We all know that the majority of Apple products are made in China, possibly in sweatshops. Does the corporation have an obligation to America? Should the company be working to bring jobs back to the country where it was founded… the country that enabled it to become the powerhouse it is today?
Those are the questions that many are all of a sudden asking, thanks to a recent NY Times article in which the late Steve Jobs reportedly denied that Apple jobs would ever return to America. For example, a new opinion piece on CNN says that Apple owes the U.S. for its enforcement of patent law, which allowed the iPhone to become popular in the first place.
As a business, Apple has a right to fear that moving the assembly work from China to the United States will entail raising labor costs so high as to make the company less competitive and profitable. But for it to say that it has no obligation to help solve America's problems is completely unacceptable.
Virtually every piece of technology in any Apple product had its origin or was partially developed on the basis of a U.S. government-funded program. In a global world where piracy of products is commonplace, Apple, like other multinationals, has continuously pressed the U.S. government to enforce copyright and patent laws to protect its intellectual property from international theft. Does Apple owe anything to Uncle Sugar? You betchum. Big time.
Businesses only have two obligations: to make money, and to not break the law. A lot of U.S. companies are barely able to handle those two things. Why do we expect them to fulfill a moral obligation as well? The U.S. now has the highest corporate tax rates in the entire world, and as consumers, our spending habits have clearly indicated that we’ll turn a blind eye to international child labor if it saves us 5 bucks on the end product.
I’d say the real problem here is our out-of-whack expectations. It reminds me of my relationship with my Aunt Susan. All I wanted was for her to love me, but instead she neglected me emotionally and occasionally put out lit cigarettes on my forehead. I tried incessantly to win her over, but every plea for affection resulted in a backhand to the face or a bottle of Colt 45 poured over my head. You see, in this example, my aunt Susan is the major corporation, I’m the American consumer, and her non-existent love is a reasonably-priced, sleek new tablet with wireless 4G. America needs to take a lesson from me. I tried for years to change Aunt Susan’s mind, but eventually I grew up and realized that it was me who needed to change. Also I realized that Aunt Susan wasn’t actually my aunt. Turns out she was just some homeless lady who lived in the woods behind my house. Come to think of it, I shouldn’t have been interacting with her at all. My parents really dropped the ball on that one.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @thefaketomz
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