Oh dear, NS is spilling over into RL. Oh well...
In the interest of not cluttering the forum, I have posted a more detailed response here:
Lazy days White Paper on international labeling standards.
The government of Lazy days has prepared the following elaboration of its position as expressed through the UN forum.
The representative of Syndicalasia voiced a variety of concerns with the position taken by the people of Lazy days. These are answered point by point.
Regarding Article I:
“One would hope that the bodies governing nations would not act in such a reflexive fashion [naming a large number of official languages] to a banal request for information that would most likely improve their customer base. In fact, it is fair to say that such an action would be regarded by the international community as an act of economic sabotage and would be answered with appropriate sanctions and embargoes. Postulating these outrageous scenarios does not really make any kind of argument.”
1) This is exactly why I asked whether the UN was claiming the right to determine official languages. Syndicalasia responded that national governments have the sole right to do so (“…official languages are determined by individual nations. This is, and has been, a standard proactice for hundreds of years…”). Therefore, it is not at all outrageous to explore what would happen under the proposed resolution if a country acted in a perfectly lawful manner.
2) This is not a banal request for information. Article I calls for huge new amounts of information to accompany product packaging (or it doesn’t do anything, which is a separate discussion).
3) Is this a serious threat? The international community should enact sanctions and embargoes against a country for doing what it has the right to do? Either countries have the right to declare official languages or they don’t. A choice made under duress isn’t a choice at all.
“I feel that your response reflects a lack of understanding about the nature of the proposal. You seem to assume the following:
- Products need to be labelled in every language in the world.
- Food production is a primarily domestic issue.
- The goal of the proposal is to protect citizens of nations run by devious corporate conglomerates.
But none of these assumptions bears out the truth of the issue. Products need only be labelled in the language of the market in which they are sold. This does not involve any new translators, as those markets are already receptive to the same product and companies must have invested in some sort of labelling. Furthermore, the job of translation is done by free-lance contractors and is a one time expense.”
1) A disagreement of interpretation is not a lack of understanding.
2) Article I clearly says that products must be labeled in every official language of every country in which they are sold.
3) The issue is not production. Production is not even mentioned in Article I. The issue is sales. And food sales is a domestic activity. Consumers do not import foodstuffs; in fact, that will frequently cause complications in customs (or not, depending on the country) if a citizen tries to directly import food products. Countries rigorously (or not, depending on their choice) enact and enforce laws governing the products that get sold within their territorial borders.
4) The goal of the proposal has been explicitly described as a human rights issue. People apparently need to be protected from being misled by corporate labeling. I do not think those countries are devious corporate conglomerates. But obviously many representatives feel the need to tell other countries how to run their economies.
5) You simply cannot have it both ways. If there are no new translations needed, then Article I does not do anything. It is needless bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy.
6) Making labels is not a cheap or one time expense. Companies have to hire project managers and graphic designers in marketing departments just for one language. There are no free-lance contractors available to translate all product packaging for all time into all official languages, unless of course some nation out there would like to underwrite this activity for all time.
7) This whole answer demonstrates the success of current market forces and regional legislation.
Regarding Articles II & III:
“Food is a primarily international market. It is a simple fact of geography that not all nations can support both their populations and the means to feed them. Some nations have large plains areas in temperate climates. Some nations are merely islands. We even have members of the UN hailing from Antarctica. This is not a domestic issue. The fact of the current vote tally suggests that proper labelling is a subject that most nations find necessary. Thus, it is the job of the UN to provide guidelines for such in the interests of nations without the goegraphical means to provide sustenance to their populations.”
1) This does not answer my concerns about the resolution.
2) This is simply inaccurate. International markets for foodstuffs are important. However, domestic growth and consumption of food is far more important. There is a much larger volume of domestic trade in food products than there is international trade in food products.
3) But again, production is not the issue. See above. The issue is where it is bought, not where it is grown. That’s why even if food was 100% internationally traded, it would be irrelevant because it is 100% bought domestically.
4) What people seem to be voting for is that proper labeling is good. Lazy days agrees. However, the resolution is not about your own country, especially Articles I & III. It is not about countries that cannot grow enough food for themselves. It is about telling other countries that their position is wrong. What a package contains in another country does not affect consumers in your country. You are saying this is an international issue because goods are traded between countries. But yet the “problem” proponents site is not in their own countries, because they have laws regarding labeling. They are only in countries that have chosen not to have those laws.
