Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, February 12, 2021

Blog Roundup

1. At How to Be Profitable and Moral, Jaana Woiceshyn takes a cue from Apocalypse Never, and makes a condensed case for sweatshops. She closes as follows:

Image by Remy Gieling, via Unsplash, license.
Despite ENGOs' and NGOs' arguments, fashion (and other) brands that source from factories in poor countries (and hold them accountable for worker safety) are not acting unethically, nor are the consumers of such brands. As Michael Schellenberger has shown, producing and consuming fast fashion and other sweatshop products is a win-win scenario for human flourishing: consumers get inexpensive products, workers and their employers prosper, working conditions improve and pollution diminishes, the planet gets greener, and the brands profit. [bold added, link omitted]
It was good to see this argument presented in shorter form than it was in the book, as compelling as it was there. More people need to be aware that such an argument exists, and it would not hurt for more people to take the implicit recommendation to read that book.

2. Noting that "'B-' is the lowest grade you can get on your report card and still have your work evaluated as 'good," Jean Moroney explains at Thinking Directions why that can sometimes be an appropriate standard for a work session:
These are objective standards that are based on identifying the quality of work appropriate to a given context.

The problem we perfectionists have in our own work is that we think there is only one standard: "as good as I can make it." This is a subjective standard that guarantees that you will always "need" more time, because with more time, you can always do better.

The injunction to do "B-" work helps you see that there are different standards in any context.
This and other practical points both illustrate the profound observation on her part that "Treating quality as an out-of-context absolute is self-destructive," and help us escape the trap of perfectionism.

3. At the blog of the Texas Institute for Property Rights, Brian Phillips comments on cultural and political opposition to gentrification, and rightly titles his post "Jim Crow Redux:"
[I]n Louisville, a city councilman has proposed a law designed to prevent gentrification in historically black neighborhoods. Among the provisions in the law are a mandate that all development be approved by a community association and non-residents cannot buy property en masse...

While the law does not specifically prohibit non-blacks from buying property in the protected neighborhoods, the intention is clear: historically black neighborhoods should remain black. And to accomplish that, he proposes a law that essentially mandates racial segregation. [bold added]
The particular attempts to legalize segregation again were new to me, but are unsurprising in today's political climate. Likewise for the intimidation cited earlier in the post.

4. Over at New Ideal, Elan Journo or the Ayn Rand Institute discusses the ideas of Yoram Hazony and other "national conservatives," in a post titled, "Meet the Conservative Authoritarians." He closes as follows:
The "conservative" movement in America lacks a defined, coherent set of ideas. This was a pre-existing condition, vividly evident well before Trump's ascent. The movement has been a collection of disparate factions, with significant inner contradictions. The aim of "national conservatism" is to steer the broader movement toward collectivism, faith, and force. Politically, the more "national conservatism" succeeds in reshaping our society, the more we'll find ourselves moving further away from truly American ideals. [bold added]
I couldn't agree more, and am glad to see Hazony, who has come up in comments here before, examined from a rational perspective.

-- CAV


: Corrected spelling of name of first author cited.


Dinwar said...

On the topic of sweatshops, one thing I've noticed is conspicuously lacking is recognition that the workers have a choice. This means that they are opting in to that system. By their standards, the alternatives are worse.

I've had opportunities to talk to older men who moved from the farm to factories, and I once asked them why they worked in such horrible conditions. Several were missing fingers, and all had scars and horror stories that make my OSHA-trained heart stop cold. They proceeded to educate me on what exactly farming was like in the days where "horsepower" meant actual horses. To give one example: A 12 or 14 hour shift sounds horrific to modern people, but they thought it was amazing--work actually ended, something that doesn't really happen on a farm.

Too many modern critics of sweatshops assume, probably without realizing it, that the options are "work in sweatshops" vs "work in conditions found in the USA and Europe". They don't fully acknowledge that to the person making the choice, the options are "work in sweatshops" vs "live in something that approximates Hell, and have a 50% chance of starving".

