I do, however, need to eat … and that was really what I was driving at; the optimum tradeoff is not the same as any and all tradeoff, so, the idea that there should never be any intervention does not stand up to scrutiny.

Wants and needs are really red herrings, unless we are talking about a narrow, inevitable physiological need (like water or oxygen). Whenever there is a choice between possibilities, individuals will make different trade-offs and hence different choices.

I never advocated there should never be any interventions, BTW.

The argument is predicated upon the idea that one size fits all … and I was pointing out that that is not necessarily the case.

I don’t think I even implied that one size fits all, so not sure where that comes from.

Anyone whose optimum tradeoff to sell their children into slave-labour in a sweatshop will be worse off in some environments — tangibly so.

Should government, therefore, not intervene by imposing laws that prevent employers from hiring children?

Good example. If there is no law against employers hiring children in Bangladesh, should legislators in Belgium, the UK or the USA ban the import of apparel that cannot be certified to be child-labour free? A consequence of such a ban would be a drop in demand for Bangladeshi-made sneakers and T-shirts, and an increase in poverty.

Why can I say this? The Bangladeshi families who currently send their children to work in the garment factory do have a choice between on the one hand abject poverty and not subjecting their children to child labour, and on the other hand slightly less abject poverty if their children assemble garments for Western brand names. The fact that they opt for the latter choice suggests that is optimum. Take that possibility away, and only the first one remains.

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Accidental behavioural economist in search of wisdom. Uses insights from (behavioural) economics in organization development. On Twitter as @koenfucius

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