Sweatshops are Awesome! And They’re Good for the Poor.

One of the most misunderstood things in pop-culture is the role of sweatshops in third world countries. Most people speak ill of them and feel morally smug when condemning them. Most people think they are the plague upon humanity, and one reason why capitalism is bad. This is all false. The “sweatshop phase” of economic development is just one of the first stepping stones toward a modern economy with a high standard of living. Every economy goes through this phase before becoming more developed. It’s the lower rung of the ladder toward prosperity. The US went through this stage long ago. If you removed this lower rung, you’d actually stop growth and a society would remain in agricultural poverty. The sweatshop phase represents the early part of a continuous growth trend.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, it’s actually an improvement over the condition that preceded sweatshops, which is subsistence farming. If you think a sweatshop has unpleasant conditions, consider how much more miserable subsistence farming is. The only reason why a person would leave the farm life and instead voluntarily choose to work in a “sweatshop” is because they believe that the sweatshop conditions and pay are relatively better for them and their families than their other alternatives, usually subsistence farming. They CHOOSE to work there because they see it as their best alternative. It is an indisputable economic statistical fact that, in less developed economies, sweatshops offer better compensation and a higher standard of living than other options available to the people. And, as people in the sweatshop phase become more productive and wealthy, the next generation picks up where they left off, gaining even more wealth, until eventually the sweatshop phase fades away and a more modern economy develops.

Considering a timeline of economic development, the important thing to remember is that the sweatshop phase does not represent a temporary dip, or drop in well-being, preceding a more developed economy. It’s not an early “necessary evil” for a better future life later on. The sweatshop phase is actually relatively good in itself and represents the early part of a continuous growth pattern. What came before sweatshops was even worse. Be glad for sweatshops. Sweatshops in a free market capitalistic setting are the reason why global extreme poverty has been dropping so much. If you care about the poor, then celebrate sweatshops, and feel good when buying from them. Feel proud when buying a shirt made in a poor country across the globe. You’re effectively hiring poor people when doing so. Sure, sweatshops seem bad compared to our first world US standards (we’re pampered because we’re rich enough to afford pampering as a luxury, and we now consider our luxury as normal and as a minimum standard), but sweatshops represent progress for the poor around the world.

(FYI: a “sweatshop” is a workplace that has conditions that are unpleasant or dangerous relative to social standards of modern rich nations like the US.)

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