Friday, November 20, 2009

there's sweat on our hands

So. In one of my classes, we were discussing counterfeits and sweatshops. Here is how it goes. The price of clothes has gone down, while everything else has gone up (inflation). Why? Because we, consumers, you and me, refuse to pay market price. It is not primarily the fault of the manufacturer, for paying less than a living wage. If he does not respond to the retailer's demand, he won't survive. It is NOT, as we would like to think, the retailer's fault, for ripping us off. No. Demand is the problem here. We want clothes of good quality, cheaply, and we want the stock to change every month. In no other market does that happen, and it cannot happen without a sweatshop-type system.
Here's why: The most negotiable part of manufacturing costs is labor. Fabric, shipping, shoplifting, those things are hard to change. It is much easier to find someone desperate enough to work for nearly nothing, in terrible conditions, and thus keep the prices lower than they logically should be. I am not saying the retailers and manufacturers are blameless, just that the majority of responsibility lies with consumers. That is how capitalism works, and it can work for good as well as evil.
Here is the uncomfortable truth. If you have ever handed over money to Wal-mart, Target, Kohls, T.J. Maxx,a dollar store, or any comparable business, your bucks supported the sort of slave-like system we would like to think doesn't exist. Be grateful you're at the top of the food chain, because there are thousands who aren't.
I've done this. So have you. There's sweat on our hands. Our money matters.
So having said all that depressing business, what are you supposed to do? Research. Sorry. That's all there is to it. Know. Inform yourself. And for pete's sake rethink whether or not you NEED new stuff every two weeks. I know, funny coming from me. Thrift stores my friend. If I didn't have to run off, I would write an emotional, economic ode to a thrift store. Hmmm. maybe later.

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