Made In The U.S.A.

Just when you thought life couldn’t get any more complicated…

In Adventures on July 31, 2009 at 12:51 am

…it does.

“In the hierarchy of jobs in poor countries, sweltering at a sewing machine isn’t the bottom.”

That’s the central premise behind a recent New York Times Op-Ed piece about the benefits of sweatshops.

In Phnom Penh, the poorest of the poor dream about working in factories that most Americans would be appalled by. In fact, conditions are so bad that many conscientious Americans fight to change them. Closing those factories is a problem solved for us bleeding heart liberal Americans. Across the globe, though, it’s just another problem in a long line of problems for poor Cambodians.

The Times piece includes interviews with children and families who make their livings scrounging vast toxic garbage dumps for recyclable materials from which they can earn a meager income. “I’d love to get a job in a factory,” said Pim Srey Rath, a 19-year-old woman scavenging for plastic. “At least that work is in the shade.”

The Pulitzer prizewinning author, Nicholas D. Kristof, is apparently known for his anti-anti-sweatshop views. His point, made near the end of the piece, is relatively simple: “Sweatshops are only a symptom of poverty, not a cause, and banning them closes off one route out of poverty.”

So it is.

Am I doing more harm than good by purchasing no sweatshop-made clothing from third world nations via my local Gap, Target or Banana Republic? I have no idea. But I don’t much care for the predicament.

Yet again, proof that life is exceedingly complicated.



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