Sunday, November 11, 2007

No Deal, Focusing on Corporate Greed

Bargain hunters are not to blame for the recent onslaught of dangerous toys in the American marketplace, despite suggestions otherwise. Parents didn't strike a deal to injure their children in return for ten dollar toys.

The decision to buy a cheaper product does not equal an implicit agreement to purchase harmful goods. The failure of US toy companies to ensure product safety reflects directly on corporate executives who more diligently protected their own stock options than children's safety.

Those who control profit margins, namely corporate executives, are responsible for setting prices and being good corporate citizens. This can be fairly interpreted as a responsibility to not injure consumers, regardless of the price of the product.

With millions of mainstream toys recalled, it's nearly impossible to believe that executives care as much about product safety as corporate profits. "That's not my job," doesn't seem to cover it when consumers of the products are children and executive salaries dwarf average American incomes.

Arguing US parents are getting what they deserve because they are somehow responsible for jobs going overseas, by buying cheaper toys, is sadly opportunistic. By the same logic, Americans agree to eat food unfit for consumption because much of it is imported. We agree for our identities to be stolen because major banks have outsourced call-centers, and we agree to ingest tainted prescription drugs because ingredients are often manufactured outside the country. We have bargained for this because corporate executives were forced by our greed to find a way to keep profit margins high, protecting their own compensation packages by keeping production costs low.

The issue is not so much consumer greed as it is corporate greed, as has been true in most product safety debacles, from cigarettes to snake oil. It's important that the distinction between the issues not be lost because, in order to solve the problem, the problem must first be accurately identified. Pointing to consumer greed lets toy companies and executives off far too easily.


Janet said...

I heartily agree, thank you so much for putting it so eloquently. Kentucky's economy is in dreadful shape because our senators are in the pockets of the big corporations, including coal. None of the profits go back to the state. Even our coal doesn't stay in state. It goes to Alabama or somewhere. What kind of sense does that make? Oh, because shipping it elsewhere and importing another state's coal for our use makes more money for the COMPANY!!!! Ding, ding, ding. Why don't you send that commentary to Newsweek? They have an article called My Turn that this would be perfect for.

Shannon said...

Hey thanks, that's a great idea.