The Slaves are Restless

This is Apple’s design team at a London event where they all received a prize. This set of workers designed the new iPhone, which is apparently quite difficult for another set of workers to manufacture. So difficult that those workers in China may be on strike. It’s not clear exactly what’s happening there, but it does appear that there have been some work disturbances at Foxconn in the last couple of weeks because of the pressure to reduce the iPhone 5 backlog.

The parts in an iPhone 5 (16GB) cost $199. Assembly cost is approximately $8.00. Apple sells them for $649. That kind of margin pays for perks like Jony Ive and his crew’s flight to London. I wonder how much it would cost to pay for decent working conditions for those Foxconn workers.

(And, yes, I do understand that the working conditions for other smartphone manufacturers are probably as bad or worse.)

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205 replies
  1. 1
    JBerardi says:

    (And, yes, I do understand that the working conditions for other smartphone manufacturers are probably as bad or worse.)

    Yeah, and the working conditions for the people who make your underwear and harvest your produce are worse still. The exploitation of labor is a global problem that has almost nothing to do with Apple specifically.

  2. 2
    Schlemizel says:

    (And, yes, I do understand that the working conditions for other smartphone manufacturers are probably as bad or worse.)

    Yeah, most smart phones are made at Foxxconn so it is not just Apple. But this is the world we have built. They could even build the damn things here & pay living wages but still make a profit. It just wouldn’t be a huge a profit.

    What they don’t understand is the workers building these things will NEVER be able to afford one. What will they do when the whole world is working for those same wages? Nobody will be able to afford their shit. But these assclowns only care about this quarter, the hell with everything else

  3. 3
    AT says:

    @JBerardi: Though apple markets themselves in a certain way and purchases perceive them in a certain way. That’s not to mention the billions of dollars apple makes every day.

  4. 4
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    Apple design team? I thought it was a TED conference after-party.

  5. 5
    john_h says:

    This reminds me of the Rmoney shot with him and his friends stuffing dollar bills everywhere….

  6. 6
    RSA says:

    You’re picking on the design team? I suppose they’re an easy target, being all dressed up and holding stemmed glasses, but they’re not the problem.

  7. 7
    burnspbesq says:

    16 gig iPhone 5 costs $449. The $649 Unsubsidized price is for the 64 gig version.

    And I’m sure you know that there’s more to COGS than just the cost of materials and labor. But that’s OK. Demagoguery is as much a part of Saturday morning as College GameDay and steak-and-egg burritos.

    It continues to be odd that Apple is the designated whipping boy for working conditions in Asia. Sony, Samsung, and HP are no better. Nor are Nike, Skechers, Polo Ralph Lauren, Jockey, or Maidenform.

  8. 8
    grass says:

    Even as a somewhat anti-apple person, I’m not going to hold it against them paying Jony Ive and Co a bomb – they’re talented people. Also, don’t see anything wrong in that picture, you’ve never enjoyed a glass of champagne or travelled overseas? So I think this post missed the mark.

    The real problem is not that they pay their designers huge amounts at the expense of factory workers, it’s that they sit on a huge pile of cash which they could either use to bring down the cost of their products, pay for better conditions in China or invest in real R&D, which they do surprisingly little of.

  9. 9
    srv says:

    I can’t buy an iphone until robots replace all those workers and leave them on the streets.

  10. 10
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    @burnspbesq: See AT at 3 above for why Apple is the designated whipping boy. The other tech companies you mention don’t market themselves as the Holy Grail of all that is hip and cool and right in the world. Granted, for the apparel, Lauren tries.

  11. 11
    Skipjack says:

    OK class warrior, turn in all your electronics at the rally and we’ll burn the lot.

    Really, you link to an unrelated iPhone design pic and a story that denies that Foxconn workers are on strike. And what would they be on strike for, if they really are? Poor working conditions. What kind of awful working conditions? Quality controls that are sending back their work. Oh and of course it was Apple who canceled their holiday. Come on.

  12. 12
    burnspbesq says:

    @AT:

    Apple doesn’t make “billions of dollars a day.” It doesn’t even come close to having a billion a day in sales. Here’s a link to its 10-Q for the quarter ended in June.

    http://investor.apple.com/secf.....CIK=320193

  13. 13
    Anya says:

    @john_h: It’s an unfair comparison. Romney and friends didn’t make anything, they destroyed companies and raided pensions to make that kind of a bank. These guys on the other hand are designers. They are celebrating their creativity. Let’s be fair.

  14. 14
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason:

    Yup, this. Hip and cool to be using slave labor. That’s what they’re selling, albeit indirectly.

    Worker exploitation is a problem in a lot of industries. The root cause is the endless greed of the overclass.

  15. 15
    Jamey says:

    @JBerardi: Apple is the unquestioned market leader. They could make labor conditions their “issue,” and thereby set the standard for their industry.

    Or not.

    So, yeah, this has a LOT to do with Apple.

  16. 16
    burnspbesq says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    The root cause is the endless greed of the overclass

    The root cause is that the global consumer wants stuff to be cheap.

  17. 17
    Cargo says:

    Thank the gods everything ELSE we wear, use, communicate with, ride in and eat are made and gathered by happy little elves frolicking in forested glades.

  18. 18
    NotMax says:

    $400 to $700 for a freaking phone?

    (shakes head in astonishment) Stop the world, I want to get off.

  19. 19
    john_h says:

    Anya-

    I’m unsure why the comparison is unfair. Both teams are celebrating their victories at the game of capitalism. One team designed a phone… another a business plan. The setting and style of both photos seem analogous to me.

  20. 20
    sparrow says:

    @Schlemizel: My boyfriend and I like to refer to this as the “thermal death of capitalism”

  21. 21
    Walker says:

    R&D is not free. Do not pretend it is.

  22. 22
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @burnspbesq:

    If the problem were consumers wanting it to be cheap, there wouldn’t be so spectacular a margin per iPhone.

    Everywhere it’s maximize “shareholder value”, which in reality means swag for management…attempts by shareholders to reign in this shit get ruthlessly suppressed.

  23. 23
    Pen says:

    I’m typing this on an ipad with a thinkpad case cover keyboard. I’m sure both items were manufactured overseas for dirt cheap. Yet when it comes to scorn you can bet your ass I’ll target Apple first. They’re sitting on piles of cash, paying shit wages, and marking their products up to obscene levels. If it weren’t for their app market I wouldn’t even look twice at their hardware.

    But, and I’ll be the first to admit, they’re just one symptom of a systemic problem. Short sighted greed and the ability to buy off tax & trade law have created a system that’s little different than a parasite on the entirety of global production. Resources, labor… it’s all being used to funnel money up to the top at the expense of everyone else.

    The fact that this is the world I’ve inherited won’t stop me from using what little capital and resources I can get out of the system to buy things that make my life easier or more enjoyable. Apple’s a figurehead of modern capitalism, so calling others hypocrites because they dareattack your favorite company? Weak sauce.

  24. 24
    burnspbesq says:

    Apple sells them for $649

    Apple’s share of iPhone retail sales is less than 20 percent. The phone companies, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart account for nearly all of the rest. Apple gets a lot less than MSRP in its wholesale sales.

    According to its 10-K for the fiscal year ended September 2011, Apple’s gross margin was 40.5 percent. That’s good but not great.

  25. 25
    Maude says:

    @NotMax:
    Also a status symbol.
    I don’t have one. I use a land line and like it. I have an old Western Electric phone I got at a garage sale. Thing is wonderful. I got two of them.

  26. 26
    Enhanced Voting techniques says:

    @Walker:

    R&D is not free. Do not pretend it is.

    and how many of their designs were a flop too? Plus you are forgetting about the cost of developing the O/S that goes into it and distribution.

  27. 27
    Special One says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason: Other companies most certainly do market themselves as such… just not as successfully. Don’t blame the hard working ad wizards!

  28. 28
    danielx says:

    @Shawn in ShowMe:

    Reminds me of that pic of Rmoney and his cohorts all grinning with their dollars.

  29. 29
    lamh35 says:

    Whoa, have you seen the OfA and Dems September fundraising numbers! I’d heard $150 but the actual amount is $181 mill total & all from donors who gave less than $250. Which means that can still give more in this last month right! Question, with the new Citizens United world, can any other Dems compete with the Obama campaigns ability to get their supporters to contribute? I adj because thinking about 2016, other than maybe Hilary who else could raise the amount of funds needed to compete against the Superpacs?

    http://livewire.talkingpointsm.....tember?m=1

  30. 30
    Walker says:

    So why aren’t people on this thread complaining that games cost $60 when it only costs a few cents to manufacture a DVD? That follows roughky the same “logic” as this post.

  31. 31
    jeffreyw says:

    Pretentious claptrap. Real cool kids are disappointed with android phones.

  32. 32
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @Cargo:

    True, none of our hands are clean. When the whole corrupt system has grown to encompass the entire planet, you don’t have much choice in the matter. But when a behemoth corporation doubles and triples down on human exploitation to maximize profits, they should be criticized. Comparing the business practices of Apple to the herd mentality of an iPhone fanboy is the just another version of “both sides do it.”

  33. 33
    john_h says:

    NotMax-

    $700 for the phone/computer is small potatoes, ~$100 per month for user fees is the cost killer here.

    My question to the comment group here is for all the anguish over labor conditions overseas… would you support an additional consumer tax (or tariff) on “Foxconn” style electronics? I mean these are luxury items… so even this style of consumption tax would likely be ‘progressive’

  34. 34
    Pen says:

    @burnspbesq: According to Forbes their 5-year Net Margin average is just over 20%. The norm is between 5 and 12%, so I’d say they’ve got wiggle room to improve working conditions.

  35. 35
    Pen says:

    @john_h: Screw the common vs luxury good distinction, I’d just implement a “tax the shit out of any “domestic” company that imports finished goods while employing fabrication labor overseas” policy. It’ll never happen, there are two many power players in the current system.

  36. 36
    Pen says:

    @Walker:While we’re on the “obfuscation by diversion” tactic can I also bitch about the completely not what we’re talking about issue of college textbook costs? I mean fuck man, those things are expensive!

    Nah, I think I’ll stick to the OP topic. Thanks for playing.

  37. 37
    john_h says:

    Pen: sounds great. seems like it would be easier to implement as a variable consumption tax (i.e. “made in USA 2%… made in China 8% etc.)

    however, you’re correct that this will never happen, since its impossible for us to raise taxes on anything for any reason. (see gas tax, carbon tax…. and on and on)

  38. 38
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @Walker:

    Because Apple makes more in a couple of weeks than any American video game company makes in a year. Because Electronic Arts hasn’t assembled a million-man army of Bob Cratchits and Tiny Tims to manufacture Madden 2013.

  39. 39
    NotMax says:

    @john_h

    $700 for a device that will be obsolete and tossed aside in what – 12 months? 18?

    $100 a month for connection?

    Color me gobsmacked.

    But then I still mostly use a rotary phone I bought for 20 bucks from Bell when they first began phone sales some 30 years ago. For occasions when I must have touch-tone capability, have a $10 model that’s been kicking around for maybe 10 years or so (with the ringer shut off, as I find its chirping sound highly annoying). Monthly bill, with all taxes included, is around $22.

  40. 40
    Special One says:

    @NotMax: Think of it as $400 for a device that fits in your pocket that has a thousand times the computing power of the multi-ton, million dollar machines that PUT A MAN ON THE FREAKIN’ MOON!

    That’s really a fairly copacetic piece of kit when viewed in that light.

  41. 41
    Comrade Carter says:

    Stop it already.

    Apple is NOT the scent of POWER, Apple is a relatively decent company that gives relatively ALL of the contributions they make to Democratic policies.

    All of them. From Tim Cook downward.

    Not a percentage, but ALL of them.

    Should Apple’s taxes be higher, of course. Should Samsung’s… Of course, if they could make money in the USA.

    Does Samsung have any interest in Foxconn… Of course they do.

  42. 42
    PeterJ says:

    @Anya:

    They are celebrating their creativity. Let’s be fair.

    Romney was creative too.

  43. 43
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @Special One:

    Think of it as $400 for a device that fits in your pocket that has a thousand times the computing power of the multi-ton, million dollar machines that PUT A MAN ON THE FREAKIN’ MOON!

