It came up in conversation. Evidently, sneaker-seller Nike uses near-slave labor in Siam or some place to manufacture its overpriced footwear. Poor laborers, according to my source (some guy in a bar), sweat for ten or twelve hours a day, earning the equivalent of $2. It's cheaper than stateside robots. "That's why I don't wear Nikes," I was told, as my informant pointed to his Chuck Taylors.

"Who makes Chucks?" I inquired.


"Yeah, I know that. But I mean who literally makes 'em? Well-paid, unionized, insured American labor?"

He didn't know. This brought up two fundamental questions of capitalism:

  1. Is the consumer beholden to understand the true origins of his products, in order to purchase ethically?
  2. Is this poor schmo in Siam really worse off for having this job? Does $2 a day meet his family's needs there, or is he forced to work in a sweatshop because imperialist industry has blighted every other opportunity?

Sometimes it's scary being free. Surely the head of Nike manufacturing has a responsibility to the company and its many shareholders to produce quality footwear as cheaply as possible. Surely there's consumer demand for same. Surely the Siamese need work. Or do they? Were their farms and native industries bullied out by the American GNP and its lust for luxury items it doesn't need?

All I got is questions and a $69 pair of New Balance sneakers.