Monthly Archive for August, 2005

Blog Day 2005

Blog DayToday is August 31st, 08/31, or 3108 in reverse, and since 3108 looks very similar to the word blog, August 31 was designated as Blog Day.

According to Oso, the idea was first suggested by Israeli blogger, Nir Ofir and the idea is:

The idea is that this coming Wednesday, bloggers from around the world will link to and introduce five bloggers from other countries to their regular readers. I think this is a fantastic idea. It’s like that icebreaker from junior high where you have to interview your classmate and then introduce them to everyone else. But on Blog Day you don’t have to interview anyone, just get a feel for their blog and let everyone know where they’re from and what they’re about.

So here goes my five bloggers.

First is “Venezuela News And Views”
The description from the blog itself reads, “Written from the Venezuelan provinces, this blog started as private letters to my friends overseas, letters narrating the difficult days of the 2002/2003 strike in Venezuela. These letters became this mix of news, comments, pictures of the Venezuelan situation. Unknowingly, I have written the diary of Venezuela slow decent into authoritarianism, the slow erosion of our liberties, the takeover of the country by a military caste, the surrendering of our soul to the Cuban dictator”. This blog is especially important considering the recent (depressing) changes in Venezuela and the political impact they may have.

Second is “The-econoclast”
This blog is written by John Palmer, professor of economics at The University of Western Ontario. He is located in Clinton, ON, Canada. He applies economic principles to a wide variety of different topics, many of them very entertaining and very educational.

Third is “India Uncut”
This blog is written by Amit Varma located in Mumbai, India. He writes on various topics, ranging from giving news and information that might be useful in the aftermath of the cloudburst that struck Maharashtra on July 26, to his writings while travelling through the tsunami-affected areas of Tamil Nadu, and immediately before and after, and of course, keeping us up to date on Indian economy. Also, if you still want more on the Indian economy, I’d also recommend The Indian Economy blog, where Amit Varma is also a contributor.

Fourth is “Johan Norberg”
Johan Norberg is “a Swedish writer devoted to globalisation and individual liberty”, Norberg is also the author of the widely respected book, “In Defense Of Global Capitalism“, which is “[t]he first book to rebut – systematically and thoroughly – the world view of the anti-globalisation movement and the protectionists”. The blog also has a very informative Q&A on what capitalism is, and the common objections raised against it.

Fifth is “The Adam Smith Institute”
“The Adam Smith Institute is the UK’s leading innovator of free-market policies. Named after the great Scottish economist and author of The Wealth of Nations, its guiding principles are free markets and a free society. It researches practical ways to inject choice and competition into public services, extend personal freedom, reduce taxes, prune back regulation, and cut government waste”.

As a bonus, especially to my spanish speaking readers, I would recommend two additional blogs that I decided to treat seperately because they are written in Spanish.

HispaLibertas y Liberalismo
Los dos pueden ser descritos con el mismo descripción, “Este sitio nace con la pretensión de convertirse en el punto de encuentro de todos los liberales hispanohablantes. En el menú derecho de esta portada puedes acceder a una suerte de editorial que detalla los puntos básicos del pensamiento liberal y sus principales corrientes, amén de algún texto clásico, a modo de introducción”.

Es importante notar que en Europa el término ‘liberal’ se asocia a la economía clásica del libre comercio y gobiernos pequeños, es decir, es casi lo opuesto a lo que significa ese término aquí en los EEUU. Así que los dos blogs utilizan el término de la forma europea e histórica (conocido como ‘el liberal clásico’ or ‘classical liberal’).

…and of course, I should also mention the very blog that helped a lot of this come together, Global Voices, “a non-profit global citizens’ media project, sponsored by and launched from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School”.

What Type Of Judge Democrats Consider Mainstream

When a Democrat doesn’t like a Republican nominated judge, they usually accuse the judge of being an ‘extremist’, or ‘outside the mainstream’, and even a ‘judicial activist’, but what is never asked is what exactly does a Democrat consider mainstream. In other words, what would Democrats want in a nominee, what would it take for them to support the judge fully?

Well, to answer that question, let’s look at a nominee that both, was nominated by a Democrat and had strong support by Democrat senators, let’s look at Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is a judge that currently sits on the Supreme Court, she was nominated by President Clinton, used to work for the ACLU, and had strong support by Democrats in congress. So she has everything one would need to be considered ‘mainstream’ liberal Democrat. So what exactly are her views?

Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, gives us exactly that, he writes:

1. Protecting Prostitution. Ginsburg had opined that several federal laws against prostitution “are subject to several constitutional and policy objections. Prostitution, as a consensual act between adults, is arguably within the zone of privacy protected by recent constitutional decisions.” In support of this proposition, Ginsburg cited only two cases involving contraception (Griswold and Eisenstadt) and one involving abortion (Roe). She further recommended that the federal laws against prostitution be repealed.

2. Protecting Bigamy. Ginsburg had opined that a law restricting the rights of bigamists “is of questionable constitutionality since it appears to encroach impermissibly upon private relationships.” Ginsburg offered only a weak “Cf.” cite to Griswold and Eisenstadt in support of this proposition. But the marital relationship that Griswold celebrates is plainly the traditional one-husband, one-wife version: marriage is “an intimate relation of husband and wife” and a “bilateral loyalty.” And Eisenstadt speaks of the “right of the individual, married or single,” not of the bigamist. Again, Ginsburg’s constitutional argument is an extreme one that makes it most reasonable to conclude that Ginsburg had strong sympathy for that argument.

3. Abolishing Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Ginsburg had stated, “Replacing ‘Mother’s Day’ and ‘Father’s Day’ with a ‘Parent’s Day’ should be considered, as an observance more consistent with a policy of minimizing traditional sex-based differences in parental roles.” I have previously parsed the question whether Ginsburg was proposing to abolish Mother’s Day and Father’s Day or was instead merely proposing that abolition “be considered.” Suffice it to say that, either way, hers is not a mainstream position.

4. Criticizing the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. According to Ginsburg: “The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, while ostensibly providing ‘separate but equal’ benefits to both sexes, perpetuate stereotyped sex roles to the extent that they carry out congressionally-mandated purposes.”

5. Urging Co-Ed Prisons. This one may be my favorite, as it starkly illustrates how far removed Ginsburg was from the real world: “Sex-segregated adult or juvenile institutions are obviously separate and in a variety of ways, unequal.… If the grand design of such institutions is to prepare inmates for return to the community as persons equipped to benefit from and contribute to civil society, then perpetuation of single-sex institutions should be rejected.”

6. Reducing the Age of Consent to 12. Ginsburg had recommended legislative changes that would reduce the age of consent for statutory rape under federal law from 16 to 12.

7. Requiring Taxpayer Funding of Abortion. Ginsburg strongly criticized the Court’s ruling that taxpayers are not constitutionally required to subsidize non-therapeutic abortions. (See Ginsburg’s chapter on the 1976 Term of the Supreme Court in a book titled Constitutional Government in America.)

8. Practicing “Limousine Liberalism.” Ginsburg had opined that an employer who had a manifest racial imbalance in the composition of his work force could be subjected to court-ordered quotas even in the absence of any intentional discrimination on his part. But Ginsburg herself, at the time of her Supreme Court nomination, had operated her own judicial office for over a decade in a city that was majority black, but had never had a single black person among her more than 50 hires. (Senator Hatch established this glaring inconsistency at the outset of Ginsburg’s confirmation hearing.)

Lets also add that Ginsberg voted against both ten commandment cases that just passed, she also voted in favor of the government and against the little guy in Kelo, and is still not considered an ‘extreme liberal’ by most peoples standards. In fact, many Democrats still refer to her as ‘moderate’.

So please, remember this the next time a Democrat refers to a Republican nominated judge as ‘outside the mainstream’, or as ‘extreme’, because considering what Democrats consider ‘mainstream’, it’s a good thing to not be (their definition of) ‘mainstream’.

In fact, many Democrats consider her to be moderate, still not considered

Quote Of The Day

“Some people think that big money has too much influence in the US political system. I disagree. As long as the government does things, and as long as it’s democratic, the public will rightly seek to influence what the government does. This public includes non-profit and for-profit corporations.

The problem is that people expect government to do too much for them. People need to understand that they can and should do things for themselves. They do a better job for themselves because they care more about themselves than anyone else can. Providing for themselves is better for their character. Good character leads to good morality.

