Chapter 3 – How Absurd Capitalism Can Be

How can capitalism be so bad? Why do we hear so many good things about capitalism if capitalism is really causing all of this suffering?

The situation at the Nike corporation neatly encapsulates the absurdity of capitalism, and demonstrates the mind-bending amount of propaganda that supports capitalism. Keep in mind that Nike is not generally considered to be a “corrupt” corporation by usual standards, nor to be a destructive corporation. Nike is a worldwide brand beloved by many. Nearly every young person living in the United States today owns at least one Nike product. Yet Nike embodies the horrible repercussions of capitalism. If we simply look at how Nike operates, we can see the moral depravity. This quote is educational:

RM [a Nike worker in Indonesia – a 32-year-old mother who works six days a week and makes just $184 a month (less than $1 per hour)] told Senn that she doesn’t want Nike to leave Indonesia; she wants an end to verbal abuse and a 50% raise, which would allow her to better provide for her family.

Is $368 a month [the amount RM is requesting, representing far less than even minimum wage in the U.S.] too much to ask from a multinational corporation that posted $27.8 billion in revenue and spent $3 billion on advertising and promotions in fiscal 2014? Nike CEO Mark Parker was paid $14.7 million in compensation last year. That’s $7,656 an hour.

Wages in Vietnam, a key TPP partner, are even lower than Indonesia. Nike’s largest production center is in Vietnam where 330,000 mostly young women workers with no legal rights earn just 48 to 69 cents an hour, according to the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (IGLHR).

According to the IGLHR’s A Race to the Bottom report, Nike symbolizes the destructive impacts of trade deals like the TPP. Those $100-$200 Nike shoes you see in stores carry a declared customs value of $5.27 per pair, according to a sampling of ten shipments of Nike shoes from Vietnam destined for the US market.

In 2014, Nike contracted 150 factories in 14 countries to produce more than 365 million pairs of shoes, according to IGLHR and Matt Powell, sports industry analyst at the NPD Group. Vietnamese workers made 43 percent of those shoes; Chinese workers made 28 percent; and Indonesians made 25 percent. Not one pair was made in the United States. [ref]

There is also the video

There is also the video “Behind the Swoosh” [video], and this related quote summarizing it:

Keady wanted to see firsthand the abuses experienced by Nike’s factory workers, so he traveled to Indonesia and for one month lived in the workers’ slums on a workers’ salary of 1.25 dollars per day—a wage far below the minimum and livable wages in the area. On this salary, Keady describes that he could afford to buy himself soap for bathing and two simple meals a day, as the factory provided his third meal—an often inedible, vermin infested lunch. The shanty town where he lived was surrounded by a moat of sewage and populated with enormous rats. Keady witnessed the beating of unionized workers by military guards, the public, bodily humiliation of women denied legal menstrual leave, unpaid overtimes and the overall impoverished conditions of the workers in his slum community. Keady was also astonished by the mass expanses of land, often several football fields wide, that were filled with mountains of scrap materials and rubber dumped from nearby Nike factories. Often the dumping areas are next to villages, fields where children play and farms. Everyday, a portion of these trash mountains is burned, releasing toxins and carcinogens into the air. In the rainy season, often these piles are washed away by heavy rains into watersheds. [ref]

The CEO of Nike is making $7,656 dollars per hour. Meanwhile, the hundreds of thousands of impoverished people who are actually making Nike’s shoes earn something like $1 an hour. This is a 7,000X level of inequality. That we, as a species, allow such massive inequality to occur is disgraceful… appalling… horrific… monstrous… inhuman…. Pick whatever adjective you wish to use to describe this situation. This, nonetheless, is the direct result of the rules of capitalism. Just think about it:

Nike’s largest production center is in Vietnam where 330,000 mostly young women workers with no legal rights earn just 48 to 69 cents an hour

Hundreds of thousands of people employed by Nike are living in abject poverty, working essentially like slaves in return for so little. And they accept these terms because they have no choice. This is business as usual for hundreds of enormous American corporations. This is capitalism, and it is horrific.

A new world economy designed with everyone in mind would eliminate all of this absurdity and suffering. Of course it would. It is obvious with this one Nike example that capitalism is corrupt beyond description. Multiply this single example of depravity times 10,000 and you begin to grasp the enormity of the suffering that capitalism creates.

Capitalism must be replaced, for the benefit of all humanity. A replacement is well within our grasp, as described in this book.

To understand the rules of capitalism that enable all of this suffering – Jump to Chapter 4 > > > 

To explore the new economic system – Jump to Chapter 15 > > >