    And instead of using the iPhone to put totebaggers on Mars, they’re using it to socialize. What a waste of computing power.

  44. 44
    El Cid says:

    I am severely aggrieved that simpleton demagogues suggest that there’s anything wrong with very rich people at astoundingly rich companies celebrating themselves while the workers who make their products are paid very little and work in brutal conditions given the fact that all of this happens for the most respectable of abstract reasons and generalized human motivations for which no one is ever, ever, ever at fault, save the undesired agitators who whine about this stuff.

  45. 45
    NotMax says:

    @special One

    Economies of scale (and also Moore’s Law). There were 17 manned Apollo missions.

    I suspect there are a few more iPhones sold than that.

  46. 46
    Pen says:

    @Comrade Carter: These are also the same guys who have implemented, and are waging, a MAD patent fight against Android that is finally getting more than just the geeks to notice how supremely fucked up and out of balance the patent system is.

    I mean sure, they’re one of the bad guys there, but hey at least they’re doing something good! Look, if you can’t criticize and call out your allies they’re not your ally, they’re your boss.

  47. 47
    gbear says:

    What they don’t understand is the workers building these things will NEVER be able to afford one.

    WTF. I’m nominally middle class and I sure as hell can’t afford to shell out $650 for a damned phone.

  48. 48
    PeterJ says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Apple’s share of iPhone retail sales is less than 20 percent. The phone companies, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart account for nearly all of the rest. Apple gets a lot less than MSRP in its wholesale sales.

    Best Buy and Wal-Mart get paid when you buy a iphone online or in a Apple Store? That’s news to me.

    One major reason why Apple is making so much more money on each phone than for instance Samsung is on its high end phones is the fact that Apple has an entire distribution system. Samsung doesn’t have a network of Samsung Stores, which means that a much greater share of their phones are sold through Best Buy/Wall Mart/etc.
    I also recall Apple making a lot better deals with phone companies, doesn’t Sprint actually lose money on selling an iphone? (Now Sprint may make money when people use their Sprint iphones, but that’s not what you were talking about, you were talking about what Apple makes from selling their phones.)

  49. 49
    scav says:

    Unfortunately, picking on Apple in this case is practical. Those are intelligent people in the factory and they know that disturbances impacting an iProduct get reported. Nobody notices disruptions of Maidenform bras or DVDs. And, on t’other side, everybody picking on ONE (or a few) big company(ies) probably makes sense because they’ll drag others with them (see McDonald and battery cages or pig farms or I forget exactly which). Not 100% fair: Practical. And, they could do better. Just because one doesn’t walk up to every single person on the planet and say that doesn’t mean we can’t say it all.

  50. 50
    the Conster says:

    @El Cid:

    Someone hasn’t had their Kool-Aid today.

  51. 51
    Narcissus says:

    @Schlemizel: Then we’ll all just be making luxury goods for them to sell to each other

    Here’s the thing: If you do any reading about this you see how completely irrevocably interconnected it is and how at it’s base is a larger slave population that ever in the days of actual, legalized slavery (look-up Kevin Bales). So what is the answer? Reform? It’s not possible. The entire structure is corrupt. To change it requires massive cultural and political shifts that are not going to happen so long as the Oligarchs can help it.

    I don’t know what the solution is.

    A lot of the reasons reform isn’t possible you’ll find in this thread — don’t blame apple, everybody does it, give your computer to a chinese factory worker if you’re so virtuous, et cetera.

  52. 52
    Chet says:

    WTF. I’m nominally middle class and I sure as hell can’t afford to shell out $650 for a damned phone.

    You know, even if you finance it with a credit card it’s cheaper to buy an unlocked phone upfront and shop around for the cheapest plan than to have your phone subsidized by the carrier and get locked-in for two years on their hand-picked expensive plans. It’s cheaper by something like a thousand dollars, if I remember right.

    ETF’s and two-year contracts persist because people are very, very bad at math. The unlocked full-cost iPhone (or any other unlocked, unsubsidized smartphone) is one of the best deals out there right now.

  53. 53
    Culture of Truth says:

    All the cool hipsters use rotary phones now.

  54. 54
    Rafer Janders says:

    The parts in an iPhone 5 (16GB) cost $199. Assembly cost is approximately $8.00. Apple sells them for $649.

    Yes, parts and labor are only $207, while they sell for $649 — but you know well that when you buy a phone, you’re also paying for the years of R&D and research that went into developing the software for that phone, the continuing R&D that goes into updates, advertising, marketing, cost of shipping, cost of storage, leases and upkeep for Apple stores, patent and research licenses and agreements, employee salaries and healthcare benefits, etc. etc. etc.

    It’s a portable handheld computer running multiple complicated and interlocking applications, and so yes, parts and labor are only one one fraction of the cost. Without the rest of it, the parts and labor just result in a $207 plastic brick.

  55. 55
    Rafer Janders says:

    @NotMax:

    $400 to $700 for a freaking phone?

    No, $400 to $700 for a freaking ultralight computer that you can carry around in your front pocket.

  56. 56
    gbear says:

    Think of it as $400 for a device that fits in your pocket that has a thousand times the computing power of the multi-ton, million dollar machines that PUT A MAN ON THE FREAKIN’ MOON

    Now think about the stuff you’re using it for…

  57. 57
    Pen says:

    @Rafer Janders: 20% net margin per year. They’re raking in the cash at double the industry average and they’re sitting on a mountain of the shit Scrooge McDuck style. It’s not that complicated.

  58. 58
    Pen says:

    @Narcissus: There are days when I think about this stuff a lot. They usually end up with me cracking open a few bottles and watching Fight Club. Not sure why.

  59. 59
    Crusty Dem says:

    What a thick slice of dumbassery today. As an Apple shareholder since the IPO (plus a big buy in 2003), I’d have the CEO’s head if they took over production, moved it away from their supply chains, and tried build them here. Remember they don’t have ANY experience building small consumer electronics. Anyone want to tell me the biggest company building small consumer electronics in the US? Anyone? Just like Samsung, Apple is no longer in the build game, strictly design. Taking over production would be completely infeasible.

    I’m open to legitimate suggestions on more Apple can do to prove conditions. But most of the suggestions on this thread are thick as pig shit. Don’t forget that Apple should give everyone a fucking pony!

  60. 60
    NotMax says:

    @Rafer Janders

    for a freaking ultralight computer that you can carry around in your front pocket.

    No thanks. I’ll pass.

    Already have a free computer I carry around in my skull.

    Plus there’s some uniquely sensitive anatomy in the front pocket area. ;)

  61. 61
    Or something like that.Suffern Ace says:

    @gbear: A little known fact. Neil Armstrong actually positioned the lunar modual based on directions he was recieving from some guy on grindr.

  62. 62
    jon says:

    I wish some liberal celebrity would start an Adopt-a-Foreign-Worker charity so I could donate money to make sure Chin, a factory worker in Quangzhou City’s Housing Development M, is able to update his facebook page when he’s finished with his twelve-hour shift. I can just see Ben Stiller walking among them, speaking in a plaintive voice, pointing out the ones with only a dozen facebook friends, and asking “Can you not help this poor man’s social life? He’ll never be able to afford to play Words With Friends unless you give $46 a month to supplement his phone, wifi service, and electric bill. And if you give now, we’ll throw in a ‘iPhone Guilt-Free’ cover for your iPhone 5!”

  63. 63
    gbear says:

    @Chet: I’m still using the first Nokia cell phone that I ever bought and I’m buying time in blocks – no monthly plan. My Nokia cost $70 and it costs me about $5 a month for minutes. I still have my land line becuase I’m using a DSL internet connection, but I don’t have to pay for long distance access on my land line which drops the price. All long distance calls are made on the cell phone and it’s nice to have the cell phone while traveling. I’m really happy with this setup.

  64. 64
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @Crusty Dem:

    As an Apple shareholder since the IPO (plus a big buy in 2003), I’d have the CEO’s head if they took over production,

    Ebenezer Scrooge was a helluva businessman and his liberal nephew was a girly man. The rest of the board disagrees vociferously with the findings of The Three Spirits, Upton Sinclair and Henry Ford.

  65. 65
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    The parts in an iPhone 5 (16GB) cost $199. Assembly cost is approximately $8.00. Apple sells them for $649.

    You’re really comfortable with that equation, even after reading the story of Gorilla Glass, let alone discarding the cost of creating the operating system or maintaining the app store ecosystem?

    Christ, the whole argument behind the competitive advantage of the US is that it can accumulate sufficient skills and innovation in industrial and application design to avoid the inevitable race to the bottom in manufacturing.

    I don’t have one. I use a land line and like it. I have an old Western Electric phone I got at a garage sale.

    Also a status symbol. Actually, saying “I use an old bakelite phone” in 2012 is much more of a status marker than “I use a smartphone”.

  66. 66
    Randy Shane says:

    @NotMax:
    Just to nitpick, there were only 11 (or 12…) manned Apollo missions. Apollo 1 caught fire during a test on the launch pad, killing the crew, 2 through 6 were various unmanned tests of the redesigned capsule, and 7 through 17 were manned missions.

  67. 67
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @pseudonymous in nc:

    Also a status symbol. Actually, saying “I use an old bakelite phone” in 2012 is much more of a status marker than “I use a smartphone”.

    Yes and atheism is just another form of religion. And I’m rubber and you’re glue. But what about Apple’s Dickensian business practices? Bah, humbug.

  68. 68
    PurpleGirl says:

    Are they holding their awards? It looks like the object they are holding is shaped like a pencil. I wonder if the prize they won came from the British organization involved with graphics and design. If it was D&AD (Pencil Awards), then that’s the group I helped crochet the water tower cozy for.

    ETA: Yes! The awards for design excellence came from D&AD.

  69. 69
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Chet:

    The unlocked full-cost iPhone (or any other unlocked, unsubsidized smartphone) is one of the best deals out there right now.

    In Europe, where you can buy an unlocked GSM smartphone and pick any carrier, it’s a no-brainer. In the US, it’s a harder case to make, given the provider segmentation: there are very few phones that are fully portable, and you’re not going to get a decent month-to-month discount — or any grandfathering of features like unlimited data — compared to people with contracts.

  70. 70
    Rafer Janders says:

    @NotMax:

    No thanks. I’ll pass.

    OK, then, don’t buy it. Perfectly rational decision. It’s a luxury item, and no one needs an iPhone. I don’t have one myself and have never owned one.

    What I object to, however, is the irrational “$400 for a phone!!” tone when everyone knows full well that’s it’s not merely a phone. It’s a phone/camera/video camera/computer in one.

    Already have a free computer I carry around in my skull.

    So do I, but my free computer doesn’t make phone calls, store all my contact information, allow me to surf the Web and send and receive emails and texts, store multiple copies of magazines and newspapers, allow me to transfer money in and out of my bank and brokerage accounts, function as a portable music player, still camera, video camera, and DVR, etc. etc.

    Again, this is not a sell for the iPhone. Total luxury item, and for many people essentially a toy. It’s why I don’t have one — I don’t get that thrill out of tech toys that some people do. But considering the range of things it does, it’s a pretty cheap luxury item, considering. If you bought just a mobile phone, a camera, and a video camera separately, you’d be paying much more, and you still wouldn’t be getting half the functionality that you get in one device.

  71. 71
    gbear says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: But nothing says ‘forever’ like a Nokia phone.

  72. 72
    Three-nineteen says:

    This post is almost the equivalent of that moron who yelled at the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru worker.

    These people are Apple employees, not corporate officers. The design team has no say in how the phones are made, where the phones are made, how much the manufacturing employees are paid, or how much money the phones sell for. You are trying to shame them for being proud of their work.

  73. 73
    ericblair says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    So do I, but my free computer doesn’t make phone calls, store all my contact information, allow me to surf the Web and send and receive emails and texts, store multiple copies of magazines and newspapers, allow me to transfer money in and out of my bank and brokerage accounts, function as a portable music player, still camera, video camera, and DVR, etc. etc.

    My free cranial computer actually does all this, but then I put on my tinfoil hat and it stops.

