Wednesday, September 19, 2007

License to steal

One of my favorite columnists is Froma Harrop, of the Providence Journal. Today, her column points out the hidden costs of purchasing cheap goods from China. Among other costs, she cites:

  • High environmental costs, including air pollution that the Pacific sometimes takes as far as California;
  • Use of toxic chemicals in products;
  • Sweatshop conditions that even price the Mexicans out of business; and
  • Wal-Mart's pressure on all suppliers to lower costs, regardless of the consequences.

Her conclusion:

"The solution, ultimately, is for Americans to vote with their credit cards against a production system that trolls the earth for the most downtrodden labor force and lowest environmental standards. Rather than zero in on one country or company, let’s zero in on ourselves. American consumers must understand that low prices come with a price."

Resources are abundant, but are not infinite; or as Mohandas Gandhi once said:

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed."

A related issue in Ohio is the environmentalist concern over conditions suffered by chickens at egg farms. Now, I am not a vegan by any means; but, it stands to reason that the quality of our meat and poultry will be better if animals are treated with a small measure of respect, including a clean home, sufficient and appropriate feed; and with mammals such as cattle and horses, a measure of love.

The common denominator in both comments is respect for life. Not only life before birth, but after it. Respect for the lives and health of working people, respect for the lives and health of consumers, and respect for the lives and health of animals.

These goals can best be achieved in decentralized societies, based on local economies. They also require promoting an ethic that observes the truth that real prosperity lies, not in how much junk you own (or eat); but in the personal satisfaction and wise use of resources that comes from purchasing products for their quality and durability -- at a higher monetary price, to be sure; but at a much lower human one.

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