Interpol III: X Defense of Export Trade

Save the Internet Entrepreneurs!
"Laptops, Monitors, PCs, all free today"
"Concerning non-violence: it is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks." - Malcom X

The 2009 Interpol E-Waste report author thinks the problem is about MONEY.  "Why do people do something illegal?  It must be for money!"   The report attacks everyone exporting anything, from family fly-and-buy internet cafe owners in Africa, to CRT cullet furnaces in Malaysia, to smelters in Canada. They came out and accused everybody except mining, incineration, and landfills.  It is a sick, sick, and twisted finish to a decade of racist and paternalistic poster child campaigns.  Enough.

As Lt. Columbo explained in the previous post:  Money is exchanged for VALUE.  The fact that someone paid for something is NOT evidence that something was done wrong.
  1. Criminals export junk electronics
  2. Wahab and Liu export electronics
  3. Therefore, Wahab and Li may be criminals
The report sets about looking at data, describes how importers like our Wahab buy used computers with money, and implies the money is evidence that they are exporting junk.   Paying for something someone else is willing to sell, it is somehow suspicious.

Where does this type of logic lead us?
  1. Rapists have sex
  2. John and Mary had sex.
  3. Therefore, John and Mary may be rapists. 
Puritanical rules, such as "no exports" or "no export of intact units" are intended to discourage "inappropriate trading relationships".   But trade is not evidence of discard or theft - it is right between the goal posts.  You didn't steal it from me, I didn't dump it on you... we made a deal and traded.

Regulators are frustrated when there is no record or trail to identify what was reused and what was scrapped.  "Murky" was the word used by Europol to describe Ghana Wahab's business.  When the public's cognitive risk level is disturbed at a certain level, society accepts a rush to judgement in order to "send a message".   Unfortunately, it tends to catch the poorest people least able to defend themselves.

Regulators wish they had data on the percentage of WASTE and POLLUTION in the "e-waste" containers.  They don't.  Most have no experience in the recycling business.

Regulators are convinced by CBS 60 Minutes Terry Gross that there is a high liklihood - 80% - that the containers are full of toxic electronics being boiled in acid and burned in barrels. 

Emboldened by the "statistical" likelihood of illegality, they focus on the "ewaste" recyclers with the worst reputations.  But they never fly overseas to check the reputation of the importers, the other person involved in trade.  They just know "John and Mary had sex", and heard bad things about John.

Courts and juries have a higher burden of proof.  The can enforce if the indictment is correctly written.  The original EPA CRT Rule requires not just "prior notification" to export, but 3 years of records demonstrating actual reuse.  This is the basis to convict Executive Recycling and others accused of inappropriate exports, NOT simply showing money and goods traded between white and brown people.

The attacks on "exports", broadly stated, are known in marketing as "A category killer".  If Pepsi and Coke attack each others colas, or Burger King and McDonalds attack the safety of each others hamburgers, it is like negative campaigning - it reduces "turnout", which depresses the overall sales.  Negative campaigning is ok in an election or zero-sum game.  But lowering your competitor's boat by lowering the tide does not help your business.

The buyers overseas are not fools.  When they buy from my competitors, I have to find out why.  I found out one of them has been skimming good material in NH and using it to dilute his low value scrap.  If I thought the buyers were foolishly paying for the scrap, or that there was "criminal" explanation for the trade, my business would be blind and I would not react by defending our NH accounts against cherry-pickers.

My best hope for my students in Africa was for them to refurbish something to higher value, to become a geek of color.  I see them approached by the Child Catcher, casting his net.  PCs, laptops, cell phones... all ... free... today!
"'Remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.' That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it."  - To Kill a Mockingbird

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