I was listening to “The Joe Rogan Experience” a while back. “The Joe Rogan Experience” is a podcast hosted by stand-up comedian, Joe Rogan. Joe and his co-host were discussing Foxconn, a company on China that manufactures iPhone components. The discussion was on news of poor working conditions, and suicides that took place on the company property. Joe Rogan posed the question of what it might cost, or who would be willing to pay more for a “karma-free iPhone.” This means that you could enjoy the use of the phone without the guilt of benefiting from exploitation, or without the worry that participating in the process will lead to your soul’s suffering in the future.
By the way, a recent newspaper article I read mentioned that negative media coverage and perhaps good ol humanity has brought on improved working conditions and higher wages at Foxconn.
I don’t think anyone wants to know that their products were made under exploitive conditions. Nobody raves about how tender little children’s hands made their running shoes. There’s no pride in telling your friends that your tv was assembled in the 18th hour of a mans workday, even though he was only paid for 9. I think I’m right here. So, let’s agree that we want to know that our products come from credible, well treated sources. Who wouldn’t want a karma-free iPhone, or a karma free anything?
We assume that when workers are spitting out widgets in low paid production outfits, the savings are being passed on to us. Competition in markets is largely based on price. So, the question is, how much are you willing to pay for a karma free phone? As of today, in Taipei, an iPhone sells for about US$730. How much more are you willing to pay for one that was made by smiling, well paid workers? $1000? $1200?
In discussing a related topic yesterday with Chad (my co-editor), he reiterated that people want stuff and cheap. I have to agree with this,but there are other factors that make people buy. If I stick to the Apple product examples, people are willing to sometimes spend double for an apple computer over a PC. While the layout of the interface is different on the apple, they essentially have the same computing power. I’ve edited and rendered videos using both in my time. I found that they both worked well enough, and both crashed at various points the data heavy process. The iPhone sells for a higher price than many phones which support the Android OS. It seems to me that Android is superior, but people still pay more for the iPhone.
If a product can truly be karma-free or at least karma-light, I would be willing to pay a little more. For example, if a bag of local farm apples cost $4 and the import cost $3, I’d be willing to pay for the local product. Although I’d be willing to pay a 25% premium on those apples, I can’t honestly say I’d be willing to round up to $1000 from $730 to have a karma free iPhone. Now, if the with-karma and karma-free phones had video footage of their factories beside the display, it would be different. If I saw abuse taking place in one, and happy workers in the other, I’d have to pass on both. A karma-free phone made by company that openly allowed abuse to take place in its karma factory isn’t really karma-free.
Speaking of karma. I listened to another podcast called “Stuff You Should Know.” They did an episode on karma, where I learned that the modern use of the word is pretty wrong. Its been a while, so I may have some of this wrong by now. We generally call karma the reciprocating energy we give and receive from the good or bad deeds we do. The true meaning of karma is a bad energy. The belief is that we live each life, making mistakes and poor decisions. This is karma. With each reincarnation we should be doing more things right. Once we live a life with no bad intentions, we are without karma and the reincarnation cycle ends. (I’ve included a link to the audio stream below if you want to hear it from the horses mouth). 
When its put that way, those good intentions seem pretty important. Still though, an extra $270 for a phone? Are you willing to pay this price that I’ve completely fabricated in order to keep the math simple?
How Karma Works. Stuff You Should Know. HowStuffWorks.com . Thu, Jul 21, 2011. June 25, 2012. http://www.learnoutloud.com/Podcast-Directory/Self-Development/Instructional/Stuff-You-Should-Know-Podcast/30506#