No one has studied this phenomenon, per se, but I bet if you surveyed the cellphone in the hip pockets of protesters against global warming, you would find that most have an iPhone. The same would likely be the case at a protest for pay inequality, even Occupy Wherever. So much for reading the box in which the beloved Apple device came.
Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.
The New York Times tells of Steve Jobs’ dreams crushed by the failure to establish manufacturing in the United States.
Apple’s co-founder, Steve Jobs, had an abiding fascination with the tradition of Henry Ford and the original mass manufacturing of automobiles in Detroit, as well as the high-quality domestic manufacturing capabilities of Japanese companies like Sony. But his efforts to replicate either in California were examples of his rare failures.
Why the efforts failed isn’t clear. There is a suggestion that Americans were just not interested or very good at producing high-quality, defect-free devices, or perhaps they just couldn’t create viable manufacturing systems, but the upshot is that the iToys may have been designed here, but were produced elsewhere.
“We don’t have a manufacturing culture,” Mr. Gassée said of the nation’s high-technology heartland, “meaning the substrate, the schooling, the apprentices, the subcontractors.”
When the engineers had to go to the factory, they didn’t drive their Teslas, but hopped on a plane.
“When I started my career, all my flights were to Japan,” said Tony Fadell, one of the hardware designers of the iPod and iPhone at Apple. “Then all my flights went Korea, then Taiwan, then China.”
But what was it about these Asian countries that allowed them to produce what we could not?
So, the story of Silicon Valley’s success turned out to be the ability of a company like Apple to devise manufacturing supply chains that stretch all the way around the globe, taking advantage of both low-cost labor and lax environmental regulations. (Emphasis added.)
Without low-cost labor and lax environment regulations, would there even be a iPhone? Would it cost twice as much? Would it be half as good? Would anyone want it a phone replete with defects due to poor manufacturing?
The irony is that people won’t leave home without their iPhones, but are unaware, or perhaps ignore, that they are testaments to the very things they despise, the causes to which they will dedicate their time, effort and angst. They will carry them to protests for the $15 per hour minimum wage while they’re made by people paid a dollar a day. They will carry them to protest destruction of the environment while factories emit toxins and pollute the environment with abandon.
And if the factories that produced their iPhone didn’t enjoy low-cost labor and lax environment regulations, they wouldn’t have their iPhones as they now do. They would be too expensive or too defective. This necessary appendage to their very existence is dependent on the very things they despise. It’s not that they want this to be the case, but the reality leaves Apple, and its consumers, no other choice. The cost of an iPhone isn’t just paid by its purchasers, but by its low-cost labor and the environment. And users are okay with that.
Connecting these dots, which the NYT article neglected to do, is not intended to highlight the hypocrisy or naivete of iToy aficionados, even though it’s true. Rather, it’s to note that neither good intentions nor flights of fantasy alter the laws of economics any more than the laws of physics. It’s not to suggest that the causes aren’t fine, but that solutions to problems that ignore or deny reality are doomed to fail.
In the early years of cellphones, cell service providers used the Gillette Razor approach to hook us, giving away free phones to get us to contract for their service. Once we were hooked on cellphones, they pulled the plug on free and charged us on both ends, whereupon the cellphone manufacturers would market their wares mercilessly and we would be expected to buy new phones every two years, the old ones being uncool or failing by then. By then, we couldn’t live without cellphones.
Where did you think they came from? Where did you think they went when we disposed of them after two years? How did you afford them when you had crappy, if any, jobs? Yet, you loved them iToys so much and held them close as you marched for a better world in which you would have no iPhones.