    As somebody pointed out above, manufacturing is not moving from China for the foreseeable future because that’s where all the suppliers are. Same reason that tech and biochem are in a few places like Silicon Valley, RTP, and so on, and finance is in NYC. That’s where everybody is, so that where everybody is, and it’s very very difficult to fight network effects like this. I do think that publicity is having a positive effect, and it’s keeping up the oversight over a long period of time that’s the key and the hard part.

  74. 74
    Rafer Janders says:

    @Pen:

    OK, but should they charge less? That would essentially be giving consumers a subsidy on what’s a luxury item. As long as people are freely willing to pay Apple that much for a toy, have made their own economic calculus that it’s worth it to them, why shouldn’t Apple continue to charge them for it?

    Note that this is entirely a separate question of whether Apple should pay its suppliers more, and pressure them to improve wages and living conditions at their factories. I believe they should. The conditions are a scandal, and Apple (and the other US companies) should be doing more about it.

  75. 75
    Brachiator says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason:

    See AT at 3 above for why Apple is the designated whipping boy. The other tech companies you mention don’t market themselves as the Holy Grail of all that is hip and cool and right in the world.

    Samsung’s recent ads all come down to “If you are truly hip and cool, buy the new Galaxy.” They even go for the ultimate put down, we’re not your parents’ smartphone.

    And it wasn’t too long ago that one of the google bosses was running around on stage like a second rate Tony Stark, babbling about how cool shit google glasses were, and only $1500 for the beta.

    Hipster cred is the lubricating oil of the entire tech industry. There is no way that Apple is the chief offender.

  76. 76
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @Three-nineteen:

    This post is almost the equivalent of that moron who yelled at the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru worker.

    Well, except for the fact that every one of folks in that pic are members of the 1%. And are celebrated at black tie affairs. And aren’t being harassed (unless a blog post complaining about their bosses is now considered harassment) at their place of employment.

    Now if we were picketing FoxConn workers, maybe you’d have a point.

  77. 77
    gene108 says:

    @Pen:

    Tariffs…because mercantilism did wonders for global prosperity…

    As bad as Foxconn maybe, it’s still a massive improvement over where China was in the 19th and 20th centuries, when countries had trade barriers and tariffs on imports.

  78. 78
    Rex Everything says:

    I don’t get this; I never will get this.

    Like many people, I began boycotting Chik-Fil-A the second I heard about their homophobic bullshit. There was no question in my mind. The civil rights of an entire group of people are infinitely more important than my enjoyment of a fried sandwich.

    Unlike, it seems, everybody, I also boycott smart phones. They’re a tremendous unnecessary luxury, my enjoyment of which is infinitely less important than the labor rights of huge numbers of people.

    I can’t understand why this doesn’t occur to liberals, or how the same person who instinctively boycotts the chicken sandwich happily does business with Amazon, Coca-Cola, Nike (including Converse), even Wal-Mart.

  79. 79
    Rex Everything says:

    I don’t get this; I never will get this.

    Like many people, I began boycotting Chik-Fil-A the second I heard about their homophobic bullshit. There was no question in my mind. The civil rights of an entire group of people are infinitely more important than my enjoyment of a fried sandwich.

    Unlike, it seems, everybody, I also boycott smart phones. They’re a tremendous unnecessary luxury, my enjoyment of which is infinitely less important than the labor rights of huge numbers of people.

    I can’t understand why this doesn’t occur to liberals, or how the same person who instinctively boycotts the chicken sandwich happily does business with Amazon, Coca-Cola, Nike (including Converse), even Wal-Mart.

  80. 80
    PJ says:

    From this discussion, it doesn’t seem like anyone has any practical solutions to improving labor conditions outside of the third world (perhaps because that would also involve improving political conditions in those countries.) And when politicians in this country are doing what they can to destroy unions and the economic and political power of workers, and many in the public are cheering them on, perhaps we should get our own house in order first. But I found this article about electronics manufacturing in the US interesting: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06.....wanted=all

  81. 81
    Greyjoy says:

    @burnspbesq: I work for Best Buy at the corporate headquarters. Best Buy is only a reseller of Apple products, and I’m willing to bet the same is true for Amazon, Target, Wal-mart, et al. They make almost nothing from selling them. The profits come from the sales of accessories–phone and iPad cases, cables and the like.

    Just thought I’d clear that up.

  82. 82
    Brachiator says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    The root cause is the endless greed of the overclass.

    The additional irony, of course, is that China is still officially commie, you know, worker’s paradise and all that.

    What’s the old joke?

    Under capitalism, man exploits man.
    Under communism, it’s the other way around.

  83. 83
    gene108 says:

    @ericblair:

    As somebody pointed out above, manufacturing is not moving from China for the foreseeable future because that’s where all the suppliers are.

    A lot of it has to do with China’s willingness to subsidize various segments of their economy at levels non-Communist states cannot match.

    As a Communist dictatorship, the current iteration of the Chinese government inherited great amounts of control over the entire economy because 30 years ago the government owned/ran everything.

    If the Chinese government wants you to build tech products in China, they can demand the copper mine sell you the raw materials for you cables at below market costs.

    Other countries can’t compete with this nor should they try.

    As strong as China seems right now, they are one recession away or growth rates dropping significantly below the 10% range they are right now, for this house of cards to come tumbling down.

    Chinese exports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules have flooded the global market, leading to a price collapse, Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld’s U.S. unit, said today at an International Trade Commission hearing in Washington.
    Enlarge image SolarWorld Says China’s Unfair Subsidies Rate Import Penalty

    SolarWorld AG’s assertion that it has been harmed by Chinese government policies is “simplistic and highly misleading,” Richard Weiner, an attorney with Sidley Austin LLP representing manufacturers including China’s Suntech Power Holdings Co., said at today’s hearing. “China’s massive government-funded solar capacity has caused this material injury,” Brinser said. “The import surge has been devastating to the U.S. industry.”

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/.....nalty.html

    Recent efforts by China’s leaders to engineer a turnaround don’t seem to have worked. They have already cut interest rates twice, released more money into the economy by cutting bank reserve ratios, and announced a raft infrastructure projects. The way to change things now would be to pump more money into building projects – and fast. But investment spending already accounts for a huge 50% of China’s economy. The massive stimulus used to get China through the financial crisis led to inflation, worries about bad debts and soaring property prices and the government has been working to rein those in. So if they do more now to achieve a short-term boost before the autumn Party Congress, then the result down the line could be a new, nasty bout of inflation, unpaid loans, and surging house prices, things the leadership says it’s determined to avoid.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/worl.....a-19390388

  84. 84
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    @Brachiator: Hokay, I’ll buy that. Haven’t seen all the recent ads. I’m going by my last visit to the Apple store and the “Genius” Bar. White walls, white shelves, indirect lighting, sparse furnishing. Just too cool for me.

  85. 85
    Brachiator says:

    @Rex Everything:

    Unlike, it seems, everybody, I also boycott smart phones

    Why do you have any computer at all? And, presumably, a modem and other tech knick knacks?

    Why do you even post on a blog when you could be using your computer for work or production?

    The idea that some technology is essential, while other technology is a luxury or a toy, is amusing, but illogical.

  86. 86
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    @Shawn in ShowMe:

    Well, except for the fact that every one of folks in that pic are members of the 1%

    Dunno if I buy that. If they’re engineers and designers, I’d go with 10%. And that’s income, not net worth.

  87. 87
    Greyjoy says:

    And income != hours worked. They’re probably paid what would be a handsome wage for a 40-hour week. But not for a 90-hour week, which is no doubt what they’re actually working.

  88. 88
    Brachiator says:

    @PJ:

    From this discussion, it doesn’t seem like anyone has any practical solutions to improving labor conditions outside of the third world (perhaps because that would also involve improving political conditions in those countries)

    China is not just some impoverished third world country run by Western imperialists, but a powerful authoritarian nation which ruthlessly suppresses internal dissent. They also routinely shrug off even mild rebukes about human rights violations there.

    And they’ve got nukes.

    How do you suggest we go about improving political conditions there?

  89. 89
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason:

    I’ll give you 2%. They’re engineers at Apple, not Activision.

  90. 90
  91. 91
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    @PJ: I thought this comment on your article picked up on something important:

    I’m an Automation and Control Systems engineer working in a large manufacturing facility in the Bay Area. All of our processes use highly automated equipment, reducing our reliance on labor to the point where labor costs are no longer the relatively huge fixed cost they used to be. The equipment is. That would not change if we moved our facility to Asia or Central America.

    It is imperative that our work force is nimble, smart, and trained to operate this complex equipment flawlessly. A mistake or a shutdown costs us a lot more than any saving we might realize by moving. Being able to communicate with staff and be present during emergencies is much more valuable.

  92. 92
    Rex Everything says:

    @Brachiator: That’s exactly the point. Even a basic computer is a luxury.

    People are sold on the idea of anytime-anywhere access to massive entertainment libraries and social media, at a high entry fee and ridiculous monthly rate. This is sold to White America as some kind of necessity, and it’s amazing that anyone’s buying.

  93. 93
    Brain Hertz says:

    The approximately 3x ratio between the cost of the device at the factory and retail is entirely typical for this kind of product, and, indeed, for pretty much any electronic product. There’s really nothing unique to Apple here at all. Just FYI, a Samsung Galaxy SIII (European version, 16GB) has an estimated cost at the factory gate of just over $186.

    Consider this: when you walk into an indoor mall and buy an iPhone or a Galaxy SIII at the AT&T store, you’re not only paying Apple or Samsung. You’re paying for the materials that the mall is built from and paying the construction workers who built it. You’re paying for the electricity to light it and the gas to heat it. You’re paying the mall management for the lease on the land (and their margin!). You’re paying everybody who works in the store and the janitors who sweep the floors. Retailing is expensive, and all of that is incorporated into the price that you’re paying. And, of course, there’s a lot of people being employed along the way. There’s really no way to somehow isolate one slice of the value chain from the rest of it.

    Apple is slightly unusual in that it runs its own stores in addition to selling through third parties, so in those cases it retains more of the margin (but also shoulders the retailing costs) but there’s nothing at all remarkable in the general cost structure.

  94. 94
    Greyjoy says:

    Let’s also not forget that that trip to London and glass of champagne was undoubtedly their prize for making Apple the billion dollars or so that the company will make selling this device. We keep the money, you get your picture taken. That’s usually how this stuff works.

    Which is miles better than, “We keep the money, your overseer locks you in your room without food until you’re willing to get back to your 84-hour workweek” that Foxconn employees get to enjoy, but you don’t see a whole lot of rich engineers living the life of the leisure class.

  95. 95
    Rob Eberhardt says:

    This is one of the stupidest posts I’ve ever seen here.

  96. 96
    kc says:

    @JBerardi:

    I bet the markup’s a wee bit higher on an iPhone than on undies.

  97. 97
    PJ says:

    @Brachiator: That was my point. Changing the political situation in many of these countries is no easy thing for their citizens, let alone for outsiders. I mean, look at the problems we have in protecting and enforcing labor laws in this country, where dissent does not automatically equal punishment.

  98. 98
    Brachiator says:

    @Rex Everything:

    That’s exactly the point. Even a basic computer is a luxury.

    Again, when are you getting rid of your computer? Or are you posting from the library?

    People are sold on the idea of anytime-anywhere access to massive entertainment libraries and social media, at a high entry fee and ridiculous monthly rate. This is sold to White America as some kind of necessity, and it’s amazing that anyone’s buying.

    Christ, do you have something better than this White Man’s Tech Burden stuff?

    Also, by the way, one day on my commute, I noticed a blind woman with a smartphone using its accessibility features to help her get where she was going, to navigate through the world. She couldn’t do this at all if she only had an old fashioned land line back at home. There is no Braille equivalent that could provide real time up to date information.

    The real point is to make tech innovation useful and fun and cheaper, not to rail pointlessly about what might be a luxury to you, but an essential lifeline to someone else.

  99. 99
    Rex Everything says:

    @Brain Hertz:

    Consider this: when you walk into an indoor mall and buy an iPhone or a Galaxy SIII at the AT&T store, you’re not only paying Apple or Samsung. You’re paying for the materials that the mall is built from and paying the construction workers who built it. You’re paying for the electricity to light it and the gas to heat it. You’re paying the mall management for the lease on the land (and their margin!). You’re paying everybody who works in the store and the janitors who sweep the floors. Retailing is expensive, and all of that is incorporated into the price that you’re paying. And, of course, there’s a lot of people being employed along the way. There’s really no way to somehow isolate one slice of the value chain from the rest of it.

