Friday, 27 April 2012

Globalisation and austerity - so many rotten apples!

A few years ago, after more than a decade of battling with Windows, with viruses, system crashes, obscure drivers and innumerable updates I decided to buy a Mac. Now Macs are outrageously expensive compared to PCs but they do what they say on the tin, quickly, efficiently and simply, and, since then, I've had trouble free access to the web and have even been able to edit my own videos! So it was worth it. But, and the but is - that I've become increasingly disillusioned by what Apple does, and how it operates. Thanks to the iPhone and other products,  Apple has become the biggest company in the world, with billions of dollars, reputed to amount to $100 billion, sloshing around in its back pocket, so much in fact that it didn't seem to know what to do with all that dosh. Hmmm? ... after some thought Apple decided to hand over some cash to its shareholders.

No surprise there then, but what is wrong with Apple? For some time there has been growing concern about the treatment of workers who make Apple products at Foxconn in China. Workers at Foxconn, who make iPhones and iPads,  have protested about working conditions and Reuters reported today that:
"Workers at a Chinese factory owned by Foxconn, Apple Inc's main manufacturer, threatened to jump off the roof of a building in a protest over wages just a month after the two firms announced a landmark agreement on improving working conditions."
But what's more is that Apple has a huge profit margin, something that most corporations would die for. A recent article by Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian revealed that:
"Assembled in China, the total cost of putting together just one phone was $178.45. Compare that with a sale price (including downloads) of $630 and Apple makes $452 on each phone: a whacking gross margin of 72%."
This is mind boggling enough, but what the article also showed was that if Apple made the same product in the USA it could still make a whacking 45% profit! So why bother to outsource production to China?

Its not just Apple, because Apple is doing what every other corporation is doing nowadays, screwing every last drop of profit out of consumers and workers for the benefit of a tiny minority - the 1%. This is what globalisation and neoliberal capitalism are all about, a global race to the bottom in environmental and labour standards which is threatening the prosperity of societies all over the world, and puts commercial interests above democratic sovereignty through organisations like the WTO. If you want to know more about how globalisation works I recommend you read the excellent essay by Michael Parenti called Globalisation and Democracy. As Parenti says:
"With international “free trade” agreements such as NAFTA, GATT, and FTAA, the giant transnationals have been elevated above the sovereign powers of nation states. These agreements endow anonymous international trade committees with the authority to prevent, overrule, or dilute any laws of any nation deemed to burden the investment and market prerogatives of transnational corporations."
Henry Ford - a capitalist who understood that workers have to be able to afford to consume

Now, the world economic barrel is full of capitalist rotten apples, corporations which are allowed to ride roughshod over social and environmental legislation whilst they devastate communities and economies. As I've pointed out in a previous post, neoliberalism is ultimately self-defeating because it is economically unsustainable, as well as being environmentally unsustainable. You can't have a consumer capitalist economic model if no one can afford to consume, and that is where we're headed -  Henry Ford realised that a hundred years ago. There is a big problem here because neoliberal globalisation and austerity are going to create a huge number of human casualties, and things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. We need an economic alternative now, with governments leading the way in Europe for investment and job creation, and providing social housing and healthcare, that is why we must hope that Hollande will become President of France and why you should vote for the Green Party in the forthcoming local elections.

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