Thursday, February 28, 2008

FairTrade Coffee Isn't

Samizdata, along with half of Europe, is now dogpiling the Fairtrade Coffee cartel. If you go into Starbucks, you can usually see their stuff on sale. There are usually some flyers about the concept in the Wall O' Guilt brochure rack. The biggest problem with Fairtrade, in my mind, is what happens to all the poor slobs who can't get Fairtrade certification?

The other problem is price. Price works as a signal. If the price of something goes up, the price attracts producers into the market. If the price goes down, it is a signal to leave the market. By putting a "Fairtrade" minimum price in place, the signal mechanism is screwed up. Everyone keeps producing.

The idea is also beaten about in London's Daily Telegraph.


Fairtrade is, in other words, a front organisation, crafted by unregenerate collectivists to con believers in nice capitalism to buy something which is neither nice nor capitalist. And the way to deal with cons is to expose them for what they are, so that only those who really do believe in the actual values being promoted here continue to support the thing.

I try not to link to Wikipedia too often, but they're sometimes handy. Here's one of the sloppy thinking statements attributed to (?) the Fairtrade organization: Fair trade's strategic intent is to deliberately work with marginalised producers and workers in order to help them move from a position of vulnerability to security and economic self-sufficiency.

Regular readers of my typing should know where I'm headed by now....You name a place where people are truly self-sufficient, and I'll name a place that's still coming out of the stone age. I get what they're trying to say (people shouldn't have to rely on charity). But that's the opposite of requiring land owners to lump their property into a co-op.

1 comment:

Juanita said...

As with any concept, there will be some people who are fair and above-ground in their dealings and others who are not. It may be that there are coffee companies who take advantage of producers but I know there is one who doesn't. Check out for a company run by a Christian man (whom I know) that is doing a great deal of good work in Colombia and now, it looks like from their website, in Bolivia. I highly recommend this company.