I’ve been trying to figure out the deeper logic of ‘fair trade’ bananas, coffee, etc.; certified organics; Priuses (Prii?) and other obviously righteous consumer responses to the world’s many injustices.
Right on the spot they make loads of sense. Fair, organic, green, check. My confusion comes from tracking them back as attempts to subvert the destructive exploitativeness of the free market. I’m not clear on how they can do that. These alternatives are expensive. For example fair trade coffee, by definition, costs more than unfair trade coffee. According to the logic of the market this makes it a luxury niche commodity. It may be ‘worth it’ for two basic reasons: because a happy worker grows better coffee, and/or because morally pure coffee ‘tastes’ better than the exploitative kind. So far, so good I guess.
But where’d that extra money come from to spend on the version of the commodity deluxified by fairness? Given the core/periphery asymmetries of the global economy, in which billions of people can’t afford daily coffee at all, the answer would seem to me to track back to exploitation no matter what. We have the money to buy coffee ‘fairly’ only because we’re playing the buy low-sell high game well somewhere else in the economy. So who’s getting screwed to make us feel better about our caffeine fix?