"So how are we going to stop sweatshops now?"
July 22, 2015 9:24 AM   Subscribe

"We're still trying to eliminate sweatshops and child labor by buying right. But that's not how the world works in 2015." - Michael Hobbes

Paul Krugman: In Praise of Cheap Labor - "Bad jobs at bad wages are better than no jobs at all."

Robin Kawakami, WSJ, interviews Andrew Morgan, director of The True Cost, a documentary about labor conditions in garment factories.

Omnivore: Workers Need More Bargaining Power

Man Only Buys Products Made Right Here In The USA By Cheap Immigrant Labor
posted by the man of twists and turns (47 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
I read this piece (the one above the fold) a few days ago. I would advise readers to read the thing right to the end before firing back. It's written in that slightly troll-y "I'm going to say something which I know will piss my readers off" kind of way, but he's not actually heading towards the regulation-is-useless-and-we-should-just-let-the-free-market-rule direction you might, at first, expect. Quite the opposite, in fact. It's not "don't bother to try to improve working conditions in the third world" it's just "consumer boycotts aren't an effective way to improve working conditions, whereas government-level regulation can be."
posted by yoink at 9:32 AM on July 22, 2015 [18 favorites]


> Foxconn has a factory in Indiana. It is not a sweatshop. That isn’t because Foxconn carries out such great audits or offers entrepreneurship classes. It’s because it is located in a country with functioning institutions.

For the time being, anyway. Powerful forces are doing everything they can to change all that.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:34 AM on July 22, 2015 [22 favorites]


This just makes me unbelievably sad.
posted by Kitteh at 9:47 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you’ve ever been to a corporate social responsibility conference, you’ve undoubtedly heard the story of the three fire extinguishers. The way it goes is, an inspector was walking through a clothing factory in Bangladesh and noticed that it had three fire extinguishers on the wall, one right on top of the other. He asked why, and the manager of the factory told him, “We get audited under three different standards, and they each require us to have a fire extinguisher a different distance from the floor. We got tired of moving the fire extinguisher every time an inspector came, so now we just have one at each height.”
I fail to see the problem with having extra fire extinguishers, but then, I always walked very quickly past the business school.
posted by Etrigan at 9:53 AM on July 22, 2015 [23 favorites]


The Brazil examples he gives - I assume that the improvements he cites happened because Brazil elected Lula, since Lula was elected in 2006 and "not long ago" per the article is 2004. It's not just that we need regulatory institutions; we need popular movements that are strong enough to elect Lulas and then keep them accountable. Which, of course, will be easy-peasy.
posted by Frowner at 9:56 AM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


The market interprets human rights as inefficiency and routes around them.
posted by Zarkonnen at 10:04 AM on July 22, 2015 [27 favorites]


After years of thinking about this, and reading articles like these, I've come to the conclusion that the only thing you can do is buy as little as possible and use it until it basically disintegrates. And that goes for everything, not just clothes.

The brief postwar blip of a capitalism rooted in something other than ghoulish, unbelievably cruel labor relations has passed, and it's never coming back.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:06 AM on July 22, 2015 [29 favorites]


Yue Yuen, the Foxconn of footwear, makes one-fifth of all the shoes in the world. The largest apparel megasupplier, Li & Fung, which produces everything from Wal-Mart basics to Disney plush toys to Spanx, has revenues of $19.2 billion; more than Ralph Lauren, Armani and Tommy Hilfiger combined.

Here's yer problem, ma'am.
posted by odinsdream at 10:06 AM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


reminder
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:09 AM on July 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


After years of thinking about this, and reading articles like these, I've come to the conclusion that the only thing you can do is buy as little as possible and use it until it basically disintegrates. And that goes for everything, not just clothes.

I guess maybe we in places like the US could also apply political pressure to our own institutions to in turn encourage (and/or stop undermining at every turn) local institutions that improve conditions for workers in other countries.

That sounds kind of hard, though.
posted by brennen at 10:16 AM on July 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Anyone else remember No Logo? It was a simpler time
posted by Hoopo at 10:21 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


John Oliver did an episode on child labor in the fashion industry.

