Thursday 14 May 2009

Sweatshops debate

Together with Stephen Hickson, I'm tomorrow debating a couple of folks from the philosophy department on the merits of sweatshops. I'm of course defending the argument that sweatshops are far better than the real world relevant alternatives that sweatshop workers face. If interested and in Christchurch, it's on at 1:00 in Commerce Room 002.UPDATE: C-block lawn!

The debate is hosted by EconSoc. I'll post my opening comments post the debate.

Update: Full text of my opening remarks now available here.


  1. That debate is all in the counterfactual.

    Wolf in "Why Globalisation Works" has some great numbers on FDI - foreign companies pay double the local wage in third world countries they go into, from memory.

    Good luck.

  2. Do you think it'd be possible to make an audio recording? This'd be interesting.

    I've never tried arguing this except as a cocktail party piece, so I'd like to hear the arguments in more competent hands.

  3. I got your comment, Eric, thanks! Love your blog.

  4. But what should we do to improve the real world relevant alternatives in the years to come?

  5. @Matt: Yup. The other side then countered that most foreign companies outsource work to domestics, so those number overstate things; Powell then found that even the reported exploitative sweatshop wages are more than the average wages, and often double or triple average wages in those countries.

    @bk: don't think that EconSoc is set up for it. I'll post my opening salvo after the event though.

    @Caveat: thanks!

    @Cam: Three things. First, encourage economic growth in third world countries: it's the only long run solution. Second, find charities that actually do good work, like Canodia. They set up orphanages and schools for kids rescued from picking garbage in dumps in Cambodia. Third, push for easier immigration to rich countries from poor countries. Many poor countries are not going to fix themselves in finite time: it takes institutional changes that would hurt the ruling elites. Best hope for many there then is emigration.

  6. Ahhh, takes me back to good my old University days. I still miss the C block lawn.