I’m sure many of you are out buying gifts for Christmas and such and in the haste of the season, I want to ask you to pay attention to something:
Find out who makes those gifts you are buying.
What do I mean? I mean that currently, around the world, many of the supplies and resources used for many of the products we buy and own, come from the labor of people who are treated absolutely horribly. For example, coltan (niobium-tantalum combination) is a metal that is instrumental in the manufacture of mobile phones/smartphones – and its primary source is the Democratic Republic of the Congo (see Wikipedia HERE for more info). The demand for this metal has caused much strife including poor working standards and the smuggling of the metal out of the country by militias to be sold to fund armed conflict (see more recent background and potential progress in THIS Bloomberg article). This problem came to a public head in 2000 when Sony’s PS2 shipments were held up due to this strange metal that few were familiar with.
Some mobile phone companies refuse to answer when asked where their coltan comes from – some say they do not buy from the Congo – but it is important that you know and just in case you don’t want to support the exploitation of our fellow human beings, you should consider how you purchase consumer goods.
This problem is not only with cell phones – it exists in clothing (remember Nike’s sweat shops?), food, almost anything we could buy. These problems still exist in a large way. American consumerism is much to blame – we don’t buy an article of clothing and take care of it – we buy “disposable clothing” over and over again.
Why would I bring up this point when I often write about free markets, low taxes, freedom, and limited government? Because this is right in line with such noble ideas. I believe everyone should have freedom of self determination and a low overall government burden. If our cost of bureaucracy weren’t so high, perhaps we could afford to pay twice as much for clothes and items (which would ensure decent wages for the producers).
It is right in line with my thinking that big government not control us here in the US and take our rights, just as I don’t support the idea of government leaders in other countries abusing their people’s rights and freedoms in order to enrich a few at the top. I sincerely believe that economic freedom is sine qua non for personal liberties. Think about it – if you lived in a socialist/statist type of country, and someone in government could likely control your income (and continuation thereof!), then you and your thoughts/speech could theoretically be controlled by the government. It’s only when you are YOUR OWN MAN or YOUR OWN WOMAN that you have true freedom (and at this point you are also most responsible for your choices in life since you can’t claim manipulation).
With that said, if you agree that our purchases can affect others’ freedom & liberty, what can you do? Quite simple – find out who makes what you want to buy and see if the product’s manufacture is consistent with respecting the dignity and opposing the exploitation of those of who manufacture it.
FYI: Here are some sites that point out the poor treatment of humans:
Human Rights Watch – obvious what they do – most people know this org
Make it Fair – European based site that encourages companies to use good labor practices and creates write in campaigns to change behavior
International Catholic Migration Commission – I support this org because beyond poor labor practices, I abhor human trafficking and slavery. ICMC works to stop that. Imagine one night living in slavery – how would it feel?
Have a great week before Christmas and try to limit the consumerism!
ps – an idea that you may want to consider – instead of buying gifts that people likely won’t use/enjoy, consider giving to good charities this year in the name of your family/friends. The charities likely could use the money and your friends probably don’t need whatever you were going to get them!