Obviously, locking the workers in a burning factory or forcing them to "run around in circles for not wearing the right shoes" is indefensible. But low wages, long hours, and young workers are only problematic to us because we don't depend on them. For a family whose alternative is to forage in a garbage dump, a job where they and their children can spend plenty of hours earning money is a good thing, and over time, wages will go up as the overall standard of living rises. Without those opportunities, the child laborers would be even worse off, but their first-world customers wouldn't have to feel guilty by association.
posted by Rangi at 10:26 AM on July 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


over time, wages will go up as the overall standard of living rises.

In an era of infinitely mobile capital, you can look to the US to see how this actually works out. Barring legal barriers to doing so, the factory will just move to the next place where children can be forced to run around in circles when its workers start complaining about their standard of living and trying to improve it.

Or be murdered by death squads when they start complaining about children being forced to run around in circles.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:29 AM on July 22, 2015 [28 favorites]


But low wages, long hours, and young workers are only problematic to us because we don't depend on them.

"People depend on these jobs that pay pennies an hour with really long shifts" is a good reason to make sure that the jobs exist, but it's a crap reason for not making sure that wages aren't higher and that shifts are reasonable.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:32 AM on July 22, 2015 [20 favorites]


The Brazil examples he gives - I assume that the improvements he cites happened because Brazil elected Lula, since Lula was elected in 2006 and "not long ago" per the article is 2004. It's not just that we need regulatory institutions; we need popular movements that are strong enough to elect Lulas and then keep them accountable. Which, of course, will be easy-peasy.

Actually, he was elected in 2003 and reelected in 2006. And yes, in 2003 a "dirty list" was created, listing companies that used slave labor. Sadly, a lot of social gains by the country are slowly being undone, mostly by conservative politicians linked to corporate power. By the end of 2014 for example, the list was suspended. With one of the most conservative Congress since 1964 (when the military regime started), this is not a great moment for the Brazilian left, unfortunately .
posted by florzinha at 10:37 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


In an era of infinitely mobile capital, you can look to the US to see how this actually works out. Barring legal barriers to doing so, the factory will just move to the next place where children can be forced to run around in circles when its workers start complaining about their standard of living and trying to improve it.

So what you're saying is a rising tide lifts all boats?
posted by chrchr at 10:44 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


In an era of infinitely mobile capital, you can look to the US to see how this actually works out. Barring legal barriers to doing so, the factory will just move to the next place where children can be forced to run around in circles when its workers start complaining about their standard of living and trying to improve it.

Exactly. This is the promise of globalization - capitalists can seek cheaper labor in countries with fewer regulations, and concentrate more wealth into fewer hands. Thomas Friedman tried selling that rising tide speculation about ten years ago; it wasn't true then and it isn't true now. It's "trickle up" economics.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 10:45 AM on July 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


Or be murdered by death squads when they start complaining about children being forced to run around in circles.

But think of how much the wages for death squads will go up the more they're used!
posted by Copronymus at 10:47 AM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


But think of how much the wages for death squads will go up the more they're used!

If there is one thing the typical fox news viewer has taught me is that there is a large contingent of people who would serve on death squads for free room and board. Some would even pay.
posted by maxwelton at 10:49 AM on July 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Actually, he was elected in 2003 and reelected in 2006. And yes, in 2003 a "dirty list" was created, listing companies that used slave labor. Sadly, a lot of social gains by the country are slowly being undone, mostly by conservative politicians linked to corporate power. By the end of 2014 for example, the list was suspended. With one of the most conservative Congress since 1964 (when the military regime started), this is not a great moment for the Brazilian left, unfortunately .

I am so old. I remember everyone being all enthused and reading that Lula/Guattari book when he was first elected, and I would have sworn it was 2006. SOOOOOO OOOOOOOLD. My god, I hardly ever even run into most of the people I was hanging out with back then.

Yeah, I was pretty depressed about the congressional elections.
posted by Frowner at 10:54 AM on July 22, 2015


"Bad jobs at bad wages are better than no jobs at all."

I'm an atheist, but this quote is almost Satanic in it's ability to make something so evil sound logical and almost altruistic. Notice how this sort of quote always comes from a well fed establishment type? Yeah, me too.
posted by Beholder at 10:57 AM on July 22, 2015 [24 favorites]


How does all of this intersect with the fairly well established data that shows poverty has been dropping in the developing world for the last 30 years and life expectancy has been rising?
posted by mikewebkist at 10:59 AM on July 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


We need "free trade" agreements that require basic worker & environmental protection with funding for enforcement baked into the agreement on a per-capita &/or per-dollar exported basis, and we need a WTO with the teeth to enforce it even for domestic production. Anything else is not really free trade as it's an effective subsidy which is just the flip side of a tariff.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:27 AM on July 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Cheap clothing is also pretty much disposable and ends up being shipped to somewhere when American thrift shops have just far too much to sell. I buy most of my clothes at thrift shops; it's an end run around the marketplace. And then I realize I have too much stuff, so I'm making a very conscious effort to not buy more.

