Conflict Minerals and the Game Industry: The Problem

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I can't say or do anything about a violent situation when I don't have firepower. I'm just not a diplomat.

First of all, kudos to Mr. Rath and the Escapist for your attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the DRC; I hope this can help spark more awareness of the tragic situation (and such measures as the Dodd-Frank SEC disclosures). After all, if the public doesn't even know about it, it's very difficult to get anything done.

Secondly, I admit that I'm actually a little astounded at how well written and thoroughly researched this article is; it really is one of the best short pieces I've read on this issue. Apologies to the Escapist for any low expectations! (Though this also means that I expect more articles of this quality, plz ;)

And thirdly, I'm truly hoping that the comment above ("I don't feel a single twinge of pity for the Africans, and encourage their exploitation, because I fear that stopping it would interrupt the flow of resources.") is pure satire, as it is literally the same mindset that King Leopold II had.

Oh, dear... I was under the impression that the mineral trade was a bit of an unpleasant mess in Africa, but I didn't know that the situation was this awful. It's a very good article, and I'm very fond of this series as a whole. Very well done!

Honestly, it's very sad that this exploitation continue like it does, colonialism haven't gone anywhere, apparently. One can hope that the situation will improve if the awareness does. Thing can be much better than this. For all the good it is, I'll have this issue in mind when dealing with electronics. This isn't something I'd want to support.

Again, excellent article, and fantastic series overall. Well done!

Also related:

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KingGolem:
Oh, of course, because all of human development has just been one big charity project, right? Wrong. Compassion is not necessary to build society. In fact, I'd say it's a pretty minor factor. Think of it this way: why do we have things like OSHA, minimum wage, and worker's compensation? Is it because the big corporate bosses felt compassion for their workers and gave it to them? No, it's because those workers wanted to make things better for themselves, and determined that the best way to do so was to form labor unions and make demands of their employers. It worked, you see. Why, then, did those corporations exist in the first place? Capitalism. Entrepreneurs wanted to make things better for themselves by making lots of money, so they invested in the companies that make the things we enjoy, like the laptop I'm typing on right now. Did the companies just give these things to me out of the kindness of their hearts? No, I had to pay for them. It's quid pro quo, the completely selfish founding principle of economics.

I find the irony of this section of your post delicious. You are decrying liberal economic policies, yet complaining about how entitled you are to cheap electronics that you can live without.

Truly delectable.

Sir Robert I love your articles. I try to stay informed on the issues around the world and this is the first time that Ive had a real beginning to end reason; as to why the congo is in the shape it is today.

Absolutely fantastic article. It's utterly mind-boggling how little coverage these issues get in western media. If we're lucky, every once in a while we'll get an article pointing out some sweatshop somewhere, but the systematic abuse and slavery that goes on in many third world countries is so extensive, it really needs to be covered more.

Part of the problem lies with the way the infrastructure of the minerals trade is set up. A company could quite legitimately wish to sever its ties with conflict traders, but if those minerals come from only a few select sources (as is the case for many rare resources), then the company is often faced with the issue of either being forced to trade with these people, or stopping production of their product entirely. With game companies, so much of the production process is outsourced now (including everything up to the actual manufacturing) that trying to regulate the entire process can be mind-numbingly complex.

That doesn't excuse it, of course. It is up to both the companies, and international leaders to bring exposure to the issue, and use their collective weight to try and bring the issue to an end.

KingGolem:
SNIPPEDY

Normally, I would simply assume that you're trolling for attention.

However, given the extent to which you've tried to justify your initial response, I can only assume that this is your actual opinion. I find it quite amazing that someone can be so incredibly callous, and so spectacularly wrong at the same time, but you've managed both.

If you, in your self-centred little world, want to keep enjoying the benefits of technology created from international materials, then you will surely understand that you need a sustainable, stable environment in which to provide the resources with which to make that technology. That is currently not the situation in the Congo. The entire process of mining for minerals is beset by primitive mining techniques, exploitative price gouging and armed conflict. These things do not make for a stable economic environment. While traders may be able to keep supplying minerals and materials for the present, but with conflict and instability playing such a large part of the process, there is no guarantee that they will be able to in the future. In fact, there's every chance that they won't. The situation in the Congo and similar places will degrade to the point that no-one is able to trade anything for anything.