A strong government has the effect of infantizing adults. This cannot be a good thing”. —The Angry Economist

Gary Becker On Affirmative Action

One of my favorite economists, Gary Becker, who in 1992 won the Nobel Prize in Economics for his pioneering work in topics such as discrimination, and the author of the groundbreaking book “The Economics of Discrimination“, writes with regard to affirmative action:

My belief is that affirmative action is bad for any country that aspires to be a meritocracy, as the United States does, despite past slavery and discrimination that are terrible violations of this aspiration. The case for a meritocracy is that achievements based on merit produces the most dynamic, innovative, and flexible economy and social structure. Encouraging promotion or admission of less qualified applicants because of their race, gender, or other characteristics, clearly violates this principle, and produces a less progressive economy, and a distorted social structure….

more subtle way that affirmative action harms many members of the very groups they are trying to promote is illustrated by admissions to college. If lower admission standards are used to admit African Americans or other groups, then good colleges would accept average minority students, good minority students would be accepted by very good colleges, and quite good students would be accepted by the most outstanding universities, like Harvard or Stanford. This means that at all these types of schools, the qualifications of minority students would on average be below those of other students. As a result, they tend to rank at the lower end of their classes, even when they are good students, because affirmative action makes them compete against even better students. Studies have shown that this simple implication of affirmative action applies to students at good law schools, where the average African American student ranks toward the lower end of their law school cohort. My observation of many colleges and universities is that this conclusion has general applicability well beyond law schools.

It hardly helps self-esteem if one is a member of a group that typically ranks toward the bottom in performance at a university or on a job. When discrimination dominated affirmative action, an African American or female medical doctor would be better than average since they had to overcome artificial hurdles to get where they were. That was not a desirable situation because discrimination made it harder for these groups to get ahead, so fewer of them than was warranted by their abilities and skills managed to make it to medical school. However, now, minority doctors and other professionals are greeted suspiciously by many patients and customers who fear they got where they are only because they were subject to lower standards. That can hardly make someone feel good, and helps explain some of the segregation and defensiveness of minorities receiving affirmative action help at schools or on jobs.

But that is not all he says, he follows up with:

While opposing affirmative action, I do not advocate just letting the status quo operate without attempting to help groups that have suffered greatly in the past from discrimination. Employers, universities, and other organizations should make special efforts to find qualified members of minority groups, persons who might have been overlooked because of their poor family backgrounds or the bad schools they attended. By using this approach, one can spot some diamonds in the rough that would get overlooked. I know that the economics department at Chicago in recent years has been able to discover and help train some excellent economists from disadvantaged backgrounds by searching harder for them.

Another attractive policy is to help disadvantaged children at early ages rather than using affirmative action when they apply for jobs or colleges. There is still controversy over how much and how durable is the gain from head start programs, although I believe that extra effort spent on these children at very young ages tends to yield a decent return in terms of later achievements. But it has been conclusively shown that efforts to educate and help in other ways when children are in their teens generally fail since by that time the children have fallen too far behind others of their age to be able to catch up. Put more technically, current human capital investments builds on past investments, so if past investments are inadequate, the current investments have low returns.

Read the whole thing here, his response to comments can be found here.

Quote Of The Day

“I’m probably a little insensitive about this after my experience teaching in Taiwan and South Korea. After being told by parents to beat their kids if they don’t study; hear from parents who stay up drinking coffee so they can sit with their kids while they do their homework; talk to kids who are seniors in high school and will tell you that their only job in life is to get good grades; hear from folks (meaning, parents, friends, relatives) who tell their kids: sleep four hours, you pass, sleep five hours you fail; talk to parents who allocate a large percentage of the income on making sure the kid gets a good education, then, yeah, it is tough to be sensitive to educators and researchers who think there is a short-cut to kids getting a quality education”. —Casey Lartigue, former education-policy analyst with the Cato Institute

Black And Hispanic Business Leaders Support School Choice

The Tallahassee Democrat writes:

The Florida Black Chamber of Commerce and the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce support these programs because they empower traditionally underserved, low-income minority parents to provide a high-quality education for their children, and because they promote improvements in public school performance for all children, especially minority children….

As the economy continues to shift from physical labor needs to knowledge and expertise needs, our children’s future is increasingly dependent on the quality of education they receive.

Unfortunately, many minority and low-income parents underserved by public schools cannot afford to enroll their children in a school that better meets their needs. Their children are sentenced to limited opportunities for employment and little chance for a better life.

School choice in general and Opportunity Scholarships in particular provide effective solutions to some of the challenging problems facing minority and low-income families in Florida.

School choice is not about public vs. private or religious vs. secular. It is most fundamentally about empowering minority and low-income parents to provide a high-quality education for their children. It’s about leveling the playing field for people of lesser financial means, but high aspirations.

School choice programs are tools for the improvement of all forms of education – public and private, religious and secular – and have been proven to increase the performance of public education.

In 2003, a U.S. school choice and school competition study by Harvard University economist Caroline Hoxby concluded that “Public schools do respond constructively to competition, by raising their achievement and productivity.” It found that “Students’ achievement generally does rise when they attend voucher or charter schools.”