If you buy Fair Trade or make other efforts to source decency into your life, that's a fine thing. Some companies will fake it, but it does seem to make some improvement in the world. 3 fire extinguishers on the wall is silly, but not actually expensive and far better than none. Making an effort to be a better person is no small thing. How about supporting unions, fair pay, decent working conditions in the US? Amazon's warehouses can be pretty wretched, you can let them know you're willing to pay a small fraction more so that people can have decent working conditions.
posted by theora55 at 11:33 AM on July 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm an atheist, but this quote is almost Satanic in it's ability to make something so evil sound logical and almost altruistic. Notice how this sort of quote always comes from a well fed establishment type?

I'm sure Krugman is "well fed" and he's certainly part of "the establishment"--but he's also a markedly left-wing voice among prominent economists. It takes more than mere sentimental "oh, but I feel so deeply" hand-wringing to refute the case he's making, and nobody, so far, in this thread has made a serious stab at doing so.

That is, I think you can make a distinction between the case that says "we need a broad intra-governmental effort to mitigate the worst abuses of globalization" (I'm pretty confident Krugman would agree that nobody should be working in a death-trap of a building with the fire exits locked) and the case that says "all globalized trade is bad and we shouldn't buy any products made by people who are working for less than the minimum wage we'd accept in the West." The problem with that second position--which seems to be, broadly speaking, the default position on the US left is that it really does choose to turn a blind eye to the fact that the alternative to working a crappy job in a Nike factory in Mexico or Bangladesh isn't some sort of romanticized vision of a noble life tending the family farm or what have you, but far more desperate and grinding poverty. As Krugman points out, it's easy to "shock the conscience" of readers by comparing the working conditions of people in these places to working conditions in the West, but you do also need to compare their working conditions to what they faced before which was, usually, far worse. There's a reason that people flock to jobs at maquiladoras, for example, and it's not because the corporations are allowed to force them at gunpoint; it's because they pay better than existing alternatives.

Now, of course, it's easy to say "but we think everyone should have much better alternatives!" or "everyone, everywhere should have the same economic opportunities" or whatever--but while that's a reasonable thing to believe and want, in practice a policy aimed at protectionist trade policies (the kind of thing that anti-globalization arguments are usually marshaled in favor of) is much more "we've got ours, Jack, and you can go hang" than it is a global share-the-wealth initiative.
posted by yoink at 11:36 AM on July 22, 2015 [15 favorites]


This all ends in a lot of finger pointing, or just general hopelessness about the unassailable scope of the problem itself. The first screams to me of collective guilt, the second of a kind of yawny indifference towards the problem because it doesn't affect us.

But we are the cause of it, and so we still slow down and gawk at it when the topic raises it's ugly head.

The first world demands immense, insane amounts of resources at the lowest possible cost, no matter what. This applies not just to apparel, but it's very visible in the case of apparel. We want our food, our appliances, our electronics, our cars, the gas they run on, hell even our entertainment - as cheaply as possible so that we can retain as much of our wealth for the sole purpose of obtaining EVEN MOAR. It's kind of an endless cycle. And as long as the little fingers that put our shiny new thing together are on the far side of the world, and we don't have to see them stumble back to the powerless, waterless shack they call home, we can sleep a little more soundly at night on a bed that probably wasn't so ethically sourced itself.

We need abused labor someplace on the other side of the planet because we aren't willing to pay more for labor that is treated humanely. We can make arguments that they're better off working 18 hour shifts for a dollar a day than they would be with no job, but that's lipstick on a very big hog.

And I don't for a second think that we can trust our political system, much less the multitude of systems - many much more dysfunctional than our own - in the countries where these huddled masses work, to do a damn thing about it. This is about the way our global economy works, it's way bigger than political regulations.

