Fair Trade is not a Fairy Tale, but: A bit of both worlds

6 08 2008
By Economicsfairy
A much laughed about project ten or twenty years ago, Fair Trade has meanwhile managed to establish itself – Scotland even wants to become the world’s first “Fair Trade Nation”. There are efforts to make universities “Fair Trade”, there are “Fair Trade towns”, you can find more and more Fair Trade coffee, bananas, tea, chocolate … whatever, in the shops. In our co-operative round the corner, I get the impression that there is a new Fair Trade product nearly every week. So people MUST buy the stuff (even though more expensive), otherwise the shops wouldn’t offer it any longer. How can economic models account for that? (Model Fair Trade products as “luxury goods” for which people like to pay more?)
By the way, I don’t think that Fair Trade can save the world, but it is an example of how economics and a spiritual way of living (in this context the idea that we are all linked and that my actions or non-actions do have an effect on others) may be reconciled. In the end, we certainly need another world trade system and a different WTO. But in order to achieve that the developing world still has a long way to go. Fair Trade could be an encouraging step in between.
At Glasgow’s Aye Write Festival in March, I attended an event with Harriet Lamb, the Fair Trade woman in the UK. It was such a pleasure to listen to her talk about her experiences and her new book, she was full of energy and passion about what she’s doing and what she has achieved, that I thought: She makes money with doing something really good and valuable and she loves it – what a nice merger of the two worlds!
And she might be rewarded for all that work time and again: Hasn’t some Harvard genius found out in his recent game theory experiments that “it pays to be nice”?









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