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus you write, Noting that "'B-' is the lowest grade you can get on your report card and still have your work evaluated as 'good..." Something something phlebotomist something something blood drive quotas something something B-... Sorry, give me coffee and I might polish that into something funny. [Five minutes and two cups of coffee later.] Nope, sorry, not funny.

On a more amusing note, dunno if you got a chance to listen to some of the YouTube links I sent you. In any case, here is another amusing video to a good song by Bite Me Bambi, an OC ska band. They also do the classics right.

And for a full triad, here's another fun ska cover.

Gus Van Horn said...


Although not as graphically -- and perhaps that is a flaw! -- Schellenberger does make it clear that the factory workers have a choice, and that the move improves their lives.

I joke a little about it being a flaw: Perhaps even in the third world, modern sweatshops are overall better places to work than the very first ones...

In any event, you are absolutely right that it is absurd to fail to take into account what the alternatives are for people who choose to work in factories in the developing world.


Thanks for the links.

Taking a break from a project at the moment and will dive back in after posting this.

Your phlebotomy quip reminds me (of the bulging blood vessels) that the one time a phlebotomist actually missed on a blood draw from me was during my Navy exit physical. (My poor wife, on the other hand: A direct hit is rare for her.)


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus, Dinwar,

I remember reading in the 'The Economist' before it went full ret..., I mean completely gonzo left-wing, about the contretemps with the co-host of one of the morning shows. I think it was Kathie Lee Giffords whose clothing line was targeted because it used 'child sweat shops' in the less developed asian countries; Thailand and India come to mind.

'The Economist' writer wasn't able to track all of the former workers down after the virtue-signalling leftists got the 'sweat shops' shut down, but a significant percentage of these 'child sweat shop victims' ended up turning to prostitution because that was the next best option that they had.

Not a peep out of the left-stream press about this atrocity. And they have the gall to say they oppose child labor without the honesty to admit that they have facilitated child sex trafficking by their 'concern' about 'the children'.


I sometimes wish there was an afterlife where these kind of 'do-gooders' could get a full measure of the 'good' that they have dished out to others.

c andrew

Gus Van Horn said...


You remind me of a quote I found of Peter Schwartz's in his /In Defense of Selfishness/:

"While claiming to support moral principles, the altruist in fact holds that they too must be sacrificed on the altar of need. If you ask whether you should be honest, the altruist will answer: not if it hurts others, not if lying spares someone's feelings, not if your dishonesty satisfies another's needs."

He should have added scare quotes to the last word, and " -- as imagined by the appallingly ignorant altruist."

It is disgusting how such ignorant people can sit back and declare that some freely-chosen action on the other side of the world should be forbidden because it somehow doesn't conform to what their limited imaginations deem to be sufficient -- damn the actual results or the consequences to people they don't know and don't actually care about.


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, in case you haven't seen this commentary on the latest tempest in a thimble, in which Andrea Mitchell said something stupid, doubled down, and dragged a bunch of followers down with her, it's good. I remember someone once kind of like that; once when I was at work with the guy, classical music was playing, and at one point he said, "I love Mozart." I goggled a bit and said, "This is Chopin." He didn't even look embarrassed and just replied, "I was speaking generally."

It does raise a more interesting item of discussion: Are there any authors who have borrowed or adapted a phrase of Shakespeare's and made it their own, so that it's not just an allusion to Shakespeare any more? (This would not include Faulkner, of course.) The only one I can think of, and I'm not sure of it, is William Ernest Henley's "bloody but unbowed," which I think alluded to something of Shakespeare's, though I can find no statement to this effect via Google and I have no access to the Norton anthology where I think I read that statement.

Gus Van Horn said...


I don't know, but that story is hilarious and reminds me of a story from a few of my fellow grad school students. For privacy purposes, let's call me "Michael Bolton," since I share a name with a semi-popular musician.

A couple I knew were giving a lift to a girl a couple of years down from me in the same program. Music played on the radio.

The girl in the back saw me walking on campus, and said, "That's Michael Bolton!"

The driver replied, "No, it's Grateful Dead."