Until your average American consumer decides to start paying not just a bit more, but really inordinately more for a product that is made by labor that is treated as fairly as they themselves the consumer is treated in their own damn job, nothing is going to change. Quite frankly, the average American consumer simply can not afford to do that, not for everything. Not in a country where the CEO to worker pay ratio is stupidly out of sync with the rest of the planet, and a tax model that doesn't force those controlling the markets to pay a fair share but instead helps them pay less.

So, pretty much until the whole thing comes crashing down, I don't think there's much hope for the hungry in Dhaka. And until then we only have ourselves, and what we allow to perpetuate here at home, to point the finger at.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:38 AM on July 22, 2015 [13 favorites]




That link is behind a paywall for me, bukvich.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:56 AM on July 22, 2015


Now, of course, it's easy to say "but we think everyone should have much better alternatives!" or "everyone, everywhere should have the same economic opportunities" or whatever--but while that's a reasonable thing to believe and want, in practice a policy aimed at protectionist trade policies (the kind of thing that anti-globalization arguments are usually marshaled in favor of) is much more "we've got ours, Jack, and you can go hang" than it is a global share-the-wealth initiative.

As long as multi nationals can easily jump from one third world country to another, nothing is going to improve. Free trade is fascist, because it obliterates any leverage the workers have. Protectionism has been reframed. It now implies so sort of ugly unenlightened reactionary populism. It isn't. It's simply putting up barriers to make it more difficult for big business to keep a sword hanging over worker's necks.
posted by Beholder at 11:56 AM on July 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


oops Sangermaine. if you google mccloskey equality financial times they will probably let you in via the google search results page. That is how I accessed it and I forgot to click the link on preview. They won't let me in from metafilter either.
posted by bukvich at 12:16 PM on July 22, 2015


But protectionism is reactionary populism. If the US put up tariffs or quotas on clothing made in Bangladesh, it would hurt the workers in Bangladesh. It is a "fuck you, got mine" approach.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:17 PM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


The evil on the other side of overly cheap consumer goods is that wages in the U.S. have been too stagnant for most of us to afford a price premium on what we buy. And that fact makes advocating for better overseas labor laws even harder.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 12:19 PM on July 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


We can make arguments that they're better off working 18 hour shifts for a dollar a day than they would be with no job, but that's lipstick on a very big hog.

It's also predicated on the desirability of that dollar, on prioritizing wealth and spending over things like community and family and health and education. We have to get that dollar, so they must wanna get it too.
posted by carsonb at 12:43 PM on July 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think it's more predicated on people enjoying things like not starving or sleeping in the street, which is what no job will get you in most places. Until money is not required to obtain basic necessities, people are going to need money.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:53 PM on July 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm sure Krugman is "well fed" and he's certainly part of "the establishment"--but he's also a markedly left-wing voice among prominent economists. It takes more than mere sentimental "oh, but I feel so deeply" hand-wringing to refute the case he's making, and nobody, so far, in this thread has made a serious stab at doing so.

Probably because people are taking completely different worldviews for granted, to the point where "Bad jobs at bad wages are better than no jobs at all" in on it's face completely ridiculous. Of course not having to do a bad job for bad wages is better than having to do so. The crux is that the "grinding poverty" alternative you state as a given of existence is actually a design feature of the "the establishment".
posted by deathmaven at 12:54 PM on July 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


There's a reason that people flock to jobs at maquiladoras, for example, and it's not because the corporations are allowed to force them at gunpoint; it's because they pay better than existing alternatives.

They don't have to force them at gunpoint; they've already destroyed any possibility of traditional, communal subsistence culture. That's the whole point of capitalism -- using economic exigence to steal wealth, rather than physical force; you'll "freely" choose wage labour under some evil factory owner if the alternative is for your family to starve. You won't, if you can work common land to feed yourself.
posted by junco at 1:27 PM on July 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


But protectionism is reactionary populism. If the US put up tariffs or quotas on clothing made in Bangladesh, it would hurt the workers in Bangladesh. It is a "fuck you, got mine" approach.

