Sunday, 20 June 2010

What is wrong with this picture?


There is nothing that is intrinsically wrong with this picture. It’s of a garden bench which I bought to enhance my front entrance patio.

“Some assembly required” were the dreaded words on the carton, but I managed to get the thing together in about an hour. And it looks very good.

What is “wrong” is that I paid just fifty bucks ($50) for the bench at my local “Big Lots” – “a bargain indeed”.

But..... please consider the following.


1. The cost of the raw materials, and the wages of those who mined the iron, or cut the wood.

2. The cost of moving those raw materials to the Chinese factory.

3. The use of electricity in changing the raw materials into a “ready to assemble” bench. The wages of the Chinese workers who turned raw materials into a bench.

4. The use of carbon based fuels to move this item from the factory to the sea port; from the Chinese sea port to an American port.

5. The use of gas/petrol/diesel oil to take the bench from an American port to a warehouse, and thence to my local “Big Lots”

6. The wages of (a) the Chinese miners and factory workers; (b) the Chinese transportation workers (rail or road); (c) the mariners who brought this from China to the U.S.A ; (d) of the workers at my local store are surely below par.

7. This list could and should go on and on. But three things are clear to me.

First: Somewhere in the big picture the workers (miners, lumberers, factory hands, truck, train or ship hands, clerks in retail etc [the list goes on and on] are being shafted.

Second: Somewhere in the big picture the ecological cost of carbon fuel based energy does not get reflected in the cost of a product.

Third: I can buy an item which for me is a bargain. But the hidden costs for workers and for the “environment” are horrendous.

Fourth: The hidden costs of the “free market” are very high. Human workers are enslaved and the natural world is devastated in order to support unbridled capitalism.

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