Now, this is of course ignoring the elephant in the room that is basic goddamn empathy. The above reasoning should explain in real terms why conflict minerals are bad for humanity. But I shouldn't even have to use that reasoning. A process which uses violence, rape and economic extortion to continue is a process which is inherently bad. It has nothing to do with economic value, and everything to do with takign pity on your fellow man. Even kids can understand that!

Just imagine how it would feel to be forced underground at gun-point to work for up to 48 hours digging away at earth, to earn next to nothing and have you and your family under constant threat of violence from armed militias. It would feel pretty shitty, right? So imagine how it feels for the people actually going through it. If you are unable to put yourself in that position, then that only suggests that your emotional development has been crippled to the point that a toddler would shame you.

You know one of the clinical signs of sociopathy? A complete inability to empathise with the pain of others, and a refusal to see the world from anything other than an ego-centric view. You've displayed both in your replies, as well as a somewhat perverse glee towards the idea of violence ("It gets me gadgets! Yaaaay!"). If you aren't trolling, then I strongly suggest you get yourself checked by a shrink. And stay out of any job that gives you any degree of responsibility over other people.

image
yes, but our economy is so fucked up that we are dependent on consumerism.

thats why we wont see any inventions like the supposedly everlasting light bulb

Ephemeral Folderol:
And thirdly, I'm truly hoping that the comment above ("I don't feel a single twinge of pity for the Africans, and encourage their exploitation, because I fear that stopping it would interrupt the flow of resources.") is pure satire, as it is literally the same mindset that King Leopold II had.

It's not. Stop assuming that, please.

CrossLOPER:

I find the irony of this section of your post delicious. You are decrying liberal economic policies, yet complaining about how entitled you are to cheap electronics that you can live without.

What are you talking about? I don't claim to be entitled to anything. I want cheap electronics, so by extension I want the minerals to say cheap by whatever means necessary.

Alexnader:
You seem to be under the misconception that all this chaos in the DRC is somehow benefiting you. Sure, slave labour makes things cheaper but that saving is mitigated at least in part by the lack of regulation that allows it to exist in the first place. Let's compare this to the sweat shops in China. There you have cheap labour making cheap goods that are quickly exported to the glorious USA, critically all this is done in an evironment of stability.

That's an interesting point. I suppose that the present situation is actually less than ideal, due to the instability. A better system would indeed be if it became like China, a petty dictatorship whose laborers worked for pennies on the hour. That's why China is such a great trading partner. However, the ideal solution that this article seems to be suggesting would be if the Congo became a stable, equitable society, with things like minimum wage and regulations and such. That, I think, would be even worse, because then they wouldn't be able to produce the minerals as cheaply (what with having to pay their workers fairly, and provide for their safety, and all), and they might not export as much, instead using some to develop their own country.

Alexnader:
Also I believe you are trolling.

I insist you are mistaken. You can disagree with me all you like, but if you think I am being dishonest, I must take exception.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:

If you, in your self-centred little world, want to keep enjoying the benefits of technology created from international materials, then you will surely understand that you need a sustainable, stable environment in which to provide the resources with which to make that technology. That is currently not the situation in the Congo. The entire process of mining for minerals is beset by primitive mining techniques, exploitative price gouging and armed conflict.

I believe this is similar to the point Alexnader brought up. The ideal situation, I think, would be for one of these factions to take over and set up a permanent petty dictatorship, so they can focus on gathering minerals in an orderly fashion and cheaply. Also, don't forget that the technology is not manufactured in the Congo, it's made in China and Japan. The Congolese need only supply the ore.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Now, this is of course ignoring the elephant in the room that is basic goddamn empathy. The above reasoning should explain in real terms why conflict minerals are bad for humanity. But I shouldn't even have to use that reasoning. A process which uses violence, rape and economic extortion to continue is a process which is inherently bad. It has nothing to do with economic value, and everything to do with takign pity on your fellow man. Even kids can understand that!

That may be an elephant to you, but to me it is of no consequence. I don't believe anything is inherently bad, either, it's just the way we perceive it. The exploitation is bad for the Congolese, certainly, but as it supplies us with cheap minerals, it's good for the rest of us.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Just imagine how it would feel to be forced underground at gun-point to work for up to 48 hours digging away at earth, to earn next to nothing and have you and your family under constant threat of violence from armed militias. It would feel pretty shitty, right? So imagine how it feels for the people actually going through it.

