|July 22nd, 2010
|ea, fairtrade, money
Imagine for the moment that I am writing this blog here in massachusetts in 1810 instead of 2010.
I believe that because I
have sufficient money to provide for myself and my family, I should
be sending the rest of what I earn to my local missionary society to
help those unfortunate enough to have been born in regions where
christianity is unheard of.  I also oppose slavery, and while in
massachusetts slavery is not prohibited I think that it is wrong for
me to benefit from the slave trade.  So what is 1810 jeff
supposed to do about the many goods, including staples like sugar,
rice, and cotton, that were overwhelmingly produced with slave
labor? There are roughly three options:
- Buy the cheapest thing, send the money saved to do missionary work
- Buy the cheapest thing known not to be produced by slaves (possibly by substituting a different good or by choosing goods made in certain places or by certain trusted organizations).
While I don't put buying non-organic food in the category of "you should never do it", I think it's possible that buying some kinds of non-fair-trade food goods might belong in that category. The one that Julia brought up was chocolate. Apparently most chocolate is produced under near-slavery conditions. I need to read more about it.
Update 2011-10-05: I don't accept this argument any more.
The problem with me stealing food from people in the parking lot is
not that "it is wrong" but that it decreses expected happiness.
People would respond to my theft, and their responses would be
negative. Ending slavery might or might not have been a better use
of time and money than funding missions, but one of the two is more
cost effective at maximizing happiness (I don't know which one 1810
jeff would have chosen; I'm objecting to 2010 jeff trying to say
"both"). So the question with chocolate is whether the benefit of
spending more to buy fair trade is greater than the benefit of
spending more on an effective
charity. And I think the answer is in the charity's favor, by a
 This was back before computers could do proportional fonts.
 I like to think I would have opposed slavery this actively.
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