Saturday, November 01, 2008

Refuting an old chestnut on globalization

Which is the often repeated argument that if the jobs in sweatshops weren't better than being a farmer people wouldn't be coming into the cities to take them. Therefore, they say, questions about labor rights and minimum wages are irrelevant. People want the jobs. Well, you know there's an analogy that can be made between that and a person in a famine: if you're in a famine a bowl of rice big enough to keep you alive is a great thing, but is it what we would consider the optimal condition? I hope not. I also hope that people wouldn't try to argue that our concern with raising the standard of living of this hypothetical person beyond the minimum number of calories needed per day to sustain life was motivated by a lack of understanding about cultural relativity, or that we were trying to impose first world standards on a third world society.

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