Do Sweatshops Belong in a Free Market?
By Michael Kleen
Libertarians and market-anarchists often cite the non-aggression principle (no force, no fraud) when summarizing their philosophy, so I am always perplexed when I hear support for sweatshops in conversations with individuals who self-identify as libertarians or market anarchists. In fact, sweatshops, those citadels of cheap labor associated with laissez-faire capitalism and industrialization, perpetuate both force and fraud against the people employed there, and so they are incompatible with a free or libertarian society. By supporting this form of economic exploitation, many libertarians and market anarchists both undermine their philosophy and alienate potential supporters among the working class.
Sweatshops are generally considered to be factories or workshops in which employees, often children, work over nine to ten hours a day for wages that barely allow for the purchase of basic necessities. Furthermore, the working conditions at these factories or workshops are often considered to be hazardous or unsafe. Sweatshops do not provide their employees any benefits, such as health insurance or worker’s compensation, and employees do not enjoy any form of job security. Today, sweatshops can be found all over the world, but they are most common in developing nations, such as India, China, and Mexico.