Who Says We Don’t Make Anything Anymore?

Our gadgety lives sure are neat.  Today lots of us are carrying around little devices that gives us all kinds of fascinating powers.  But at what cost are these powers granted to us, and on whom do those costs fall?  Monologist Mike Daisey, an avid technology enthusiast and Apple fan, decided to find out.  He went undercover pretending to be a businessman in need of getting some devices manufactured and checked out the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen, China.

It turns out the costs mostly fall on people in China.  Those people get what in China is considered a good job, and they also get to work double shifts standing the whole time, and sleep in factory dormitories when they aren’t working.  The standing causes their spines to fuse and the constant manipulation with their digits causes serious repetitive stress injury.  Not to mention the fact that many of these Chinese people I’m referring to are 12 years old…

“So what,” you might say.  “The people suffering here are the Chinese, and they are also making what for them is good money.  And they’re making something we want, at a price we can afford.”  And you’d be right.  Plus, hey, it’s illegal for them to form a union, but then again, they’re already part of the union.  The Communist Party sanctioned union!

Back to the headline of this post however, I have concluded that we do make things in this country.  We make miserable Chinese factory workers.

Also, it’s news in the US when McDonald’s announces it’s going to hire 50,000 people nationwide.  Know how many people work at the Foxconn plant in the one Chinese city of Shenzhen?  400,000.  Welcome to the 21st century!

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3 responses to “Who Says We Don’t Make Anything Anymore?”

  1. Kyle Weiss says:

    Some have suggested that in order to solve this, we’d literally have to reject purchasing such things. We’d have to break ties with up-and-coming industry countries like China. We’d probably have to make these things here, and pay people the wages they’d expect to get, under the working conditions they’d like. Which means we’d be paying $3,000 for an iPhone rather than $400.

    Eventually, something will happen in China. Either they will start getting privy to the fact they can make more money, whether this is the communist government or the freedom that seems to come in an ever-increasing capitalist China. This means our cost *will* go up one day, so yes, we’d very much so better enjoy it now.

    We’d better become innovative, productive and inventive US citizens, because this life of luxury where we get to spend nothing and get the best and do no work to get it, is going to go away. Especially for such disposable, redesigned consumable fads rather than working together with a mindset to improve or make…anything.

    Our citizens that think they deserve something based on merit, bloodline, suffering, victimization, or simple laziness, and that makes everyone slaves…from ourselves to the people that make the tools of this lifestyle. We can’t expect $15/hr with full benefits making hamburgers. We need to better ourselves, learn, and progress. We cannot thrive on jobs that exist simply to prevent and obstruct other jobs/production. Creating new jobs cannot consist of taking one job, making it part-time, and giving it to two people, because it looks good “to the public.” Suing someone is not an occupation, it’s legal thievery. Inheritance and the lottery are not success, because 99% of us will not receive any.

    We’re all spoiled, whining, ridiculous children, brought up by prior generations of people who knew what to do, and suck on the teat of expectation.

    Let’s get to work already. Full-time, productive, innovative, hard, pride-inducing, daily, character-building, revenue-generating, responsible work. Can’t find any place to do that? START YOUR OWN BUSINESS!

  2. Ken Manz says:

    @Kyle – Regarding the Apple situation, I am reminded of the time when Nike got publicly shamed into insisting on changes to the conditions in the sweatshops that were making its products. As the customer to the sweatshop, Nike had the leverage, which they never saw fit to exercise since being a public company profits are more important than working conditions with all things being equal. When they are being shamed by bad PR all things are not equal and something needs to change to make the bad PR go away. Whether this can or will happen in the case of Apple remains to be seen but that’s pretty much the only way it would happen other than as you say the more unlikely situation where people stop buying iphones and such. I’m glad my phone was made in Korea where people can vote and protest. I’m not seeing Chinese getting any of those rights any time soon.

    As for the good ol’ US of A you are indeed right that we all need to get out there on the hustle and shake things up. I think we do a lot of the advance legwork of innovating and such here in this country as it is, however, and I get the sense especially with publicly traded companies, profits > workers a lot, especially in manufacturing. Where those jobs go in a lot of cases they go to places where we simply cannot compete on cost. I don’t think anyone is expecting 15 bucks an hour to flip burgers, but it’s decent base pay for factory work. I don’t have the magic answer as a mix of trade policy, new product innovation and consumer preference all figure in to the mix. We’re definitely at a turning point so here’s hoping we choose wisely.

  3. Kyle Weiss says:

    Agreed on most things, but China still holds a majority of the manufacturing of our good lifestyle. They just are. It’s a good thing other countries are making things besides China where the heavy boot of “do it or else” isn’t being employed… but it does in fact make for more expensive goods eventually. Japan was the cheap country 30-50 years ago, and now we actually revere goods coming from Japan: and they’re more expensive. One day, we’ll run out of places to get cheap labor, and the honeymoon will be over.

    I hope we find life on Mars.

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