@A J Stiles
""the net effect to consumers is that we have to pay a lot more for the same things" -- Yes, I said that." - yes, but the point I was making is the difference between our prices increasing because we chose to shop ethically, or because politicians force us to pay more. By extension if the workers force prices up we will view that as either "good for them, they deserve a living wage" or "scrounging bastards, why should they get xx% pay rise when I don't" depending on circumstances and how we are individually disposed to view such situations.
"Not half as bitter and twisted as we are all going to feel when -- not if -- workers in the Third World start demanding better conditions, or pollution there actually starts interfering with production."
Maybe, maybe not. It is one thing to pay more because some fat, overpaid politician demands we do so and a completely different thing to pay more when we agree with the sociological or ecological reasons for having to do so.
"The inevitable price rise can be managed by gradually increasing taxes on unsustainably-produced goods (and investing the money in sustainable, local industry) until they match the price of sustainably-produced goods."
Wouldn't work. If the initial price was £100 for slave labour produced and £200 for ethically produced, say, and you increased taxes on the slavey stuff to make it £125 then you will find the purveyors of ethically produced shit will also increase their prices - maybe not by the full amount but nevertheless. Also, with what we are talking about here, there are no alternatives so you won't actually see any price levelling, you would just see price rises due to increased taxation - which is never popular.
"Or, we can wait until there really is no alternative; in which case, price rises will be the least of our worries. This is a timebomb we are sitting on."
There will always be an alternative as long as there are people prepared to buy the products at a defined price point, there will be people prepared to make them at the agreed price point. The only possible problem is that these things get so expensive they pass into a niche market place and normal people decline to pay the premiums.
Can you explain what "timebomb" we are sitting on here? I cannot see the decline of western civilisation because we can no longer afford iPads, nor do I see hoardes of workers in developing countries rising up, travelling to the UK and burning our houses down.
What I do see is a sea-change in attitudes that means we as consumers start to demand better ethically sourced shinys, and are prepared to pay a little extra to fund that, but I certainly can't see any gadget based timebomb of doom any time soon.