If there’s one thing that every socially aware progressive knows, it’s that you should always buy fair trade. When asked about what fair trade actually means, many progressives won’t be able to tell you, but they’ve seen the promotional material showing groups of smiling African and South American farmers, grateful that smart, hip liberals are buying fair trade coffee, so they know it must be a good thing.
As a raw vegan, I already have a tough time finding foods that I can eat, but it’s even harder when you only buy fair trade too. Because of my commitment to buying fair trade, I’m forced to shop at a limited collection of health food stores, and grow a lot of my food myself. But it’s my duty to do something to solve global inequality, which has nothing to do with genetics, and everything to do with lack of opportunity and capitalist greed, so I’m willing to sacrifice convenience for the greater good – and you should do the same.
Fair trade means exactly what it says – a fair deal for producers in developing countries. Capitalism doesn’t generally reward low level producers for their efforts – it tends to instead reward large retailers and wholesalers who package, process and sell these products in bulk. This isn’t fair, because the producers do a lot more work than these middle men, but are at the mercy of the buyers when it comes to selling their produce. Capitalists argue that the low skill labor that produces these goods is in high supply, and in order to get paid more, they would need to invest in machinery, employees and various tools to reduce their costs and gain leverage. But these farmers lack the ability to get loans to do this, because greedy capitalists don’t trust them to pay the loans back.
Because producers in third world countries are inevitably people of color, fair means paying more. In the brutal dog eat dog free market, people only get paid for the value that they create, and since white western patriarchs own the means of production, they get paid the most. With fair trade however, a disadvantaged farmer from Guatemala gets paid twice as much as he would in the free market, allowing him to feed his family and give the extra money to his struggling friends and relatives, who will spend it on frivolities or decide to have more children just for the heck of it. Now, instead of one poor farmer, we have a whole network of happy Guatemalans with smiles on their faces, producing even more replicas of themselves, who will also rely on fair trade and charity from white people in the future. See what a beautiful world fair trade creates?
So the next time you’re sipping a fair trade soy latte in your tight jeans and checkered shirt with your manly lumber jack beard, dabbed with a trendy cologne, while reading your morning copy of the Accredited Times through your over-sized spectacles; give yourself a pat on the back, because that extra dollar your just spent has helped make the world a little fairer, happier and more diverse.