May

22

Wait, isn’t this the Left Coast?

Written by

dfs“ARRESTS VERY LIKELY” read the press release for today’s sit-in at Stanford (they don’t get out until June 6, the poor dears) over the University’s refusal to sign on to a nationwide anti-sweatshop campaign. The Stanford Daily hasn’t said anything yet about this latest round of rabble rousing (although they have reported on the ongoing negotiations) so we don’t know how well it turned out. In any case, it looks like Columbia may actually be more progressive on this one: after similar antics last April, PrezBo joined the Designated Suppliers Program, a set of labor standards for the factories that produce all those expensive shirts in the bookstore. Stanford President John Hennessy has proven more reticent, which might have something to to with the $105 billion million that Nike CEO and Stanford Business School alumnus Phil Knight forked over last year. 

Although they didn’t do it eight years ago, either, so good luck.  

– LBD

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38 Comments

  1. uh bwog...

    105 billion dollars, with a b, is quite a sum of money.
    perhaps you meant 105 million dollars, with an m, which may be quite a sum but is also a considerably smaller (and more accurate) sum.
    summer's no excuse to get sloppy

  2. west coast  

    ha! stanford...

    figures.

  3. Nike?

    I thought they were all anti-sweatshop now. That can't be the reason. Find out more, Bwog.

  4. pro-sweatshop

    exploitation is relative. leftists want to believe that sweatshop workers were somehow bound and gagged and dragged into their current positions by the monstrous tyranny of the global economy. in reality, thousands of migrants a day pour into the cities of the "developing world" looking for positions in such factories. why? because, shitty as they are in such metropoles, urban standards of living, proximity to healthcare and conveniences, and, yes, even sweatshop wages are all superior to the conditions they faced as crop-minders in the urban hinterlands. in other words, these people opt into sweatshop work - for good reason. the idea that they were living a life of edenic bliss prior to industrialization is exactly that.

    in any case, sweatshop labor is a necessary stepping stone. it was a phase of industrialization that struck manchester and manhattan as well. it's what brought us to where we are today. investment requires an incentive like cheap labor before an economy can reach the sort of plain that brings quality, high paying jobs. china's booming new middle class will tell you all about that.

    what happens when we artificially withdraw investment in cheap labor? what happens to those employed in the sweatshops? it's less likely their wages are raised and their conditions are improved than that their jobs are lost and they become wards of the state - if not feeders off crime - in the vast slums of their new hometowns.

  5. I buy

    Nikes exclusively, because I love the the aroma of the 6-year-olds that sewed them together when I open a fresh pair. I mean, it's not as good as the aroma of a fresh imported 6-year-old, but then, I go on vacation to Japan for that.

  6. TAG

    tag this stanford also?

  7. stanford reject

    Stanford sucks. May they all get arrested.

  8. pffffft

    Anti-sweatshop activists should take a basic economics class or two. It's just an unfortunate yet inevitable symptom of any industrializing economy: better employees work ridiculous hours to earn trivial wages than sitting on the farm facing inescapable poverty. Remember when the US had child labor? (You probably wouldn't, unless you're Karl Kroeber or William de Bary.)

  9. Purple

    Yes, but only P. Diddy forces Hondurans to sew dog-hair liners into $300 coats.

  10. stanford doesnt suck

    And the last day of classes is june 6, but finals dont end until a week later. bwog is getting summer sloppy, as someone above noted.

  11. Sweatshop

    labor is not a necessary component of an industrializing economy, if you can find a way to provide competitively priced labor while retaining humane conditions.

    • hmm

      that's cute. except that it's easier for a company to ensure profit margins by shutting a sweatshop down and dismissing its workers than to find some magical way to provide "humane conditions" at the same exact cost.

      • The cost

        doesn't really matter. It's not like the industrialized world doesn't have a few extra bucks.

        I prefer to look at this from a globalization perspective: we're encouraging insane abuse of workers by allowing our goods to be imported from whoever is the lowest bidder. I'm not a protectionist, but if G8 countries and their ilk stopped buying from all the Special Economic Zones in the world, they could easily ensure at least a minimal standard of worker conditions, and the cost be damned. No more sweatshops dancing between Malaysia and Indonesia in pursuit of a government willing to slash workers' rights even further.

        The "necessary but inevitable" crowd are classic economists confusing mathematics with ethics. Sure, it's been an *observed* phase in the development of many economies, but that doesn't make it ethically excusable, any more than we should support brutal civil wars and genocides because we managed to emerge from both into democracy.

        To paraphrase John Kerry... How do you ask a generation to sacrifice their life and human rights to allow their backwater economy to take a baby step toward capitalism?

        • Oops

          *"necessary and inevitable", 3rd graf.

        • wirc

          Whether the step has historical precedent is irrelevant, since the reason why it doesn't still exist is because of labor laws, unions, and ethical beliefs 100 years ago.

          Still, you could accelerate this step if you are willing to pay more. Simply create demand for humane conditions by asking for and then buying humanely produced clothing. Companies will hop on the boat if they see that it is profitable.

