We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals;
we now know that it is bad economics.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
I saw Serenity the other day, a Sci-Fi movie where there is a Galactic Empire (where do I heard that before?) called The Alliance, and a bunch of outcasted rebels discovered a video which proves that, in its efforts to keep people calmed, the government’s scientifics have developed a gas that either make you calm, so calm that you leave yourself to die, or so violent that you deform yourself and go thought the galaxy eating mortals. Our heroes try to reach a broadcasting post where they hope to deliver a message, only to find that one of the government’s minions is waiting for them. After a fierce, guts-all-over-the-place battle, the minion watches the video and is quickly converted to the rebel’s side, letting them broadcast the message and joining the revolution. At the end we understand that the government has been seriously weaken by the diffusion of the message and public’s opinion now has shifted in favor of our heroes.
The sad part is that in reality, such a scenario will never happen. The majority of people just don’t care enough to actually fight for something they may believe. All America went to war against Iraq because they had weapons of mass destruction and because former President Saddam Hussein was linked on people’s minds to the attacks of the World Trade Centre and Pentagon. When it was obvious that everything was a lie and Bush Jr. just wanted to finished what Bush daddy was incapable to do, Where were the protest, the demonstration against the war? Are people now convinced that the war was unnecessary? Are we going to see George W. Bush judged for crimes against humanity, which already cost 3,000 American and 20,000 Iraqies lives? Not in our life.
When it was obvious that the CIA assassinated Salvador Allende in Chile, was Pinochet removed from the power and judged for its crimes? No.
In the same manner, if you ask people if fair trade is good they will answer yes, but when you try to make them pay more, they likely will run to the next Wal-Mart to profit on the low prices.
Dr. Ken Peattie, from Cardiff School of Business, made an excellent study about the green consumer. In previous posts I have shown how fair traders rely upon the green consumer a lot, and in the goodness of the heart of people. While is nice to think that consumers are going to buy green products by the sake of environment and social issues, the wide majority will not. It doesn’t matter how much you broadcast the message. It is not a question of people not caring. It’s a question of people not caring enough.
I am not cynical about the situation; while I hope that more people get involved in social matters, the only way to make fair trade and other similar initiatives successful will be using common sense and basic economic law. When it will make economic sense to do what is right, the rest will be done by addition. Ethel Barrymore stated that we must learn day by day, year by year to broaden your horizon. The more things you love, the more you are interested in, the more you enjoy, the more you are indignant about, the more you have left when anything happens. While we wait to people to be more enlighted, let’s work for justice following common sense and economic tradition.
UPDATE: Jorge has posted a comment that will cast more light on this subject