If you’ve been working to ban imported products produced by child labour or in sweatshops, you are buying warm fuzzy feelings at the cost of pushing some of the world’s most vulnerable children into even worse conditions: the garbage dump, begging, child prostitution and starvation. It’s no good to complain that that isn’t what you wanted: you’re just wishing for ponies.
Damn straight. Eric had the only appropriate response to do-gooders who claim the moral high ground while agitating for the further immiseration of the world’s poorest: anger and ridicule. I liked his suggestion that anti-sweatshop folks should give money to effective charities to offset the harm they doing by opposing sweatshops. Stephen Hickson was more restrained, but no less convincing.
I thought the negative side, represented by philosophers Carolyn Mason and Simon Clarke, did pretty well considering there are no good arguments for their side of the debate. If it wasn’t obvious where the debate was heading when the negative side began by agreeing that sweatshops are better than any feasible current alternative, it was one they were forced to admit that it would be better if there were more sweatshops, while maintaining that they’re bad. The least bad argument they had, put forward by Simon, was that corporations could treat workers better than they currently do by reducing their profits or charging higher prices. If he really believes that, it proves that moral philosophers should be required to take an introductory economics class, but little else.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the degree of support for the proposition among the audience. I’d have expected far more pony-wishers.