice, and it would make buying things easy.

Which sort of leads into my Grand Theory of Economics, which is slowly congealing: markets are The Best, but you shouldn't be allowed to "cheat" (where I will define "cheat" myself in a bit). I mean, I believe a free market would give us the best mp3 player for the best price, and the best company would win. This is great. But then, if one company starts using sweatshops and another isn't, the sweatshop one can offer mp3 players cheaper, and they'll win, even if their mp3 players are worse. Eventually this will lead to everyone using sweatshop labor or else going out of business. This is bad.

What does "cheat" mean? Do something unsustainable to the environment or dehumanizing to people. Sweatshops: obv cheating. Using unrecycled paper when recycled paper will do: also cheating. Dumping toxic waste when a non-toxic option exists: cheating.

Okay, arguers: yes this leads to a ton of super gray areas. And no, this will probably never happen. I can't refute either of these arguments. But I will refute the "but poor people can't afford things if they get more expensive" argument here: people being poor is a separate problem. Things (and particular food, if you couldn't already tell that this was part of the argument) should cost what they cost to produce ethically, cleanly, etc. If poor people can't afford food, we should give out more food stamps or whatever; solve poverty separately from the food supply. If poor people can't afford mp3 players, tough.

I'm a little caffeinated right now (bought a coffee from an airport stand where "small" meant 16oz. what.) so my argument is a little jumpy and I'm a little idealistic; and I don't want to continue this post now. Just, you know, throwing out some sustainably-produced food for thought.

5 comments:

yincrash said...

how many of our electronics are made in the US?

would you buy an mp3 player made in the US if it was not an ipod?

what about other countries with arguably better trade practices? malaysia?

Dan Tasse said...

I'll take the second part first. (isn't that a quote from something?)

Would I buy a US-made mp3 player if it wasn't an ipod?
I could say that I would but that'd be a lie. Look at my own purchasing habits (ipod nano, samsung thing, used ipod nano, iphone). So, no. See next question for why:

What about other countries with better trade practices?
If I knew, yes. But that's the problem. I don't know if employers treat their workers better in Malaysia than in China. For all I know, even a US-made thing might be made in a Texas factory full of mistreated illegal Mexican immigrants. Which is why I can't even vote with my dollars; I don't know what I'm voting on. And it gets to be impossible for me to dedicate all the time it would take to figure it out for everything I buy. If sweatshops were illegal worldwide (and there was better enforcement etc) then I would be able to buy things without worrying about it, and then I'd say "let the market decide whose products win."

How many of our electronics are made in the US? Beats me.

Cardozo said...

I really liked this post. Mostly because I have consumption and a little humor is nice every once in a while.

kidding.

Anyway, would you do me the favor of checking out my blog? www.ethixmerch.com/blog

Since you have an interest in creating a just economy, would you consider dedicating a post to the under-reported options for schools, governments, groups, etc. to buy sweatshop-free logo items?

Thanks.

Dan Tasse said...

I did check it out. I like it. Next time I'm in need of any logo things, I'll check back with your shop too.

In general, this is half my personal journal, half an opt-in channel between me and my friends and family, and half a way for me to somewhat-aimlessly ruminate or rant about things that pop into my head to anyone who will listen, so I don't think I'll continue the fight for workers' rights right now, or shout out about sweatshop-free products that are available. Plus about three people ever read this blog. But good luck; it's a good cause!

Cardozo said...

Ok, cool. Thanks for checking out the site.