        • economist

          The problem with most 'living wage' arguments is that those making them confuse ethics with opinion.

          It is NOT better to apply one's personal view of a living wage to a different culture at a different stage of economic development.

          Is it ethical to force people out of work by forcing their employers to choose between hiring more people for less money or hiring fewer for more money?

          To be sure, not every garment factory treats its employees the way you or I would like to be treated - but that's not at argument here.

          People truly concerned with morality should be more petrified by the continued practices of genital mutilation and/or sex trade trafficing than the economics of garment factories in developing nations.

          • Hey  

            nobody's saying they need to make $18 an hour and live in a nice house in the suburbs. We're talking about basic protections like not firing women who become pregnant, like not employing children, like not restricting free association.

            I'm not a big anti-sweatshop advocate; I've just gotten dragged into this. But these seem like pretty basic points that a lot of people would agree on.

            And the "genital mutilation" argument dodges the question. Yes. There are many problems in the world. That doesn't mean we should ignore this one.

          • well...

            "like not employing children..."

            I actually think that that would hurt families in developing countries even more. Maybe I'm making crazy assumptions here, but the average sweatshop-country family is really, really poor. And they need as much income as possible to eat, thus often requiring the children to work. If factories stopped employing children, the pay raise allotted to adult workers (if they would use the surplus money from the fired children to raise wages rather than hire more adult workers) would probably not stand up against an entire extra income (or incomes, depending on how many kids are in the family).
            All I'm saying is that child labor might not be necessary to the corporation, but it's almost certainly necessary for many families.

        • ummm  

          "It's not like the industrialized world doesn't have a few extra bucks."

          "I'm not a protectionist, but if G8 countries and their ilk stopped buying from all the Special Economic Zones in the world, they could easily ensure at least a minimal standard of worker conditions, and the cost be damned."

          And how do you propose to get the industrialised countries of the world, which all happen to respect a little something called personal freedom and consumer choice, to impose import restrictions like the kind you described?

          • Well  

            I'm not big on the WTO, but as long as we're stuck with it, it seems like they've been given exactly that power. There are already punitive tariffs levied against countries that violate the WTO's rules (e.g., the US-EU steel dispute a few years back), so there's no reason it can't be used to protect human rights.

            And of course it has to do with ethics. Sure, something happens because of economic factors (or "pursuit of profit maximization", or whatever you want to call it), but that doesn't exempt it from regulation. That's a profoundly silly argument. Why bother having a government at all if a consensus of ethical permissibility is so impossible?

        • Woah  

          "The "necessary but inevitable" crowd are classic economists confusing mathematics with ethics. Sure, it's been an *observed* phase in the development of many economies, but that doesn't make it ethically excusable..."

          Since when does the pursuit of profit maximisation, also known as rational human behaviour, have anything to do with "ethics"?

          And since when can you impose your views on what is and isn't ethically permissible on others who may not share your values? That's brainwashing at best and fascism at worst, isn't it?

          • well

            "Since when does the pursuit of profit maximisation, also known as rational human behaviour, have anything to do with "ethics"?"

            Depends on what you mean by "profit". Humans certainly attempt to maximise happiness. Shockingly enough, some humans actually gain happiness by aiding others. Acting in such a mutually beneficial manner is what's known as the ethical choice.

          • DHI

            Yeah yeah morals don't exist in a strict sense: neither does the ideal "economic man". You have to consider subjective experience as well as systemic workings if you're going to make decisions in which humans are involved. Don't argue your abstraction to the exclusion of other abstractions just because it's more predictable: economics are not the fucking endpoint of life. At some point responsible economists should pull their heads out of their asses and consider the actual effects of the system on the people involved, and it is definitely possible to apply regulations or incentives to the system in ways that are beneficial.

            Anybody who has studied simple economics understands the free market; everyone who has been alive understands that real humans have more depth than economic ideals.

          • counterpoint

            Real life experience also tells us that not all humans are equal in ability, talent, desire, and a host of other things.

            Human beings cannot flatten the bell curve - even if it makes us feel better. Attempting to cure the world of its structural ills is more solipsistic than anything else.

            Just because it makes you feel better doesn't make it right or 'ethical'. It only serves your narrow sense of self.

            It's interesting that those who believe in evolution (rightly so) over 'intelligent design' are just as likely to despise Social Darwinism in favor of 'ethical solutions'.

          • DHI

            Lots of sweeping social problems don't really distribute based on any sort of merit, and trying to prevent unnecessary suffering does not entail imposing equality.

          • don't forget  

            the law of unintended consequences.

            There will be tradeoffs to any decision or action. You can expect to eliminate or prevent 'unneccessary suffering' but it doesn't mean that you won't create other suffering in the process.

            Price controls don't make things available to everyone - instead they create shortages... and black markets.

            Wage floors don't raise standards of living - they increase unemployment rates... and under-the-table, off-books labor markets.

            Chaos theory writ large.

            As for meritocracy - as an Ivy Leaguer it's easy to believe that the world should be fair, etc.

            But it isn't.

            To quote Judge Elihu Smails: 'The world needs ditchdiggers, too.'

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