The conundrum presented by the Bangladeshi building collapse

By now you probably realize that there is a company in China with a factory where most of the electronics in the world are manufactured. If you own an HP, Dell, Apple, or Sony desktop or laptop; if you own an iPhone or Android phone or Blackberry; or if you own a sound system, it was probably made in the Chinese FoxConn factory. Working conditions there are poor. 

However, FoxConn is a heavenly paradise by comparison with some garment manufacturing facilities in Third World countries. A recent 9-story building collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh has resulted in a death toll of 400 and still counting. Apparently, several different garment contractors used the building to run sweatshops. 

The owner of the building was caught fleeing Bangladesh to India (which likely would have handed him back to Bangladesh anyway, had he been caught there). 

Now, the finger-pointing begins. 

To be sure, the building owner will get a lot of blame for operating a building that was, well, collapsible. But how much did he know? Was the construction company at fault for not following architect plans to the letter, or were their raw materials suppliers at fault for delivering substandard building materials. What about the architects?: did they cut corners in design to keep costs down (and in a poor country like Bangladesh, costs are always a consideration)?

Then, going in the other direction, how much blame should be laid on the doorstep of companies like Walmart, Sears, Target and others who, even if their products weren't manufactured in this specific building, contract to have products manufactured in similarly unsafe circumstances?

Do American companies have a responsibility to workers working under contract in other countries? or is this the business of the people and governments there?

Tags: Bangladesh, building, collapse

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brings some bucks into the U.S. economy

I like this reasoning. I also apply it in support of bio-fuels, in that it's better to pay our farmers for real production than to pay other (often corrupt) countries to extract oil for us. (I know that also increases food prices, but I see it as a better trade-off, in our longterm economic health.)

Is it really a good reason? There are plenty of bucks in the US economy already. The country consistently ranks near the top of the list for GDP per capita at purchasing power parity. The issue seems to merely be distribution.

I suppose yours is a good issue, but I wouldn't narrow it to merely that one.

I wish we could just stick all the issues into a spreadsheet as numbers, and statistically compare them. I guess the most effective solution might be whichever one is easiest for the right movers and shakers to implement.

The article contains an interesting obfuscation by the American Petroleum Institute, and doesn't go into the most important issue, our future return on investment.

Regrettably, the majority of us care only about that which personally affects us.

Regrettably, the majority of us care only about that which personally affects us.

Or someone else's confident-sounding talking points.

It's just institutionalized oppression. And the American way is if it doesn't bother us, if don't see it with our eyes, if it doesn't directly affect us, then we don't care and we don't want to hear about it.

As a Secular Humanitarian Atheist, I would say its all our fault (everyone in the world). We let oppression happen everywhere, we even contribute to it, but we are so naturally caught up in our lives and problems, that we become selfish to everything else and we start not care about the world. But that's the thing though. If we can get more people involved in Humanitarian ideologies as a whole, we can begin to fight these injustices. However that is very hard, we humans barely agree with each other, let alone coming together as a world force and battling any type of oppression. I guess as they say, if you want to change the world, you have to first change yourself. In the end. that's all you can do huh?

hence why I said we are selfish in our own ways and its hard to get everyone on the same page

In terms of changing the world, I see this differently. We don't even have enough humanitarianism at home. The number of homeless is still going up, people are still dying terrible deaths here every day from cancer and other diseases, and we still need to convert over to greener energies. If we can work on all those first, we can improve the state of the whole world just by using our strengths in sciences and technologies.

As far as individual countries with institutional problems, sure, there are ways to help. But can we do it by "fighting injustices", as you suggest? Forcefully? We have a pretty unpredictable track record there, Iraq especially. Now we're talking about arming Syrian rebels, which might do nothing more than kill people faster. Even rebel factions are fighting each other, Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah would like to get into the politics, and there's no evidence that they could put together a peaceful, cooperative government. I know this is a stretch from Bangladesh, but I'm just saying that it's not so easy to just march in and fix other cultures.

I wish we could stick closer to home, like within our own hemisphere. There's plenty of economic improvements to be made south of the border. Or Haiti. Maybe we can be good guys for our neighbors, first. (See my post, below about Mexico.)

What I really wish we could get better at is fixing our own problems, stay close to home, and set a good enough example for the world to want to come to us, instead of hating our interventions.

(Sorry Adam, I don't mean to complicate things, but deciding what our priorities are for how we should best help the world is a pretty complicated discussion.)

Somalia famine: UN warns of 750,000 deaths

When I said "fight injustice" I didn't mean it by force. I meant by gradual cultural changes with proper education and worker freedoms over the years. Of course we won't see the results in our generation, but perhaps we can get it started or contribute enough to even some minor success. 

I agree we need to first take care of America before we can help others. 

Both of those points sound reasonable and very agreeable to me. 


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