Courtesy Reuters

DON'T GIVE IN TO THE DARK SIDE

By Thomas O'Brien

To the Editor:

Jay Mazur systematically distorts economic facts. Despite his self-professed "internationalism," he speaks primarily for workers in rich countries. Mazur argues that wages in less-developed nations "are artificially suppressed to about one-tenth of those in the industry's organized sectors in the North." To the contrary, American textile workers' wages are kept artificially high because poor-country textile workers are denied the right to sell in America. With a surplus of labor in developing nations, South Carolina textile workers could not succeed in a free competition. The dirty little secret of rich-world protectionism is that it is directed squarely at the have-nots. For example, WTO Director-General Mike Moore notes, "Average duties applied by rich countries to products from the poorest are higher than the levies on products from other rich countries. In the U.S. and Canada, average duties are about twice as high on poor-country products than on those from developed countries."

Mazur similarly ignores the role productivity plays in wage-setting. Employers cannot pay poor-country workers 60 cents per hour if their productivity merits $8 per hour. High-productivity workers could simply walk across the street to employers offering higher wages.

Mazur is correct that rights to organize, bargain collectively, and strike need to be included in the new trade agreement. But his professed internationalism is greatly at odds with the desires of workers in the poorest nations to sell their products in rich-nation markets. His call to outlaw child labor could paradoxically hurt the very children he aims to help.

Two ideas to bridge this problem are aid programs aimed at making more years of schooling economically possible for impoverished children and laws against the export of products produced by children (as opposed to employment for exclusively domestic purposes).

Thomas O'Brien

Director of Research, Horizon Institute for Policy Solutions

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