Leonard Read: The Spiritual EconomistJeremy Shearmur September 01
The Birth of Leonard Read’s “I, Pencil”
You hear that H&M buys shirts from a factory in Bangladesh that works its employees long hours under harsh conditions and low pay. What’s the moral thing to do?
Should you publicly shame the company for its iniquitous practices? Call on the government to improve wages and working conditions? Buy your shirts from someone else? Propose that the company raise prices so workers can get paid more?
Actually, if you really want to be socially responsible, the first thing to do is be as sure as possible that actual harm — from the perspective of the workers themselves — is taking place.
As long as the workers are there by choice, they consider themselves better off with a “sweatshop” job than without one. Banning sweatshops pushes poor people into worse alternatives and slows economic development to boot.
So what’s the alternative?
The public-shaming option is the method…