good and bad products

I have been thinking a lot about machines and products. it was something that really struck me in India- every street has a clothes washer who does a great service for very little money and they also end up being a public eye for the street. There are all these small service jobs that end up providing interaction and additional public eye. Here, we have large metal machines in our basements. Once we get those, we need to learn how to use them, we have additional appliances- irons, etc. and additional products- softeners, scented stuff. All of these things only have to do with the room they are in and the clothes that remain clean on our bodies. There is no community involved. The only interaction is when the delivery man brings them from the store to your house.

These are all the same things progressives have been thinking around- being closer to our food, paying correct prices for our goods. We realized that someone is being exploited, so we though, well, there should be fair wages and we should know through what chain the trading happens- and we have the wonderful fair trade movement. I would like to point out that it is entirely different from the foodie movement though, which brings in the local economy. Living in Seattle, the housing market crisis didn’t mean to me what it does to parts of the Midwest- because my local economy is thriving from a continuing technology boom.

Is it better to buy a product fair-trade from half-way across the world or a local product? Since it is likely that there is already a company in that half-way across the world country producing a good very cheaply, then giving someone there fair wages seems good. So then we are back to the question, what do we do?

I am willing to buy products made in the USA, but I would much rather see products made in my state. We have cheap goods with little money going to the worker or even producer. Part of the money that stays in our country is how much it costs to ship this stuff everywhere, the other part (which I imagine is a little less than half considering how most retail mark-up is 50%- does anyone know a good website that shows this?) goes to large companies and large advertising systems. Now we have growing unemployment and people are scrambling to think of how to make jobs for people.

As an attempt to answer Kai’s question, “what is good?”, I personally feel that local cottage industry is good. (In a related note: buy Ren Zimm bags, tehehe) I am pretty sure that making chemicals that kill all the foliage in Vietnam is bad. Can we start there?

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