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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Thursday, November 03, 2005

An Anti-Anti-Anti-Sweatshop Libertarian

A blurb by editor Roderck Long on an article in the current Journal of Libertarian Studies (19.3):

Those who condemn the low wages and harsh working conditions of much third-world employment are often criticized by libertarians, on the grounds that workers must prefer such employment to its alternatives or they would not seek it; hence anti-sweatshop campaigns, such libertarians conclude, actually work to make the poor worse off by depriving them of their highest-valued opportunity.

In "Establishing Government Accountability in the Anti-Sweatshop Campaign: Toward a Logical, Activist Approach to Improving the Working Conditions of the Poor," Ellenita Muetze Hellmer questions the logic of this response, given the fact in many of these cases the employment is not truly chosen voluntarily — either because the government literally and directly forces people to work at certain jobs, or else because government policies that displace farmers from their land leave sweatshop labor as their only alternative. Where multinational corporations are the beneficiaries of state-mandated slave labor or something close to it — Hellmer cites instances from Burma, Indonesia, Nicaragua, and El Salvador — the libertarian impulse to defend sweatshops is no longer valid. In such cases, Hellmer argues, it is a mistake to think that boycotts and embargoes hurt the workers, since most of the "wages" from such schemes are going to government officials rather than the workers anyway, and disinvestment could have the salutary effect of discouraging these tyrannical policies, or of weakening oppressive regimes by reducing their revenue. Hence Hellmer recommends, not abandoning the anti-sweatshop campaign, but rather reorienting it so as to focus on genuinely coercive arrangements.

Hot damn! I usually wait for JLS to come out online, because I'm too lazy (and cheap) to look around the newsstands. But this I gotta have.

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Blogger Richard said...

My sentiments, too. I knew the JLS would be going in a different direction once Rod took over from Hoppe and the paleos. I may get a subscription now!

November 03, 2005 3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this Kevin. It's a nice response to what you call "Vulgar Libertarianism" and could be of value to Green Party members.

November 03, 2005 6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a note that it's online now:


I'd e-mail it, but damned if I can ever remember where to find Kevin's valid e-mail address.

November 28, 2007 7:54 PM  

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