Why Libertarians think Fair Trade Sucks.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Sep 7, 2009
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Fair-Trade—the very notion of “helping poor people” by stabilizing and guaranteeing steady market prices in arenas rife with flux—is bullsh*t…from the point of view of an idealistic, right-of-the-right libertarian. So what’s wrong with Fair-Trade, according to these hard-righters? The below is a small excerpt. For more, click Doonesbury comic below and go to “lowercase liberty.”

doonesbury fair trade sucks

Fair Trade is the same story on a smaller (and yes, voluntary) scale. When you choose to spend your dollars on Fair Trade products, not only are you not helping out the poorest coffee growers or farm workers; you’re actually steering wealth away from them. I don’t know too many leftists who feel sanguine about further impoverishing the poorest of the working poor, and yet that’s what all leftist economic policy amounts to — even, it turns out, when that policy is pursued peacefully.

For another, more on-the-ground and perhaps less philosophical perspective, click the below photo:

vox pop


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


7 Responses to “Why Libertarians think Fair Trade Sucks.”

  1. I have removed my previous comment in light of making it in a moment of reaction rather than lucidity (I won't get into the details, suffice to say that someone who identified as a Libertarian made some equally ill-informed and broad-sweeping generalisations as I did).

    To that end I'm grateful to Tom for his comment.

    Points on 'correct sentence structure' aside (as if this lends any gravitas to comments, informed or otherwise) my issue is not with Libertarians, per se, but with a blind devotion to an economic theory that the USA has championed to it's own detriment, and the detriment of the world at large.

    Free market economics is an appalling idea; there is not a single successful national economy created around it – even a child with a basic grasp of mathematics could determine that the USA, rather than being a stalwart poster-child for Free Trade is fundamentally bankrupt.

    Free Trade's strongest proponent – Alan Greenspan – admitted in a Congressional enquiry into the recent collapse of the US housing market, that his faith in the self-regulation of markets was misplaced http://ow.ly/oneu

    ndsmith's response is clear and rational – and explains in simple language and correct sentence structure, why we need Fair Trade.

    The point i was making previously is that the pushing of Free Trade – combined with the US history of interventionist foreign policy (and a perverse protectionist domestic trade policy evidenced in part through farmers subsidies; further evidence if we needed any that the USA is not genuinely interested in Free Trade)- has caused the collapse of many sovereign economies. Fair Trade is an attempt to reverse the damage caused by this activity.

    Champions of Free Trade are like champions of Communism – their grasp of both economic theory and social sustainability is dangerously simplistic and completely unsubstantiated in any critical analysis of history.

  2. Tom Frascone: great article.
    Yesterday at 4:38pm

    Waylon Lewis: I like this site. I'm far from a Libertarian, but prefer them immensely to neo-conservatives.

  3. mike says:

    I can not put up a hugely intellectual argument on this, but I make one point. Fair Trade is primarily not about helping poor people, although a benefit can be reasoned from Fair Trade purchases. To me the single biggest benefit is that when market prices are set by the buyers, the large corporate growers have a distinct bargaining advantage over the small independent grower. This is not about subsidizing the poor, but enabling Fair competition. The tide rises all the boats. Call it socialist or whatever intellectual idealistic term you want. The West thinks these countries should be subservient to their needs with no regard to the welfare and dignity of the people who are serving them.

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  6. Free Markets says:

    "my issue is not with Libertarians, per se, but with a blind devotion to an economic theory that the USA has championed to it's own detriment, and the detriment of the world at large. "

    Except that the US has never operated on a Libertarian market. Your supposition is entirely false, and your presumption that we "need" Fair Trade is rooted in Top Man fallacy. Your grasp of economics and history is juvenile, at best.

  7. Free Markets says:

    All you accomplish is to remove competition and incentive. Market prices are only set in stone when you have the government step in and make draconian adjustments as per some misplaced sense of "fairness".

    You are literally creating your own problem.