Oh for crying out loud, this argument again? Do you assume I am ignorant of their suffering? I fully understand that their life is a living hell, and if it happened to me, it would be the worst thing ever. But it doesn't happen to me. If I were Congolese, I'd be outspoken against the oppression, as it would be detrimental to my self interests. As an American, however, the oppression supports my interests by making my electronics cheaper.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
You know one of the clinical signs of sociopathy? A complete inability to empathise with the pain of others, and a refusal to see the world from anything other than an ego-centric view. You've displayed both in your replies, as well as a somewhat perverse glee towards the idea of violence ("It gets me gadgets! Yaaaay!"). If you aren't trolling, then I strongly suggest you get yourself checked by a shrink. And stay out of any job that gives you any degree of responsibility over other people.

I already have a psychiatrist, thank you, and he says I'm not crazy. Of course, he's not aware of these posts, but why would I show them to him? He might mistakenly think something is wrong with me. You call me a sociopath? I say, "pragmatist." I can focus on what's important, me, without having to worry about inconsequential things like the suffering of others.

KingGolem:
..........inconsequential things like the suffering of others.

No, you're totally a sociopath.

Although I think that KingGolem has said some things that make him seem horribly unfeeling, I do agree at least a bit with some things he has said. Mainly that yeah it is horrible what is happening there, but I don't think we have to go around being the karma police.

Do I think what is happening is horrible, offensive, and shocking? Yes.

Do I want to pick up a gun or send my money towards some sort of humanitarian effort? Not particularly. They don't seem to respond to positively to outside influence and I have bills to pay.

If the UN wants to go in there, more power to them, but it's not my job to end oppression.

Andrew_C:
Actually this is a bit of a non-issue. The electronics companies and smelters have already pretty much taken care of this in a surprisingly successful example of self-regulation. Very little Congolese Tantalum enters the supply chain in the West, and the proposed legislation can do nothing about less ethical far-eastern smelters. See http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/08/29/sec_materials/ for details.

So . . yeah . . what about this everyone? This post is kinda ignored here.

What a weird coincidence. This was basically the focus of my studies two semesters back.
Good thing it's getting some public attention. Thank you, Mr Rath.

KingGolem:

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:

If you, in your self-centred little world, want to keep enjoying the benefits of technology created from international materials, then you will surely understand that you need a sustainable, stable environment in which to provide the resources with which to make that technology. That is currently not the situation in the Congo. The entire process of mining for minerals is beset by primitive mining techniques, exploitative price gouging and armed conflict.

I believe this is similar to the point Alexnader brought up. The ideal situation, I think, would be for one of these factions to take over and set up a permanent petty dictatorship, so they can focus on gathering minerals in an orderly fashion and cheaply. Also, don't forget that the technology is not manufactured in the Congo, it's made in China and Japan. The Congolese need only supply the ore.

So... focus on the mineral wealth, and damn the cost of human life, is it? You are aware that the only reason that humanity was able to actually evolve into a being capable of society, civilisation and those gadgets you seem to love is because we stopped being loners and started looking out for each other. Individuals grouped together to form tribes. Tribes grouped together to form communities. Communities grouped together to form societies. Every single incident of human invention, ingenuity and creativity stems from the fact that we stopped trying to kill each other, and started working together.

If we want humanity to take that next evolutionary step, then we need to start applying this on a global scale. And that means sticking up for the people who are getting screwed in places like the Congo.

So yeah... you're not just acting selfishly, you're actually acting against our best interests as a species with your ego-centric views. 'No man is an island'. In fact, in today's global community, every single person is connected in some way to the rest of the world. We need to start acknowledging that and working to rectify our mistakes if we want to get anywhere as a species.

That may be an elephant to you, but to me it is of no consequence. I don't believe anything is inherently bad, either, it's just the way we perceive it. The exploitation is bad for the Congolese, certainly, but as it supplies us with cheap minerals, it's good for the rest of us.

Oh, this old chestnut again. "Well, good and evil are human inventions, so therefore they cannot really exist, and its all just needless prattle that we should ignore."

Let me tell you what else is a human invention- the wheel. There isn't a single example of a wheel-and-axle in the natural world. That's something we created. And it was a pretty damn important step in getting us to progress anywhere as a species.

