Maddy Bunting misunderstands sweatshops yet again

She\’s just not getting the point:

I refute your contention thusly:

Paul Krugman, Nobel Laureate in Economics:

But matters are not that simple, and the moral lines are not that clear. In fact, let me make a counter-accusation: The lofty moral tone of the opponents of globalization is possible only because they have chosen not to think their position through. While fat-cat capitalists might benefit from globalization, the biggest beneficiaries are, yes, Third World workers.
Why, then, the outrage of my correspondents? Why does the image of an Indonesian sewing sneakers for 60 cents an hour evoke so much more feeling than the image of another Indonesian earning the equivalent of 30 cents an hour trying to feed his family on a tiny plot of land–or of a Filipino scavenging on a garbage heap?

The main answer, I think, is a sort of fastidiousness. Unlike the starving subsistence farmer, the women and children in the sneaker factory are working at slave wages for our benefit–and this makes us feel unclean. And so there are self-righteous demands for international labor standards: We should not, the opponents of globalization insist, be willing to buy those sneakers and shirts unless the people who make them receive decent wages and work under decent conditions.
And as long as you have no realistic alternative to industrialization based on low wages, to oppose it means that you are willing to deny desperately poor people the best chance they have of progress for the sake of what amounts to an aesthetic standard–that is, the fact that you don\’t like the idea of workers being paid a pittance to supply rich Westerners with fashion items.

In short, my correspondents are not entitled to their self-righteousness. They have not thought the matter through. And when the hopes of hundreds of millions are at stake, thinking things through is not just good intellectual practice. It is a moral duty.

Sure, sweatshops are shitty: but they\’re better than anything else on offer, which is why people choose to work in them.

And the way to make them better is to buy ever more stuff from them, so that demand for labour increases and thus wages rise.

6 thoughts on “Maddy Bunting misunderstands sweatshops yet again”

  1. Seeing the non-results of ‘development work’ in permanently true-poverty stricken areas and the real results achieved by globalisation I know which I would prefer if I was a destitute street child.

    As Krugman indicates, you choose to work in a ‘sweatshop’, cos it’s better than the alternative and as time goes by your country develops and your situation improves more and more. It’s real and it has happened and it is happening now in China, in India, in Vietnam. It’s not or hardly happening in North Korea.

    If you can’t see this, choose your garment supplier well and sleep well at night. You’ll be wrong, but hey… You’ll feel good and that is what it is all about. I am a good person. To hell with the poor guy.

  2. Not thinking things through, self-righteousness…hmm, seen that before with the Left.

    Being Progressive seems to be one long ego-massaging emote

  3. or of course we could allow more poor people to come and live in richer countries where even unskilled workers get (on a global scale) high pay

  4. Philip Scott Thomas

    Being Progressive seems to be one long ego-massaging emote

    Yes, quite so. I have a (thoroughly un-worked through) theory that Leftie-ness is especially appealling to those are emotionally damaged.

    The Left has for decades wrapped itself in the flag of moral righteousness. As Harold Wilson said, “This party is a moral crusade or it is nothing.”

    To be a member of the Left is to be, a priori, on the side of the angels. If I adopt the beliefs of the Left, then I also, by extension, adopt its moral righteousness. And that alone is sufficient to make me a good person. If I already have self-esteem “issues”, then I can compensate by adopting external goodness.

    And let’s face it, who, regardless of “issues”, really wants to be seen as a bad person?

  5. …..or of course we could allow more poor people to come and live in richer countries where even unskilled workers get (on a global scale) high pay….

    What all of them?

    When I was at university 20 years ago, I had friends from Malaysia, then a country with GDP per head maybe 1/4 of the UK’s. They we so full of hope for life, because their country was developing so fast. Their far richer UK counterparts were far more pessimistic.

    I am not sure that mass migration would really be such a great solution. Removing barriers to trade would work much better. Yes CAP I am looking at you.

  6. I urge anyone not believing in the benefits of globalisation to go visit some factories in India or similar. I did in 2006 and it was a real eye opener. I toured a number of factories that were either:
    1) foreign owned
    2) owned by locals but working as subco’s for foreign companies
    3) owned by locals and working mainly for the local market.

    The working conditions (and probably also the salaries – although to be honest I didn’t really have a chance to see that) were infinitely better in 1) than in 2) which in turn was infinitely better than in 3). And the people working in 1) were much healthier, fed and happier than the people working in 2), who were much healthier, fed and happier than those working in 3) – who were still much much better off than those working the fields that we went past going to 1), 2) and 3).

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