1.23.2008

American Wallets, Global Impact

Dawn quotes from Living More with Less, in part:
"North Americans find it very hard to believe that their wealthy ways of living affect poor people on other continents. But in Africa, people are fully convinced that North Americans and their actions strongly influence their lives."

We've seen this in a very tangible, world-economy-wide way this week as the world stock markets have plummeted due to the state of the US financial market. But what of our individual choices? Do they matter?

I'd argue they do, and I don't think about my choices nearly enough. Yes, I avoid Walmart, and think seriously before stepping into a Burger King, but there are things I don't think about. I don't think about where my chocolate comes from. I was given a diamond ring when we got engaged almost exactly 3 years ago, and, in my excitement, I didn't know the circumstances surrounding the gold & diamond mining of my ring. When shopping for toys over Christmas, I was only partially conscious of the factory conditions where they were produced.

Am I being unloving to the oppressed and enslaved we're called to love by turning a blind eye to the injustices that I'm supporting with my purchases?
How much do you care? How much should I? How much am I responsible for?

4 comments:

MAB said...

Ya, American economics impact the world, for sure. In addition to the stuff you listed, the American Farm Subsidy system results in underpriced food that farmers can sell for higher prices than its market value, so they overproduce, and some of that food gets dumped on the world market for prices that undercut poor farmers in other countries, so they basically lose their livelihood.

Marie said...

Doesn't buying things help the people you are buying from?

I have a home business. When people buy my stuff I'm delighted, not feeling exploited.

This is assuming you aren't buying from a slave state, of course. I don't mean to be disingenuous.

But in general, when someone produces goods or provides a service, and you purchase the goods or service, you are blessing them.

The tone of your article seems to suggest that when we buy something, we are hurting somebody.

Chuckl said...

If an individual grows to a group that grows to a nation that collectively decides to change purchasing habits, the world changes with it and quickly. As a country, we have more economic power than most so we consequently set a lot of the pace for what changes around the world. If we were to decide that cars have to get at least 30 MPG or they arent allowed to exist, the industry would change and we would all breathe better. If we collectively decided to ban junk mail, trees would live on. Make the best buying choices for yourself, get a community to agree and the world easily could follow.

If you want an interesting book to read on the subject, pick up a copy of " The Tipping Point". It clearly studies and documents how it is a very small group of people in our world that transform it. It is a matter of seeing how they do it and becoming one. As a matter of fact, as a blogger who cares, you are becoming one!!

Joanna said...

Marie- Yes, Buying goods or services from people who are fairly compensated and paid a fair wage for what they do helps them, absolutely. Alternately, when we buy goods made in unfair, oppressive work conditions, we are supporting those low prices due to unjust treatment of people. What I'm suggesting is, instead of buying toys made in a sweatshop, should I do my research and look for toy companies I can support, who fairly compensate their employees and treat them well? Instead of buying cocoa harvested by slaves in Africa, should I find fair-trade chocolate alternative? (BTW, I found some last night- my church's bookstore sells Endangered Species Chocolate!) Do I have the responsibility to make sure my money isn't going to support oppression and injustice, and instead buy things that I know are fairly produced?

MAB & Chuck- Yes, I totally agree. The Farm Bill is another example of a way Americans are hurting workers elsewhere. And, Chuck, that's what I'm trying to do here- think about these things, and make others think about them, so that perhaps someday there will be change.

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