Good and evil may not exist objectively, but you know what? Even if they're human constructs, they're still damn important constructs. It is notions of good and evil that prevent the world from devolving into outright war and chaos. It is notions of good and evil that allow millions of people to get by everyday without murdering each other. Good and evil may not be 'inherent', but that does not make them worthless. Good and evil are inventions every bit as important as the wheel, the spear, penicillin, soap, the printing press, paper, and whatever lithium-based gadget it is you're currently so eager for. None of those things are 'inherent', and yet they are all fundamental for us to continue as a society.

The same is true of good and evil. So don't give me this moral relativism crap.

Oh for crying out loud, this argument again? Do you assume I am ignorant of their suffering? I fully understand that their life is a living hell, and if it happened to me, it would be the worst thing ever. But it doesn't happen to me. If I were Congolese, I'd be outspoken against the oppression, as it would be detrimental to my self interests. As an American, however, the oppression supports my interests by making my electronics cheaper.

See, most regular people, after thinking about the issue, would not feel good about the idea of electronics being made cheaper by the rape, suffering and deaths of innocent people out in the Congo. Yet you seem to take a perverse glee in it. You are the only person I've ever met who has actually tried to argue for rape, violence and murder. You have said yourself that it is justified in making your goods cheaper. I can only hope that you never have to go through the pain of seeing someone you know get murdered, raped or get the shit kicked out of them. I'd rather you continue in your ignorance than have someone else go through that sort of suffering to make a point for you. Because I have empathy, unlike you.

I already have a psychiatrist, thank you, and he says I'm not crazy. Of course, he's not aware of these posts, but why would I show them to him? He might mistakenly think something is wrong with me. You call me a sociopath? I say, "pragmatist." I can focus on what's important, me, without having to worry about inconsequential things like the suffering of others.

I can focus on what's important, me, without having to worry about inconsequential things like the suffering of others.

inconsequential things like the suffering of others.

...sorry, were you trying to argue against being classed a sociopath? You've just made my argument better than I could ever have hoped to.

Does anyone know what the ratio of recycled minerals to mining is? Or is it impossible to make a more advanced computer using components recycled from older computers?

KingGolem:

What are you talking about? I don't claim to be entitled to anything.

THE VERY NEXT LINE:

KingGolem:
I want cheap electronics, so by extension I want the minerals to say cheap by whatever means necessary.

You are quite very much entitled.

What KingGolem is saying sounds quite like what a psychopath might say, but whether or not he is doing this intentionally, he is very much representative of society when our narrow self-interest is threatened.

For example, in Canada, we had a debate about whether or not we should be in Afghanistan. People on the left would say we should pull out because our professional, adult, soldiers (the poor dears) were getting killed, because ITS A WAR. People would say that the Afghans don't want us there, and should not interfere with Afghan affairs, the usual anti-interventionist bullshit from leftist, high-living westerners talking about a place that doesn't even have farms without landmines in them, much less politics to "interfere" with.

When it was made abundantly clear that Canadian soldiers want to be in Afghanistan helping the people there, the mood on the left shifted too, and I could quote this from many different people, "if soldiers wnat to stay in Afghanistan, they can do it on their own dime." Suddenly, our precious soldiers, who before were the innocent victims of big bad Ottawa and the war-mongering Conservatives, had become the enemy. They were in the way of pulling out of Afghanistan. People did not want to prevent girls from having acid thrown over their eyes because they went to school, or children killed because their parents helped NATO. These people are no less sociopathic than KingGolem, but I'm sure they would make some moralistic bullshit for why they can't fork over some pocket change to bring education to girls in Afghanistan, and reduce the terror wrought by the Taliban.

Interesting article. As someone who's currently working on my first custom PC build, I've been having trouble trying to find individual parts manufacturers who are particularly sustainable/conflict free.
More OT: I feel like there's several different roads that can be traveled here, not necessarily mutually exclusive
1) Buy carefully and reduce demand.
2) Assist in economic and social development in the Congo. The West isn't necessarily very good at this.
3) Increase recycling of electronics where possible

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:

So... focus on the mineral wealth, and damn the cost of human life, is it? You are aware that the only reason that humanity was able to actually evolve into a being capable of society, civilisation and those gadgets you seem to love is because we stopped being loners and started looking out for each other.

