Notes on a Theory…

Thoughts on politics, law, & social science

Posts Tagged ‘Bangladesh

Culpability and Change: The Bangladesh Disaster (Again)

with 3 comments

[Update: Jerry Davis had a longer piece on this issue at Yale Global Online.]

Jerry Davis objects to my post, accusing me of misreading him because I didn’t read him (allegedly).  “I would not summarize my argument as ‘Blame the consumers,’ and tried to be careful not to phrase it this way.” I gather part of the complaint is that ‘blame the consumers’ implies it is solely their fault, whereas (at points) Davis is clear blame is shared. Fair enough.

Let’s start with the original post.

Blame quickly extended from the owners of the building and the factories it contained, to the government of Bangladesh, to the retailers who sold the clothing. But the culpability extends all the way down the supply chain — to us.

Our willingness to buy garments sewn under dangerous conditions, chocolate made from cocoa picked by captive children, or cellphones and laptops containing “conflict minerals” from Congo create the demand that underwrites these tragedies.

I’ll concede he doesn’t actual apply the word blame to consumers – he used culpability (seemingly  as a synonym for blame, which is used at the beginning of the sentence, but let’s leave that aside).  Where does our culpability come from?  “Our willingness” (a phrase I already quoted) to buy such goods. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by David Kaib

May 15, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Blaming Consumers is a Cop Out

with 37 comments

Dime

[Update: On Orhtheory, Jerry Davis object to my comment (which was the first draft of this post) for claiming  that he is calling to blame the consumer.] 

[Update 2: Davis also makes his objections in this comments to this post. My response is here]

[Update 3: Jim Naureckas has a good post on this topic: You’re to Blame for Factory Deaths. Well, You and Walmart]

[Update 4: You can take the National Consumers’ League 10 cent pledge here.]

Speaking of the awful Bangladesh factory disaster that killed at least a thousand people, Brayden King at Orgtheory quotes Jerry Davis in the New York Times who blames consumers for working conditions in the Third World. In essence, consumer demand for cheap products are what forces wages down and makes working conditions so dangerous, so the blame lies with those consumers.

I see a few problems with this. First, if the all-powerful consumer was driving this, we wouldn’t see businesses making high profits, because that too raises costs. This is not the case. Second, even with expensive goods, where consumers are willing and even eager to pay high prices, we see similar working conditions (think Apple products).

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by David Kaib

May 12, 2013 at 10:09 am

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