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Consumers needn't moralize about Apple's use of forced Chinese labor, but Trump should tariff it

Table of Contents

  1. HN link
  2. My answer
  3. Expert confirmation
  4. Start in your own house
    1. Round 1
    2. Round 2
  5. Capitalism questioned
    1. he wrote
    2. my reply

HN link

Apple’s longtime supplier accused of using forced labor in China (washingtonpost.com)
309 points by mzs 14 hours ago | hide | past | favorite | 636 comments
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25570207

My answer

Traditionally slavery was an alternative to death for the conquered. I'm morbidly curious what the effects of all Western corporations banning slave labor would be. I doubt it would result in liberation. Would working conditions for the slaves worsen when they worked for local, lower-margin factories instead? I can't imagine them improving.

I have little faith in legal remedies to liberate slaves. Arming them seems the only long-term effective solution. Otherwise the man with the gun will order the slave back to work the second the man in the wig isn't looking. And the man in the wig will remain silent, to avoid revealing his impotence.

Slave labor is inefficient, so perhaps the best way is to topple inefficient slave societies through full-spectrum competition, from military to economic. This pressure incentivizes efficient human resource utilization.

One thing's for sure: Individual Westerner guilt over whether to buy the next iPhone will add zero value.

Expert confirmation

mahrain 1 hour ago [–]

Having spent several years in Chinese supply chain activities, the factories building iPhones, XBoxes etc. Are some of the nicest ones around. Clean, large campuses with organized activities for workers etc.
There are several tiers of factories below that, with worse worker accommodations, Longer working hours, worse working conditions. Some of the smaller, poorer factories will provide little in terms of personal protective equipment, ergonomics, and make stuff for the local, African and South Asian markets where there’s little pressure on companies to have a “clean” supply chain. These workers would go there.

Nice to have theory confirmed by experience.

Start in your own house

Round 1

dmingod666 27 minutes ago [–]

Doing good starts from home. Arm your prison labor and minimum wage workers. Let us know how that goes..

I didn't say arming slaves was good. I said it was the only effective long-term solution to the problem of liberating slaves. The consensus here is anti-slavery, so I accepted that premise.

The USA does permit minimum wage workers to purchase cheap pistols, which is probably why its police aren't brave enough to lock them down. Sometimes those workers even upset a predetermined election.

I do not support prisons. On average, it is better to be the slave of an individual and work for him than it is to be the slave of a state and live in a cage full of predators. Although of course I would rather be imprisoned for life in modern Scandinavia than serve 10 years of "indentured servitude" in Plantation America.

Since doing good starts from home, I suggest you liberate your extended family's children from compulsory labor. Let us know how that goes…

Round 2

dmingod666 1 hour ago [–]

I'm not Chinese.. sorry if I was too rude… Agree that slavery is just hidden now and called by a different name.. it's sad, America with it's literally unlimited resources can do much better for it's own citizens, but it's too divided on class and uses race problems to divert attention from the real problem that the lower classes are screwed over in every possible way.. I think if the politicians there were a little less corrupt it would have been so much more nicer for regular folk..

No problem. Regarding realness, you might want to compare the number of years it takes to move between socioeconomic classes in America versus the number of years it takes to evolve a distinct race of humans.

Unity is a fine sentiment. Lions are unanimously in favor of lions laying down with lambs. If it hasn't worked yet, that only shows the weakness of our faith. Give until it hurts! Thank you Jesus!

Sorry, I was channeling a televangelist there. I don't know what possessed me.

https://brewminate.com/divide-et-impera-a-history-of-divide-and-rule/

What bothers me is there are so many fun immigration combinations that never get any press. Where's the lobby for unlimited Chinese immigration into Japan? Can you imagine the Godzilla movies we'd get out of that? What has Japan done for us lately, besides Dark Souls? A new national trauma is just the thing to refresh that fatalistic warrior muse.

If the Chinese and Japanese can't coexist, despite belonging to the same race and often being mutually indistinguishable, then who can?

Capitalism questioned

he wrote

mqrs 1 hour ago [–]

perhaps the best way is to topple inefficient slave societies through full-spectrum competition, from military to economic. This pressure incentivizes efficient human resource utilization.

Isn’t that what’s already happening though? One might even say that this neoliberalist take is precisely what brought about the current situation. For producers in the market to be competitive, they must (over)optimize for profit. One of the best ways to do that is by reducing cost. One of the best ways to reduce cost is by employing cheaper labor (“efficient human resource utilization”, you said), and to do that, tech companies must outsource to manufacturers located in poor countries with weak state institutions where the transacting parties can get away with slavery.

my reply

Humans envy wealth not justified by the generous hunter archetype, who shares his kill's meat with the tribe. Humans also lust to devour chips and candy until their teeth rot and their hearts explode. A three-pound brain comes with legacy firmware. Vulnerabilities should be patched in the next 10,000-year release. Please hold.

Tribal politics are mediated by emotion, settled by sex and violence, and recorded in genes. Unfelt but underlying is the telos of life: to accelerate the heat death of the universe and achieve a more perfectly-uniform field of lifeless subatomic dust. Inspiring! If God is the universe, then life is the cancer She dies of.

So if you really hate God, become Elon Musk and advance humanity along the Kardashev Scale. Which brings us to what international pressure really is: the race up the Kardashev ladder. Those left behind enjoy a century of humiliation, as China discovered when the European nations forcibly opened her ports for business in classically-rapey colonial fashion. If forcible anachronism is a form of societal slavery, then this was a liberation of the Chinese peasant, who now owns a cell phone and several outfits.

Later Mao attempted his Great Leap Forward, but gave up on it before meeting the fate of Pol Pot, whose supreme ideological commitment weakened Cambodia so badly that Vietnam invaded. Thus the threat of invasion checks the degree of enslavement feasible. Of course, it rarely comes to that. Even Communists can be reasonable.

Isn’t that what’s already happening though?

China should be enjoying her Asian tiger rise in per capita GDP, and filling the vacuum left by the USA's receding thalassocracy. However, it's always possible to overplay a good hand, and it appears Xi did exactly that. If he's replaced by a moderate after Deng's heart, it will be partly due to the pressure Trump put on China, in a reversal of the USA's prior indulgence. Not that Trump is doing much on an absolute scale, but relatively, it's a dramatic shift. Mostly though, it's China's own fault. Burning all her international goodwill to hoard COVID19 PPE will prove very expensive, among other shenanigans.

Just because I make a factual historical observation, doesn't make me a neoliberal. Slave societies are an extreme case. I doubt China could be described as one at her current levels of forced labor.

For producers in the market to be competitive, they must (over)optimize for profit. One of the best ways to do that is by reducing cost. One of the best ways to reduce cost is by employing cheaper labor (“efficient human resource utilization”, you said), and to do that, tech companies must outsource to manufacturers located in poor countries with weak state institutions where the transacting parties can get away with slavery.

Here's where you're right: Tribal politics represent the genetic feedback system, and they dislike arbitrary wealth because of its damaging distortion of genetic fitness feedback. The market economy makes wealth a much less arbitrary signal of genetic fitness, but it is nowhere near a replacement for tribal politics. Unless you think Bill Gates should get all the California girls…

That's why successful societies balance the interests of the rich against the interests of the commoners.

However, I wouldn't call China a "poor country with weak state institutions". If their slaves are outcompeting our free skilled tech workers, there's a simple solution for that: Slap a tariff on it. This move will garner enough popularity to guarantee a crowd of adoring iPhone assembly technicians in front of the golden statue of yourself you erect with the proceeds.

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