    Oh, that’s nonsense. You’re paying to line the pockets of the Capital class; that’s the reason for all the exploitation all the way down the line and has been since the dawn of industry. The workers are thrown a few pennies for turning a few dollars’ worth of materials into a $650 phone; the difference is pocketed by the top cats. Everyone along the whole chain of work you just described is barely scraping by, except those at the top, who are making out like bandits. And those at the VERY top, making out best of all, aren’t even working. Welcome to capitalism.

    Companies like Bain Capital have varied the scenario by identifying 1-time hits where they can eliminate both the workers and the products and line their pockets anyway. Welcome to late-stage capitalism.

    The BJ regulars defend the whole state of affairs on the ground that, hey, it’s the state of affairs. Welcome to the post-Clinton “left.”

  100. 100
    Gian says:

    @Schlemizel:

    I work all day at the factory
    I’m building a machine that’s not for me
    There must be a reason that I can’t see
    You’ve got to humanise yourself

  101. 101
    Greyjoy says:

    Why would China have to change their political situation anyway? They have a rather cavalier attitude toward international patent law, and 20% of the world’s population. If Apple complained about their manufacturing conditions, China could kick their asses out of the country, commission the same manufacturers to make the Chi-Phone for 20% of the retail cost, and put Apple out of business.

    Bringing the Western world down to China’s level in terms of wages and working conditions wouldn’t help, because then nobody can buy your product. This will be even more true 10 years from now than it is now.

  102. 102
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Rex Everything:

    They’re a tremendous unnecessary luxury, my enjoyment of which is infinitely less important than the labor rights of huge numbers of people.

    And yet huge numbers of people strive to work in Foxconn’s city-factories, just like the huge numbers of people strove to work in fabric and steel and paper mills in the 1800s.

    And yet the introduction of smartphones in the developing world is empowering huge numbers of people.

    This is not a simple equation, however much you wish it to be so. That doesn’t mean shrugging at conditions in Shenzen, but it does mean getting past parochial concerns about what constitutes “luxury”.

    @Brachiator:

    China is not just some impoverished third world country run by Western imperialists, but a powerful authoritarian nation which ruthlessly suppresses internal dissent.

    But that oversimplifies China: as this good FT piece points out, the CPC primarily represents “the way things are” and, to some extent, “the way things should be”, which is why you do get local demonstrations against local party officials who are perceived as violating that spirit.

  103. 103
    Rex Everything says:

    @Brachiator:

    Again, when are you getting rid of your computer?

    Why would I do that? Here’s your argument: Because I’m not buying $600 shoes at Neimann’s I should be going barefoot.

    Christ, do you have something better than this White Man’s Tech Burden stuff?

    I can’t for the life of me see how the phrase “White Man’s Tech Burden” actually means anything.

    Also, by the way, one day on my commute, I noticed a blind woman with a smartphone using its accessibility features to help her get where she was going, to navigate through the world. She couldn’t do this at all if she only had an old fashioned land line back at home. There is no Braille equivalent that could provide real time up to date information.

    That’s great, and it has fuck-all to do with anything I wrote. Someone with a foot deformity might actually need to spend $600 on shoes. This has nothing to do with either luxury or the mass marketing of shoes.

  104. 104
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Rex Everything:

    The BJ regulars defend the whole state of affairs on the ground that, hey, it’s the state of affairs. Welcome to the post-Clinton “left.”

    How very Dave Spart of you.

  105. 105
    Brain Hertz says:

    @ Rex Everything

    Oh, that’s nonsense. You’re paying to line the pockets of the Capital class; that’s the reason for all the exploitation all the way down the line and has been since the dawn of industry. The workers are thrown a few pennies for turning a few dollars’ worth of materials into a $650 phone; the difference is pocketed by the top cats. Everyone along the whole chain of work you just described is barely scraping by, except those at the top, who are making out like bandits. And those at the VERY top, making out best of all, aren’t even working. Welcome to capitalism.

    How does that fact make anything I said not true? I didn’t say anything about who is making the most or least, or whether it’s “fair”.

    If you have any better ideas, please speak up.

  106. 106
    Brain Hertz says:

    Why would I do that? Here’s your argument: Because I’m not buying $600 shoes at Neimann’s I should be going barefoot.

    Did computers suddenly become cheaper than smartphones, or acquire a different cost structure? I don’t get why you consider smartphones to be bad but computers ok. What’s the distinction you see?

  107. 107
    Rex Everything says:

    @Brain Hertz:

    How does that fact make anything I said not true?

    It makes this statement of yours very much not true:

    There’s really no way to somehow isolate one slice of the value chain from the rest of it.

    The point being you can, and should, isolate the very top slice of the value chain from the rest of it.

  108. 108
    Ohmmade says:

    Last time I flew SF to London was under 500USD.

  109. 109
    Brain Hertz says:

    The point being you can, and should, isolate the very top slice of the value chain from the rest of it.

    Please explain exactly how you plan to do this.

  110. 110
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    @Brain Hertz:

    Did computers suddenly become cheaper than smartphones, or acquire a different cost structure?

    I don’t care one way or the other about smartphone ownership but my computer, including the nice flat screen monitor, cost ~$250. I pay ~$32/month for internet access, wireless AND DSL. How much do the more popular smartphones cost, initially and per month?

  111. 111
    dollared says:

    @Rex Everything: This. Balloon Juicers like to talk about racism and the rich assholes but they can’t connect two simple facts:

    1. the share of money going to labor has declined precipitously in 40 years.
    2. Almost all the social ills we see, all the massive imbalances of power, and the political disasters we see every day, are due to fact #1. Because money is power.

    But we don’t want to focus on that, because we would have to think hard, come up with a better system and set of rules, and fight like motherf*&kers to make it happen.

    Better to set at home and call Cornerstone and Flip traitors and idiots.

  112. 112
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @gbear:

    But nothing says ‘forever’ like a Nokia phone.

    And an old Nokia is what I use for a variety of dull reasons. But I’m not going to begrudge the fact that smartphones make lots of people’s lives a lot better, that reach is only going to expand, and those people are not necessarily among the global 1%.

  113. 113
    Rex Everything says:

    @Brain Hertz:

    Did computers suddenly become cheaper than smartphones, or acquire a different cost structure? I don’t get why you consider smartphones to be bad but computers ok. What’s the distinction you see?

    Computers are far cheaper than smart phones if you buy them obsolete, which is certainly all I need. I bought mine when it was already a couple years out of date. The hookup fee is way less than service fees on a smart phone; there’s no comparison.

    The fact is that most smart phone users have computers already and there’s nothing essential they’d be missing without upgrading. (It’s pretty clear that they buy out of the acquisitive instinct; that’s why you hear so much crap about “the unboxing experience” and the gleaming aesthetics of blah blah blah.) So it’s not a choice of smart phone or computer; it’s solely a choice of whether to get a smart phone in addition to your computer.

    I think a computer is a near-necessary tool for an informed citizen these days, not to mention a person with a social life. What smart phones add to it, for those of us who aren’t blind women on Brachiator’s commute, is pretty obviously a bunch of unnecessary bells and whistles for a whole lot of money.

  114. 114
    Brain Hertz says:

    I don’t care one way or the other about smartphone ownership but my computer, including the nice flat screen monitor, cost ~$250. I pay ~$32/month for internet access, wireless AND DSL. How much do the more popular smartphones cost, initially and per month?

    A no-contract smartphone can be had for $100 (just looking up the current deals at Best Buy). Since that’s no contract, it’s not subsidised and you’re not required to pay for a data plan. Since they have Wi-Fi, you can get internet access for the same rates as you can on a computer. Alternatively, AT&T have data plans from $10 a month.

  115. 115
    Cargo says:

    Everybody here is stacked up on so many layers of high horses I’m surprised we don’t need oxygen masks.

  116. 116
    dollared says:

    @Rex Everything: To be fair, the mobility aspect is pretty important to some people.

    However, you can buy a 4G smartphone on Virgin for $200, and pay $$50/month for unlimited everything.

    Since the Iphone is exactly double that, yes, the additional $1000/year is pure vanity.

  117. 117
    Rex Everything says:

    @dollared: Truer words were never spoken, amigo.

  118. 118
    dollared says:

    @Cargo: What does that mean? You must be very happey with the way things are.

  119. 119
    Brain Hertz says:

    Computers are far cheaper than smart phones if you buy them obsolete, which is certainly all I need. I bought mine when it was already a couple years out of date. The hookup fee is way less than service fees on a smart phone; there’s no comparison.

    …if you buy them obsolete? Well, sure, if you allow for an apples-to-oranges comparison, there’s no comparison.

    More to the point, if people weren’t buying new computers, and industry wasn’t building billion dollar factories to manufacture more and more advanced components, where would the obsolete computers come from?

  120. 120
    Rex Everything says:

    @Brain Hertz: Jesus, dude, first you figure it out when you’re thinking and speaking.

    In practical applications, the simplest thing for a system like ours to do is to tax capital gains.

    Next is for labor to organize and demand a bigger share.

    Next is for labor to demand a percentage of profit.

    Next is for investment to be seen as a temporary state of affairs, a debt labor pays to capital for the temporary loan of the means of production which it is using, a loan which is finite and temporal.

    Next is for the workers to actually keep the profits they create.

    Did NO ONE ever tell you guys ANY of this before?

  121. 121
    Rex Everything says:

    @Brain Hertz:

    Well, sure, if you allow for an apples-to-oranges comparison, there’s no comparison.

    You guys kept asking about MY computer vs. a smart phone. Fuckin’ A.

  122. 122
    Gromit says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason: @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason:

    See AT at 3 above for why Apple is the designated whipping boy. The other tech companies you mention don’t market themselves as the Holy Grail of all that is hip and cool and right in the world. Granted, for the apparel, Lauren tries.

    The fuck they don’t. They just don’t do it convincingly.

  123. 123
    Brain Hertz says:

    In practical applications, the simplest thing for a system like ours to do is to tax capital gains.
    Next is for labor to organize and demand a bigger share.
    Next is for labor to demand a percentage of profit.
    Next is for investment to be seen as a temporary state of affairs, a debt labor pays to capital for the temporary loan of the means of production which it is using, a loan which is finite and temporal.
    Next is for the workers to actually keep the profits they create.

    Exactly how many of the things on your list have never been tried before?

    And what do any of them have to do with smartphones?

  124. 124
    Rex Everything says:

    @Brain Hertz:

    Exactly how many of the things on your list have never been tried before?
    And what do any of them have to do with smartphones?

    If you’re trying to make a rhetorical point, make it. Otherwise, dude, I’ll do you a favor and encourage you to answer these questions for yourself. YOU CAN DO IT.

  125. 125
    Brain Hertz says:

    You guys kept asking about MY computer vs. a smart phone. Fuckin’ A.

    Uh, so there’s no such thing as refurbished smartphones?

  126. 126
    Brain Hertz says:

    If you’re trying to make a rhetorical point, make it. Otherwise, dude, I’ll do you a favor and encourage you to answer these questions for yourself. YOU CAN DO IT.

    Congratulations on spotting a rhetorical question. I’m still waiting for you to explain why boycotting smartphones makes any sense.

  127. 127
    Rex Everything says:

    @Brain Hertz:

    I’m still waiting for you to explain why boycotting smartphones makes any sense.

    The same reason boycotting anything else makes sense. You object to the behavior of the people profiting from it; you do what you can to make it unprofitable; you make your reasons known and try to get others to join you in hopes of ending that behavior.

    And on some level, you just don’t want to give these people your money. I know I’m not going to bring Coca-Cola down, but I read about them clubbing strikers on the head around the world and how can I give them money? That’s how it was with Chik-Fil-A: how am I gonna eat there? A lot of people felt that way.

  128. 128
    Brain Hertz says:

    The same reason boycotting anything else makes sense. You object to the behavior of the people profiting from it; you do what you can to make it unprofitable; you make your reasons known and try to get others to join you in hopes of ending that behavior.

