Bryan Caplan  

Public Opinion About Trade in the Muslim World

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A new World Public Opinion survey of Muslims in seven nations finds that solid majorities favor globalization and trade:

Asked about "globalization, especially the increasing connections of our economy with others around the world," majorities in six of the seven nations polled say that it is "mostly good" for their country. Approval is highest among Egyptians and Nigerian Muslims (79% and 78% saying mostly good, respectively). Sixty-three percent of Azerbaijanis, 61 percent of both Iranians and Indonesians, and 58 percent of Palestinians see globalization as mostly good. While support in Turkey does not reach a majority, a plurality still calls globalization mostly good (39% to 28%). On average across all seven publics, 63 percent say that globalization is good for their own countries. Only 25 percent think it is mostly bad.
So far, so good. But even larger majorities favor labor standards which, if imposed, would eliminate most of the reason for trade between the First World and the Third:
Although most of the six nations polled are considered to have low-cost labor markets, all publics overwhelmingly support including labor standards in trade agreements. On average 8 in 10 support them, as do at least three in four within each nation. The highest levels of support come from Nigerian Muslims at 89 percent, followed by Indonesians (82%), Azerbaijanis (80%), Egyptians (77%), and Turks (76%).
When economists look at anti-globalization protestors demanding "labor standards," they often see them as thinly-veiled attempts by First World unions to make Third World firms uncompetitive. But this self-interest story just doesn't fly. Not only do large majorities of Western citizens want labor standards; so do the people of the Third World.

Let's hope that unresponsive elites ignore these benighted supermajorities long enough to allow economic growth to raise "labor standards" the one way that really works: Making workers more productive.


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TRACKBACKS (3 to date)
TrackBack URL: http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/887
The author at Club for Growth in a related article titled Friday's Daily News writes:
    THE DAILY NEWS A Shooting Liberal Star - Wall Street Journal Editorial Democratic Platform is for Whiners - Robert Robb, Arizona Republic Obama Tax Proposals - Chris Edwards, Cato Institute Democrats Offer Stealth Liberalism - Kim Strassel, WSJ The Mis... [Tracked on August 29, 2008 9:24 AM]
COMMENTS (9 to date)
gecko writes:

I don't see what this tells you. Just because people in poor countries favor some "standards", doesn't mean that said standards are anything like what people in rich countries want.

jsalvati writes:

I second gecko's point.

Carl Shulman writes:

A common worker complaint in some developing countries is that promised wages are not actually paid in full, particularly for informal workers (e.g. illegal migrants in China without work/residence permits).

Jack writes:

As Carl said, workers may wish for more transparency, i.e. low pages are fine, but consistent wages please.

Les writes:

Considering that most Muslim countries are dictatorships with heavy censorship, government-controlled media, uneducated suppressed women, rigid political correctness, draconian punishment (including beheading) for deviant opinions and high rates of illiteracy, what possible value could be placed on so-called "public opinion."

William Rogers writes:

Certainly wealth is a concern among poor workers but they may be more concerned about living in a trusting society. Measures of transparency, corruption, and trust are all highly correlated with the productivity of nations, so it is difficult to determine if the main concern of poor workers is about compensation or trust. US workers live in a nation with high levels of trust so it seems likely US workers are almost entirely worried about protection from competition and not protection from crime.

Isaac K. writes:

Les, I am only marginally surprised at your assessment of "the majority of Muslim countries."

Have you actually BEEN to any of these countries? or are you simply basing your opinions on a preconceived image of the word 'Muslim.'

The trade-off in economic globalization depends on the comparitive economic status of the connected countries and the relative demands for goods. If I were to live in the Grand Duchy of Fenwick, which has little to export and is largely self sustaining, opening my borders to foreign trade could very well devestate the local economy as all money flows out when foreign goods float in.

Question: what exactly is meant by "labor standards" to which the question refered? Minimum wage vs. an open labor market vs. anti-immigration vs. anti/pro-unionization??
each of these has a different economic effect depending on the specifics of the situation. To blanket them as wiping out the benefits of globalization is a bit of a generalization.

TequilaKid writes:

An important aspect of labour standards is the prevention of accidents and occupational diseases. Work-related accidents and occupational diseases are extremely costly to many third-world economies because they reduce the labour force, increase the number of unproductive citizens, consume health-care resources and inflict pain on the victims and their families. I believe that great progress can be made on this front at relatively little cost. Currently in China, for example, safety considerations barely enter into the design of industrial plants. Including basic safety measures, like routing electrical cable far from workers, placing covers over moving machinery that is within reach, filtering exhausts, etc. would likely result in net savings to the economy when set off against the costs I outline above. If the government imposes uniform safety standards, much of the equipment required for safety will start to be mass-produced and will consequently fall in price. Consequently it is probably worth while to pay attention to this aspect, at least, of labour standards.

Kurbla writes:

Supporting dictatorship in the name of the "productivity" and justifying it with belief that whole society will eventually benefit from such dictatorship?

I know few skinheads who could like this idea ...

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