In this piece in the Daily Nebraskan, Associate Professor of Political Science Ari Kohen is troubled by this philosophical issue: what is our moral obligation to workers who are being exploited in the making of our devices if we actually need those devices?
Many of us couldn't turn back the clock if we wanted. Today, even a college professor who spends his days poring over dusty tomes of ancient political philosophy has a job predicated on computing in ways that were unimaginable until recently.
[...] At bottom, the difficulty is I can't simply choose to disengage in order to do what I consider my moral duty. It's not the same as reading "The Jungle" and deciding not to eat meat. If I feel morally responsible for the way animals or workers are treated, I can stop being part of the problem. But with the gadgets that so dominate our lives, we face an externality: We each can disengage from all of this technology only if everyone else agrees to either do the same or make a great many allowances for technological abstainers.
Society's technological web doesn't excuse me or give me a moral free pass to collect a stack of iPads whenever a new one is developed. But it does suggest that consumers who want to do the right thing can't go it alone. Such moral-minded consumers need help because each one can't unilaterally disengage from all the products that are being produced under poor working conditions. Government intervention is routinely the best and often the only way to deal with large-scale coordination problems concerning human rights and human well-being.
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