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If only 0.006% care about BLOOD-SOAKED METAL ... why are we spending all this cash?

Dodd-Frank is POINTLESS

Do as we want, not as we do – and pay the extra costs

So, a useful way to look at what people actually want is to look at what they actually do. Not how they vote, not how they write or what they say ought to happen. The background thought is that only when we're actually expending our own scarce resources on satisfying our myriad wants and desires do we actually think properly about how efficiently we're going to expend those resources.

Miner sculpture

Minerals: The Dodd-Frank Act won't stop conflict minerals being used

Sure, we'd all like more from government, and sure, if there were a magic money tree we would vote to get it. To some extent we all do think that the wallets of everyone else in the country are that magic tree: when it comes down to us having to pay for it ourselves, however, we're a little more frugal in our approach to how much government ought to be having of our money.

Which brings us back to these conflict mineral rules. To some extent we do all think of “corporate money” as being that magic money tree again. It's obvious enough when people recommend raising the minimum wage: when people like me ask where the cash is going to come from (appalling neoliberal that I am) there's just vague platitudes like “McDonald's or WalMart [insert other megacorps according to personal preference] has lots of money so they'll manage.”

Increasing expenditure in one place does mean that less money has to go elsewhere. Perhaps that'll result in lower investment, so that the future is poorer than it would have been. Or perhaps it'll result in lower profits, so that pensions in the future will be lower. Maybe fewer workers will get those higher wages, leading to unemployment. There really is no magic money tree.

And so it is with that $4bn cost that Dodd-Frank is imposing. This really does become dead money: it's very difficult indeed to see how 10,000 accountants writing letters to each other asking “Iz U uzing conflict minerals?” leads to anything other than a deadweight cost on production. Note, further, that it's not going to solve the problem. For it doesn't say that you can't use conflict minerals. Rather, it just says that if you are then you've got to say so; if you don't know, then you've got to say that you don't know.

Which is where those 60,000 Fairphone users come in. Out of one billion people who bought a smartphone last year only 0.006 per cent of them actually cared enough about this issue to change what they purchased (and no one was purchasing a Fairphone for the specs or the price). Something which we could take in two ways.

The first being that declaring your mobes or other products to be conflict free just isn't going to matter very much. Therefore, that Dodd-Frank rule isn't going to be very effective at what it's aimed at, stopping the use of conflict minerals. It's not just expensive then, it also doesn't work.

The second is that that's a very large sum of money to be spending appeasing such a small number of people.

Yes, OK, a little leeway here: obviously we can take only those people who have actually heard of Fairphone as being indicative of all the people in the world who would have bought one if they had heard of it. But our numbers are still indicative. Very few care: therefore a campaign based upon the insistence of declaration, thus allowing those who do care to make their decision, won't be very effective. Because not many care.

In short, the best evidence we have is that only 0.006 per cent of us actually give a sufficient toss about this to spend our own money on a solution. So why are we happily spending $4bn of other people's money on this solution which our best evidence tells us won't work? ®


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