The horrific factory collapse in Bangladesh, now surpassing 1,100 in total deaths, has caused many to ponder how we might prevent such tragedies in the future, leading to plenty of ideological introspection about economic development and free trade.
Describing the situation as “neither too simple nor too complex,” Brian Dijkema encourages a healthy mix of confidence and caution. With folks calling for the complete take-down of global capitalism on one end and elevating stiff pro-market arguments on the other, Dijkema reminds us that we should respond, first and foremost, to the simple “brutality of death,” with clarity, prayer, and compassion.
Yet when it comes to understanding the drivers of the disaster, we should recognize the complexity of things. Responding to Pope Francis’s corresponding critique of profit-driven business decisions, Dijkema warns that by “conflating what is complex into what is simple or vice-versa,” we risk dishonoring the “dignity of the human person” and “the dignity of labour.”
Over at Ethika Politika, Andrew Haines places a similar emphasis on complexity, focusing on an argument free-market advocates routinely make in response to such circumstances:
If you know a free market champion, then you’ve heard the argument that low-wage, low-skill, mostly mindless jobs are better than no jobs at all. The idea works well in theory. I admit, I’ve even made the case myself from time to time.
On the other hand, you might have heard recently about things like the collapse of an industrial building in Savar, Bangladesh—home to five garment factories—where the death toll recently topped one thousand.
I say “on the other hand” since the any-job-is-better-than-no-job argument (AJBNJ) works well, until it doesn’t.
Haines proceeds to offer what I think is a fair critique of the any-job-is-better-than-no-job maxim (AJBNJ), arguing that it “suffers a huge blind spot when it comes to connecting ‘better’ economics with ‘better” humanity.’” Read more on The Bangladesh Factory Collapse and the Messiness of Economic Development…