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Out of Poverty: Sweatshops in the Global Economy (Cambridge Studies in Economics, Choice, and Society) Paperback – 10 Mar 2014


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'This eloquent book makes the compassionate case for sweatshops in poor countries as what poor workers voluntarily select as employers because they are better than the alternatives. It is uncommonly clear in this book that the economists' case for sweatshops is based on what's best for the workers, not what's best for efficiency or profits or First World consumers.' William Easterly, Co-Director, Development Research Institute, New York University, and author of The White Man's Burden and The Elusive Quest for Growth

'Ben Powell has written a brilliant and thought-provoking book on sweatshops. He challenges a number of critical beliefs about them which, although springing from concern about the poor, lead to policies that will harm the poor. No policymakers, especially in aid and development agencies like USAID and UNDP, can afford to ignore this masterly book.' Jagdish Bhagwati, Columbia University, and author of In Defense of Globalization

'The term 'sweatshops' is a dirty word to students on American campuses and activists around the world, implying exploited workers toiling in horrible conditions for long hours at low pay. Powell's splendid new book gives us another perspective: how workers view sweatshops as an opportunity for improving their economic condition. Indeed, countless Americans, Japanese, and others enjoy their high standard of today living because their grandmothers and grandfathers worked in sweatshops a century ago.' Douglas Irwin, Dartmouth College, and author of Free Trade Under Fire

Book Description

This book explores how sweatshops provide the best available opportunity to workers and how they play an important role in the process of development that eventually leads to better wages and working conditions. This book addresses a crucially important topic for those who desire to improve the welfare of impoverished people in the third world.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This is an excellent book for people that are serious about helping those ... 25 Aug. 2014
By Benjamin Cliff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book for people that are serious about helping those in 3rd world nations, and not merely feeling better about themselves. This seems harsh, but as someone that has worked with a non-profit this seems to be how many people make charity donation decisions.

If economics is the dismal science this book gets to the heart of it: the limitation of natural and unnatural scarcity by conditions outside of our direct control. Empirical research into these areas exposes us to the rampant poverty they many are very conformable not knowing about. But realism is necessary to those that wish to make improvements to the world.

The economic analysis is sharp and nuanced, it is not generalized. It does not overstate and say what can not be said without complete accuracy.

This book is short and concise and could be beneficial to both to critics and advocates of free markets. It is careful to explain why and how things work even to the point of getting into the intrinsic ways markets work and coordinate.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A book to be applauded by all 26 April 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Dr. Powell's book is grounded in sound, economic reasoning that challenges the propensity of first world thinkers to believe that third world workers face similar alternatives to those of our own, i.e. if they weren't working in a sweatshop, they'd be working for ten times as much and in an air conditioned building. This, as Dr. Powell points out, should be puzzling. Given the choice between a sweatshop with low wages and an air conditioned building with high wages, why on earth would anyone choose the former? The answer, as he cogently points out, is that third world workers do not have the same opportunities as we do in the first world. Recognizing this, he then sets out to demonstrate the enormous, positive impact that sweatshop labor has had on local communities, especially when we consider that these peoples' relevant alternatives are much, much worse.

Wrapping up, Dr. Powell provides hope for the future of these people. As he explains, the developed world has already done the "hard work" of developing new technologies that greatly improve the lives of the people who can take advantage of them. Therefore, the shift from abject poverty to a life more similar to that of our own can (and has) happened much more rapidly, provided that we do not put our misguided concern for the well-being of others in the way of their actual achievement of that well-being.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Sweatshops are an imperfect path out of poverty for the developing world. 23 April 2014
By Gregory F. Rehmke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Elizabeth Gaskell's "North and South" (both book and BBC miniseries) brings to life the challenges and opportunities of England's 19th century sweatshops. Ben Powell's Out of Poverty examines today's textile factories in the developing world and their role as a pathway out of poverty. Migrants from rural villages only gradually acquire skills valuable in modern factories. But as poor people learn how to work with textile and other light industry machinery, their earning power and wages rise. Critics of sweatshops wish there was a better, faster way, wish wages and working conditions could be better faster. Ben Powell is a critic of sweatshop critics, and he examines the many claimed shortcuts to prosperity that wishful thinkers say should be adopted (and mandated if not adopted voluntarily). These alleged shortcuts turn out to cause long delays. Ideally, the unskilled of the developing world could migrate to better-paying jobs. And ideally machinery and infrastructure could more quickly "migrate" to developing countries. Sweatshops are a compromise in today's imperfect world that lacks the freedom of movement and investment taken for granted in the decades before World War I.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Assessment of the Role of Sweatshops for Alleviating Poverty in the Developing World! 26 April 2014
By Rosolino Candela - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr. Powell's book provides a concise, yet thorough, understanding of the role sweatshops play in alleviating poverty in the developing world. Grounded in basic economic theory, Powell analyzes how sweatshops provide the best available alternative for the poorest of the developing world. Although economics is the basis of analysis, Powell's defense of sweatshops is not justified not by economic efficiency or corporate profits. If the goal of economic growth is to alleviate the poverty of the poorest individuals in the worlds, sweatshops must be considered as one of the methods by which to achieve that goal. Attempts by individuals in developed countries to protest sweatshops, which are part of a broader process of economic development, has unintended consequences that harm the poorest people. Dr. Powell's masterful exposition of sweatshops as a means by which to improve the economic welfare of the Third World appeals not only to professional economists, sociologists, philosophers, and political scientists, but also to the interested layman as well!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
How Economics Relates to Sweatshops; How You Can Help Workers 12 July 2014
By Tyler181922 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Ben Powell explains how while sweatshops are not an objectively desirable place to work, they are often better than the other options available to these workers. He illustrates that the best way to increase the economic prosperity of backwards nations is to give workers more options, not cut off rungs of the ladder by trying to shutdown sweatshops and limit them to even less desirable options.

For those who are not capable of understanding economic reasoning because of their ideological faith-or who simply ignore it and let their feelings tell them how economics work- this book will fall on closed minds. For those who seek to understand why workers choose to work in sweatshops, how sweatshops are a part of the process toward economic prosperity, and what one can do to help these poor impoverished workers in third world countries, this book will be a welcome introduction to a topic that deserves serious discussion.
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