All linky, no thinky

Since it’s apparently Sweatshop Argument Awareness Month on the big truck, here’s a post from Matt Zwolinski:

Briefly, the left-libertarian critique of sweatshops is “capital owners and corporations have colluded with local governments to limit or eliminate other jobs available to sweatshop workers, which is mean and unlibertarian, so libertarians should not support sweatshops”.  Zwolinski’s reply is, again briefly, “if sweatshop owners themselves have colluded with government to capture the market, that’s bad, but cite your sources!  Otherwise, libertarians should find regulatory capture and corporate-government collusion utterly unsurprising, and sweatshops stand as the least awful alternative.”

One of the persistently annoying threads in the sweatshop “debate” is the conflation of sweatshops with the corporations that buy from them.  As Plinko writes,

I think there’s a tension there that’s a little problematic – mainly that most of the ‘sweatshop’ factories that are the root of the issue are generally not actually built, owned or managed by foreign capital. They’re usually built and managed by local capital in order to sell to goods to various foreign importers, a few more are joint-ventures where a multi-national essentially rents a production facility from a local capitalist or, in some cases the local government.

This simple fact multiplies the transaction costs implied in arguments like “a three-cent increase in the price of a t-shirt could double the wage of a sweatshop worker!” immensely, and vastly changes the regulatory and public-choice issues involved.  Plus, it’s easier to demonize Phil Knight without coming across as racist than it is to demonize a Filipino small-business owner.  (Race card?  Oh yeah, I went there.  The sweatshop issue has an overpoweringly strong White Man’s Burden smell to it.)


Next we have Will Wilkinson dropping the hammer on Rawls:

Briefly summarized by copypasta:

According to Rawls “each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others.” The principle of equal liberty, and its absolute priority over matters of distribution, is what makes Rawls theory of justice liberal.

One might sensibly imagine that if all liberties matter, and that if citizens are to enjoy the most extensive liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others, then economic liberty must matter, and citizens ought to have as much of it as possible. However, Rawls specifically denies that robust economic rights and liberties are in any way implied by his first principle of justice. Economic liberties are not among our basic liberties.


The freedom to buy and sell, to enter into contracts, to start a business, to hire and be hired, to save and invest, to trade freely across borders — none of these are among the basic liberties to be established under the first principles. Rawls pushes all this putatively non-basic stuff under the second principle. But why?

I think it’s as uncomplicated as this: Because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t get the answer he was looking for.



Next, Tyler Cowen wonders what happened to Italy, and gets some Greece and Portugal into the mix:

Again, briefly: Cowen claims that the economies of IGP are, culturally and regulatorily, too bound up in small family-owned firms to take advantage of economies of scale, and as margins shrink those small firms stagnate.

One neat point hidden in the third paragraph is that IGP rely on family ownership for “efficient, non-corrupt management”.  My thoughts immediately go to Steven Dutch.


Finally, your “Whiskey Tango Fucktrot” moment of the day:

A felony.  Even though “[i]t is currently a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in federal prison to falsely identify cane sugar or corn-based syrups as ‘maple syrup’.”  That’s just special.


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