Thursday, September 08, 2005

Potentially Dangerous Consumption Habits

My blogging has been light the last couple of weeks as I got ready for a glorious week of vacation on North Carolina's Outer Banks. When you have as good of a time as I did in such a beautiful place it makes me wonder how incredible the New Heaven and New Earth will.

An aspect of my enjoyment of vacation was my reading of Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. It's a good read. Most of the folks who would read a blog considering the topics I do from a Christian perspective won't be happy with some of the book. That's okay because you'll be able to filter the junk while you profit from the perspective.

I had hoped to write this blog piece on labor day but time got the best of me. I wanted to write on that day because Schlosser make many points about the effect of a fast food culture on the workers in that industry and in the industries that support the fast food industry. Perhaps I'll document this in future posts. My point today though is just to introduce a concept to have you think about.

Here's the concept ... am I held responsible by God if my consumption habits require that producers of what I consume sin against their workers? Let me give a clear cut example and then we'll work backwards from there. If I find a pimp and offer him $50 to find me a certain kind of female to have sex with, I've put that pimp (though he has put himself there as well!) in a spot where I'm requiring him to sin to fulfill my desires. I think that's pretty clear cut. But what if the same thing happens by my consumption habits in as direct but less obvious ways?

Suppose for example that I love $.99 hamburgers at McDonald's. I'm also an investor in McDonald's (the role of investment we may consider in a future post as well) expecting a good return on my investment. Thus McDonald's is subject to my demands on both ends of the equation. If McDonald's is going to please consumers with low prices and investors with high returns how can that happen? It can only happen in one way. It can only happen through low expenses combined with incredible productivity.

This is where things get tricky. How do low expenses happen? Given that fixed costs are fixed by nature, wages are depressed. How does incredible productivity happen? Through getting the most out of workers in the least amount of time no matter what it costs them in injuries and sanity. And this for depressed wages.

Think about those last couple of sentences. Is that the way you prefer to be worked? Of course not. So as a Christian, how would you apply the Golden Rule in this situation? You would have to be willing for the price of your hamburger to rise and your investment expectations to fall sufficiently that those who work behind the counter and butcher the cows are able to work in the same way you like to work.

As things stand now, my consumption habits are more than potentially dangerous. How about yours?