Thursday, October 23, 2008

Economic Warfare

Recently Sarah Denley sent me an email. The email was about child labor. The email was about an Indian child whose brother got sick and his mother could not pay for the medicine. The $100 dollars was borrowed with the child's ability to make soccer balls as collateral. The child now had to work 10-15 hours a day to make soccer balls in order to repay the loan. The loan has an interest rate such that the child cannot work his way out of it anytime soon, so he is trapped making soccer balls for our amusement so that he could save his brother's life. This story is not uncommon- parents unable to pay wages for medical or living expenses with their jobs, so they must force their children into labor so their family can make ends meet. There are very few people in America who can stomach this practice, but many who support it- unintentionally. We like our cheap Walmart and Target products, such as soccer balls, this way we can balance our families budgets and use our money wisely as God would have us do.
The problem with all of this is that while our cheap goods save us money in the short term- money saved that we can give to local and international organizations (churches, independent ministries, and even food aid organizations)- in the long term our search for cheap goods could be defeating our noble goals. For example, let's say I buy cheap goods from Target and with the money saved give it to a group that seeks to provide education to poor Christian children in Indonesia. Some of this money is going to go to the organizations administrators, some of it will then go to the local operators in Indonesia that provide the education. The money will partly be lost in this, which is a must that's what we're paying for. Some of the money will also go into supplies for the children, and the rest will be used to booster the education provided at the school. Now we've done something noble, but now the organization in Indonesia must get children to attend this school. Some of the children will attend in the area of the school, but some will be trapped in a cycle of near slave labor making soccer balls or plates or garments so that we can save money on these items to donate it to their communities to build them. This cycle, while noble ideals are involved on many sides, has wasted much capital in trying to reach it's goal. We aren't able to reach all the people that we want to reach for education or whatever our mission is because we've unknowingly exploited them in other ways.
This is not something we do purposely, it's something we do incidentally. It's a product of our capitalist system going global with corporations who do not hold to the same values that we do. This is not to say that capitalism is an immoral system, but that we, the people must hold the companies we support with our money accountable to our personal values systems. The problem is that when capitalist corporations went global in operations, we were not able to see what affect they had on other communities, so we didn't notice the problems we were causing. It was much easier when we saw the impact of cheap labor in our communities, but we can't see it in India.
This reality has been harder for me, because it means that I actually will begin to support some of the companies that Sarah Denley likes that maybe charge me a little more for their plates and home decor. But it's easier on my conscience for me to know where their factories are (ex. Gail Pittman). And so by buying things like Gail Pittman's plates and just having less of them I am still able to donate the money to charitable causes that further Our Lord's impact in this world of His. I can still build up the economies in third world and developing nations by investing in companies (i.e stock, mutual funds, 401k) that seek to build up these regions with good labor and environmental practices; and by giving micro loans with my money (kiva.org). I'm sorry for the rambling nature of this post, but I got off on a bit of a tangent, maybe later I'll go into why I believe in investing and micro loans, but this is a long enough post for today.

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