Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On Globalization

Understanding that globalization exists and choosing when and how to participate in it are two different things.

Since we are defending globalization, I'll weigh in on that subject. 

Yes, I know my cell phone is made in China by many, many very little hands, attached to bodies that never sit, who do the same little motion every day, for sometimes 18 hours a day. If I require a cell phone I have no choice in the matter, really. None of the companies that provide cell phone service make a phone locally. That choice is not available. 

Additionally if I want an iPad or an iPhone (I don't and won't own either one) I have to buy one manufactured by 300,000 to 450,000 workers (many of them very very young) who are employed in Shenzhen at the Longhua Science & Technology Park, a cramped, walled campus sometimes referred to as "Foxconn City" or "iPod City". This would be the factory where they put up suicide nets and made workers sign non-suicide pacts.

Now I'm not saying this is what your sail manufacturer is like. I'm using this as an example of being aware of where our STUFF comes from and the impact of using price as a primary driver for obtaining that STUFF.

The nice thing is, I have other choices when it comes to other things. There is a plethora of things, necessities, luxuries, that I can buy that aren't manufactured in (your words): "Sri Lanka rather than China. Labor laws are much looser in Sri Lanka and costs are a lot lower there."

I see that and I get to ask myself some interesting questions about the value of cost savings (I get cheap STUFF!) when weighed against doing business with a company that outsources to a country because the labor laws are looser than -- China. China, where Foxconn works people 18 hours a day and they sleep 15 to a room?

I get to decide if I want to live in, what seems to me, an "I gots mine" and "and damn who made my stuff as long as I save money" mentality. That's the way I look at it. Others may see it differently.

What it really comes down to is that I have choices. That means I have chosen to pay attention to where my STUFF is built, by whom, and under what conditions. I take notice of companies that talk about savings through utilizing economies of scale without mentioning *where* their STUFF is made. My choosing to purchase locally where I can, with most of that money going locally, to workers here, who work under fair labor laws is, in my opinion, a good thing. I like doing it. I can do it. It's *my* money.

If the expression of this makes some company, or representative of a company defensive, well, that isn't my problem.

Back to boaty stuff. While I have no control over where Brigadoon was built thirty years ago, I do have some control over what I put on her now.

All things being equal in the ethical business person department -- leaving aside the ethics of manufacturing in "Sri Lanka rather than China. Labor laws are much looser in Sri Lanka and costs are a lot lower there." -- this customer sees a clear benefit in choosing the company that is located here. This customer sees an advantage in a company that manufactures their product here. This customer likes a company who will come to my boat (not ask me to measure my own sails to save money) to ensure the product is right. This customer also really really likes the fact that I can visit the actual factory/loft where my sails are being made, talk to the workers, and know that, if I have any problems, I know where to go.

All things being equal, of course.

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