Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Home, and wondering about the state of the world

Well, I never did make it to Ireland. A horribly sad story if you ever want to hear it. But for now, some thoughts about recent events.

Take the news that the world's largest gold producer knew that it was pumping tons of mercury into the Indonesian air.
Coming not too long after the anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, it only goes to show how ineffectual environmental regulations are in many places of the world, and what a farce the idea of corporate responsibility really is. Conservatives like to bandy about the idea that we can trust corporations to obey environmental standards without regulation. I think not, and if Bhopal and this newest case don't prove it, I'm not sure what does. The public can effectively pressure large corporations that have a brand name, like Nike, by boycotting their goods. But how do you boycott a chemical company whose goods are ingredients in a thousand products, or a gold producer who doesn't put a swoosh on the rings or bracelets you buy? In these cases, we need government to exert the pressure that we can't because we can't identify or effectively boycott the bad guys. I'd like some conservative to tell me how the public can more efficiently watch over corporations than the government, given that corporations will never be able to watch over themselves.

This newest thing also means that, since buying diamonds is kinda questionable given, well, Africa, it's hard to find jewelry that doesn't have a morally questionable origin. In fact, I'm beginning to think that it's hard to justify buying jewels at all . . . but I'll be the first to admit that's a bit radical. I, for the life of me, can't think of a really great reason why there should not be a huge luxury tax. Other than that a lot of new technology gets tried out in high end goods first, then works its way down to us schmos without the yachts and first generation plasma TVs. But it seems that a smart luxury tax could find a way around that. Why not tax the hell out of luxuries?


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