2010/09/13 – A Monograph in Defense of Equality Part 9

iPods are Good for Consumers. But Are They Good for the Third World?

Neoliberals think so. For them, the sweatshop isn’t just a symbol of the ubiquitous and life-crushing aspects of capitalism, it’s also a triumphant example of its moral and rational superiority over all other economic systems. Seriously, I do not know for certain if they really believe this line to be true, but they really do say that.

For example, on the LewRockwell.com site maintained by the libertarian activist and chairman of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Lew Rockwell, you can find an essay written by Professor Thomas J. DiLorenzo entitled, How ‘Sweatshops’ Help the Poor.”


It’s a libertarian screed framed by a barely – contained outrage in response  to the charge that sweat shops promote slave labor by capitalizing on the impoverished people of the world. DiLorenzo  believes that the subject of sweatshop labor are only the lies and propaganda of technology – hating Unionists, who are apparently in a snit because the Third World are not as unionized as America. Regarding this denial of the abuse of workers, I wonder if DiLorenzo has ever read Dickens or Upton Sinclair, two well – regarded authors who wrote passionately about the miserable working conditions the poor had to endure. DiLorenzo’s totalizing disdain of the unions leads him to claim that if these workers were to join the unions, they’d all be thrown out of work by the multinational corporations, who presumably would not find the their unionized wages as profitable. DiLorenzo does not say anything about how these stateless corporations would maximize profits or even if they would continue to exist, but he even goes on to say:

“…the anti-factory movement has always been motivated by either the socialists’ desire to destroy industrial civilization, or by the inherently non-competitive nature of organized labor.

We have heard this shrill, apocalyptic raving about equality precipitating the “End of Civilization” before from the Neoliberal “Fun Bunch” of  Mises, Rothbard and Rand. It’s deceptive, clumsy, boilerplate rhetoric meant to throw up a distracting fear of the unknown without providing any evidence that such things would indeed occur. Pointing to research of sweatshops in eleven Third world countries presented by Ben Powell and David Skarbek for the Journal of Labor Research, DiLorenzo believes he has found a result that supports his Pro-sweatshop premise of their benefits to the impoverished:

“In Honduras, where almost half the working population lives on $2/day, “sweatshops” pay $13.10/day.”

Not really a cause for celebration, for we do not have the data which provides evidence of the working conditions or the average hours worked or whether health care is provided or if the worker’s rights are being upheld. What the exploited workers are undoubtedly doing is earning the owners of the sweat factories enormous wealth. Was this the “Invisible Hand of the Market” of the economic theories of Adam Smith had in mind when he theorized how the pursuit of self-interest is more beneficial to society than from a starting point of lending assistance? Thus with the Age of the Ipod, the hi – tech Sweatshop is seen as “doing a favor” for the exploited worker, who would be “better off” toiling their life away in misery creating products that they themselves can’t ever hope to buy, as they would be rescued from an even “worse” of life on the streets life or turning to crime or even starvation.

This fact is clear: when  speaking  about sweatshops, if the phenomenon of exploitation is allowed, the specious claim that Capitalism defends “human rights” is devoid of any moral force its appeal to liberty alleges, reducing one to justify an amoral philosophy by alleging that it’s a moral philosophy. A neat trick if one dispenses with common sense. Or if one doesn’t dare to connect the dots. I wonder how well Steve Jobs sleeps at night. Oh, right, it’s all about the money!

The Foxcomm Suicides

The online zine Global Post has been investigating stories about Asia’s low-wage slaves for over a year, with Katleen E. McLaughlin reporting Apple raising wages for its workers 65% at Taiwan’s Foxcomm factory in the city of Shezhen, after 10 Foxcomm employees committed suicide. [1]

McLaughlin claims that giving the workers more  money won’t make their lives easier, because the rights of the workers are not being upheld. Migrant workers in China (and elsewhere) are treated as mules to loaded down with unreasonable slave – like toil. They do not receive health care or education.In short, the are treated like indentured servants whose sufferings yields splendid dividends  for Silicon Valley.

In another report for Global Post entitled, Silicon Sweatshops, Mclaughlin and Jonathan Adams indicate something awry  in the way our beloved gadgets are manufactured:

“By the time a gadget reaches Apple’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City or any other U.S. retailer, it may have passed through the hands of a heavily indebted Filipina migrant worker on the graveyard shift in Taiwan, a Taiwanese “quality control” worker who’ll soon be fired without warning, and a young Chinese worker clocking 80-hour weeks on a final assembly line, at less than a dollar an hour.

Recent years have seen a drumbeat of reports on such abuses. In 2006, in an audit following a British media report, Apple found that workers in a factory assembling iPods in China were working excessive overtime hours.” [2]

Workers in America or the UK or France or any other First world country would not tolerate such abusive treatment by management. By operating under the system of making the most money while paying the least possible wages, shows that Capitalist system, despite the claims of neoliberal propaganda,  has no regard for “Liberty” or the “rights of the individual” at all.  The system operates, in fact, against the principle of Libertarianism as defined by David Boaz, who wrote, Libertarianism:  A Primer, where he states that,

“No one has the right to initiate aggression against the person or property of anyone else.”

The existence of cheap and plentiful iPods can only be produced by the economic aggression against the people who are forced into the jaws of a nightmare of repetitive, stupefying toil in order to survive in a god – forsaken world.

What would happen to the restive slumber of Steve Jobs if his beloved company was forced to pay its overseas workers an equal wage that was on par to what Americans would work for? iPods would cost a million dollars and Apple would be ruined. So in order to keep the smug, self – satisfied smiles on the faces of Professor DiLorenzo and Steve Jobs, beings all over Asia must suffer indignities behind a black curtain of abuse, justification and forgetfulness: behind which the real invisible hands of the market left to rot and die so that the 1% of the world who own computers can have such a nice time on the internet.

The solution is Equal Money for an Equal Life.


[1]  Kathleen E. McLaughlin  “Foxcomm Suicides: Why higher pay won’t work,” GlobalPost Published: June 10, 2010 11:15 ET in Asia

[2] Jonathan Adams and Kathleen E. McLaughlin, “Silicon Sweatshops,” Global Post, Published: November 17, 2009 07:49 ET in Asia<http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/china-taiwan/091103/silicon-sweatshops-globalpost-investigation&gt;


3 thoughts on “2010/09/13 – A Monograph in Defense of Equality Part 9

  1. great blog darryl – i actually sent an email to Thomas J. DiLorenzo, and posted a copy on my blog. You’ve inspired me to start a new blog site on wordpress and get back on track with blogging. I’m still figuring it out and how to post photos, links and tag things effectively.

  2. very cool piece Darryl! It’s interesting how we don’t consider that in order for us to have the Mega-Tech world, someone will have to pay. I wonder which factory’s workers are to be exploited to make the Zeitgeist Dream happen….

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