Who said anything about being a loner? It is certainly possible to work with others completely out of self-interests, so long as all members make themselves useful to each other. It's called quid pro quo, and I'd say it's been a much more integral driving force than empathy.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:

Good and evil may not exist objectively, but you know what? Even if they're human constructs, they're still damn important constructs. It is notions of good and evil that prevent the world from devolving into outright war and chaos. It is notions of good and evil that allow millions of people to get by everyday without murdering each other.

The same is true of good and evil. So don't give me this moral relativism crap.

That's interesting, because what gets me through the day without murdering people or sewing chaos is fear of legal prosecution. You know, self-interests again. I don't want to go to prison, so I better not break any laws.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
See, most regular people, after thinking about the issue, would not feel good about the idea of electronics being made cheaper by the rape, suffering and deaths of innocent people out in the Congo. Yet you seem to take a perverse glee in it. You are the only person I've ever met who has actually tried to argue for rape, violence and murder. You have said yourself that it is justified in making your goods cheaper.

I think you're characterizing me wrong. I don't take perverse glee in the suffering of the Congolese, I support it because it benefits me. Also, when you say "justified," I fear we may be referring to two different meanings. Perhaps you would require moral justification for certain things, but for me, I look at life like a balance sheet. If something results in a net gain for myself, that's all the justification I need.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
...sorry, were you trying to argue against being classed a sociopath? You've just made my argument better than I could ever have hoped to.

The point I was getting at was that even if you consider me a sociopath, it clearly does not impair my ability to function. In fact, I'd say it increases my ability to reason, as this conversation further demonstrates.

CrossLOPER:

KingGolem:
I want cheap electronics, so by extension I want the minerals to say cheap by whatever means necessary.

You are quite very much entitled.

That is not entitlement at all. Entitlement is when you claim to have a right to something, a defensible claim to it. I don't have a right to fancy electronics or the oppression of the Congolese, I merely support them. I'm stating my interests, not my entitlements.

TheEndlessGrey:
Worst case scenario is we stop buying their minerals, and the militias cannot find any other way to profit off these people... well they don't need to be alive anymore, do they?

Sounds like you've been watching too many James Bond movies lately.

In real life, people don't generally don't pull the old "You have outlived your usefulness/your reward is DEATH! MWAHAHAHA!" schtick.

I'm all for not contributing to the problem, but lets not play make believe like children and pretend that if we don't buy these resources as they become available then somebody else will.

This problem won't simply go away when we stop contributing to it.

KingGolem:
That is not entitlement at all. Entitlement is when you claim to have a right to something, a defensible claim to it. I don't have a right to fancy electronics or the oppression of the Congolese, I merely support them. I'm stating my interests, not my entitlements.

You believe yourself to be deserving of such benefits that are only available through extraordinary circumstances.

Also, go ahead and show your psychiatrist the posts where you talk about having fantasies about murdering people and "sewing chaos". Then explain that it is merely your ability to "reason". You sound very convincing.

Perhaps you were being facetious... I think I understand you, though I can't help but think that you are finding some pleasure in obfuscation.

CrossLOPER:

You believe yourself to be deserving of such benefits that are only available through extraordinary circumstances.

No, I don't. What is so hard to understand about this? I don't claim to deserve them, I just want them.

CrossLOPER:
Also, go ahead and show your psychiatrist the posts where you talk about having fantasies about murdering people and "sewing chaos". Then explain that it is merely your ability to "reason". You sound very convincing.

Now it's my turn to be confused: which posts are these? I don't believe I've mentioned any such fantasies in this whole discussion. In fact, in the very post that you quoted:

KingGolem:
That's interesting, because what gets me through the day without murdering people or sewing chaos is fear of legal prosecution. You know, self-interests again. I don't want to go to prison, so I better not break any laws.

Where are you getting the idea that I wish to murder people and sew chaos? I think you may be mistaken: I support the murder and chaos presently at work in the Congo because it assists me, but I would never do it myself. That sort of thing carries severe personal consequences.

And the reason I don't bring this up with my psychiatrist is because I suspect he would fail to understand just as terribly as you have.

CrossLOPER:
Perhaps you were being facetious... I think I understand you, though I can't help but think that you are finding some pleasure in obfuscation.

