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White Hats or Don Quixotes? Human Rights Vigilantes in the Global Economy

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  • Kimberly Ann Elliott
  • Richard Freeman

Abstract

With the continuing expansion of global economic integration, labor standards in developingcountries have become a hot button issue. One result has been a proliferation of efforts to usethe market to put pressure directly on multinational corporations to improve wages andworking conditions in their overseas operations and to insist that their suppliers do so as well.This paper analyzes the dynamics of these efforts in terms of a 'market for standards' in whichconsumers, stimulated by human rights activists, demand that corporations improve workingconditions in supplier factories. The paper presents evidence that such a consumer demandexists and analyzes the incentives corporations face to respond to it. It examines the nature ofthe critical intermediary role played by activists in stimulating consumer demands andassesses the outcomes in the major anti-sweatshop campaigns of the 1990s. The paper alsoaddresses the limitations of such consumer-based campaigns and the concern expressed bysome that these activist campaigns may do more harm than good, by deterring investment inand trade with poor countries. It concludes with an overall assessment of when ¿doing good¿actually does good.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0638.

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Date of creation: May 2004
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0638

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Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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  1. Michael D. Bordo & Claudia Goldin & Eugene N. White, 1998. "The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bord98-1, May.
  2. Freeman, Richard B, 1997. "Working for Nothing: The Supply of Volunteer Labor," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages S140-66, January.
  3. Brown, D.K. & Dearorff, A.V. & Stern, R.M., 1993. "International Labor Standards and Trade: A Theoretical Analysis," Working Papers 333, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  4. Richard B. Freeman, 1998. "Spurts in Union Growth: Defining Moments and Social Processes," NBER Chapters, in: The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century, pages 265-296 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. repec:fth:michin:333 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Gary Clyde Hufbauer & Jeffrey J. Schott & Kimberly Ann Elliott, 1990. "Economic Sanctions Reconsidered: 2nd Edition," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 82.
  7. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
  8. Kimberly Ann Elliott & Richard B. Freeman, 2003. "Can Labor Standards Improve under Globalization?," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 338.
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Cited by:
  1. Pat Auger & Timothy Devinney, 2007. "Do What Consumers Say Matter? The Misalignment of Preferences with Unconstrained Ethical Intentions," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 76(4), pages 361-383, December.
  2. Michael Maloni & Michael Brown, 2006. "Corporate Social Responsibility in the Supply Chain: An Application in the Food Industry," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 68(1), pages 35-52, September.
  3. Schleifer, Philip, 2010. "Only strategic action? Private governance in the global sportswear industry," PIPE - Papers on International Political Economy 3/2010, Free University Berlin, Center for International Political Economy.
  4. Martha A. Starr, 2006. "Macroeconomic dimensions of social economics: Saving, the stock market, and pension systems," Working Papers 2006-09, American University, Department of Economics.
  5. Cletus C. Coughlin, 2002. "The controversy over free trade: the gap between economists and the general public," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jan., pages 1-22.
  6. Drusilla K. Brown & Alan V. Deardorff & Robert M Stern, 2002. "The Effects of Multinational Production on Wages and Working Conditions in Developing Countries," Working Papers 486, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  7. Graafland, J.J. & Smid, H., 2004. "Reputation, corporate social responsibility and market regulation," MPRA Paper 20772, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Richard B. Freeman, 2013. "One Ring to Rule Them All? Globalization of Knowledge and Knowledge Creation," NBER Working Papers 19301, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Auger, Pat & Devinney, Timothy M. & Louviere, Jordan J. & Burke, Paul F., 2010. "The importance of social product attributes in consumer purchasing decisions: A multi-country comparative study," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 140-159, April.
  10. Vinod, Hrishikesh D., 2006. "Should Asians demand both entrepreneurship and human rights?," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 14-28, February.
  11. Benjamin Powell & Matt Zwolinski, 2012. "The Ethical and Economic Case Against Sweatshop Labor: A Critical Assessment," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 107(4), pages 449-472, June.
  12. Iain Davies & Zoe Lee & Ine Ahonkhai, 2012. "Do Consumers Care About Ethical-Luxury?," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 106(1), pages 37-51, March.
  13. David Weil, 2003. "Individual Rights and Collective Agents: The Role of Old and New Workplace Institution in the Regulation of Labor Markets," NBER Working Papers 9565, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Pat Auger & Timothy Devinney & Jordan Louviere, 2007. "Using Best–Worst Scaling Methodology to Investigate Consumer Ethical Beliefs Across Countries," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 70(3), pages 299-326, February.
  15. Morley Gunderson, 2001. "North American Economic Integration and Globalization," The State of Economics in Canada: Festschrift in Honour of David Slater, in: Patrick Grady & Andrew Sharpe (ed.), The State of Economics in Canada: Festschrift in Honour of David Slater, pages 355-377 Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
  16. Shareen Hertel & Lyle Scruggs & C. Patrick Heidkamp, 2007. "Human Rights and Public Opinion: From Attitudes to Action," Economic Rights Working Papers 3, University of Connecticut, Human Rights Institute, revised Apr 2008.
  17. Drusilla K. Brown & Thomas Downes & Karen Eggleston & Ratna Kumari, 2006. "Human Resource Management Technology Diffusion Through Global Supply Chains: Productivity and Workplace Based Health Care," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0616, Department of Economics, Tufts University.

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