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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 developing countries have become a hot button issue. One result has been a proliferation of efforts to use the market to put pressure directly on multinational corporations to improve wages and working 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 which consumers, stimulated by human rights activists, demand that corporations improve working conditions in supplier factories. The paper presents evidence that such a consumer demand exists and analyzes the incentives corporations face to respond to it. It examines the nature of the critical intermediary role played by activists in stimulating consumer demands and assesses the outcomes in the major anti-sweatshop campaigns of the 1990s. The paper also addresses the limitations of such consumer-based campaigns and the concern expressed by some that these activist campaigns may do more harm than good, by deterring investment in and trade with poor countries. It concludes with an overall assessment of when 'doing good' actually does good.

Suggested Citation

  • Kimberly Ann Elliott & Richard Freeman, 2001. "White Hats or Don Quixotes? Human Rights Vigilantes in the Global Economy," NBER Working Papers 8102, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8102 Note: LS
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:fth:michin:333 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. 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.
    3. Freeman, Richard B, 1997. "Working for Nothing: The Supply of Volunteer Labor," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 140-166, January.
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    8. Gary Clyde Hufbauer & Jeffrey J. Schott & Kimberly Ann Elliott, 2009. "Economic Sanctions Reconsidered, 3rd Edition (paper)," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 4129.
    9. 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, January.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Vinod, Hrishikesh D., 2006. "Should Asians demand both entrepreneurship and human rights?," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 14-28, February.
    3. 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.
    4. Drusilla K. Brown & Alan V. Deardorff & Robert M. Stern, 2009. "The Effects of Multinational Production on Wages and Working Conditions in Developing Countries," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Globalization And International Trade Policies, chapter 17, pages 623-687 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. J.J. Graafland & H. Smid, 2004. "Reputation, Corporate Social Responsibility and Market Regulation," Review of Business and Economic Literature, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business, Review of Business and Economic Literature, vol. 0(2), pages 271-308.
    9. Chau, Nancy H., 2016. "On sweatshop jobs and decent work," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 120-134.
    10. David Weil, 2003. "Individual Rights and Collective Agents: The Role of Old and New Workplace Institutions in the Regulation of Labor Markets," NBER Working Papers 9565, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Florian Scheiber, 2015. "Dressing up for Diffusion: Codes of Conduct in the German Textile and Apparel Industry, 1997–2010," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 126(4), pages 559-580, February.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
    16. 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.
    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.
    18. 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.
    19. 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.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • R14 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Land Use Patterns
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General

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