    I fully understand that part. The part I’m not understanding is why you consider smartphones to be bad but computers ok. What is it about the process by which one is designed, manufactured and sold that is somehow different to the other?

  129. 129
    Rex Everything says:

    @Brain Hertz:

    The part I’m not understanding is why you consider smartphones to be bad but computers ok.

    No, I said smart phones are a luxury that people don’t even need. Similar to a Chik-Fil-A sandwich.

    In other words, the chain of exploitation certainly extends far beyond Apple and iPhones, but while we’re figuring out what to do about our underwear and our fresh fruits and vegetables, we can certainly abstain from high-profile items that exploit labor as dramatically as iPhones do. And that’s as easy for most of us as abstaining from a Chik-Fil-A sandwich.

  130. 130
    Brain Hertz says:

    No, I said smart phones are a luxury that people don’t even need. Similar to a Chik-Fil-A sandwich.

    You also said that even a basic computer is a luxury…

    I don’t see the analogy to Chick-Fil-A as apposite at all. In that case, people participating in a boycott aren’t abstaining from eating; rather, they’re going somewhere else, and instead giving their money to an organization that hopefully is better behaved.

    In the case of boycotting smartphones (apparently as a general thing) isn’t doing that. You’re using a computer instead, which is manufactured and sold under the exact same set of conditions.

  131. 131
    Rex Everything says:

    It’s not that “smartphones are bad and computers ok.” Like I said before, for most people it’s not a choice of buying a smartphone or a computer, it’s a choice of whether to upgrade to a smartphone, of buying a smartphone in addition to their computer.

    I’d say this is the way it is for the vast majority of smartphone buyers; would you argue?

    Now, just in my case, back when I bought my computer I was not even aware of the labor rights and environmental abuses that are endemic to the elctronics industry. I think that’s true for many of us. Now Brachiator demands why don’t I get rid of my computer. What purpose would that serve? The question before me is simply and solely whether to buy a smart phone — or not.

  132. 132
    Rex Everything says:

    @Brain Hertz:

    I don’t see the analogy to Chick-Fil-A as apposite at all. In that case, people participating in a boycott aren’t abstaining from eating; rather, they’re going somewhere else, and instead giving their money to an organization that hopefully is better behaved.

    Exactly. And in my example, people participating in a boycott of smart phones aren’t abstaining from using computers; rather, they’re using the computers they already have.

  133. 133
    Brain Hertz says:

    I’d say this is the way it is for the vast majority of smartphone buyers; would you argue?

    Provided you’re only looking at the US. It’s definitely not true in, say, India or China. Certainly for the US, a smartphone is typically incremental to some other computing device.

    Now, just in my case, back when I bought my computer I was not even aware of the labor rights and environmental abuses that are endemic to the elctronics industry.

    Just FYI, this is not an electronics industry issue. It’s true for pretty much every manufactured item you buy.

    FWIW, I have no idea how this could be fixed. We could, through political pressure in the US, bring electronics assembly back to the US for goods sold here by means of tariffs. I don’t know for sure that that would even work, but I’m less sure that it would overall benefit workers in China. Cutting off the inward flow of cash from the US isn’t suddenly going to cause them to find less exploitative employment.

    More effective is likely to be what is happening in small measures right now, in that Apple is under pressure to lean on Foxconn to improve conditions in order to retain their business. Unfortunately there’s only so far this can go while it’s only Apple (for some reason most people seem to miss that Foxconn and the other big Chinese outsourced manufacturing houses make phones and other devices for everybody else) and while consumers demand lowest prices for everything they buy at all costs.

  134. 134
    Crusty Dem says:

    @Shawn in ShowMe:

    I think I explained the reasons, but you’ve made a poignant argument of nothing.

  135. 135
    Gromit says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason:

    @Brachiator: Hokay, I’ll buy that. Haven’t seen all the recent ads. I’m going by my last visit to the Apple store and the “Genius” Bar. White walls, white shelves, indirect lighting, sparse furnishing. Just too cool for me.

    Okay, I replied before seeing that you had acknowledged this. Props for that, and sorry for the harsh tone above.

  136. 136
    Rex Everything says:

    @Brain Hertz:

    Just FYI, this is not an electronics industry issue. It’s true for pretty much every manufactured item you buy.

    OK, so you & Brachiator shouldn’t have been asking me why I use a computer, you should have demanded to know why I’ve ever bought anything at all, ever.

    I’m going to go ahead and ask you to back that statement up.

  137. 137
    Brain Hertz says:

    @Rex Everything

    this is what you said a few posts up:

    Oh, that’s nonsense. You’re paying to line the pockets of the Capital class; that’s the reason for all the exploitation all the way down the line and has been since the dawn of industry. The workers are thrown a few pennies for turning a few dollars’ worth of materials into a $650 phone; the difference is pocketed by the top cats. Everyone along the whole chain of work you just described is barely scraping by, except those at the top, who are making out like bandits. And those at the VERY top, making out best of all, aren’t even working. Welcome to capitalism.Companies like Bain Capital have varied the scenario by identifying 1-time hits where they can eliminate both the workers and the products and line their pockets anyway. Welcome to late-stage capitalism.

    Do you think this is not true any more?

  138. 138
    Andy says:

    Smartphones aren’t just a tool for rich people to post to Facebook. GPS mapping applications, tied in with transit schedules, have made it much easier for me to exist in a mid-size city without a car.

    Also, my phone allows me to respond to emails from my customers and business partners from virtually anywhere, anytime, which means I provide a level of support my competitors don’t.

    Finally, the mobility granted by modern technology means I can support my client in New York while at a business meeting in Seattle.

    Now, maybe you don’t care about this, or you think it’s excess, but two of these things help me to be a more independent, small business owner (though I still have a day job), and the third helps me to live without owning a car or driving – in any city I go to – for going on three years.

    The lot of you complaining about excess and whatnot don’t seem to actually really know what these devices do, or what they can and are used for. I don’t begrudge you that, but you can kindly piss off with your broad generalizations and uninformed assumptions.

  139. 139
    JoeShabadoo says:

    @gbear: “think of the things you use it for”

    i use it to instantaneously video chat across the world no matter where i am.
    i use it as a map of anywheree with turn by turn directions.
    I use it to access more information thenn the biggest library that ever existed.
    I use it to take pictures of special moments with loved ones
    I use it to instantly compare the price and quality of anything i buy.
    I use it to post on balloon juice
    and much more.

    you can say a lot about shitty working conditions but you cant say we smart phones dont have amazing applications or that they are wasted. the moon landing doesnt realy seem that special compared to these amazing things offered to regular people.

  140. 140
    suzanne says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason:

    The other tech companies you mention don’t market themselves as the Holy Grail of all that is hip and cool and right in the world.

    Does Apple do this? I have been an Apple fangirl for twenty years, and I’ve never heard them say anything about being morally superior. They’re about beauty and aesthetic experience. And whether or not they’re as socially conscious as they should be (all signs point to NO), they certainly push their industry forward in that arena.

  141. 141
    Rex Everything says:

    @Brain Hertz:

    Do you think this is not true any more?

    Oh, that’s all you’ve got… Well, it’s pretty clear you’re arguing speciously now, but I’ll answer you anyway just in case there’s anyone reading who might miss the point.

    The exploitation I described is indeed endemic, and indeed you can’t boycott it. But that doesn’t mean GM is the same as Foxconn. Within capitalist industry there are better and worse labor arrangements. There are industries with strong unions, hard-to-replace workers, and other factors that make them more humane. And there are egregious offenders.

    It’s sort of similar to a political party system in which all voters’ choices are imperfect, but some are really insanely bad, if you can imagine such a thing…

    Making choices under such a system, deciding some options are indeed better than others, remains an intelligible thing to do.

  142. 142
    Celeriac says:

    @Rex Everything:

    Well whew! I, for one, am really glad to see that you’ve got my needs all sorted.

  143. 143
    Rex Everything says:

    @Celeriac: My appraisal of “you,” whomever you may be, has extended to an expression of puzzlement and no further. The suggestion that in expressing my priorities I seek to remove your own power of choice is a defamatory one. (Libertarians like to argue that way, in case you didn’t know.)

  144. 144
    greenergood says:

    Love the guy in the back row on the right-hand side – looks like he’s holding up a dildo. Do you think it’s the prototype for the new Apple dildo-phone with special apps?

  145. 145
    Brain Hertz says:

    @Rex Everything,

    please. It was you that made the sweeping generalization that there has been large scale “exploitation” and “lining the pockets of the capital class” since “the dawn of industry”, and then went on to demand that I “back up” the claim that there are labor rights and environmental issues with pretty much every manufactured item you buy. This seems a little odd, no? Do you believe your original statement to be true or not? If you think it’s true, how can my much less broad statement not be true?

  146. 146
    greenergood says:

    Love the guy in the back row on the right-hand side – looks like he’s holding up a dildo. Do you think it’s the prototype for the new Apple dildo-phone with special apps?

  147. 147
    Andy says:

    Also, too: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tec.....chdog.html

    I’d agree they have a long way to go, but Apple has shown a more consistent dedication to improving the status quo than any of their competitors.

  148. 148
    Andy says:

    Also, too: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tec.....chdog.html

    I’d agree they have a long way to go, but Apple has shown a more consistent dedication to improving the status quo than any of their competitors.

  149. 149
    Celeriac says:

    @Rex Everything:

    My suggestion that you seek to “remove [my] own power of choice” is every bit as non-existent as your most recent implication that your smartphones-aren’t-necessary-if-one-has-a-computer is applicable only to you. You argued rather absolutely that the acquisition of a smartphone was generally in addition to a computer and, therefore, unnecessary. Based on your circumstance. Similarly, I never accused you of attempting to strip me of any power of choice. I merely pointed out that it is ridiculous for you to think that you know what constitutes “need” on the need spectrum of someone who isn’t you.

    Blindly idealistic college sophomores with little interaction outside their own moral biosphere like to argue like that, in case you didn’t know.

  150. 150
    Liberty60 says:

    Its true that Apple is hardly alone in profiting off slave labor.
    I suppose what we can ask ourselves is how do we contribute to this, or fight it?

    When we participate in consumerism, we feed this beast. What if we only consumed what we truly need? What if we saved the rest?

    What if we, for instance, decided that our old phone works just fine, and we don’t need to spend $600 on a new one?
    What if we used part of that $600 to buy more expensive organic food instead of conventional? Union made things instead of Chinese?

    What if we put the rest in a credit union, and refused to buy on credit, thereby starving the Wall Street banks?

    Whenever we complain about worker abuses we are told that Consumers Demand This; But what if Consumers didn’t?

    As much as we rail against corporations and banks, we need to understand that they only have the power we give them.

  151. 151
    suzanne says:

    Neither computers nor smartphones fulfill any need on the bottom of the Maslow pyramid. It is fully conceivable that we could all sell everything we own and become monks. So we can either continue to piss into the wind about how much we “need” computers but phones are merely luxuries, or we could acknowledge that most people in the first world are of the opinion that a beautiful and responsive technological experience is worth paying for. No one NEEDS to watch football, or own an Apple product, or go to college, or drive a car, or go to an art museum, etc etc etc, but most people want to do those things, so let’s devote our energy toward making a minimum negative effort on other people rather than get pissy at each other. I guarantee you that each person on this thread enjoys something exploitative of others, but maybe we could work to make it less exploitative rather than get holier-than-thou at each other.

  152. 152
    Liberty60 says:

    Anytime someone suggests a better alternative, they get accused of being holier than thou.

    The point is, our dollars are votes, and every dollar we spend is a vote for what we are buying.

  153. 153
    Rex Everything says:

    @Brain Hertz:

    It was you that made the sweeping generalization that there has been large scale “exploitation” and “lining the pockets of the capital class” since “the dawn of industry”

    That’s not a “sweeping generalization,” that’s the way the capitalist economy works, you dork. And yes, I did state that the electronics industry is notably bad within that context. You said it wasn’t; you can’t back it up; go home, you’re done.

  154. 154
    jenn says:

    @Andy: Exactly. My smartphone enables me to work from home, which saves me time (its a 2hr bus ride) and mileage (if I drive), and helps me maintain safer and more efficient working conditions for my staff during my frequent traveling. If you don’t need one, don’t get one, but don’t assume that just because you don’t need one, that the rest of us don’t have perfectly valid uses for them, that are far beyond, ‘ooh, shiny!’