I'm sorry, but you just wrote something that only a person who "has got mine" could say. Let's not look down on an American blue collar worker for wanting to keep their manufacturing job when they don't have any alternative that will pay as much. The single mom, working at the ceramics plant, might feel sorry for the impoverished Asian worker, but she shouldn't be called selfish for not wanting to lose her job to them.
posted by Beholder at 1:29 PM on July 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


"Bad jobs at bad wages are better than no jobs at all"
And as the 'labor surplus' in First World Countries increases, due to not only outsourced labor but also automation, we in the Good Parts of the World will eventually have to settle for what the rest of them get. But the number of jobs at factories making cheap clothing will dry up as more people cannot even afford that. And the power of the "1%" will not shrink as its numbers shrink to a scenario that sounds like bad dystopian sci-fi... or a left-wing political cartoon. The 'Next Phase' of Capitalism will make us nostalgic for the Good Old Days... of Feudalism.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:34 PM on July 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


The 'Next Phase' of Capitalism will make us nostalgic for the Good Old Days... of Feudalism.

Free trade pulls more down that it raises up, and it's inexcusable for any Democrat to support it.
posted by Beholder at 2:08 PM on July 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Free trade pulls more down that it raises up, and it's inexcusable for any Democrat to support it.

The error is using the term "free" trade. These deals are anything but free. There are thousands of pages of rules determining who will be the winners and who will be the losers. There isn't anything free about it. There are thousands of pages devoted to telling you what you can't do, for example import cheaper pharmaceuticals from another country and sell them. Or restrictions on competing to produce cheaper products because of patents and copyrights. These are trade restriction and competition elimination deals, not trade freedom deals.
posted by JackFlash at 3:37 PM on July 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Bad jobs at bad wages may be better than no jobs at all -- but only if those jobs come with some kind of protection for workers' health and safety and for the environment that those workers live in.

There's nothing inherently awful about factory work, or even specifically textile factory work. I have done low-level factory work. While it wasn't the most fulfilling or lucrative job I've ever had, it wasn't the worst, either, because my employer adhered to the appropriate occupational health and safety standards. I could be sure that the building I worked in wasn't likely to collapse, that any of my coworkers could stop the production line if there was a problem, and that if I was injured as a result of my work I would be (sorta kinda) compensated for my loss. Even though I wasn't a direct employee of the company! Which is, of course, one of the most important ways that these manufacturers skirt what regulations do exist in the developing countries whose workers they exploit, and has been for more than a century (see also: Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, which manufactured to order by department stores and such).

The problem isn't industrial labor per se. The problem is that workers in developing countries have no way to set sensible standards for occupational and environmental safety, or if those standards exist on paper somewhere, they've got no way to enforce them. We need serious international regulations for worker protection, and we need easily-accessible ways for those workers to make sure that those regulations are enforced.

To be clear: most of the specific interventions that would make things like textile factory work safer aren't expensive or difficult. To name a few: building codes and inspections, masks and air filtration for textile workers, less-ridiculous production schedules and tolerable ergonomics, machines that allow workers to shut them down in case of injury. These are largely solved problems, and these safety measures don't even add as much as you'd think (given all the corporate whining) to the cost of production.

The most effective way to make life better for the people who make the goods that make our lives better isn't just asking for top-down oversight from retailers -- given the reliance of essentially every industry on contracting out labor fractally, the degree of oversight required isn't likely to happen, and there's always room for abusive contractors to hide somewhere. Boycotting, given that reliance on contracting and easily-expendable workers, largely means that those workers end up losing their jobs -- it doesn't give them any leverage to get their employers to change. (Buying less crap may well be better for the environment and our personal finances, so it's not like thoughtless consumerism is better than a boycott -- just that the boycott itself is mostly good for making us feel good in this case.)

Finding ways for workers to sue for enforcement of regulations -- all the way up -- will be difficult, but the best way to make sure that every individual worker has some power over our circumstances is to give it to us, and to refuse to allow international corporations to evade responsibility for their subcontractors' (and their subcontractors' and their subcontractors') actions.
posted by asperity at 4:02 PM on July 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


The error is using the term "free" trade. These deals are anything but free.

It seems to me that the fundamental problem causing much of the inequality we see today on an international level is not with free trade or globalization per se, but with the extreme asymmetry of its implementation: governments are scrambling to remove barriers to the global movement of capital and goods, while simultaneously doing whatever they can to erect barriers to the global movement of labor (with some exceptions).

We have a system, currently, in which people are born in a particular place, and then are essentially trapped there at gunpoint, regardless of how repressive the government or dysfunctional the economy, thereby providing captive pools of labor to capital owners who are being afforded more and more freedom to cross those same boundaries and bring the fruits of this exploited labor back to the developed world in the form of cheaper consumer goods.

