Followup on Sweatshops
In some countries, such as Burma/Myanmar, workers are forced by the state to work in miserable manufacturing jobs for powerful multinational corporations....
In the comments, Sheldon Richman, who is generally quite sympathetic to arguments like Hellmer's, wrote:
I planned to write an article based on Hellmer's JLS paper. But when checking her sources (The Economist and Amnesty International) I find no substantiation of her claim that "the military regime of Burma abducts its own citizens and forces them to work in factories owned by multinational corporations." I find many references to people being forced to work on road and military construction and on military farms (which is a horrible but different story) and oppression of political opposition, but not forced labor for multinationals in factories. Hellmer's references do not mention this. If it actually happens, I'd expect Amnesty to cover it and I'd expect to find material via Google. I find none.
On further investigation, he announced:
I'll be especially interested to see what Hellmer's response is, if any, since her overall argument is a good one and it's unfortunate to see it overshadowed by such a question of factual accuracy. I'll keep you posted.
The founder of the Free Burma Coalition tells me there has been no allegation and no known instances of forced labor in a multinational corporation factory.
Addendum. Richman followed up with a post on the results of his painstaking investigation: to make it short, he came up blank on government-enforced slavery in corporate sweatshops.
In the comments we finally hear from Ms. Hellmer, who blames the factual errors in the two-year-old article on her still developing (undergraduate) research skills at the time, and on sloppy citation and use of sources. Very gracious and non-adversarial. As I commented on that thread,
I'm glad to hear your feedback on this. I've been bitten in the, um, hindquarters by poor fact-checking myself, so I can sympathize. It's a shame that this cast a shadow on the central point of your article, which I think is a sound one: the vulgar libertarian "best available alternative" argument is flawed, given the role of governments in collusion with sweatshop employers, in limiting the range of "available alternatives."