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The Ethical and Economic Case Against Sweatshop Labor: A Critical Assessment

24 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2011 Last revised: 6 May 2012

Benjamin Powell

Texas Tech University - Free Market Institute; Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business

Matt Zwolinski

University of San Diego; University of San Diego School of Law

Date Written: October 19, 2011

Abstract

During the last decade, scholarly criticism of sweatshops has grown increasingly sophisticated. This article reviews the new moral and economic foundations of these criticisms and argues that they are flawed. It seeks to advance the debate over sweatshops by noting the extent to which the case for sweatshops does, and does not, depend on the existence of competitive markets. It attempts to more carefully distinguish between different ways in which various parties might seek to modify sweatshop behavior, and to point out that there is more room for consensus regarding some of these methods than has previously been recognized. It addresses the question of when sweatshops are justified in violating local labor laws. And it assesses the relevance of recent literature on coercion and exploitation as it applies to sweatshop labor. It concludes with a list of challenges that critics of sweatshops must meet to productively advance the debate.

Keywords: sweatshops, competition, exploitation, coercion

JEL Classification: D63

Suggested Citation

Powell, Benjamin and Zwolinski, Matt, The Ethical and Economic Case Against Sweatshop Labor: A Critical Assessment (October 19, 2011). Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 107, No. 4 (2012), pp. 449-472. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1947569

Benjamin Powell

Texas Tech University - Free Market Institute ( email )

Box 45059
Lubbock, TX 79409-5059
United States
806.742.7138 (Phone)
806.742.1854 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.fmi.ttu.edu

Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business ( email )

Lubbock, TX 79409
United States
806.834.3097 (Phone)
806.742.1854 (Fax)

Matt Zwolinski (Contact Author)

University of San Diego ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States
619-260-4094 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States

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