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.