5) Lazy days strongly protests the precedent this supports. Simply because most nations find something necessary is not at all an automatic need for UN guidelines. That contention destroys all need for regional governance. We will have all become citizens of the United NationStates of the World. Lazy days would only support that if I am named president for life. Otherwise, I think it is clear that we value self-determination and the ability to have distinct countries.
The third bullet is answered by the same argumentation as the second. The people who seek “protection” are those who must purchase their food from consumerist nations.
1) No, consumers do not purchase from “consumerist nations”. Those nations (and companies) must export the products to the domestic marketplace. Consumers purchase virtually all their food from local retailers. The act of importing food into the country currently falls—and should fall—within the jurisdiction of national governments. There is no situation where a corporation can sell a product to a citizen of your country inside your country without being subject to whatever strict (or not) labeling and other laws exist in your country.
2) This does not answer my original concerns. Particularly with Article III, the people of Lazy days have a very important question. This resolution is proposed as a human rights issue. There is a claim that “all people have the right to know what is in the food they eat”. This isn’t about international trade; it’s about human and civil rights. Where does this particular right come from? If the UN made a list of the top ten or 100 human and civil rights, would that be on it? Does it really give the UN the right to override the will of national governments? Is the UN prepared to declare war to protect this right?
“In regard to your comments about language:
Again, only langauges relevant to a particular market need be included. This is common sense for the producer, as it adds to the marketability of one’s product. The imposition of a rule for particular label standards is to ensure the safety of citizens with particular dietary needs (e.g. diabetics, people with allergies). This again makes good market sense to the producer. The pupose of a law is simply to ensure that good practices are followed. For most people, and we would like to hope most companies, it does not require a law to curb behavior, yet we still have them.”
1) This is not what Article I says. Currently, market forces and national laws make sure that relevant languages are included.
2) This response demonstrates that the purpose of this resolution is precisely what I claimed—to protect citizens. This only effects citizens in countries opposed to these laws (in other words, other countries, not yours).
3) This demonstrates a remarkable lack of respect for certain systems of political economy. “What makes sense to the producer?” How about not adding another layer of bureaucracy and restraint of international trade?
4) Lazy days agrees that laws should be passed to ensure good practices. But this law forces nations that disagree with what is a “good” practice to abide by it anyway. Unlike disarmament, for example, there is no corresponding benefit to the offending nations in exchange for this intrusion on the decisions of national leaders.
"As to your concern(?) for the citizens who speak the multitude of lesser konwn languages, it is unfounded. Though the multiplication factor present in this world (over RL) does increase the sheer number of speakers, I assure you that they are not a constituency that is concerned nor need concern us. These types of languages have total speakers numbering in the tens to hundreds. If they do interact much with the standard market economy, then they will know the official language of their native country. Essentially, these lesser known languages do not need to be considered because they represent a tiny population (not the hundreds of millions that you posit). I assure you that in RL you will never meet a person who speaks Tumbuka, Yucatec, or Tok Pisin. In areas where these sorts of languages are prevalent one will also find large amounts of bilingualism with the national or official language."
1) Unfounded? If protecting people who do not speak the major languages in which companies currently sell products is not the purpose of Article I, then what exactly is it for?
2) I agree that companies shouldn’t be forced to market in a language with only 10 native speakers. In fact, my position is that the UN should not force governments to regulate anything regarding what languages they put on their packages.
3) The hundreds of millions of people I mentioned referenced the major languages. Companies already sell products in these languages.
4) In RL, market forces and national governments address these issues. After all, the largest English speaking nations on Earth are not in North America or Europe. The United States does not even have an official language.
5) Again, this does not answer the issues raised by my initial post regarding Articles II and III.
“I think that the above arguments deal quite directly with your believed difference of opinion on the role of the UN. This is very much an international issue and should be handled as such.”
For all of the above reasons and more, the people of Lazy days have asked me to respectfully, yet forcefully, disagree. This response does not answer our major concerns posted in the forum, it is not an international issue, and the UN should not handle it as such.