Benjamin Powell’s article, In Defense of “Sweatshops,’ is a non biased argument that ultimately ends with sweatshops being defended. The premise of his argument states that sweatshops provide a better alternative to many other forms of labor. In defense of this argument, Powell provides some interesting statistical information that sheds some light on sweatshop workers. The data Powell provides shows sweatshop workers often earn more than the average wage for their countries, provides income for individuals who would otherwise have no source of income and provides a better alternative to other forms of work such as prostitution. Powell also provides real world examples from the data collected and used in his argument. The data and real world examples used are compelling, however it’s still difficult to morally justify the working conditions these laborers are subjected to.
I will argue sweatshops as they are now are morally wrong and that there are alternatives to them. In order to do this, let’s take a look at one of Powell’s arguments. Powell’s argument gave an example of the factory in Bangladesh which laid off 50,000 children who then experienced worse living conditions. I will argue the point that poor working conditions in sweatshops are a negative externality to the cheap product prices we enjoy. Competition has driven prices down the equilibrium price of goods to be so low that factories have a difficult time paying employees a higher wage. When we go to Walmart and buy a new $5 shirt made in Vietnam we probably don’t think about who made the shirt, it was $5 so whatever right? Well, in order to make that shirt $5, other people likely suffered some pretty horrible working conditions.
How could the problem of sweatshops be remedied? I believe the answer lies in big business, politics, and most importantly the global community. Large conglomerates could help this situation by paying more for the goods they purchase, this however will likely not happen on its own. Politics can also prove to be a source of change, weather it be good or bad, solid political rulings could potentially help working conditions in third world factories. In the end, consumers and activists will likely have to bring awareness to the problem of sweatshops and bring about change that large conglomerates will respond to.
“Sweatshops.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2014. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/PC3021900163/OVIC?u=p1841&xid=f48457d3. Accessed 18 Feb. 2018.