First do no harm
Darwinism, anyone?

Bleeding hearts and unintended consequences

Link: EconLog, The Economics and Philosophy of the Cruise Ship, Bryan Caplan: Library of Economics and Liberty.

Furthermore, if you stopped cruising out of moral indignation, you would hurt the workers, not help them. Your behavior would make it harder to get a job on a cruise ship, which means that more people will be stuck in their native countries earning one-tenth as much. Some favor.

Nevertheless, labor economics 101 did not completely put my mind at rest. Yes, the workers are better off than they would be at home. But then it struck me: Many of these workers are far more qualified than Americans who earn as much money as they do without having to live like Morlocks. Cruise ships employ world-class waiters, who would fit in at the fanciest restaurant in New York. The only thing stopping them from getting these jobs is U.S. immigration law.

Undoubtedly most of my fellow passengers fully supported our immigration laws. So when I looked at their faces, I couldn't help thinking: You people really do exploit and oppress the employees of this cruise ship. As consumers, you expand the workers' job options and help them build a better life for themselves. But as voters, you have done everything you could to keep these poor people from competing in First World labor markets on equal terms. In a just world, your diligent assistant waiter from India might be your boss.

Brian Caplan really hit this on the right spot! Talk about unintended consequences! These bleeding hearts do not want to allow immigrant workers here. They will not take services from them because according to them they are getting exploited by their employers. They will support putting high labor standards as a part of free trade agreements causing wide spread unemployment in third world countries. They will oppose foreign investment in third world countries. Then they will perpetuate the poverty in the third world countries by egging on World Bank and governments of the developed countries to send aid to the third world countries. The aid will only support mad dictators who will take turns to commit genocide of their own population. Worse, when the dictators go out of control, they will support sanctions further screwing up the local population. And then, when they realize sanctions are killing children they will support programs like oil-for-food furthering corruption and nepotism!

Is there anything else that can be done to screw the people in the third-world countries? Is it possible?


Michael H.

Hi Ashish
Maybe this is a bit tangential but working on a cruise ship is not (necessarily) a bad job at all. My niece works on one and loves it.

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