Fairtrade: you have to be kind to be cruel

I find the idea of fairtrade a little discomfiting. It seems like a nascent giant bureaucracy that wants to control and bless all trade with “third world” farmers.

The soundbite I’ve come up with to describe my unease is “Fairtrade: because you have to be kind to be cruel.”

I like think that if I wanted to really grind “africa” under the boot of tyranny, and I mean even more than now, I think I’d invent something like fairtrade.

This said, I try incredibly hard to be alert to evidence that might make me change my mind. Thus, I’m open to the idea that fairtrade could be a good thing. I’m skeptical though. Evidence welcome.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m totally in favour of free trade. That is, trade between two parties without anybody holding a gun to anybody’s head, or bribing one of the parties (e.g. the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU).

At best, fairtrade slightly levels the playing field between the farmers of europe (who get to snort at the EU CAP trough) and some farmers in the third world (who get to snort at the fairtrade trough. But it completely fucks farmers who aren’t blessed by the fairtrade bureaucracy. C’est la vie.


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