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You Can't Buy Your Way to Social Justice

You Can't Buy Your Way to Social Justice

Why the activism of some fellow Americans scares me.

I'm afraid of some American Christians.

I am an American, but I haven't lived in the United States in a while. I live in Djibouti, a country in the Horn of Africa, and when you pick me up at the Minneapolis airport, I might invite you to ...

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Displaying 16–20 of 94 comments.

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Paul Schryba

May 22, 2013  9:40pm

For the moment, I will accept your implication that corruption and illegality is rampant in third world countries and that business owners there are unaware of it.("...builder has a thousand ingenious ways to cheat the owner and he will rarely discover them. If he asked the questions you propose, the builder would just lie to him." "And whose job is it to police theft and fraud, such as committed by the builder? It’s the state, not the market!") I will presume that those in the business community, whose business it is to know these things and not profit from illegality for the reasons Rick stated earlier, are, as you, not ignorant of such conditions. Given that awareness, to purchase from those countries is to reasonably assume that low price is due to illegality and poor conditions. If American businesses were primarily concerned about the conditions that go into making products they buy, there does exist a means to do that- independent, outside verification of wages and conditions.

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Roger McKinney

May 22, 2013  2:42pm

There is some truth in what you wrote about why the prices of consumer goods from poor countries are so low. Those are legal matters for the government, but the US companies who buy from the poor people in those corrupt countries have no control over laws concerning minimum wage, safety nets or pollution. Given that state of affairs, what would happen if Walmart refused to buy anything made in such a country? The people would have no jobs. Nothing would change in the government. There would still be no safety net, no minimum wage, no pollution laws, but the people would be much poorer. You American paternalistic arrogance accomplishes nothing but making miserable lives even more miserable.

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Roger McKinney

May 22, 2013  2:41pm

Paul, You clearly don’t know much about doing business in the poor world. If the business owner contracted with a builder, the builder has a thousand ingenious ways to cheat the owner and he will rarely discover them. If he asked the questions you propose, the builder would just lie to him. It happens a lot in the US where we have much better controls. There is nothing wrong with maximizing profit as long as you don’t cheat or steal to do so. And whose job is it to police theft and fraud, such as committed by the builder? It’s the state, not the market! You are witnessing another massive failure by the state that you want to blame on the market. Only the state has the power to reduce such corruption. Self-interest becomes greed only when it becomes immoral. Love as a motive is important for Christians, but how do you deal with the 90% of the world that isn’t? You can’t make them love others. Competition reduces greed far better than states.

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Paul Schryba

May 22, 2013  10:42am

And just to be fair, let's go back to the 'consumers'. Do consumers question why prices are low? Our capitalist society does not educate to do so; only to look for 'bargains'. What is one reason why prices are low? Because, ceteris paribus, products made in countries that have no minimum wage, that have no government safety net (funded through taxes), that have no laws against pollution, cost less than those that do. "Hey- I got a real deal on this." Could it be, because there are millions of Chinese willing to work for subsistence wages, in unsafe condtions, where there are no costs of environmental regulation? And what of the Americans, who live in a country with minimum wages, workplace safety and environmental laws, who are unemployed as a result? "Don't ask, don't tell- ignorance is bliss." As grace allows, I choose to support by my purchases those businesses that I have reasonable assurance pay a decent wage, that do not put carcinogens and otherwise pollute the environment.

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Paul Schryba

May 22, 2013  10:12am

Roger: Your last statements are complete conjecture. Taking them as they are: "The contractor did shoddy work..." Why? because he wanted to cut costs to maximize his own profit, or he 'low balled' his bid- to make money. The contractor bribed the officials-why? To 'make money'. "The business owner probably knew nothing about it..." The business owner never visited the construction site? Or never questioned why the bid was so low? The business owner never investigated the reasons for the safety violations? The business owner was making money, so no need to ask any questions, right? It all goes back to 'maximizing profit'- the failure to understand that work is to meet human needs, to be motivated by LOVE, as Jesus commands, and not to 'make profit.' The US companies did not know about the unsafe conditions. Did they ever bother to ask? Did they ever bother to investigate? Did they ever even question why the price for the goods was low? Nope. The priority is; make profit.

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