Also in 2003, a Florida A+ Opportunity Scholarship program study by Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Jay Greene showed that “low-performing schools facing a greater degree of threat from voucher competition made better improvements than low-performing schools facing a lesser degree of threat from vouchers.”

Moreover, the study found that most of Florida’s voucher students were poor and minorities. It would be most unfortunate for our communities if the Florida Supreme Court rules against proven tools that will ultimately enable our children to achieve a higher standard of living and our state a more prosperous economy.

The article was written by Ed Rodriguez, chairman of the Florida Black Chamber of Commerce and Julio Fuentes, president of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Link via AConstrainedVision who has more.

Quote Of The Day

“I think the evidence is very strong that family background is a major predictor of future behavior of children. So a disproportionate number of problem kids come from disadvantaged families. The simple economics of intervention therefore suggests that society should focus its investment where it’s likely to have very high returns. Right now, that is the disadvantaged population”. —Interview with James J. Heckman, Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, 2000

The Right Way To Deregulate Electricity

Vernon Smith, professor at George Mason and a 2002 Nobel laureate in economics, writes:

Many foreign countries–the U.K., Chile, Australia and New Zealand–have managed to liberalize electricity systems. There are no regrets in spite of mistakes, backsliding and learning bumps. Liberalization occurred because both U.S.-style regulation and foreign nationalization programs were judged serious failures.

How to do it you ask? The article is too long and too intertwined to quote in pieces, go here to read it in full (free registration may be required).

Quote Of The Day

“Most macroeconomists think of human capital as education, measured by years of school. Or if they’re a little more sophisticated, they measure human capital by test scores like IQ or an achievement test. Neglected are all the noncognitive abilities that are produced by healthy families. Deficiencies in these skills can be partially remediated, as we know from the early intervention programs. Not completely remediated, but certainly gaps can be closed. The things we used to think of as soft and fuzzy have a real effect on behavior”. —Interview with James J. Heckman, Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, 2000

WebSite Updates

With the huge help of my good (liberal) friend Oso, from Oso’s Blog, I have finally updated and hopefully, fixed my website. I decided to remove my flickr pictures on the right, and I also decided to install gravatar’s. If you don’t happen to have a gravatar, a picture of my choosing will appear in its place. For more on gravatars and how to get one, go here (they are free).

Hopefully now comments will not get accidently deleted and every comment will be posted correctly. Let me know if you have any problems or suggestions, by emailing me at the email address linked to above.

If Roe vs Wade Were Overturned

Laura Vanderkam, writing in USA Today has a great article explaining exactly what would happen if Roe vs. Wade was overturned:

On both sides, people talk broadly about wanting to know Roberts’ views because the next judge will shape the “direction” of the country, but let’s not mince words. Most of this angst is about one issue: abortion. Liberal groups are terrified that Roberts will bring the court one vote closer to overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that overturned state laws banning abortion. Pro-life groups hope, fervently, that he will.

I don’t know whether the Supreme Court, with Roberts, will overturn Roe. I do know it won’t matter much if it does.

You see, for all the rights rhetoric, abortion is not an abstract concept. It’s a medical procedure requiring a doctor willing to perform it. In states where abortion is frowned upon — the states likely to ban abortion if Roe is overturned — abortion providers are already more rare than purple Volkswagen Beetles. Most abortion providers, understandably, prefer to practice in states where people support them, i.e., states where abortion won’t be banned.

This reality means that however much energy is spent on Supreme Court nominee battles, a Roe reversal wouldn’t change the country’s total number of abortion providers much. In fact, a year after Roe is overturned, it would be the rare woman who would notice any difference in her life at all.

ATSRTWT

Update: The Wall Street Journal has more.

Quote Of The Day

“Many of these people have moral objections and resent the Supreme Court’s presumption in its Roe v. Wade decision, but they’re also pragmatic enough to realize that a ban couldn’t be enforced and would create a new set of problems. If Roe v. Wade were overturned and abortion policy left up to the states, these pragmatists would start to matter more than the ideologues on the left and right who now dominate the debate”. —John Tierney, columnist for the New York Times

Are School Vouchers The Next Great Civil Rights Issue?

Legal affairs hosted a debate on whether or not school vouchers are the next great civil rights issue. Clint Bolick, President and General Counsel for the Alliance for School Choice, took the affirmative and Laura Underkuffler, a professor at Duke Law School, took the negative. The debate can be found here and here.

