The Sweatshop Debate

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 5 2011 @ 9:31am

Last week we highlighted a defense of sweatshops by Matt Zwolinski and Benjamin Powell. Ari Kohen wasn't persuaded:

I would take a smaller profit as a shareholder or pay more for a product as a consumer if it meant that those products weren’t being made on the backs of labor that couldn’t complain of their poor pay and poor conditions for fear of losing the only job that keeps them (and their families) from even worse conditions and/or death. 

Jeff Miller counters:

How much would Ari have been willing to pay for his new iPhone 4S?  $1000?  Maybe $1500?  Well, he is perfectly free to give his $200 to Apple and then write a check for $800 or $1300 to a charity that helps the global poor.  And he’s free to do this for every product he buys.  His new toaster?-$20 to the manufacturer and $80 to the charity.  His car?—How about $25,000 to the manufacturer, and another $15,000 to the charity.  

Zwolinski responds:

Miller’s response sounds glib, but it makes an important point.  Why do people think that sweatshops should do more to help workers in the developing world, especially since (as I’ve noted elsewhere on this blog) they already do more than most of us do to help?

Zwolinski also pens an answer to arguments about the motivation of sweatshop operators.