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Technology & Innovation

The Fair Trade Revolution

The very fact that fair trade conforms to market principles is what unnerves some. If an activity makes market sense, they suspect that it can't be politically genuine.

It turns out that fair trade attracts critics on either end of the spectrum. People on the right worry that whenever commodities are sold at above-market prices, consumers must be sacrificing utility and producers wasting resources. On the left, many slam fair traders for compromising their moral purity by working with large corporations. Free marketers, for their part, have little cause for concern. Fair trade’s above-market prices are not enacted by government; rather, they resemble other kinds of market-pricing arrangements. At any given time, some consumers will value a product—an airline seat, a hotel room—more than others do.


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