You can't understand me, no matter how much I try to explain myself, so you conclude that I'm deliberately obfuscating my point? Disgusting. The problem is with your failure to comprehend. I feel that trying to explain it any further to you, when I've already made it as clear as I possibly can, would be a hopeless effort.

KingGolem:
....

Let us be clear then. What sort of "personal consequences" do you fear that prevent you from behaving in a morally reprehensible manner? Prison time? Your conscience? What?

CrossLOPER:
Let us be clear then. What sort of "personal consequences" do you fear that prevent you from behaving in a morally reprehensible manner? Prison time? Your conscience? What?

In civilized countries, legal prosecution, including prison time, is the main deterrent to "morally reprehensible" behavior, as you call it. In lawless, savage lands like the Congo, there is still the potential for retribution. Opposing factions constantly war with one another, and serving for one means becoming a target for all the others.

Syzygy23:

TheEndlessGrey:
Worst case scenario is we stop buying their minerals, and the militias cannot find any other way to profit off these people... well they don't need to be alive anymore, do they?

Sounds like you've been watching too many James Bond movies lately.

In real life, people don't generally don't pull the old "You have outlived your usefulness/your reward is DEATH! MWAHAHAHA!" schtick.

I'm not saying they would immediately go in and kill the whole village, but if the people in charge are willing to rape and murder in order to keep the workers under their thumb, what makes you think they won't kill a bunch of people in order to make the size of their herd more manageable? They maintain their power through fear and violence, and they go through the effort of spreading fear and violence because they need the miners to acquire the wealth buried in their land. If the miners are no longer useful, why keep an excess of potential dissenters around? First sign that they're more trouble to manage than they're worth, I'd expect an example to be made.

braincore02:
It's not pointless at all. In a world where we're using and abusing resources and people, yet many, if not most of us, are more concerned with BF3 vs COD, collecting all the Pokemon, or what console is better than what, etc, we need to be exposed to global realities. They may seem far away now, and they may be less pleasant to think about than our frivolous hobbies and interests, but if we don't wake up sooner than later issues like these may consume every society.

People need to stand up to abuse, but before that can happen, they need to know about it.

Good article.

Uh, this leads to a solution for the DRC... how exactly? That was my point: merely this doesn't bring a solution, no longer using the minerals doesn't bring a solution either. It just takes it worse.

The same happened with shoes in the 90's. I believe it was Nike that got bashed for using child labour. The boycott and uproar ended child labour.

...by firing all the children and leaving their families in a much worse financial situation than before when they had child labour.


Which shows this is not a western problem, or a trade problem, it's a local problem, and a problem of what's normal in that locale. The problem must therefore be adressed by chances to the locale.

How do we westerns make changes to a remote foreign locale? Uh... we pretty much can't, since we neither run the country nor make it's culture.

Blablahb:
How do we westerns make changes to a remote foreign locale?

Well the traditional method is to give financial and material backing to one specific group in the region, sit back, ignore the carnage, and reap the cut price resources.

There's also the option of invasion and installing a friendly puppet government (because who'd install an unfriendly puppet government?). If this puppet government turns out to be a kleptocratic junta... well, you can't make an omlette without executing a few hostages.

You could also organise a large celebrity event to raise public awareness and generate enough funds to pay for all the celebrities and media types. 10c from every DVD of the event sold could be donated to an organisation dedicated to keeping the public aware.

There's a radical school of thought that puts forward the best way to address the situation is to increase the demand for minerals to a point where they're all mined out of the region in question within 20 years and all the local thugs and warlords and corrupt officials retire wealthy and take up golf.

KingGolem:

In civilized countries, legal prosecution, including prison time, is the main deterrent to "morally reprehensible" behavior, as you call it. In lawless, savage lands like the Congo, there is still the potential for retribution. Opposing factions constantly war with one another, and serving for one means becoming a target for all the others.

The main point I was trying to get across is that, in one of your own posts, you stated that you support the conflict industry because it results in you obtaining cheaper products. You feel that it is in your rights to support such an industry because you want electronic trinkets that do not in any way aid in your survival.

You feel that you can profit from this type of activity unrestrained, to the point where you do not face legal consequences. These types of industries lead to warlords acquiring weaponry and expanding their operations. The cash flow from these minerals is very high. It can be used by anyone who seizes control or partakes in the aid of the flow. Terrorist groups, for instance.