If 'free trade' and 'globalization' actually meant that exploited workers could feasibly go and sell their labor in another market if there were better economic opportunities available elsewhere, or could relocate to take advantage of less oppressive social conditions under different governments, that would be a dramatically fairer world. However, economic success begets political power (and vice versa), so the governments of countries whose inhabitants benefit the most from global inequality, and which therefore have the greatest incentive to preserve international inequality (in the short-to-medium term, which seems to be all that governments are capable of considering), are simultaneously the ones which have the decisive power to enforce the status quo.

At the moment, the concept of open borders seems outlandish and politically infeasible, because, at least for now, it is. But projects like the Schengen area show that concrete development in that direction is, at any rate, possible. And, an advantage of a system like Schengen which slowly expands to cover more and more territory is that the marginal impact on the existing members of the area of admitting an additional country which is less developed than the Schengen average is reduced as the size of the open-border area increases, perhaps making the prospect of expansion more politically palatable as the size of the area increases.

Social development may also contribute to the future feasibility of open-border areas: the general notion of a social order in which each person has 'a place' which is preordained for them by accident of birth and in which they must be kept by coercion or social pressure seems to be eroding in the developed world (cf. advancements in feminism, anti-racism, trans* rights etc). 'Nationality' (in the sense of people being bound to a particular geographical area or government as a immutable part of their assigned identity) is a concept which, to a large extent, falls under that broad general category. So, I think there is reason to hope that attitudes towards national border controls may change somewhat in the next few decades.
posted by polychora at 10:07 PM on July 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


In the UK in the original industrial revolution, in Mexico at the rise of the maquiladora era, as elsewhere, large scale shifts to waged industrial labor have been preceeded and sustained by major structural changes around stuff like land ownership or use rights that specifically removed people's alternatives to waged industrial labor for meeting basic survival needs. Stuff like the British Enclosure Acts, large-scale legalized land theft through suddenly requiring certain formal documentation around land ownership that more subsistence-oriented farmers tend not to have (US eg. prior to and concurrent with the dust bowl era, other countries in Latin and South America) and concurrent unfair banking and mortgaging practices, or various ill-conceived "modernization" projects in various developing countries from China and the USSR through modern times.

The line that a dangerous, degrading job - that in many cases doesn't even pay subsistence wages (malnutrition among eg. Bangladeshi garment workers is pretty rampant from what I read) and requires working under repressive and brutal conditions - is still better than no job deliberately ignores and erases the deliberate work and policy choices that go into removing all other reasonable options for subsistence. It's an appalingly ahistorical and ignorant viewpoint at best.
posted by eviemath at 5:38 AM on July 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


The "better than nothing" debate seems to create more energy as heat than as motion. It is a diversion from the author's point, which is that ethical consumption choices don't cause changes to the production / consumption cycle; in a world where everyone gets squeezed, cheap goods are an attractive option to poorly paid workers. Choosing "not to buy" is an option reserved for those who have some financial liberty, and we are an incredibly small cog in a machine. The cycle naturally powers itself because the poor must buy cheap goods created by those who are poorly paid.

Government intervention in labor problems is nothing new. Labor organizing is nothing new. Most humans are decent people who would vote for safe labor conditions if they had the chance. For those who have some free time and financial liberty, it seems worthwhile, as the author suggests, to devote a bit of time to helping steer local government in the right direction, and encourage governments on up the chain to enact and enforce fair labor laws. I agree with the author that there is potential there for some energy turning into motion.
posted by a_curious_koala at 6:21 AM on July 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


Krugman really has drink the late capitalism kool-aid, hasn't he?

One wonders if he realizes his role in it is coming to an abrupt end via his masters, once his cheer leading is unneeded?
posted by clvrmnky at 6:23 AM on July 23, 2015


Krugman really has drink the late capitalism kool-aid, hasn't he?

One wonders if he realizes his role in it is coming to an abrupt end via his masters, once his cheer leading is unneeded?


Considering that he wrote that column 18 years ago and has since won a Nobel Prize, I think he's doing all right.
posted by Etrigan at 6:51 AM on July 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Pfft. 18 years is just the long tail of slow decline. And they pretty much give Nobels to any joker who does the same job for awhile.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:04 PM on July 24, 2015


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