  155. 155
    Rex Everything says:

    Far be it from me to make broad generalizations or uninformed assumptions — I’m going by the way these things are advertised to a mass market, and the way the vast majority of their proponents go on about them online.

    If you have a real need for them in your business or whatever then it should be obvious I’m not talking about you.

  156. 156
    gene108 says:

    @Rex Everything:

    For a lot of jobs, work demands a smartphone. You need to access all forms of communication you would normally receive in the office, even if you are not in the office, such as a on a business trip.

    Smartphones aren’t luxuries. Plenty of companies give them out to employees, just like they give you a desk.

    @Greyjoy:

    Why would China have to change their political situation anyway?

    It’s pretty corrupt. The U.S. is not corrupt, though we may feel the system is rigged against us.

    You don’t need to bribe your way into getting a driver’s license, for example. You pass the test and one is awarded to you.

    The same can’t be said about a lot of countries, China included.

    Also, from what I’ve read, unless you are well connected to people in power, you just aren’t going to make it to the upper reaches of society.

    A lot of Chinese people are doing better than their parents could’ve imagined, but they feel there’s an upper limit on what they can accomplish unless they know people in power.

    At some point something has to give, either the people quit wanting a better life or the Communist Party cleans up its act.

    Without any other political forces able to take hold, what are the chances the CPC will change?

    More likely people will protest.

  157. 157
    👽 Martin says:

    (And, yes, I do understand that the working conditions for other smartphone manufacturers are probably as bad or worse.)

    Then what is your point here?

    Median wage in China is 1,200 RMB a month. Foxconn’s base wage for Apple product assembly is 2,500 RMB a month, with Apple providing a direct subsidy to Foxconn for their wage increases. For overtime work (which most workers want) Foxconn wages for work on Apple lines is up to about $5/hr. Now, that’s pretty shitty by our standards, but in China it’s far from slave wages where minimum wage in much of the country is $.88/hr.

    Much of the reason why assembly prices for iPhones is relatively low is that Apple spends billions on automation – $5B just this year. So they’re reducing the number of labor hours needed for assembly, and trading that out for higher wages.

    The complaint from Apple’s competitors is that Apple has raised wages in China for assembly work to a high enough level that they’re losing their profitability and having to raise prices to consumers or lose access to labor. You’re whining about Apple’s high margins, but those margins are what is allowing Apple to pay more. Look at HP which analysts have now declared, along with Nokia and RIM as having no future value. HP remains the world PC leader on units. They’ve been using Foxconn for assembly for a decade and did nothing to raise wages and are now going bankrupt because they don’t have the extra $1-$2 per PC to keep up with Apple on wages.

    The pressure on wages isn’t from high profit margins – it’s from low profit margins. It’s from commoditization where HP can’t charge $5 more for a PC or else consumers will jump to Dell which makes the same fucking product just with a different colored case. Distinctiveness in the marketplace is what allows economies to work in labor’s favor. It’s what allows labor to demand higher wages from employers because they add value to a product which itself can command a non-commody price in the marketplace. Apple is unique in the smartphone/PC space at doing this. Everyone else is commoditized to one degree or another and they will never be able to improve labor as a result. In these markets, only Apple is positioned to do that.

  158. 158
    gene108 says:

    @Rex Everything:

    True. No one looks forward to going to work.

    The junior lawyer in a law firms hates it, because his bill rate goes to line the pockets of the partners.

    The partners hate the junior lawyer, because if they could find a way to automate their work load, they’d keep that punks salary.

    Same with auto repair shops. The owner hates coming to work because he sees all the terrible lay-abouts he has to employ, because he can’t fix all the cars by himself.

    The workers hate coming to work because the boss makes more money than they do.

    We are all disgruntled, angry, people, who are exploited and abused at our jobs, but forced to drag our sorry-asses to work because we need money to pay rent or mortgages or buy food or clothes, so the whole system just perpetuates exploitation inherent in our miserable lives.

  159. 159
    Pen says:

    If anyone here thinks that a boycott would ever work in the modern day against a mega-corporation they’re woefully ignorant of the fact that their individual dollars are next to worthless. There are simply too many people, and too few companies, for them to care what even large parts of the population think about them. You’d need everyone to boycott, and fat chance of that in a world where a large portion of the population thinks evolution is a lie.

    My dream solution, however perfect, is as follows:

    – Tariffs. If the fuckers at the top insist on the system being a zero-sum game I care about my community over those in other countries. If it’s us or them fuck idealism, I’m siding with us.
    – Financial transaction tax against stock trades. Without some form of this we end up with a casino, and we’ve seen how good that worked out for us.
    – Capital gains tax: Tie it to income tax at the very least.

    Either something like the above peacefully occurs or open rebellion eventually, but either way something is going to change eventually.

  160. 160
    👽 Martin says:

    @Liberty60:

    When we participate in consumerism, we feed this beast. What if we only consumed what we truly need? What if we saved the rest?

    Then those workers would have wages of $0 instead and be back to subsistence farming, which is the job they left to work in the factory.

    Economies *can* grow to the benefit of all. That’s indisputable. That’s the history of the US from 1840 to today, and in that time we eliminated slavery, we improved the lives of everyone, and we would have achieved it even without depending on trade – either material or labor.

    Fuck, that’s what Progressivism is all about.

  161. 161
    Rex Everything says:

    @gene108: What I love about Balloon Juice is that commenters will proffer stuff like this in a discussion about capitalist exploitation, and never for a moment doubt that they’re an educated and well informed section of the blogosphere.

    You’re right. People celebrate May Day because Pete from Mad Men got steamed about not getting that promotion.

  162. 162
    👽 Martin says:

    @Brain Hertz:

    FWIW, I have no idea how this could be fixed. We could, through political pressure in the US, bring electronics assembly back to the US for goods sold here by means of tariffs. I don’t know for sure that that would even work, but I’m less sure that it would overall benefit workers in China. Cutting off the inward flow of cash from the US isn’t suddenly going to cause them to find less exploitative employment.

    The trade play has always been a long play, and it’s disruptive, which means you’re going to do damage to someone. That’s unavoidable. You can’t protect every worker and every industry. The attitude that you could is what caused the economic malaise of the 70s and gave rise to Reagan as a political force.

    The trade play has been that if you allow low-skill labor to leave the US for China or Mexico, then you’ll raise the wages in those places, and those new consumers will demand products and services that the US with better infrastructure and a better educated workforce can provide through medium-skill labor and high-skill labor. It’s the same disruption that destroyed small farms and gave rise to industrialization, and now we’re disrupting industrialization to give rise to automation and knowledge economies. The manufacturing jobs that we’re so desperate to protect were jobs stolen from agriculture. That’s simply how this works.

    And these assembly jobs are not jobs we should want, in the same way that we don’t consider standing in a field picking tomatoes as a task that helps our citizenry improve as individuals or enriches our society, standing at an assembly line fitting camera modules into an aluminum chassis for 8 hours a day might be a better job than tomato picking, but still doesn’t raise us up. So, we give these jobs to countries where they are legitimate steps up, and have them ask us for things that they can’t yet provide for themselves. It’s working well enough that the China is now a larger market for Apple than the US is. And that means they’ll become a larger market for Ford and for Intel and for Microsoft and so on.

    But that takes decades, and rather than claw back jobs that will most likely not even exist by the time you get them back – forever lost to automation – we’re much better off moving forward onto those new industries with new jobs and new challenges. Now, if you’re a 40 year old welder, you might be fucked by this, but we cannot adopt an attitude that typewriter repairmen have a moral entitlement to an enduring typewriter industry until they retire. Retraining and education has to be seen as a way of life. If you find yourself in a declining industry, then it’s time to prepare for the next career. We can do a LOT better to help that along and give people those opportunities, but that has to be the direction we head in.

  163. 163
    Brain Hertz says:

    That’s not a “sweeping generalization,” that’s the way the capitalist economy works, you dork.

    Ok. So you weren’t complaining about it? Because that certainly seemed to be the tone of your post @99

    And yes, I did state that the electronics industry is notably bad within that context. You said it wasn’t; you can’t back it up; go home, you’re done.

    I never said any such thing. My statement was that there are exploitation and environmental issues with pretty much every manufactured product you buy. Do you think that isn’t true?

  164. 164
    Pen says:

    @👽 Martin: Nothing you’ve said is wrong but it does butt up against something I mentioned in a previous thread a few days ago: We’re rapidly approaching the point where traditional “employment” is no longer necessary. What do we do then, as a society? Hordes of homeless and walled-garden elites? French Revolution part II? Communism writ large? Our current social contract simply can’t sustain itself without workers, and we’re getting to the point where workers, beyond advanced repair techs, simply aren’t necessary for anything but “do you want fries with that?”.

    I for one don’t look forward to how much worse the transition period we’re in is going to get before it gets better.

  165. 165
    Brain Hertz says:

    Martin @ 161:

    Not sure if that was clear, but I agree that attempting to move the assembly jobs back to the US doesn’t work.

  166. 166
    👽 Martin says:

    Oh, and this should get a little comment as well:

    Apple sells them for $649. That kind of margin pays for perks like Jony Ive and his crew’s flight to London.

    This is the first award they’ve ever gone to receive. They receive tons of them, but they don’t attend. In fact, that’s one of the few times we’ve ever seen the rest of the design team. Apple went because:

    Apple has been named the best brand and the best design studio of the last 50 years at the D&AD Awards, one of the world’s most prestigious prizes for advertising and design.

    I think it’s okay that Apple sent 16 people to collect a British award that took 35 years to earn, given that their lead designer was knighted based on his ‘services to design and enterprise’. Seriously, this is what you’re picking on?

    Why didn’t you pick on the $4B, 2.8 million square foot headquarters building that Apple is preparing to start building? It’s the size of the Pentagon – surely that’s a better critique of their margins. Except that we’re pretty excited about that building because California’s construction industry really could use the work. And that Apple is replacing about 150 acres of concrete parking lots with green space and trees, which we’re pretty fond of seeing. And that Apple is building their own green power plant to help with our 33% renewable goal by 2020.

    Better trolls please.

  167. 167
    PeterJ says:

    @👽 Martin:

    Median wage in China is 1,200 RMB a month. Foxconn’s base wage for Apple product assembly is 2,500 RMB a month, with Apple providing a direct subsidy to Foxconn for their wage increases.

    I’m sorry, but that’s like arguing that the median US wage could be a lot lower by comparing it to a median world wage.

    China has two economies, do you have a median wage for China’s Special Economic Zones?

  168. 168
    RSA says:

    @suzanne:

    Neither computers nor smartphones fulfill any need on the bottom of the Maslow pyramid.

    Does any technology at all? (That’s not rhetorical; I don’t know how the hierarchy works.)

    Smartphones are used for some important stuff in the developing world. They support microloans and communication between farmers and markets; there are medical apps that NGOs use; scientists use them (with attachments) for data collection and analysis in the field.

    (I don’t use my cell phone for anything as important, but I do a bit of research about them once in a while.)

  169. 169
    Liberty60 says:

    @👽 Martin:
    Oh c’mon. You are saying that unless we madly spend every dollar we have, and go into debt, our economies will collapse?

    Of course not. If we consumers bought less, saved more, and spent on things that were better for the environment and labor, our economy would still work just fine.

    If I spent more on organic food and less on buying fast food, I would simply be redirecting my dollars to organic farmers instead of McDonald’s.

    For every person that gets laid off at McDonald’s, another would be hired by the organic food industry.

    I argue the point only because we are constantly bombarded with the lie that we are powerless to do anything except shop and buy like lemmings.

  170. 170
    👽 Martin says:

    @Pen:

    We’re rapidly approaching the point where traditional “employment” is no longer necessary. What do we do then, as a society? Hordes of homeless and walled-garden elites? French Revolution part II? Communism writ large? Our current social contract simply can’t sustain itself without workers, and we’re getting to the point where workers, beyond advanced repair techs, simply aren’t necessary for anything but “do you want fries with that?”.

