Aiding by Trading

An article in Slate strongly urges, that "buying any products made by Third World labor" should be avoided. The basic argument is simply that one should not exploit the poor. Going a bit beyond the most simplistic reasoning, however, one should quickly come to issue the reverse recommendation: Let the poor in and compete with their products on the same conditions as the rest on the market! So goes a brilliant post on Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal, pointed to by Anne. And there is not really much for me to add here. Nothing but this post from Ivan, which more or less gives the same free-trade advice when it comes to child labor. And it does seem to me, although I have been lucky enough to not actually having had to make the choice, that the alternative of letting the children starve should after all be worse than having them to work.

One other thing; why do people in the First World so often arrive at the "let's not buy their products" conclusion? My guess is that it has to do with identification. People that makes your clothes and shoes, that we make business with, that live in cities like we do, those people exists in a way that force us to acknowledge their existence. And when they are poor and miserable it becomes, as should be clear from the articles pointed to above, partly our problem. And the easiest way to get rid of it is, apparently, to throw these people out from our world. The Slate writer would evidently feel much more comfortable if poor people lived their lives in rural areas with no contact whatsoever with the First World. Just so we could be sure that *we* are not part of their problems, just to make sure that we could safely and morally forget about them. A quick and easy fix, only way too quick and easy.

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