Clint Bolick writes:

School choice gives disadvantaged families some of the clout that middle- and upper-income families have, through the power to exit the system. School choice provides an educational life preserver for children who desperately need it, and creates a competitive incentive for public schools to improve. Harvard’s Caroline Hoxby has found that wherever public schools are subjected to meaningful competition, they improve.

That has happened in Florida, where children in failing schools are offered scholarships to attend better-performing public schools or private schools. Only about 750 kids statewide have transferred to private schools, but their footsteps have reverberated across the state. Schools faced with failing grades—and the prospect of vouchers—are adopting reforms that they long have resisted, such as spending more money in the classroom rather than the bureaucracy, hiring tutors for failing students, moving to year-round schools, etc. The result has been dramatic academic improvement, especially among minority schoolchildren. The racial academic gap is narrowing in Florida like nowhere else.

Notice here that Clint gives both the theoretical and the practical arguments behind vouchers. Some people continue to argue that vouchers won’t work, that they will destroy the public school system, that they will benefit only some students, this and that, but they overlook the fact that vouchers, in one form or another, have already been implemented in various states around the country. And the clear results are success, success for all students, for public schools, and especially for those who need vouchers most, those students (who are primarily low income minorities) formerly trapped in inner city schools who now have options, options that they never had before. In addition, when these students exercise that option and go to other schools, the results are overwhelmingly positive. You now have students with higher chances of graduating, higher grades, and an overall better education and with that, a better future, all things they were deprived of before vouchers.

So who could argue with this? What possible argument could someone give to being against vouchers now? This is why Laura is against vouchers:

What if the private school chosen is one that reflects the teachings of a religious “cult”, or that teaches racial hatred, or the inferiority of girls and women, or the denial of civil rights on the basis of sexual orientation, or other values that are at odds with the fundamental principles of our society? The limitation often cited by choice advocates—that the school be required to accept all comers—will not solve the problems that such schools present. The issue is far more fundamental: do we want our tax dollars to fund such schools?

Throughout the debate, she focuses on the fear that truly abhorent beliefs will be adopted by new private schools. She alludes to racism, to sexism, to even terrorism, as examples of what future private schools may teach, without any possibility for the state to regulate, this is her main argument against vouchers. But Clint directly addresses her concerns.

He writes:

Society expresses itself through democratic processes, and so far those processes have produced school choice programs that achieve a balance between parental choice and mainstream educational objectives. Most states, for instance, require all private schools to adhere to a sequential program of core academic instruction. The Florida program forbids schools from requiring participation in religious activities. Cleveland’s excludes schools that advocate racial hatred.

Clint also responds that currently, higher education gives the very same freedom that vouchers would give to K-12 students. So, for decades we have already had a system that Laura fears, and none of what Laura claims will happen has happened. So if you accept this system with higher education, why should it be restricted with lower education? Especially when the stakes are so high. This is a response that Laura never addressed, even after Clint repeatedly asked her four times to address it.

So why do you think Laura is really against vouchers? It can’t really be a fear that schools will start to teach racism, or sexism, or hatred against the USA. Since, as the current Cleveland and Florida case shows, those types of schools can be easily banned in a voucher program. Afterall, what American would be against a ban on public money going to schools that teach racism? Or schools that teach sexism or hate? It would be easy to get citizen support to ban those schools.

What I think Laura truly fears from a voucher program is what many opponents of vouchers in general truly fear from vouchers. The real reason, IMHO, most many opponents of vouchers that know more than basic economics are still against vouchers is this, what Laura let slip in one of her responses.

She writes:

You argue that the fears of voters are unfounded, citing the ban on the teaching of racial hatred in the Cleveland voucher plan. This is fine as far as it goes. But how far does it go? The problems involved in interpreting and enforcing such a ban are obvious. (What is “racial hatred”? Does it include “racial inferiority” and other ideas?) Even more telling is what this ban does not include. It does not attempt to prohibit the teaching of religious intolerance, or the teaching of the subordination of women, or the teaching of the denial of gay rights. (emphasis added)

While one can be assured that the American public will not tolerate racism, sexism and national hatred, what they will tolerate is mainstream religious teachings that speak against gay marriage, or abortion, and many other views the secular left holds dear, and this, Laura, and many voucher opponents, can’t tolerate.

That is right my friends. Their true fear with vouchers is not that they won’t work, but they will work, too well. In other words, they have the fear that several of these parents in poor areas, given the choice, will take their kids to religious schools like Catholic private schools, and get (gasp!!) Christianized.

