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Fairtrade Failure – The Only Fair Is Laissez Faire

The Guardian tells us that the Great White Hope of global trade, Fairtrade, isn’t in fact working. On the basis that no one seems to be doing very much of it. To which the answer is great – for the only fair trade is laissez faire.

This does not mean that Fairtrade should not have been tried – to insist upon that would be to breach our basic insistence upon the value of peeps just getting on with doing what they want, laissez faire itself. But the very value of that last is that we go try things out, see whether they work and if they don’t we stop doing them. If they do then great, we do more of them.

So, this is very much less bad than is being made out:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Fairtrade was going to save the world: now consumers fight to keep it going[/perfectpullquote]

Well, no, not really., Some people thought it might save the world, that’s true. So, we went and did it. And we found out that it didn’t, it doesn’t and it won’t. So, been there, done that, on to the next experiment:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Yet the focus on cocoa reveals the limits of the Fairtrade system, which was once going to provide a popular alternative to most goods sold on the high street. There are standards for everything from cotton to gold and flowers, but such products are usually only available at specialist providers or the Co-op.[/perfectpullquote]

Again, OK.

Start from the beginning. Yes, of course people should spend their money according to their principles. That’s the entire meaning of this consumer sovereignty stuff. It’s your cash, the sweat of your brow, you deploy it as you wish. That’s even what we might call laissez faire. You do with your own as you wish. If this means you paying a bit more for cotton then if that’s what pleases you then you do it and you go girl.

True, spoilsports like me might point out that it doesn’t actually achieve much other than make you feel good but it’s still entirely true that you should maximise your own utility. You should spend your cash in manners that make you feel good.

So, trying out Fairtrade, why not? Let’s go see how many other people feel the same way? In exactly the same way we find out whether people like Pet Rocks, skunk or Simon Cowell. Product gets put on the market we see whether it adds to human welfare or not. If people value it – and revealed preferences please, by actually buying it – at more than the use of those scarce resources in other uses then that’s adding to human welfare and long may it thrive. If it doesn’t, if it’s subtracting value from the human experience, then we’ll stop doing it as those trying go bust.

This is not an aberration of the system it is the system and it’s why laissez faire works. Peeps get to do whatever and we keep doing more of what works, less of what doesn’t.

Fairtrade? No, I never thought it was going to work as anything other than virtue signalling for Tarquin and Jocasta but that’s fine. Why shouldn’t Tarquin and Jocasta gain their jollies by virtue signalling? As it turns out, now that we’ve tried it, no one else gives a faeces*. So, we can stop. Except, obviously enough, for those specialist outlets like the Co Op where the odd can still gain their jollies. It being that very mark of a laissez faire, liberal, society that the jollies of the odd are still catered to in due proportion to the desire for them.

*From Gibbon, all the fun stuff’s in Latin.

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