    No, I somewhat agree. Historically we’ve done a host of things to address this, from eliminating child labor, to making HS mandatory, to making college almost mandatory, to reducing the work week and raising the cost of exceeding 40/week, to lowering retirement age. They all served to distribute the labor pool more broadly so that a subset of the labor pool weren’t able to soak up all of the needed labor. There’s nothing magical about 40 hr/wk that suggests it must stay that way.

    I think the US should do a variety of things that would all help distribute labor even further:

    1) Mandatory child leave for both parents. This is long overdue.
    2) Mandatory paid sick and vacation minimums for workers.
    3) Expand education opportunities, specifically for retraining and enhancing job skills.

    I would like to see something in the tax code that limited executive compensation and tied tax rates to the aggregate labor costs of the business. Basically give businesses that proclaim their ‘job creator’ status a choice – either make jobs/raise wages/expand benefits or pay higher taxes. Not sure how to implement that, but there are too many businesses (Apple is quite likely an example of this given they run the worlds largest hedge fund) where the cost of expanding revenues and profits through labor (opening stores, introducing new products, etc.) is overshadowed by the profitability of that capital. Why spend $1B hiring employees to get $50M in profits, when you can put your $1B in some financial instrument and get the same $50M?

    But changes to health care – particularly a move to single payer could go a HUGE way to changing this. Health care is the 2nd most costly component of an employee, following salary. But health care benefits can’t be prorated. You either give the employee the benefit or you don’t. That creates a massive incentive for companies to keep those employees at maximum productivity – 40/wk or more. Even paying 50% more per hour for overtime will swamp the costs of hiring an additional employee because of those benefits. But if you switch to a single payer system, you relieve the employer of that cost and can switch to a prorated system like payroll taxes to to cover that compensation. That would allow employees like me, who would be thrilled to switch to 30 hr/wk the opportunity to do so. And a lot of people I work with would be happy to do so as well. Many Americans earn enough that they would be willing to trade free time for a lower salary. And that would open up demand for labor that doesn’t currently exist. Health insurance is almost solely responsible for that lack of flexibility, and PPACA doesn’t help with that. Now, I expect once everyone sees what the mandate does in terms of locking everyone to that 40/wk optimal situation, that alternatives like single payer will deserve a 2nd look and gain some support.

  171. 171
    Liberty60 says:

    @👽 Martin:

    Why didn’t you pick on the $4B, 2.8 million square foot headquarters building that Apple is preparing to start building?

    That they are building a green building is a good thing. I am glad they are doing something with the money other than blowing it on hookers and cocaine.

    But to use that as a justification for the worker abuse is silly.
    The money that flows into Apple is coming from consumers; that money was going to flow somewhere, to someone.
    Why did it have to go to Apple? Why couldn’t it go to unionized companies, worker-owned companies?

    We constantly get told that unionized products, organic products, things that are made farily and justly, can’t make it because consumers refuse to spend the extra money; consumers, we are told “can’t afford” these products, and are “forced” to buy at WalMart.

    Yet this isn’t true; we always “afford” what we truly want, and make choices accordinly.

    This is why addicts find money for drugs yet “can’t afford” rent.
    They just make choices with their money, just as we do.

  172. 172
    👽 Martin says:

    @Liberty60:

    Oh c’mon. You are saying that unless we madly spend every dollar we have, and go into debt, our economies will collapse?
    Of course not. If we consumers bought less, saved more, and spent on things that were better for the environment and labor, our economy would still work just fine.

    No, I agree that we need to balance it. I never suggested debt in any way, and if you’ve read my comments for the however many years I’ve been here, you’d have run across my inviolate rule of debt: Only borrow for appreciating assets: home, health, education. You’d also run across my inviolate rule of consumer buying: do one hour of research for each $100 spent (exceptions for houses), and once you decide what to buy, wait one day for each $100 before actually buying. Some day I’ll need to adjust that for inflation.

    What I’m saying is that there’s nothing wrong with wanting that shiny new phone if you can truly afford it, and denying ourselves of those things out of some sort of semi-luddite moral code benefits nobody. Money saved is only beneficial if it serves some future use. I think it’s far more amoral that Mitt Romney ties up hundreds of millions of dollars that he’ll never have use for rather than putting it back into the economy in a way that will benefit workers – than it is that the guy next door buys a new cell phone each year. Oversaving is a legitimate economic problem. In fact, it’s one of our largest economic problems in this country. For all of our worries about our $14T national debt, the richest 400 Americans are sitting on $1.5T in assets and the Fortune 500 is sitting on $2T in cash. That’s $3.5T in capital – about $1100 per American doing pretty damn close to nothing. You want an economic stimulus, that’s it sitting right there, and it’s way the fuck bigger than anything government can do.

  173. 173
    dollared says:

    @👽 Martin: Amen to that.

  174. 174
    Brain Hertz says:

    We’re rapidly approaching the point where traditional “employment” is no longer necessary. What do we do then, as a society?

    I’m not really concerned about that as an endpoint; I don’t see that it necessarily follows from current trends. Just because some parts of manufacturing employment is moving to places like China that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing left to do elsewhere.

    To start with, all of the research, design and development still mostly isn’t migrating (although there’s some of that). More importantly, though, all of the talk about assembly of products like iPhones and iPads is masking the fact that most of the manufacturing value is not actually occurring in China.

    Take the instant example (because I happen to be pretty familiar with it): a smartphone costs (at the factory gate) somewhere in the range of $160 – $220, of which about 5% is the cost of assembly and test at places like Foxconn. The rest of the cost is primarily accounted for by semiconductor components, the battery and screen; about 60 – 70% of the cost is in the semiconductors.

    That semiconductor manufacturing is pretty high end (as compared to, say, automotive semiconductors which typically use older manufacturing technology) and is almost entirely located in high-salary geographies, specifically Korea, Taiwan, the US and Germany. Over time, no doubt some of that will move to locations like China, but for now, the growth in the markets in places like China and India is driving demand for manufacturing output in the high-salary geographies up, not down. I don’t see any reason to think that will change any time soon.

  175. 175
    Liberty60 says:

    @👽 Martin:
    I don’t disagree with anything say, except this-
    That our consumer choices are far more powerful than you think they are.

    It may be true that the richest 400 Americans are sitting on a ton of money, most Americans aren’t Most Americans spend too much, go into debt far too often, and mostly for things that are bad for us.

    Its unfair to pick on specific people, but we know statistically, that there is somebody out there right now who spent $600 on a new phone, and on the way home stopped at a WallMart instead of an organic local grocer, because he “couldn’t afford it.”

    Writ large, thats us. Telling ourselves that our purchases make no different, yet we know that some 70% of the economy is in fact, our purchases.

    Telling ourselves there is no harm in buying this trinket or that bauble, then wondering at the end of the month how the hell we are sliding further behind.

    The greatest gift we give the plutocracy is telling ourselves that we are powerless, that our choices make no difference.

  176. 176
    Sentient Puddle says:

    Oh Christ, has nobody pointed it out yet?

    @ Rex Everything:

    Even a basic computer is a luxury.

    @Rex Everything:

    I think a computer is a near-necessary tool for an informed citizen these days, not to mention a person with a social life.

    You guys are arguing with Mitt Romney here. Let it go.

  177. 177
    👽 Martin says:

    @Liberty60:

    The money that flows into Apple is coming from consumers; that money was going to flow somewhere, to someone.
    Why did it have to go to Apple? Why couldn’t it go to unionized companies, worker-owned companies?
    __
    We constantly get told that unionized products, organic products, things that are made farily and justly, can’t make it because consumers refuse to spend the extra money; consumers, we are told “can’t afford” these products, and are “forced” to buy at WalMart.

    Because there are no unionized companies or worker-owned companies in that market. There never will be either because the network effect of these markets is too strong to allow small players to exist and the pace of these markets are too rapid to survive unionization. Some of Apple’s workforce is unionized, but most of it isn’t because most of it doesn’t need to be. Their salaried workers earn $80K on average and have benefits that most unionized workers can only dream of. Their retail workers earn $12/hr and up and earn benefits, even for part time workers. There’s nothing for a union to appreciably improve there – and just as much for it to fuck up.

    Apple doesn’t assemble their devices in the US not because China is cheaper, but because the US simply doesn’t have the labor force to do it. We don’t have the industrial engineers. We don’t have the tool and die industry. We don’t have the government commitment to laying the infrastructure. If Apple was a lot smaller they could try, but they’re way too big now. Apple’s workforce at 2 plants is larger than the population of San Francisco. We’d literally have to build a city to do this. But that’s what China did. Apple is doubling production each year – and we simply can’t build infrastructure fast enough in this country to keep up. The ports that Apple exports from in China are world class – fully automated – a decade ahead of anything in the US. China benefits from not having a Republican controlled House of Representatives.

    Apple does make some key components in the US, though. The CPUs in Apple’s devices are made in Texas – by Samsung no less. But that’s only 1000 jobs. It’s almost completely automated. And Apple will bring that nearly million Chinese assembly jobs back to the US when it’s similarly reduced to maybe 5,000 jobs. Its inevitable that it will happen, and right now, only Apple has the financial ability to do it. That little revolution will almost certainly require Apple – even as a financial catalyst – to make it happen. And it’ll destroy the low-end manufacturing market everywhere. The next market, driven by 3D printing and robotics, is going to be lost to the US if we don’t do something serious. For everyone’s efforts to salvage mid-20th century manufacturing jobs, we’re instead going to miss out to Germany and China the next generation of high-precision automatic manufacturing. Someone is going to have to build and program all of those robots (that’s not low-wage, low-skill work) and someone is going to have to maintain, upgrade, and retask them. Those would be much better jobs for us.

    You’re simply wanting something that will never exist. It made sense 40 years ago, and it makes sense today in some industries, but not here.

  178. 178
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Shawn in ShowMe:

    Well, except for the fact that every one of folks in that pic are members of the 1%.

    Probably more like the 4%, and they are being celebrated for making their employer 10s of billions of dollars.

  179. 179
    suzanne says:

    @RSA: Not really, no. The bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy is physiological needs: breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, and excretion. So basic shelter, clothing, food, water, clean air, medicine, and a sanitary place to take a shit is really all we, at the most basic level, NEED.

    So blah blah blah, hearing about how you use a rotary phone you bought at a garage sale doesn’t contribute to this discussion in any way. No one NEEDS a phone. No one NEEDS a computer. So rather than shaming each other for wanting things that we think are stupid, I think the discussion is better spent trying to nail down ways we can make production less exploitative of labor.

  180. 180
    👽 Martin says:

    @suzanne:

    I think the discussion is better spent trying to nail down ways we can make production less exploitative of labor.

    We need to define terms and outcomes here. Time was that longshoremen were considered exploited labor – but we solved that through containerized transport. That made labor conditions massively better and raised wages, but also wiped out about 98% of the jobs. Literally.

    Phone and computer assembly will be fully automated within a decade – at least by someone. Now, assuming Apple is the one that does it, would we cheer that working conditions in the factory are better, or find fault that a million jobs just got wiped out there and 100,000 better ones recreated somewhere else?

    A lot of the downfall of US manufacturing falls in that latter category. There’s a big solar panel plant up in Fremont – and that’s manufacturing that would have gone to China – but it’s almost all automated. There might be 100 workers there. The equipment is mostly german – so a lot of jobs got created in Germany, and a few got created here, but nobody is exposed to the somewhat hazardous materials that go into PV production. Is that an improvement?

    Nevada and California are both certifying self-driving cars for use on public roads. We can already buy self-parking cars, and ones that can maintain distance, self brake, and even stay in lanes. We’re *really* close to BMW and Mercedes rolling out fully self-driving vehicles. That’s cool. But that leaves us only one infrastructure step away from something much more profound – automated home delivery. We just lack a reliable locker mechanism at the household that can be targeted by such a vehicle. The USPS has half a million workers. Most of the mail routing is already automated – but the delivery isn’t. Add in Fedex and UPS, etc. and we’re on the cusp of eliminating a million delivery jobs in the US in favor of 24/7 automated mail and package delivery. That last infrastructure step is politically hard to do, but technologically easy. It could come in 3 years or take 30 – we don’t know. Given that half of Congress would love to bankrupt the USPS, I’m thinking sooner rather than later.

