The Carnegie Council’s ‘Impact’ podcast interviewed me about my article The Myth of the Ethical Shopper. I told them the same thing I always say:
MICHAEL HOBBES: None of these violations take place in a vacuum. The only thing we can do to systematically improve those conditions is to work politically.
That would be something like trade deals. In the Dominican Republic, a condition of accessing the U.S. market was increasing the strength and size of their labor inspectorate. It used to be really corrupt. Inspectors were just kind of walking around, getting bribes from whichever factory they went to. Then all of a sudden they were required to have a law degree to be an inspector, they got better salaries. Now, these guys are doing really interesting work. That’s not in very many bilateral trade agreements, but it’s something that the AFL-CIO and other domestic labor rights organizations have been pushing for.
That stuff is really boring, it’s political, it’s technical, it’s slow, it’s policy—but it’s much more effective than buying a t-shirt that has a fair trade label on it. You don’t know what the conditions of production were, even if it has that sticker on it, and neither does the company selling it to you.
The audio and transcript are at the link!
UPDATE: Here’s the sequel. I show up right at the end!