Consumer product recalls a very good thing

So I was extremely pleased to see the US Consumer Product Safety Commission taking action to recall millions more children’s toys from US store shelves, for reasons that aren’t entirely obvious.

The US media just loves to blame “China” whenever some kind of product safety scare happens. After all, news in this country isn’t about “news”, it’s about creating and fueling hysteria. And such actions come in spite of the many similar issues around the world – it’s just that, right now, it’s the “in thing” to criticize China for everything and anything that goes wrong. But beyond the US media hysteria, there lies some truth – the truth is that consumers only really care about the cheapest, lowest quality product at the lowest price. Most people, when buying in the store, aren’t going to think about the labor standards involved.

I don’t blame China as a whole, but I am hopeful that such events will teach the corporate world about the effects of always going for the cheapest possible option. By making it more expensive to choose Chinese manufacturing (due to such product recalls), there exists greater incentivization to ensure that safety standards are met in the future. In turn, this helps to address the lack of balance between standards in the “west” and those being used elsewhere.

Sure, this latest action isn’t also likely to also lead to fair wages and employment standards for Chinese labor – that will only come in time – but it is a very positive step nonetheless. I won’t speak out against “outsourcing”, or producing overseas in a free market (consumers are free to decide not to buy foreign goods, if they care) but I do think it’s essential that there exist some kind of global minimum standards that we hold ourselves to – bounding the lower limit of how cheap we can possibly be while simultaneously ensuring some level of quality. If we eventually add in some level of employment minimum standard, then these global manufacturers can compete on a much fairer basis, and consumer safety prevails.


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