I just got a press release from Apple, reporting that it sold 5 million units of the iPhone 5 in that product’s first weekend. At the same time, I noticed an item on (some) news sites, reporting that, despite Apple’s assurances that everything is now hunky-dory at its oriental manufacturing arm, riots have broken out at the Foxconn plant in China. Apparently, a “personal dispute” led to clashes involving 2,000 employees, with some 40 people injured. Clearly, all is not completely rosy.
But whether the labor problems are fixed or not, the fact remains that Apple is having all its gear made in China. It’s hard to see any cost savings being passed on to the consumer; the iPhone 5 tops out at almost $900, assuming you pay cash rather than sign up for the indentured-servitude telco contract. But more fundamental is the fact that major American companies, such as Apple, really should be supporting their American home economy, not that of China.
The Apple announcement didn’t break down sales by geography, but it’s safe to assume that the number of US buyers was in 7 figures. All those millions of iPhone purchasers should feel not happy, but ashamed that they’re supporting low-paying jobs in China, that could have been decent jobs for their neighbors at home. If only they’d put just a little pressure on Apple, and other companies that have been eager to export jobs overseas.
Apple is by all accounts the richest company in the world. It has taken a leading stance on ‘green’ electronics. And it really could afford to take a leading stance on rebuilding the US manufacturing base. By the same token, Apple fans like to think they’re a hip, literate, discriminating bunch. They should be more than hip enough to see the logic of insisting that their favorite companies support the American economy. Of paying a bit extra, if need be, for products made ‘over here,’ and shopping around for alternatives to products that aren’t. Or abstaining entirely, in the case of obvious luxury items, if none of the available products makes the grade.
Everyone loves a nifty new toy. But it’s high time we started looking past the shiny surface, at some of the intangibles. And to realize that we are voting with our dollars, whether we think about it or not. Companies like Apple will always take the path of least resistance, highest profit… unless we tell them, in the only way that matters, that’s no longer good enough.