The Electric Commentary

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

My Two Favorite Paul Krugman Quotes

Paul used to make some pretty profound points, back in the good old days.

In 1993, child workers in Bangladesh were found to be producing clothing for Wal-Mart and Senator Tom Harkin proposed legislation banning imports from countries employing underage workers. The direct result was that Bangladeshi textile factories stopped employing children. But did the children go back to school? Did they return to happy homes? Not according to Oxfam, which found that the displaced child workers ended up in even worse jobs, or on the streets--and that a significant number were forced into prostitution.


That is from a column entitled Hearts and Heads, from the New York Times, April 22, 2001. The following is from the same column.

If you buy a product made in a third-world country, it was produced by workers who were paid incredibly little by Western standards and probably work under awful conditions. Anyone who is not bothered by those facts, at least some of the time, has no heart. But that doesn't mean the demonstrators are right. On the contrary, anyone who thinks that the answer to world poverty is simple outrage against global trade has no head--or chooses not to use it. The anti-globalization movement already has a remarkable track record of hurting the very people and causes it claims to champion.


Both quotes appear in Naked Economics, by Charles Wheelan, which I just completed. If you enjoy a good pop-econ book, this is an excellent choice. Some of it will be familiar; it gets very basic at times. However, part of its beauty is that Wheelan's examples are simple and memorable, and I have no doubt that I will make frequent use of this book in future arguments/discussions.

If you happen to live in Chicago, it is an especially fun read, as many of his examples and anecdotes either take place in Chicago, or use the city as a backdrop.

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