Monday, January 19, 2009

Sweatshops are good for the Economy

David Sirota wrote yesterday about an article that appeared in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristoff.

Kristoff defends sweatshops as he tries to lay out the case for Free Trade, even saying that the problem is sweatshops don't exploit enough poor people.

Mr. Obama and the Democrats who favor labor standards in trade agreements mean well, for they intend to fight back at oppressive sweatshops abroad. But while it shocks Americans to hear it, the central challenge in the poorest countries is not that sweatshops exploit too many people, but that they don't exploit enough...

I'm glad that many Americans are repulsed by the idea of importing products made by barely paid, barely legal workers in dangerous factories. Yet sweatshops are only a symptom of poverty, not a cause, and banning them closes off one route out of poverty...

When I defend sweatshops, people always ask me: But would you want to work in a sweatshop? No, of course not. But I would want even less to pull a rickshaw. In the hierarchy of jobs in poor countries, sweltering at a sewing machine isn't the bottom.

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