Say ‘Yes’ to Sweatshops

"But, sweatshops are evil!" you say.

Tell that to the kids collecting plastic out of smoking piles of refuse in the landfills of Cambodia for $.05 a pound.

At least in the sweatshops you don’t get run over by garbage trucks.

In a nation where minimum wage is $6.55 (and more than 98 percent of all workers in the U.S. earn more), sweatshops have earned the same reputation as deathrow inmates.  However, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof says there’s a…softer side…to sweatshops.

"I’m glad that many Americans are repulsed by the idea of importing products made by barely paid, barely legal workers in dangerous factories," writes Kristof. "Yet sweatshops are only a symptom of poverty, not a cause, and banning them closes off one route out of poverty."

Not everybody across the world has a neighborhood McDonald’s that’s hiring, and when your options are a factory paying $1.25/hr or digging around in a landfill, it doesn’t take a Harvard economist to figure out what makes better financial sense. 

"When I defend sweatshops, people always ask me: But would you want to work in a sweatshop? No, of course not. But I would want even less to pull a rickshaw. In the hierarchy of jobs in poor countries, sweltering at a sewing machine isn’t the bottom," Kristof says.

Our hat goes off to you Mr. Kristof, for saying what everybody knows, but is too afraid to say.

Please read the rest of Kristof’s article here.

(h/t, Greg Mankiw)