The Sneakers Don’t Seem That Much Cheaper

Flight of the Conchords, “New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk-parody band,” were the rage in our household for a while a couple of years ago.

I’ve always wanted to share the economic insight (or question, at least) offered in this song with my readers:

They’re turning kids into slaves just to make cheaper sneakers
But what’s the real cost, ‘cause the sneakers don’t seem that much cheaper
Why are we still paying so much for sneakers when you got little kid slaves making them
What are your overheads?

Full lyrics here.

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3 Responses to The Sneakers Don’t Seem That Much Cheaper

  1. Liam says:

    I love the lyrics. A great parody of the posturing inanities of empty headed pop stars. Reminds me of Coldplay in particular.

    Stephen, off topic but I wanted to say thank you to your commenter “Howard J Harrison”, for bringing up Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles in a thread a few weeks back. By coincidence one of my children had just borrowed The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe from the school library at that time.

    The two things combined prompted me to back and re-read the whole set for the first time since I was a child, and doing so has been a joy to me.

  2. Dr.D says:

    I read the full lyrics, but I have to say, it did not make much sense at all to me. Therefore I am going to confine my comments to the verse that you quoted, Stephen.

    This verse speaks of child labor abuse in making sneakers. What do you actually know about this for certain fact? If it is true, why not boycott that brand? Am I missing something here?

  3. stephenhopewell says:

    Liam, thank you. I loved the Narnia books as a child, too.

    Dr.D, the whole song is simply a silly parody, not making a serious comment about child labor or anything else. The humor comes, first, from the singers doing a very good imitation of “socially conscious” black soul music (I believe the model is Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”). Secondly, they pretentiously try to “educate” the listener about “social issues” (children in street gangs, AIDS, child labor, etc.) but each time ludicrously misunderstand the “issue.” Presumably if you cared about child labor your main concern would not be being annoyed that it wasn’t making the sneakers any cheaper.

    It’s probably not particularly funny unless you’ve listened to the sort of music they are parodying.

    On the serious side, I believe that “children working in sweatshops” making things like Nike sneakers was a common theme in the news a number of years ago. I have no idea whether the situation has improved – I’d be skeptical. Anyway, even liberal economists seem to be OK with “sweatshops.”

    Maybe Howard J. Harrison could explain the economics of it, but it does seem to me that having things produced abroad using cheap labor does not make them PARTICULARLY cheap for the consumer. One reason I thought the song was funny was that I’d had more or less the same thought.

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