I found myself arguing the justice of international trade with a few leftish college students last week (and was slightly horrified to discover that it’d been so long that some rather elementary economic points took rather longer than they ought have to rouse from their slumber in the corners of memory). One allowed that foreign-owned factories in the developing world do tend to pay better wages than the domestically owned ones, but objected that what was particularly reprehensible about globalization as currently practiced was that the foreign firm (presumably unlike the domestic one) could pay still more. In short, the ugly part—to be remedied by trade laws forbidding the importation of goods from factories that didn’t pay someone’s idea of a “living wage”—was that the workers should be so badly off while the companies employing them reaped huge profits.
Since they were already convinced I was Satan’s second cousin, I let it go at that, but the observation that probably would’ve put me utterly beyond redemption is: It’s precisely when the workers are so very badly off that it’s most vital that still more investment (and employment) be lured to the region. And investors will generally go where there’s the best expectation of high profits. (Some, of course, may invest according to some social conscience, but for them restrictive laws will be otiose.) So really, we ought to hope that the regions with the most immiserated populations be the places where corporations reap the most “excessive” profits, pour encourager les autres.