    Now, delivery is a pretty non-value-add occupation. They don’t make your mail or Amazon delivery any better, so they’re completely replaceable and nobody will miss them and the cost of mail delivery will plummet. Does eliminating them improve labor? It’s hard. I think we need to think in much broader terms here.

  181. 181
    Doug Danger says:

    If I wanted to read Apple trolls, I’d go to slashdot. I come here for politics, not increasingly frequent Apple bashing by “Android is wonderful and Google never does anything wrong” mistermix.

  182. 182
    Liberty60 says:

    @👽 Martin:
    You are assuming that consumer dollar must go towards things like Iphones; I don’t.

    They go towards Iphones because we collective choose that instead of something else.

    Wer are reminded often by libertarians that people vote with their pocketbooks; but we forget just as often, that those votes are always swayed and influenced. There is in fact, a massive billion dollar advertising industry devoted to doing just that.

  183. 183
    Doug Danger says:

    Evil Apple, pumping literally billions a year into the Bay Area and American economy with over twenty thousand stateside jobs alone, domestic partner benefits, decent-paying retail jobs that come with benefits, and premium products that people will eagerly pay for.

    I don’t understand the irrational Apple hate. I really, really don’t.

  184. 184
    Doug Danger says:

    @👽 Martin: You can’t argue with irrational Apple haters.

    Tim Cook himself could fellate Foxconn’s Chinese workers in Tianemen Square, and mistermix would post about how Google would never put a worker in jeopardy like that.

    I wonder why mistermix never posts anything about Apple’s monthly updates to it’s worker responsibility page?

  185. 185
    👽 Martin says:

    @Doug Danger:

    I wonder why mistermix never posts anything about Apple’s monthly updates to it’s worker responsibility page?

    Because, tyranny.

  186. 186
    Pen says:

    @Brain Hertz: I’m not really concerned about that as an endpoint; I don’t see that it necessarily follows from current trends. Just because some parts of manufacturing employment is moving to places like China that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing left to do elsewhere.

    I hope you’re right, but I don’t see this as anything but wishful thinking.

    The automation trends are already in motion and I’m not just talking about the fact that robots are more reliable, don’t call in sick, and work faster than even a team of laborers. They also allow tighter manufacturing tolerances, total flow manufacturing tracking, and gaining in operation complexity every year. They can’t file labor grievances, they do what they’re told. Most important? They’re an entirely predictable cost. It’s not a matter of how much of the manufacturing chain automation will replace, it’s a matter of how soon they replace all of it.

    Our capitalistic and consumeristic society isn’t set up for a world that doesn’t have a need for value-added labor. And, I hate to admit it, but I highly doubt that the idea that we can train our way to a smarter and higher skilled society is anything but a pipe dream. What do we do, as a society, when our MRI machines have the capability to auto-diagnose? When our drug research companies are using genetic algorithms and roboticized testing platforms to cross-compile and discover drugs on their own? Do we skip past the skill labor societal upgrade and insist that everyone be trained in the creative arts?

    The way I see it there are three ways this ends: We either develop some sort of techo-feudal autocracy, a post-scarcity society, or we run into some sort of devastating roadblock caused by war, unforseen technological challenge, or energy shortage. Quite frankly only one of those societies sounds like any fun at all, and I don’t think it’s the likely outcome.

  187. 187
    Pen says:

    @Brain Hertz: I’m not really concerned about that as an endpoint; I don’t see that it necessarily follows from current trends. Just because some parts of manufacturing employment is moving to places like China that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing left to do elsewhere.

    I hope you’re right, but I don’t see this as anything but wishful thinking.

    The automation trends are already in motion and I’m not just talking about the fact that robots are more reliable, don’t call in sick, and work faster than even a team of laborers. They also allow tighter manufacturing tolerances, total flow manufacturing tracking, and gaining in operation complexity every year. They can’t file labor grievances, they do what they’re told. Most important? They’re an entirely predictable cost. It’s not a matter of how much of the manufacturing chain automation will replace, it’s a matter of how soon they replace all of it.

    Our capitalistic and consumeristic society isn’t set up for a world that doesn’t have a need for value-added labor. And, I hate to admit it, but I highly doubt that the idea that we can train our way to a smarter and higher skilled society is anything but a pipe dream. What do we do, as a society, when our MRI machines have the capability to auto-diagnose? When our drug research companies are using genetic algorithms and roboticized testing platforms to cross-compile and discover drugs on their own? Do we skip past the skill labor societal upgrade and insist that everyone be trained in the creative arts?

    The way I see it there are three ways this ends: We either develop some sort of techo-feudal corpratocracy and a second gilded era, a post-scarcity society where people don’t need to work for their needs, or we run into some sort of devastating roadblock caused by war, unforseen technological challenge, or energy shortage. Quite frankly only one of those societies sounds like any fun at all, and I don’t think it’s the likely outcome.

  188. 188
    Pen says:

    @Doug Danger: Oh for fucks sake Doug Danger, your precious fucking Apple isn’t a bastion of liberal sanctity. They’re a corporation, and a publicly traded one at that. They aren’t the good guys and what they’re doing? It’s called branding and good PR. Every major corporation does it, and the good ones come out smelling like roses no matter what they do. I, for one, couldn’t give a shit about Apple beyond the fact that they’re a convenient example of the problems inherent in our current system.

    And this site, that you come here for politics for? Yeah, I don’t see your name on the FP list. You’re just a commenter, a reader. You have a problem about what the FPers throw up on the page, or what the community decides to discuss? That’s your problem.

  189. 189
    DT says:

    @RSA: you’re absolutely right. This is an idiotic way to make a valid point.

  190. 190
    DT says:

    @RSA: @john_h: Right. A team of highly talented designers celebrating the success of one of their many highly-acclaimed achievements is exactly the same as a band of vulture capitalists acting like preening assholes. Good comparison.

  191. 191
    Gus says:

    I was wondering how long it would take for someone to defend Apple, or at least make the point that “everyone else does it.” First post.

  192. 192
    Pat says:

    This is a creepy picture. They are all dressed in black. Are they still mourning Steve Jobs while they simutaneously celebrate Apple’s latest consumer ripoff?

  193. 193
    Triassic Sands says:

    Apple could pay the workers three or fours cents more a week, but the Apple business model would then require that they raise the price of an iPhone by $200.00.

  194. 194
    jehrler says:

    @Andy:

    Late to this but *amen*.

    I too own a small business (that, btw, manufactures it’s products here in Minnesota). We directly have 3 suppliers that are employing people bending metal and molding resin…exactly the kind of core blue collar jobs that have been disappearing.

    Without the iPhone I couldn’t support our customers, deal with suppliers, deal with the banks, and ship our goods.

    When we started the business (in a rural part of MN) we joked that our business existed at all because of the brown truck (UPS) and a dish (satellite Internet). As we have grown and changed it now exists because of the green truck (FedEx Ground) and an iPhone.

    In fact, I am typing on my computer that is connecting to you and the Internet and our customers via the personal hotspot capability of my iPhone. We are too rural for high speed access via dsl and cable is nonexistent.

  195. 195
    Heliopause says:

    @Comrade Carter:

    Stop it already.
    Apple is NOT the scent of POWER, Apple is a relatively decent company that gives relatively ALL of the contributions they make to Democratic policies.

    Which is exactly why they should be first in line for criticism. If Apple folks are more likely to be left-leaning and have consciences then that’s where pressure is most likely to bear immediate fruit. Even marginal improvements in the lives of the millions who labor to support our comfy, middle-class, American lifestyles are better than nothing.

    And this pressure can be applied in a civilized fashion. Mistermix doesn’t heap abuse on the people in the photo a personal level, he just points out that there’s a backstory to every capitalist success, even the left-leaning ones.

  196. 196
    Ted says:

    Apple are not only unethical in their production of their products, but also with the way their software operates.

  197. 197

    It is well covered that the Apple mistreats the workers that make the
    iThings. It makes a show of trying to stop this, but doesn’t seem to
    be serious.

    But that’s not all that’s wrong with the iThings. Apple mistreats the
    US treasury and the people who use these products. They are designed
    as jails for the users.

    See http://stallman.org/apple.html.

  198. 198
    Brain Hertz says:

    I hope you’re right, but I don’t see this as anything but wishful thinking.
    The automation trends are already in motion and I’m not just talking about the fact that robots are more reliable, don’t call in sick, and work faster than even a team of laborers. They also allow tighter manufacturing tolerances, total flow manufacturing tracking, and gaining in operation complexity every year. They can’t file labor grievances, they do what they’re told. Most important? They’re an entirely predictable cost. It’s not a matter of how much of the manufacturing chain automation will replace, it’s a matter of how soon they replace all of it.

    Not that anybody can have a perfect view of what will happen in the future, and no doubt there will be many bumps in the road and much pain, but I think you’re being overly pessimistic here.

    What you’re not accounting for is that the output of all of these processes is not constant. The automation and replacement of workers with machines has been going on since the time of Ned Ludd, and whilst we get much displacement of workers at least in the short term, we also get more, better and cheaper products manufactured and new industries springing up that just weren’t possible before.

    Without the constant drive for automation in manufacturing , the problem we’re talking about here wouldn’t even exist because there would be no high-tech products being manufactured in the first place.

    Our capitalistic and consumeristic society isn’t set up for a world that doesn’t have a need for value-added labor. And, I hate to admit it, but I highly doubt that the idea that we can train our way to a smarter and higher skilled society is anything but a pipe dream. What do we do, as a society, when our MRI machines have the capability to auto-diagnose? When our drug research companies are using genetic algorithms and roboticized testing platforms to cross-compile and discover drugs on their own?

    What will happen then is that we’ll have the ability to cure more diseases. This has never been a zero sum game.

  199. 199
    iLarynx says:

    @Rob Eberhardt:

    While I initially assumed that the author’s articles on technology were simply the result of being out of his depth on the subject, it now appears that he is striving to be to technology journalism what Homer Simpson is to the nuclear industry. And the amount of misinformed bullshit on these comments is amazing. Fox News should be so productive.

    I don’t have the time or patience to address the dreck in the article and comments, maybe the Macalope will.

    However, I will ask Mistermix to compare and contrast these photos of what most people recognize as “slaves” to those thousands attempting to gain employment at a Foxconn factory.

    Foxconn BID for the opportunity to manufacture Apple’s products – this is the same way it works for HTC, Microsoft, etc. You shouldn’t be trying to write about how poorly a company operates in a given industry if you don’t know how that industry works. I agree that Apple with it’s #1 position can AND SHOULD do more to pressure Foxconn to improve conditions. Consumers pressuring Apple is also appropriate – that’s how the market works. HOWEVER, trying to make that point while also spewing utter horse manure will not help to further your cause.

  200. 200
    CDWard says:

    Nice try mistermix, but there is quite literally no bottom to the working conditions that the Apple cultists will rationalize away as long as it allows them to have their precious toys. Slaves? No problem! Concentration camp inmates? Sure!

  201. 201
    MJM says:

    If it was a sports team busting out the champaign because they had just won the championship, would you point out how terrible they are because of the starvation wages paid to the people who make the souvenir t-shirts the team franchise sells?

  202. 202
    todaline says:

    @Pen: Do you guys even realize how absurd this is? An unlocked Galaxy 3 is the EXACT same price as un unlocked iPhone 5. Samsung Galaxy Note 16gb is the exact same price as the iPad 16gb. And what you get with the Samsungs is mostly plastic stuff compared to high quality materials on the Apple products. So…

  203. 203
    iLarynx says:

    @CDWard:

    CDWard Says:
    Nice try mistermix, but there is quite literally no bottom to the working conditions that the Apple cultists will rationalize away as long as it allows them to have their precious toys. Slaves? No problem! Concentration camp inmates? Sure!

    Paging Mr. Godwin. CDWard is on Line 1 for you, Mr. Godwin.

    Slaves and concentration camp inmates? It looks like CDWard is now rationalizing idiocy.

    Another minion for Mr. mistermix.

  204. 204
    Robert says:

    @PeterJ: They don’t lose money, they just make less because they are subsidizing the phone.

  205. 205
    Scruff says:

    @Walker: Amen. People seem to think that all the tech inside, the software et. al. magically appear out of thin air.

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