Given a choice between A. giving children stuck in the ghetto a good education, an education that gives them a real chance to escape poverty, but at the same time allowing the possibility that they may become Christianized, or B. Having them remain in a secular environment, but one that robs them of a proper education thereby dooming them to a life of failure, Laura and her ilk would choose B!!

This is yet another reason why I am a strong conservative. With ‘friends’ like the above, who needs enemies?

AConstrainedVision has more.

Quote Of The Day

” The U.S. intelligence community is palsied by lawyers. When we were going to capture Osama bin Laden, for example, the lawyers were more concerned with bin Laden‘s safety and his comfort than they were with the officers charged with capturing him. We had to build an ergonomically designed chair to put him in, special comfort in terms of how he was shackled into the chair. They even worried about what kind of tape to gag him with so it wouldn‘t irritate his beard. The lawyers are the bane of the intelligence community”. — Michael Scheuer, former CIA terrorism analyst, speaking on TV’s “Hardball.”

A List Of Econoblogger Debates

Economist Max Sawicky, blogging over at MaxSpeak, gives us a list of the Wall Street Journal Online Econoblog debates.

Update: Bloggers Barry Ritholtz vs Andrew Samwick on whether we are Shopped Out?

The Truth About Sweatshops

Benjamin Powell, a professor of economics at San Jose State University, puts sweatshops in their proper perspective:

We use “sweatshop” to mean those foreign factories with low pay and poor health and safety standards where employees choose to work, not those where employees are coerced into working by the threat of violence. And we admit that by Western standards, sweatshops have abhorrently low wages and poor working conditions. However, economists point out that alternatives to working in a sweatshop are often much worse: scavenging through trash, prostitution, crime, or even starvation.

Economists across the political spectrum, from Paul Krugman on the left, to Walter Williams on the right, have defended sweatshops. Their reasoning is straightforward: People choose what they perceive to be in their best interest. If workers voluntarily choose to work in sweatshops, without physical coercion, it must be because sweatshops are their best option. Our recent research – the first economic study to compare systematically sweatshop wages with average local wages – demonstrated this to be true.

We examined the apparel industry in 10 Asian and Latin American countries often accused of having sweatshops and then we looked at 43 specific accusations of unfair wages in 11 countries in the same regions. Our findings may seem surprising. Not only were sweatshops superior to the dire alternatives economists usually mentioned, but they often provided a better-than-average standard of living for their workers.

The apparel industry, which is often accused of unsafe working conditions and poor wages, actually pays its foreign workers well enough for them to rise above the poverty in their countries. While more than half of the population in most of the countries we studied lived on less than $2 per day, in 90 percent of the countries, working a 10-hour day in the apparel industry would lift a worker above – often far above – that standard. For example, in Honduras, the site of the infamous Kathy Lee Gifford sweatshop scandal, the average apparel worker earns $13.10 per day, yet 44 percent of the country’s population lives on less than $2 per day.

In 9 of the 11 countries we surveyed, the average reported sweatshop wages equaled or exceeded average incomes and in some cases by a large margin. In Cambodia, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Honduras, the average wage paid by a firm accused of being a sweatshop is more than double the average income in that country’s economy.

Our findings should not be interpreted to mean that sweatshop jobs in the third world are ideal by US standards. The point is, they are located in developing countries where these jobs are providing a higher wage than other work.

Antisweatshop activists – who argue that consumers should abstain from buying products made in sweatshops – harm workers by trying to stop the trade that funds some of the better jobs in their economies.

Until poor nations’ economies develop, buying products made in sweatshops would do more to help third-world workers than San Francisco’s ordinance. By purchasing more products made in sweatshops, we create more demand for them and increase the number of factories in these poor economies. That gives the workers more employers to choose from, raises productivity and wages, and eventually improves working conditions. This is the same process of economic development the US went through, and it is ultimately the way third-world workers will raise their standard of living and quality of life.

Update: Two accidently repeated paragraphs in the quote were removed.

Link via CafeHayek who describes a central tenet of economics:

Powell’s and Skarbek’s lesson is straightforward and important. But it’s a lesson too often ignored by “activists” who would rather pose and prance as moral crusaders than analyze situations in ways that might actually help people. The lesson is summarized by what I call “The Economist’s Question: “As compared to what?”

In and of itself, situation A is neither good nor bad; it is good or bad only in comparison with it’s real alternatives. This lesson is a hard one, perhaps — it’s certainly an unromantic one — but it’s indispensable for sound analysis.