Saturday, July 28, 2007

What Would Michael Webber Do?

Dear Michael J. Weber,

I just finished reading your commentary in today's Milwaukee Journal. Your compassion for the world's poor comes shining through. I wonder if you might be willing to offer me some advice.

I own a retail store in Racine. Most of the products that we sell are made in poor countries. I try to buy the best products that I can at the lowest possible price. What's more, I rarely consider the plight of the artisans who are making the products that I buy and sell.

I never really thought that I was contributing to world poverty. In fact, I thought the opposite. I figured that buying products from the poor would help the poor while not buying from them would increase their unemployment and poverty problems. What will happen to the poor if we stop buying from them?

You suggest that we "watch what we buy, learn where it's made and by whom." That sounds good but I am afraid that it is impossible. Even though I am one of the buyers for my store, I can tell you the country of origin of the product and that is about it. With hundreds of different product lines and millions more to choose from, how could I possibly detirmine the working conditions, salaries, environmental records etc... of the workers and companies that I buy from? Which products from which companies are contributing to the problem and which products from which companies are contributing to the solution?

What should I do Michael? Should I close down my store? Should I switch from imports to products made in the USA?

I try my best to be a conscientious person and businessman. I try to do the right thing. What would you advise me to do? Thank you for taking the time to consider my dilemma.

Denis Navratil


Denis Navratil said...

It seems Michael Webber is too busy saving the world from consumerism to answer my questions. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

I have shopped at your store, Dimples on Main Street in Racine, WI, many times. I admired your selection of products from around the world. I was put off by your comment."I rarely consider the plight of the artisans who are making the products I sell." I was bothered by the sarcastic tone of your response to Michael Webber. That is probably why you did not get a return response. I would not feel comfortable shopping at Dimples again. I will encourage others that care about poverty issues not to shop at Dimples any more either.

Denis Navratil said...

Thank you for your response Lisa. I don't know what you considered sarcastic about my letter to Michael Webber. I would be curious to know. He had a commentary expressing his point of view, while I brought up some real life concerns regarding the real world application of his ideas.

It is unfortunate that you focused on the above quote to the extent that you did. You see, what I am saying is that it is quite impossible to ponder the plight of each of the individuals who's been involved in the production of the products that I buy. However, after giving it considerable thought over the years, I have concluded that the people who's products that I buy are better off for my having bought them, and conversely they would be worse off if I didn't buy them.

I wonder Lisa what a trip to the grocery store must be like for you. A box of cereal contains numerous ingrediants, each of which is cultivated who knows where in this world. Are you telling me that you carefully consider each of the people who might have had a hand in producing the cereal? Nonsense, you don't and neither does anyone else because it would be impossible to do so.

Regarding your shopping choices, you are free to shop wherever you like, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Denis Navratil said...

Oh, one more thing Lisa. I have been plagued by nonsense boycott threats over the years, because someone or other doesn't agree with my political views. So I do wonder whether you actually are a customer of ours or just someone who disagrees with my politics trying to silence me. Because of the anonymous nature of the internet, I have no way of knowing if yours is a credible post.

You may have noticed that I don't make a habit of mentioning my business on this blog. The reason that I don't is because I wish to be a credible voice on political concerns in the Racine area, while mentioning my business would rightly be seen as shameless promotion. So I separate my two areas of interest. But my point is this: if you actually are a customer of ours and you actually are disturbed by my post, I invite you to contact me personally. My guess is that you would come to understand me better. I do care about people in poor countries. I part ways with Michael Webber in that I think that free markets are the best ways to help the people of impoverished countries. And there is ample evidence to support my thinking. India and China are two countries that have opened up there economies over the last few decades, and their people are far better off because of it. But again, if you are actually a concerned customer, or former customer, please do take the time to hear me out. Thanks.