Monday, November 26, 2007

Free trade follies:

When people (like Brad DeLong) say free trade is good because it allows each region to do what it does best, consider this story: New York Manhole Covers, Forged Barefoot in India, and ask yourself, "Are they better at making manhole covers, or merely using cheaper labor?"

It's true that in a world where everyone is paid the same for a given skill set, certain places will be able to produce more product for less. It's often because of geography (easier to grow pineapples in Hawaii than in Scotland) or a better educated workforce or manufacturing plant improvements). But when the differential in price is due to cheap labor and crummy working conditions, they are not "making it better" over there.


So if you prohibit trade and shut down the foundry, have you done its workers a favor?

Brad DeLong

By Blogger brad, at 11/26/2007 1:24 PM  

Well, taking the article at face value, if “there are no accidents, never ever. Period” in a factory with virtually no safety cost overhead, then yes, they are better at making manhole covers.

Crummy working conditions are when there is no work to be had.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/26/2007 4:09 PM  

Not sure if you are Brad Delong as you do not have the guts to post anonymously like me; but - if you left open and one guy lost both feet in a small spill, another lost his eyes in a splash and a third dies in a molten breakout would you have been doing them a favor?

I am a safety professional, and what was pictured is barbaric.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/26/2007 10:23 PM  

I refuse to make a gender comment on this subject.

By Blogger Shag from Brookline, at 11/30/2007 2:57 AM  

The safety situation looks terrible in the Indian factory, so I'm not defending it. However...

I visited a place in Ontario Canada 10 years ago which cast engine parts using essential the same methods.

By Anonymous American Citizen, at 12/01/2007 7:27 PM  

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