Why Buying From Sweatshops Makes You A Philanthropist Monday, December 14, 2009We all have very vivid images in our head of poor, non industrialized, Third World countries. Some of these images may include children going without education, shoes, or even food. Perhaps one thinks of undrinkable water. Another thought may be a country with a strong military dictatorship. Notwithstanding the fact that 4 out of 5 Americans will never travel and never see a Third World country, all of these images are correct. Life is brutal, difficult, and often dangerous.
One image some people may associate with this sociopolitical carnage is that of a sweatshop - a dingy, poorly-lit room with 50 women sewing socks while a mustached overlord looms over. The truth is that conditions on the farms and streets are much worse. I find it the greatest irony that when people conceptualize what a sweatshop is and what is represents, they only look at negatives. I see a sweatshop as a beacon of hope; a glimmer of promise for those poor souls struggling to get by day after day.
By its very definition, a sweatshop is a factory. A very poor, dirty, and often dangerous factory. One that might be compared to factories of the 19th century in Great Britain. They paid little and required demanding hours. By virtue of the fact that sweatshop workers receive wages, we can therefore take it they are not being held against their will. So why do people work there? Could it be because any opportunity for money is a good one? Could it be that with their wages they can lead a better, more prosperous life than without a job? Understand that people working for sweatshops are in no way different than laymen working for a wage in the US or Europe. They work to put bread on the table.
The very fact of using politicians to boycott sweatshop products because they are not made according to our "proper working conditions," does this not hurt the sweatshop? Surely the intention is to crush it completely, wipe it off the face of the earth. The irony of this situation is that while those shops are not maintaining certain standards which are normal here (How can they? Their economies can't handle it.), the destruction of these sweatshops perpetuate the degradation and substandard lifestyle these people are living. In short, Third World boycotts make it that much harder for a mother to feed her children.
I consider a sweatshop as a golden ticket to a new life. I know, I know - we have our preconceptions of sweatshop owners as tyrants, but truly, are they not the greatest capitalists? Finding, amongst probably thousands of workers, those who will work longest and for the lowest wages, they erect competition between workers and instill a need for progress. By purchasing products from these workshops, you are giving them profit and allowing them to employ more people, thus raising the standard of living for all those involved.
Given the choice, between "Buying American" and helping poor nations industrialize, I think I'll make the sensible choice and buy cheap, while doing my good deed for the day.