Bangladesh may o r may not need tougher workplace safety rules, but it’s entirely appropriate for Bangladesh to have different—and, indeed, lower—workplace safety standards than the United States.
The reason is that while having a safe job is good, money is also good. Jobs that are unusually dangerous—in the contemporary United States that’s primarily fishing, logging, and trucking—pay a premium over other working-class occupations precisely because people are reluctant to risk death or maiming at work. And in a free society it’s good that different people are able to make different choices on the risk–reward spectrum….
Bangladesh is a lot poorer than the United States, and there are very good reasons for Bangladeshi people to make different choices in this regard than Americans….The current system of letting different countries have different rules is working fine.
Today, after Matt Yglesias wrote these words, Agence France-Presse wrote these:
Hundreds of thousands of garment workers walked out of their factories in Bangladesh Thursday, police said, to protest the deaths of 200 people in a building collapse, in the latest tragedy to hit the sector.
Grief turned to anger as the workers, some carrying sticks, blockaded key highways in at least three industrial areas just outside the capital Dhaka, forcing factory owners to declare a day’s holiday.
“There were hundreds of thousands of them,” said Abdul Baten, police chief of Gazipur district, where hundreds of large garment factories are based. “They occupied roads for a while and then dispersed.”
Police inspector Kamrul Islam said the workers had attacked several factories whose bosses had refused to give employees the day off.
Managers had allegedly ignored workers’ warnings that the building had become unstable.
Survivors say the building developed cracks on Tuesday evening, triggering an evacuation of the roughly 3,000 garment workers employed there, but that they had been ordered back to production lines.
Would it not be easier for Matt Yglesias to dissolve the Bangladeshi people and elect another?
Update (April 26, 9 am)
New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse: “With death toll at 300, Bangladesh factory collapse becomes worst tragedy in garment industry history.” Matt Yglesias: “The current system of letting different countries have different rules is working fine.”
For more information and responses:
- Greenhouse’s lengthy reporting in the Times on the fallout of the building collapse.
- Dylan Matthews’s informative interview in the Washington Post with an expert on international trade.
- Some righteous, hilarious, and info-rich indignation from Mobutu Sese Seko and his crowd.
- Scott Lemieux on Yglesias’s Lochner-era reasoning re “choice.”
- Justin Doolittle’s further considerations on the collision of theory and evidence.