Sweatshops Are Not Good for the Poor

Benjamin Powell is another “libertarian” who defends sweatshops as being good for the poor. He wrote a book about how sweatshops are a necessary part of economic development (which I haven’t read), and this week he did a short interview over at mises.org. He reasons from the position that state-intervention in the economy is harmful, while neglecting to count property itself as a major state intervention. He reaches the absurd conclusion that robbery enriches its victims.

That sort of error highlights why libertarianism must necessarily imply socialism. Not only to avoid logical inconsistencies, but historically, as Bakunin said, “liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice.”

In Powell’s interview, he takes von Mises' narrow view of the formation of capitalism ("The factory owners did not have the power to compel anybody to take a factory job"), and completely ignores the actual, bloody history of primitive accumulation in Britain. He’s wrong about the lack of violence during the creation of factories back then, and he’s wrong that the violence of factories somehow helps its victims today.

See also my 2012 article, “Sweatshops Are Good for the Poor”

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