The rabbi who led yesterday’s Torah class loves technology. He said that the new iPhone is gorgeous and that he wasn’t going to get one because he didn’t want to encourage the bad labor conditions in China. I don’t think that Silas has the opportunity to work in such a factory that makes products like iPhones for the world. Yes, the factory conditions are terrible, and I think that the opportunity to work is a godsend for the people who work there—even considering their high suicide rate. Only looking at one side of the coin gives us an opinion that is skewed.
Milton Friedman (video) used to talk about how these sweatshops have given countries (including the USA) the opportunity to prosper and emerge from poverty (his parents worked in such shops when they came to America). Should Apple be a better citizen of the world and insist on better working conditions? In doing so, the cost of the phone would increase and Apple may go out of business. What is the solution here? I’m sure some of the best minds are trying to figure out how to improve the conditions and still stay in business.
I’m curious whether countries like China are better off with sweatshops or not. We tend to jump to conclusions and some, like the socially conscious rabbi, hesitate to support companies who use such manufacturing venues. But is our voting with our dollars helping or hurting?