Would It Not Be Easier for Matt Yglesias to Dissolve the Bangladeshi People and Elect Another?

Yesterday, after a building housing garment factories collapsed in Bangladesh, killing almost 200more than 250 workers nearly 350 workers at least 377 workers over 650 workers, Matt Yglesias wrote:

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:

  1. Greenhouse’s lengthy reporting in the Times on the fallout of the building collapse.
  2. Dylan Matthews’s informative interview in the Washington Post with an expert on international trade.
  3. Some righteous, hilarious, and info-rich indignation from Mobutu Sese Seko and his crowd.
  4. Scott Lemieux on Yglesias’s Lochner-era reasoning re “choice.”
  5. Justin Doolittle’s further considerations on the collision of theory and evidence.


  1. Joanna Bujes April 25, 2013 at 11:10 pm | #

    Well, you know. The poor and the rich are equally free to sleep under bridges. And sewing a shirt is just like fighting a forest fire. Free people making free choices. Some choose to die under eighty tons of rubble; others choose to become hedge fund managers.

    • Sam Holloway April 26, 2013 at 12:31 am | #

      Well put. The beauty of globalization is that it often lets us pretend that no one really has to suffer for our wealth. There is no shortage of pundits to help us maintain that cognitive dissonance.

  2. hidflect April 26, 2013 at 4:00 am | #

    Yglesias is a clever person who’s constantly seeking to differentiate himself from others by picking up counter intuitive arguments like some edgy comedian pushing the barrier. The ACTUAL argument in question doesn’t seem to really matter to him. It’s just a vehicle for his career.

    • scott April 26, 2013 at 10:07 am | #

      THAT is his entire shtick, right there. So, when Corey asks whether MY wants to elect another Bangladeshi people, the answer is simple, that the Bangladeshi people in his imagination are just fine as a prop or makeweight to his theory, full stop.

      • BillR April 29, 2013 at 1:39 am | #

        This was also the schtick of that serial poseur, Christopher Hitchens:

        Two altogether opposed political stances can each draw an audience’s attention. One is to be politically consistent, but nonetheless original in one’s insights; the other, an inchoate form of apostasy, is to bank on the shock value of an occasional, wildly inconsistent outburst. The former approach, which Chomsky exemplifies, requires hard work, whereas the latter is a lazy substitute for it. Thus Nat Hentoff, the hip (he loves jazz) left-liberal writer, would jazz up his interminably dull Village Voice columns by suddenly coming out against abortion or endorsing Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court nomination. The master at this pose of maverick unpredictability used to be Christopher Hitchens. Amidst a fairly typical leftist politics, he would suddenly ambush unsuspecting readers with his opposition to abortion, admiration of the misogynist and juvenile lyrics of Two Live Crew (“I think that’s very funny”), or support for Columbus’s extermination of Native Americans (“deserving to be celebrated with great vim and gusto”). Immediately the talk of the town became, “Did you read Hitchens this week?”

  3. JD (@JD1871) April 26, 2013 at 9:52 am | #

    Thanks for the shout-out, Professor Robin.

    Yglesias says he has “surrendered”: http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/04/26/some_further_thoughts_on_bangladesh.html

    • hidflect April 26, 2013 at 11:25 am | #

      Yeah. He’s squirming on the hook now. A semi mea culpa with a bunch of unrelated issues dragged in to muddy the intellectual waters. Boy Genius got his wings melted flying a little to close to the ideological sun…

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