As I slump here in a state of trauma, still trembling from the experience, let me again offer my thanks to the invaluable Cafe Hayek who drew my attention to a shocking - shocking, I tell you! - piece written by Paul Krugman. If you are a soppy, 'Graun'-reading Leftie with a bleeding-heart conscience over the low wages and cruel conditions of workers in the Third-world, then read no further:
And as long as you have no realistic alternative to industrialization based on low wages, to oppose it means that you are willing to deny desperately poor people the best chance they have of progress for the sake of what amounts to an aesthetic standard--that is, the fact that you don't like the idea of workers being paid a pittance to supply rich Westerners with fashion items.
Crikey! That could have been written by Milton Friedman but I never imagined that Krugman could have allowed such sacrilege to flow from his keyboard. Mind you, it was written in 1997 and thus Prof.Krugman shows us yet again what a singular man he is. Where the rest of us started life believing and spouting rubbish until the school of hard knocks taught us differently, Prof. Krugman began by being emminently sensible and has now declined to economic peurility. But here is another taste of his truer wisdom:
The lofty moral tone of the opponents of globalization is possible only because they have chosen not to think their position through. While fat-cat capitalists might benefit from globalization, the biggest beneficiaries are, yes, Third World workers. [...]
Workers in those shirt and sneaker factories are, inevitably, paid very little and expected to endure terrible working conditions. I say "inevitably" because their employers are not in business for their (or their workers') health; they pay as little as possible, and that minimum is determined by the other opportunities available to workers. And these are still extremely poor countries, where living on a garbage heap is attractive compared with the alternatives.
And yet, wherever the new export industries have grown, there has been measurable improvement in the lives of ordinary people. Partly this is because a growing industry must offer a somewhat higher wage than workers could get elsewhere in order to get them to move. More importantly, however, the growth of manufacturing--and of the penumbra of other jobs that the new export sector creates--has a ripple effect throughout the economy. The pressure on the land becomes less intense, so rural wages rise; the pool of unemployed urban dwellers always anxious for work shrinks, so factories start to compete with each other for workers, and urban wages also begin to rise.
You may read via the link - and I urge you to do so - Prof. Krugman's entire article written for Slate in 1997. What can I say, except perhaps to quote good ol' Luke:
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Come back, Brother Krugman, and all will be forgiven!