360 Degree Racism: The Privileged Wage Collateral Damage on Emerging "E-Waste" Markets

Do rich people have more leverage and 'unfair' advantage in a marketplace?  Absolutely.  No one denies that in a used car transaction that the wealthy owner of the car doesn't have the same need to make the sale, and the poor person - who needs an affordable car to get to work - has more to lose if the sale doesn't happen.  The wealthy have the power and privilege.

That said, the stupidest and most ignorant conclusion is that poor people should be put in a different marketplace than rich people.  That they shouldn't trade together.  Years ago, an NGO leader told me that poor people should repair poor peoples stuff, and rich people should repair rich peoples stuff... that identity should define the legality of the transactions.

It is a kind of stupid that could only occur in a marketplace contaminated by "identity politics".  Instead of talking about the transaction, and what's in the best interest of the free market participants, we are defining them as representatives of social groups.  In a market where some collective guilt or social liability has been whipped into a froth such that the rich person feels liability or exposure to the idea that they have exploited the poor person in a transaction, and therefore choose to shred the car rather than allow anyone to say they sold it in a transaction, to a poor person, in a marketplace where they held the upper hand.

#360DegreeRacism is the spawn of identity politics.

Used Chevy in Poorest Rural Mexico

It is interesting that the less exposure a privileged wealthy country citizen has to the poor nations' marketplace, the more this bastard logic of re-segregation makes sense.  If they actually went into the marketplace every day, they would also see that the "added value" to the used car means less to the wealthy than it means to the poor person, and that the motivation they have in squeezing an additional "profit" from the final sale is small.  They would see that the more rich people who sell there defines the negotiation and choice (buyers market) of the poor.  The wealthy have the same number of hours in a week as a poor person, and want to make transactions more quickly because they have more potential transactions to make.  Haggling over the price of a 1997 Honda - which needs a brake job or a replaced windshield - is to the advantage of the poor person because they know many more people who want the car and have potential time to repair the car than the wealthy person does.

Today, torn over the sense of liability and guilt over a legacy of (A) Racism and (B) Colonialism, many wealthy people struggling with the identity politics have come up with a compromise forged in cognitive dissonance. The wealthy can trade with the poor in the marketplace, but only if they fix the brakes and the windshield first.  And the car cannot be older than 2005.  This means they have not "boycotted" the poor but can say they have taken steps to mitigate the accusation they imagine to be made against them.

So the wealthy people with less time or expertise or incentive to replace the brakes and windshield are barred from trading it to the brother of an expert African mechanic who makes his living fixing brakes and windshields.  More cars go to the shredder, and some cars - less old and in better condition - go to the marketplace hungry for more cars.  The price of the used cars go up in the exchange, based on the artificial shortage.  Metals from the older broken car remain in the wealthy market.

The rich win.  And they get to tell their children at college lectures that they are better than their parents, who traded used equipment in a free market.  And they actually expect applause for this "stewardship".

Today the students are older and wiser and have been through a scary recession where they themselves may have had to repair a car they'd like to have replaced with a new one.  And the students are not in the same "cognitive dissonance" market.  The legacy of (a) racism and (b) colonialism is still there, but it's another generation or two removed.

When I speak to the university students today, I show the 2010 PACE group document -  or MPPI for used cell phones.  These were Basel Convention's "compromise" work on used computer and cell phone export regulations from a decade ago.  The actual Basel Convention, Annex IX B1110, actually makes clear that reuse and even recycling are not "waste dumping" unless something is dumped.  But led by the nose ring of BAN.org's fake statistics about 80% Waste Exports, this group met to "tweak" the market.

It is a case study of Privilege interfering in the market - and not in a good way.  It's the friendly side of implicit racism.

I tell them not one single repair person from Africa, South America, or Asia was invited to comment on the "testing procedures".  I submitted comments from a half dozen experts in emerging markets, and the entire 20+ page document was tossed and never distributed to the other members, and not a word entered the "testing protocal".  R2 Solutions and E-Stewards continue to make the same mistake, seeking "consensus" of southern plantation owners on what kind of farming freedmen should be allowed to do on their former property.

And they knew better - I had introduced BAN to a whole group of these experts a year earlier (photo below).

Wow, if that sounds shockingly harsh, look at it closer. The former owners of the property are defining what the poor are allowed to buy and do with it.  I find it a close shave.

One of the northern assumptions is that 100% of slaveholding plantation owners were opposed to reconstruction.  I would imagine that some white people who were born into the world of slaveholding plantations would feel at least a bit conflicted.  The evidence is perhaps how poorly reconstruction could have gone.  Some plantations were divvied up with freedmen, and some plantation owners made the transition to sharecropping.

Sharecropping wasn't slavery, but it was still unfair.  And a system where the owners of used electronics control 100% of the rights of the poor to reuse and repair it is another well intentioned, awful compromise.

No comments: