The Real World: Protectionist Style

No, this is not about everyone's favorite MTV reality [sic] show. Instead, it's a neat little Nozickian thought-experiment about the fairness of outsourcing and sweatshop labor. In the now infamous discussion thread, Evan Williams suggests the following:

Let's take this hypothetical situation: there's a country in the middle of the pacific, named "Shabangodia". Now, this country is very populous and rediculously wealthy, even by OUR standards. Janitors make in the order of $400,000 a year. Their cost of living is also much higher than ours. Now, let's say that a shoe company in Shabangodia decided, in order to save money, to outsource their labor to poorer countries, like the United States. The shoe company sets up shop outside Raleigh, North Carolina, and offers jobs making shoes @ $200,000/year. Now, other shoe manufacturing jobs outside of Raleigh pay $25,000 year or so. But back in Shabangodia, shoe jobs pay $800,000/year. So, the shoe company is saving money by outsourcing to Raleigh. Meanwhile, shoe makers in Raleigh have the opportunity to make 8 times as much as they would have previously.

My question is, those folks in Raliegh who are making much more money, do you think that they'd say "wait, wait a minute, SURE I'm making 8 times as much as I used to, but I should be making $800,000, just like those folks in Shabangodia! I'm being taken advantage of!"? No, of course not.

Likewise, the folks in Cambodia who are making much more than the mean wage in their country are in the same position. You may believe that they're "being taken advantage of", but in all reality, relative to their situation, they're better off.

And how does the proprietor of the Buchananite protectionist blog (a proprietor, who, in a flash of bravery, banned Jonathan and I from posting any further comments in the thread) respond to this analogy?

Let's stick with the real world.


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Is William Hung president of

Is William Hung president of Shabangodia?

I read the thread yesterday.

I read the thread yesterday. It was sort of funny that Eric, Dawn and the unfortunate Pete didn't realize how out-gunned they were. I felt like y'all were wasting your time in a "pearls before swine" sort of way, but it was fun while it lasted.

Micha, I think this is

Micha, I think this is unfair, in that it paints an unduly positive image of Pete.

'Let's stick with the real world' would, I think, be a reasonable request in isolation. The problem was that when we hit him with the real world he flit back to unfeasible hypotheticals like 'ah, third world factory workers may be better off than their peers, but they're not as well off as we are. Did you forget that option?'

'Which option is that Pete?'

'The one which should exist'.

He only blew his right to use the 'lets talk about the real world' defence when he declared that he thought it immoral to let third world workers decide on their best option when better ones ought to be available to them in an ideal world.

Coincidentally, now that i've been banned from the forum too they've started taking pot-shots at my motives and education. Ain't life grand?

Bernard, perhaps you are

Bernard, perhaps you are right and it is unfair of me to be so fair to Pete. But I was just floored by his lack of intellectual curiousity that he would dismiss such a beautiful analogy on the grounds that it does not describe "the real world." Of course it doesn't: hypothetical examples aren't supposed to describe the real world. But they are supposed to teach us something about the real world by putting things in a different perspective. People who dismiss such counter-factuals without good reason, even when the counter-factuals are outlandish, demonstrate that they are not really interested in a discussion of ideas at all.

What a jerk. The least he

What a jerk. The least he could do was argue with you. Banning unpleasant but non-disruptive commenters is such a cop-out (though one he is entitled to employ).

And of course, the fact that he didn't "get it" goes without saying...

Keep checking on the thread.

Keep checking on the thread. I jumped into the game late but I think I'm holding up my side fairly well. Plus as of this writing I haven't been banned, which is either a good sign or a sign that the administrator hasn't read the thread lately.

I shouldn't have followed

I shouldn't have followed that link.

Oh, argh, it was terrible. But I felt trapped like a highway rubbernecker, I just couldn't pull myself away from it. I kept reading and reading and groaning and groaning and...

Don't DO that to me! :)

Hee, hee. You guys got

Hee, hee. You guys got banned.

That seems to be Pete's answer for everything, doesn't it? Competing goods, competing ideas...

I asked the admin at

I asked the admin at American JoBlog to remove the bans. I don't know what precipitated your action but I certainly did not find your comments offensive. (Even if they were, the shame would only be on the person posting and indicative of inferior ability to logically argue a point.)