Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Friday, February 7, 2014

Learning Through Failure

Along with her book media blitz (really, she's going to be everywhere), Megan McArdle is going to appear at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University. Like many of McArdle's places of employment or venues to give speeches, the Center was a happy recipient of Koch funds, this time to the tune of over $30,000,000. Naturally, the Center is not exactly pro-consumer.

The F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the Mercatus Center invites you to a panel discussion featuring Benjamin Powell and his new book, Out of Poverty: Sweatshops in the Global Economy. This book provides a comprehensive defense of third-world sweatshops. It explains how these sweatshops provide the best available opportunity to workers and how they play an important role in the process of development that eventually leads to better wages and working conditions. Using economic theory, Professor Powell argues that much of what the anti-sweatshop movement has agitated for would actually harm the very workers they intend to help by creating less desirable alternatives and undermining the process of development. Nowhere does this book put "profits" or "economic efficiency" above people. Improving the welfare of poorer citizens of third world countries is the goal, and the book explores which methods best achieve that goal. Sweatshops will help readers understand how activists and policy makers can help third world workers. For a preview of this topic, watch this short Learn Liberty video featuring Professor Powell.

We will be pleased to hear from the author, Benjamin Powell, as well as chair, Peter Boettke, and commenters, Matthew Yglesias and Megan McArdle.

We do not need to guess which side McArdle will take; she is pro-sweatshop because it is paternalistic to think that we should force foreigners who manufacture our goods to have safety rules.
[... Should we lean on US and European corporations to impose our safety standards on Bangladesh? Or any safety standards? I don't think that answer is obvious, even if we concede that the Bangladeshi government is inadequately responsive. The obvious critique of such efforts is bascially the same critique that many of the same people made about Iraq: foriegners who impose themselves into a strange country's problems rarely do a very good job. Most of us probably agree that Iraq would be better off as a stable, pluralistic society. But imposing this coercively is problematic, no matter how well intentioned it may be. Even if we don't simply fail through lack of information, we will almost certainly end up subsituting our vision of a good society for the vision that the locals themselves hold, while creating considerable collateral damage in the process. [yipyip] Who's qualified to make that decision? Me, sitting in my comfy Washington office? You can argue that the workers shouldn't face those terrible tradeoffs, but absent an immediate revolution, they do. Should we shut down a factory that provides jobs, and great danger, or should we let it continue to operate, even though it may harm future workers who may not really grasp the risks? I don't know the answer to that in my own country. How can I answer it for Bangladesh? Even if we allow that the Bangladeshi government is thouroughly captured by the garment interests, it doesn't therefore follow that our intervention will be an improvement . . . just as you can think that Saddam Hussein was a horrible dictator who was dreadful for his country, and still think that the Iraq War was a bad idea.
So because invading Iraq was a bad idea, refusing to use sweatshops that kill their employees is a bad idea. Which is an excellent example of how Megan McArdle has learned through failure.

7 comments:

KWillow said...

it doesn't therefore follow that our intervention will be an improvement

Really? Preventing people from being crushed by collapsing factories, or burnt alive in said factories, ore worked to death, isn't an "improvement" over being crushed and burned, or working sane hours?

Arglebargle's poorly rationalized cruelty and greed are built upon a very solid foundation of sheer STUPIDITY.

Susan of Texas said...

Evidently the lesson she learned was to stop making decisions.

fish said...


We do not need to guess which side McArdle will take; she is pro-sweatshop

We also know MattY has her back...

Susan of Texas said...

He does indeed.

We hear all the time that everyone just hates incivility and personal attacks and doesn't see why people attack such nice ladies and gentlemen. Megan is nice and funny and is pleasant at parties. That's true I'm sure. She can be charming when she wants to be. And then she'll publish a post attacking Gleick or Andrews or Warren, doing her very best to destroy their reputations and careers. Not so charming then, as she mocks and simpers and insinuates. It all depends on whether or not she can use you to advance her career.

Lurking Canadian said...

The claim of the "free trader" is always that if it were not for the lax safety standards (low wages, no environmental regulation, whatever) the factory wouldn't be there. So, by saying that you think it's a bad thing when Bangladeshi children are crushed in a hydraulic press, what you are REALLY saying is that you want those poor people to be unemployed.

It is one of the most pernicious weapons the right has, and they've been using it without remorse for twenty years at least.

Susan of Texas said...

I can picture McArdle in crinolines and sausage ringlets, writing her local paper to condemn protesting factory workers. Right after she buys fabric made by child labor in New England.

Why would they need raises or safe living conditions? If it were not for factories they would be in Ireland starving to death.

KWillow said...

Of course we all "learn from our mistakes", and many successful people did fail at one time or another in their lives. But to extrapolate from that that failure is a good and necessary thing... Jesus. Sure, and liberals are fascists, and liberal cliches are tyranny.

Some brain in the Koch-other .01% propaganda machine thinks up these wonderful thesis', and they are doled out to the stupider conservative intellectuals, along with a check. Then: five years later (conservative intellectuals are slow writers) we get these....cow plops.