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The value of fast fashion and those sweatshops

Summary:
It is - sorry - fashionable these days to insist that we should not buy those products of the world’s sweatshops. That we must abjure fast fashion because of some reason or another. Which is exactly what we are doing right now to ill effect:More than a million Bangaldeshi garment workers have been sent home without pay or have lost their jobs after western clothing brands cancelled or suspended £2.4bn of existing orders in the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic, according to data from the Bangladeshi and Garment Exporters Association (BGMEA).Apply even the most basic logic here. Those sweatshops, that fast fashion, the absence is making people poorer. The presence in the first place must therefore have made them richer. As Paul Krugman noted decades back: The benefits of export-led economic

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It is - sorry - fashionable these days to insist that we should not buy those products of the world’s sweatshops. That we must abjure fast fashion because of some reason or another. Which is exactly what we are doing right now to ill effect:

More than a million Bangaldeshi garment workers have been sent home without pay or have lost their jobs after western clothing brands cancelled or suspended £2.4bn of existing orders in the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic, according to data from the Bangladeshi and Garment Exporters Association (BGMEA).

Apply even the most basic logic here. Those sweatshops, that fast fashion, the absence is making people poorer. The presence in the first place must therefore have made them richer. As Paul Krugman noted decades back:

The benefits of export-led economic growth to the mass of people in the newly industrializing economies are not a matter of conjecture. A country like Indonesia is still so poor that progress can be measured in terms of how much the average person gets to eat; since 1970, per capita intake has risen from less than 2,100 to more than 2,800 calories a day. A shocking one-third of young children are still malnourished--but in 1975, the fraction was more than half. Similar improvements can be seen throughout the Pacific Rim, and even in places like Bangladesh. These improvements have not taken place because well-meaning people in the West have done anything to help--foreign aid, never large, has lately shrunk to virtually nothing. Nor is it the result of the benign policies of national governments, which are as callous and corrupt as ever. It is the indirect and unintended result of the actions of soulless multinationals and rapacious local entrepreneurs, whose only concern was to take advantage of the profit opportunities offered by cheap labor. It is not an edifying spectacle; but no matter how base the motives of those involved, the result has been to move hundreds of millions of people from abject poverty to something still awful but nonetheless significantly better.

But things made by poor people in poor countries. It’s exactly and specifically the thing that makes them richer.

And when the shops are open again do your bit, as we shall be. Check the labels on the clothes you buy and if they’re made by those poor people in a poor place then buy them. Heck, buy two, three. Because buying the products of their labour is exactly what increases the value of their work, it is what enriches them.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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