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I have been reading about fair trade and basically, products with this title have a "floor" price. This means that regardless of the market, the specified crops cannot be sold below a certain price. According to its advocates this sort of trade protects small farms and underrepresented communities from falling prey to market fluctuations, and from being bought out by larger farms.

Do you think such a process is moral or that I should be consuming products labelled under such a tag?

asked Oct 16 '11 at 08:32

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edited Oct 24 '11 at 11:24

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Greg Perkins ♦♦

From fairtradeusa.org: "We seek to empower family farmers and workers around the world, while enriching the lives of those struggling in poverty. Rather than creating dependency on aid, we use a market-based approach that empowers farmers to get a fair price for their harvest, helps workers create safe working conditions, provides a decent living wage and guarantees the right to organize. Through direct, equitable trade, farming and working families are able to eat better, keep their kids in school, improve health and housing, and invest in the future. Keeping families, local economies, the natural environment, and the larger community strong today and for generations to come; these are the results we seek through Fair Trade.

"We aim to channel more of the opportunities and benefits of globalization to the underprivileged farming and working families who today are being left behind.

"Protecting the environment goes hand-in-hand with protecting the future livelihoods of local communities. The Fair Trade model requires rigorous protection of local ecosystems and ensures that farmers receive a harvest price, which will allow them to practice sustainable agriculture. We encourage farmers to transition to organic agriculture because it is safer for farm workers, healthier for consumers and better for the environment. Ultimately, we help farming families become the best stewards of their land.

"As Americans become increasingly concerned about the state of the world and look for opportunities to use their power in the marketplace to make a positive difference, we seek to provide an avenue for consumers to vote with their dollar. As we educate and inspire more and more consumers, we hope to be a force for change."

Given the above mission statement, I'd avoid "Fair Trade" products like the plague.

The above indicates a fundamental concern for those in poverty, rather than a fundamental concern with creating wealth. It also indicates a fundamental concern with protecting "the planet" rather than a fundamental concern with quality of human life.

The even more fundamental premise is that a nonprofit organization will serve to make trade more moral, as if trade for profit is not in and of itself moral.

"Fair trade" is self-sacrificial trade.

answered Oct 17 '11 at 10:46

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John Paquette ♦

It is not only self-sacrificial, in most instances it will destroy the environment that it's proponents seem to value highly (for the record, I value pristine environments for recreation as well). For a quick update on fair trade coffee, read http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2008/0808/p09s02-coop.html For a deeper diver read Matt Ridley on this topic (especially on intensive farming) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpEWwIb0Xxg

(Oct 23 '11 at 19:38) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

My understanding of the idea of "fair trade" is that it began as a result of some small farmers in places like Africa not having access to current market prices for their products (for example, coffee and cocoa), so they ended up being taken advantage of by various intermediaries.

However, the Green Left seem to now have latched onto it, and rather than just helping to correct pricing inefficiencies, they are attempting to impose their twisted sense morality, economics and environmentalism on these farmers -- ultimately to their detriment. Basically, the farmers are now being taken advantage of by a different set of intermediaries.

I like the idea of efficient prices, but the rest of it is a load of crap, IMO.

answered Oct 30 '11 at 03:35

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Rick ♦

If you sell something without knowing how desperately some people want it, a middleman with this knowledge can buy low from you, and sell high. He is "taking advantage" of your lack of knowledge.

If this is a problem, how is it properly to be remedied? Qua ignorant, do you deserve someone to provide you with the knowledge that would enable you to get a higher price? Should the advantage taker be stopped, or morally condemned?


Fair trade says yes. This implies that you are not responsible for learning.

Knowledge is a value that must be earned.

(Oct 30 '11 at 11:18) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John, I agree.

When I said that farmers were being taken advantage of by middlemen, I didn't mean to imply that those middlemen should be morally condemned. After all, buy low, sell high is a cornerstone of Capitalism.

And when I said that I'm in favor of efficient prices, I didn't mean to suggest that should happen by any mechanism other than the farmers learning. I've heard about some coffee famers who have joined together into cooperatives that have allowed them to buy the hardware and software that provides access to current market prices -- that's all good as far as I can tell.

(Oct 30 '11 at 17:26) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

Fair Trade Coffee Isn't:


After four years of fieldwork in the coffee, tea and flower sectors in Ethiopia and Uganda, ... the SOAS researchers found people living in ordinary rural communities enjoyed a higher standard of living than seasonal and casual agricultural workers who received an apparently subsidised wage for producing Fair Trade exports. Women’s wages were especially low among producers selling into Fair Trade markets, according to the researchers.

(May 21 '14 at 20:13) c_andrew ♦ c_andrew's gravatar image
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Asked: Oct 16 '11 at 08:32

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Last updated: May 21 '14 at 20:13