Gibson Guitar and how to get enough good wood

Just read this article detailing the ongoing saga surrounding Gibson Guitars and its procurement of high-quality and highly protected woods for its instruments.  Gibson has been linked twice now to illegal shipments of wood from India and Madagascar, and has been raided quite dramatically for violating the Lacey Act as a result, sparking a debate in some circles about government aggression.

It’s a tricky situation.  Seems like maybe Gibson was playing a bit fast and loose, although judging from the article, no one can doubt their interest in harvesting their tonewoods sustainably.  So their legal outcome is very much up in the air.

However, the issue as a whole seems to touch on a major yet undiscussed issue of the capitalistic milieu we live in:

1) there is a very high level of demand for a popular product that leads companies to threaten rainforests and perpetuate black markets to keep up with supply, and

2) it is considered perfectly reasonable and even desirable for a corporation to try to meet this demand through any means necessary, whether it means looking the other way (Gibson) or outsourcing aggressively (Apple, as per the recently circulating NYT article) or abusing workers (many examples) or any other way.

If it is understood that a corporation has only one steadfast responsibility, to maximize profits, then there’s no way that it can even be faulted seriously for something like this.

The system itself will not be sustainable until the underlying assumptions driving all players are adjusted.


About Travis Bird

New Orleans musician and writer
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