Surely being a potential target in one way or another, directly or indirectly is against your notion "self-interest"?

CrossLOPER:
You feel that it is in your rights to support such an industry because you want electronic trinkets that do not in any way aid in your survival.

Why do you keep bringing up this "rights" issue? You are making no sense at all. You say that I feel entitled to these things, but I say, no, I just want them. Then you say that I "feel that it is in my rights to support such an industry." Why? How do you make the leap from desire to entitlement?

CrossLOPER:
You feel that you can profit from this type of activity unrestrained, to the point where you do not face legal consequences. These types of industries lead to warlords acquiring weaponry and expanding their operations. The cash flow from these minerals is very high. It can be used by anyone who seizes control or partakes in the aid of the flow. Terrorist groups, for instance.

It seems to me that the factions of the Congo are preoccupied with controlling the mines, rather than destroying Western civilization. They're channeling all their savagery against each other, thus keeping each other in check. Further, it appears that their motivation here is simple greed, rather than religious zealotry. If one faction were to take over the Congo, I think they'd just keep on working the mines, shipping out the minerals, and living like princes. Maybe commit a genocide or two against whatever other barbarian tribes they don't like. It seems rather unlikely that they would turn against America, when it is our demand for electronics that makes their minerals valuable. If they were to become a hotbed for terrorist activity, they might find themselves slapped with sanctions, undermining the source of their power. So in this case, no, I'm not worried about the scenario you mentioned. If it does come up, however, our military is nevertheless abundantly prepared to deal with it.

CrossLOPER:
Surely being a potential target in one way or another, directly or indirectly is against your notion "self-interest"?

Now this is interesting. What is your objective at this point? It seems that you went from lecturing me on the importance of humanitarian ideals in society to thinking of potential drawbacks to the exploitation of the Congolese. Are you trying to convince me to care for my fellow human beings, or that exploiting the Congo is uneconomical?

KingGolem:

Now this is interesting. What is your objective at this point? It seems that you went from lecturing me on the importance of humanitarian ideals in society to thinking of potential drawbacks to the exploitation of the Congolese. Are you trying to convince me to care for my fellow human beings, or that exploiting the Congo is uneconomical?

I'm not bringing in humanitarian ideals since you are intent on refusing to process the benefits of economic stability and development. You are intent on compartmentalizing these issues when they tend to be linked. Money changes hands. Al qaeda has links in this industry and is well known to have received millions from it. That is what I am trying to point out. I believe I have covered this enough for a reasonable human being.

Let's go back to the initial issue.

KingGolem:
Why do you keep bringing up this "rights" issue? You are making no sense at all. You say that I feel entitled to these things, but I say, no, I just want them. Then you say that I "feel that it is in my rights to support such an industry." Why? How do you make the leap from desire to entitlement?

Going back...

KingGolem:
Where are you getting the idea that I wish to murder people and sew chaos? I think you may be mistaken: I support the murder and chaos presently at work in the Congo because it assists me, but I would never do it myself.

Going back...

KingGolem:

That's interesting, because what gets me through the day without murdering people or sewing chaos is fear of legal prosecution. You know, self-interests again. I don't want to go to prison, so I better not break any laws.

KingGolem:

I think you're characterizing me wrong. I don't take perverse glee in the suffering of the Congolese, I support it because it benefits me. Also, when you say "justified," I fear we may be referring to two different meanings. Perhaps you would require moral justification for certain things, but for me, I look at life like a balance sheet. If something results in a net gain for myself, that's all the justification I need.

KingGolem:
I want cheap electronics, so by extension I want the minerals to say cheap by whatever means necessary.

Let's finish this off, shall we?

KingGolem:
That is not entitlement at all. Entitlement is when you claim to have a right to something, a defensible claim to it. I don't have a right to fancy electronics or the oppression of the Congolese, I merely support them. I'm stating my interests, not my entitlements.

Here is your right: You feel that you can support instability and violence, even if it leads to terrorism, local and abroad, no matter who it affects.

Here is your "defensible claim": It results in a perceived net gain for yourself.

By your own definition, you are entitled.

My opinion on the topic has already been stated:

Blablahb:
Which shows this is not a western problem, or a trade problem, it's a local problem, and a problem of what's normal in that locale. The problem must therefore be adressed by chances to the locale.

