Monday, April 17, 2006

Sweatshop Protests at Berkeley

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle reports that, last week, "Eighteen students demanding that University of California-logo apparel not be produced in 'sweatshops' were arrested at a sit-in at the UC Berkeley chancellor's office Tuesday afternoon."

Apparently, the students had not read this classic article by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, which we read in ec 10 last semester. In case some of those students are reading this blog, here is an excerpt:

Asian workers would be aghast at the idea of American consumers boycotting certain toys or clothing in protest. The simplest way to help the poorest Asians would be to buy more from sweatshops, not less....

For all the misery they can engender, sweatshops at least offer a precarious escape from the poverty that is the developing world's greatest problem. Over the past 50 years, countries like India resisted foreign exploitation, while countries that started at a similar economic level -- like Taiwan and South Korea -- accepted sweatshops as the price of development. Today there can be no doubt about which approach worked better. Taiwan and South Korea are modern countries with low rates of infant mortality and high levels of education; in contrast, every year 3.1 million Indian children die before the age of 5, mostly from diseases of poverty like diarrhea.