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Thinking. Why bother?

"[Trade and Development Minister] Gareth Thomas (background - secondary school teacher) is backing the new 'Be an Ethical Pest' campaign created by the Ethical Trading Initiative"

And there's more:
"This is not just about trade; it's about trade that works for local people. The public are entitled to know how ethical different shopping chains are - which ones are committed to getting their suppliers to pay a living wage, how transparent they are about their supply chains and which can be trusted never to source goods made with child labour."

Questions to ask when out shopping from the ETI's Ethical Pest campaign;

* Do you know which country this product comes from?

* What are you doing to protect the rights of workers who are making your products?

* Do you know how much the workers making your products are paid?"


Fortunately, those fine people at Mises.org have a handy cut out 'n' keep rebuttal:

"If you're criticizing a "sweatshop," make sure you have a good reason for it--i.e., criticize a sweatshop if it is actually enslaving people, committing fraud, or something like that and not because it pays "low wages" or offers lousy working conditions. Most of us in the developed world would recoil in horror at the idea of working in a "sweatshop" for pitifully low wages and in relatively unsafe working conditions. That is because we have better options. Many people around the world, however, are not so fortunate, and their working conditions have roused the indignation and anger of many around the world. These sweatshops are better than poor workers' next-best options, which is always a job that offers either lower wages or worse working conditions. In the case of some laid-off child workers in Bangladesh, the next best alternative was prostitution or starvation. Economists Benjamin Powell and David Skarbek have studied sweatshop wages and conditions around the world and have found that sweatshops usually offer higher wages and better working conditions than average for the countries in which they operate. The road out of poverty can be long and arduous, and closing off opportunities for the very poor only makes that road more difficult to travel".


Note also that by insisting on 'Western' pay and conditions for developing world economies, one is undermining the competitive advantage those economies have. So protectionism under a false flag...

I could have sworn I had written about 'Fair Trade' products before, but if so cannot lay hands on the reference. So, briefly, anyone buying overpriced 'ethical' coffee etc is at best only doing a very short term favour to the growers etc, as the inability of folk to make a living from growing coffee or whatever is a clear pricing signal that they should find another way to make a living. As and when demand for the product abates - and do not doubt that it will when tastes change or purse strings are tightened -growers etc will be out of work with precious little warning and therefore limited opportunities for immediate re-skilling. One might also ask why it is that areas of agriculture bring out the sentimentalist rather more than dock work, estate agency, fax bureaux etc etc.

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Blogger Jonny Mac said... 1:18 pm

Hmm. I keep hearing this argument, which is very handy for the Nikes and Nescafes of this world, but I'm not convinced by it. Surely the sensible point in criticising eg Nike for running sweatshops is not to get the sweatshop closed down, it is to say to them as consumers and shareholders: "Look, we don't expect you to pay $8 an hour as you would in the US, but 25c an hour and no toilet breaks isn't acceptable and we won't be associated with it. Jack it up to $1 an hour, and treat your workers with some respect. Or we won't buy your products/shares". Or am I being all lily-livered liberal naive?  



Anonymous Fidel Gastric said... 4:59 pm

I'm always irritated by the claim that"They live on a $ a day" without any attempt to look at prices there, which are obviously much lower. In the Gordian's Cuba/Utopia, the av. wage is $ a day and the Gordian praises the prison island to the skies.  



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