How do we westerns make changes to a remote foreign locale? Uh... we pretty much can't, since we neither run the country nor make it's culture.

Basically ^this.

Callate:
The Congo, ladies and gentlemen: viable evidence that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" don't correct bupkus.

...Not really.

(Going to ignore the double negative there)

Devoneaux:
The invisible hand oddly enough, only really works in capitalist markets, not Laissez-faire systems.

Congo is not a Laissez-faire system. Most of the perpetrators of the violence established in the article are members of the Congolese army. Congo is more appropriately described as Fascist given the size of it's army relative to everything else it's government does.

So of course the invisible hand isn't working perfectly there; it was never argued that it would do so.

KingGolem:
snip

Sounds like Objectivism that got hijacked by moral nihilism halfway through to the conclusion. I hope you know that the latter does not necessarily follow from the former.

DjinnFor:

Callate:
The Congo, ladies and gentlemen: viable evidence that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" don't correct bupkus.

...Not really.

(Going to ignore the double negative there)

Implying your superiority by "ignoring" a double negative in a commonly recognized colloquialism, even while dismissing the statement out of hand. How "gracious".

In the narrow sense, Smith stated that in the preference of an individual to support domestic industry over foreign, he inadvertently served the public interest even while solely intending to serve "his own security". "...He intends only his own gain; and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention."

In the broader sense- in which Smith in general and the "invisible hand" statement in particular is cited by economists of various stripes- Smith implies that merchants often serve the public good by trying to serve their own, and that outside attempts to regulate those same "assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it." And further: "If the produce of domestic can be brought there as cheap as that of foreign industry, the regulation is evidently useless. If it cannot, it must generally be hurtful."

In the DRC, a lack of regulation has led to children being used in mines to extract valuable minerals (among other conditions, some explained in the article) which most would consider to be harmful to the society. A worldwide tolerance for and unwillingness to regulate these conditions- whether through embargo, sanctions, or other means- allows the Congo to persist as simply the least expensive provider of those materials. The "merchants" in this case are supporting an economy which is destructive of their security- whether they're the people mining in unsafe conditions, those packing the ore to the markets and risking assault for their valuable cargo, or merely the exporters whose work funnels money to all sides of never-ending violence in their back yard.

Ergo, as I stated in a rather more flippant fashion, it would appear the so-called "invisible hand" could be said to have failed to create self-regulation in what- however ugly- might be construed a "market".

It is, of course, an open question whether people would be better off, especially in the short term, if the trade in conflict minerals were eradicated; if, for example, children would cease being slave miners only to return to being child soldiers. If less money for guns would also mean less money for food. And beyond that, if it is even within the realm of feasibility for those outside the country to act in such a way as to create predictable change within it, especially given its long history of conflict.

But to say something is an "open question" is far from saying it's a rhetorical one. And I will be interested to hear what the second part of the article has to say on that matter.

Personally, I'm really interested about this article. Something as small as the materials needed to produce everday electronics is something so negligible that even the most perceptive person would probably miss it, and yet it's built on this extremely reprehensible and backwards system that clearly shows its age in morality and efficiency.

Also, because it's the big elephant in the room.

KingGolem:
Opinion

... I don't feel like commenting on your opinion, because nothing I say is going to convince you otherwise. Either you're an extremely efficient troll, or someone that I never want to meet in real life. They're your opinions, and while I may not agree with them, I respect them.

Can we end this argument now? We've reached the two extremes of morality here, and nothing one guy says is gonna convince the other.

Robert Rath:
According to a New York Times article from 2008, a rogue unit of the Congolese Army made $300,000 to $600,000 a month in illegal taxes from holding a tin mine, and may have made as much as $80 million a year. The money buys guns, political influence, and ultimately power. With such unimaginable sums of money to be had, most militias have abandoned their political aims to focus on exploiting the land and their laborers.

How is $80 million per year an "unimaginable" sum of money? Companies routinely post numbers much larger than that for annual profits, losses, or revenue. It's not just imaginable, it's easily calculated.

Nurb:
Apple users and wal-mart shoppers have proven child labor, poisioned by working conditions, are acceptable as long as customers can't see them.

Uh, why mention those two companies in particular? The issue applies to almost any electronics manufacturer. It's not as if other companies use magic exploitation-free components made from pixie dust.

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