I’m over a week late on this, so it seems like a lifetime ago. I’m actually not even sure if I was in class for this specifically, but here are my thoughts on the ethics of cheap labor/consumption in general:
Obviously the exploitation of slave labor has never been, and will never be ethical.
However, the nature of capitalism is usually unethical. Recently, a discourse has been going around the more underground parts of social media (specifically Tumblr, which I am embarrassed to admit I have). This discourse is centered around the quote, “There is no ethical consumption under late capitalism.”
It is often the case that, faced with the questioning of our economic system, many Americans take an, ” If you have a problem with it, stop participating in it,” stance.
This is a useless reply, as most citizens of any given country have no choice but to participate in what they were born into. We should be able to recognize that much of our consumption is unethical and that we were also conditioned and essentially forced to have little in terms of other options.
Even Thoreau returned from the woods. In Walden, he discusses how it is not enough to simply remove oneself from the issue. It is necessary to take steps to combat problems such as this.
I think that a lot of the issue of unethical consumption could be repaired if enough citizens demanded large companies to take responsibility, and did not allow manipulation to slip away unregistered. It is similar to the issue of grass-fed beef, or even Net Neutrality. If enough people throw a fit, change begins. This has been true throughout history.
While there are several humans who advocate and work towards social justice, it may be a generation or two until real change is evident as far as the case of unethically cheap products.