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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Human compassion more important than profits

Published: November 18, 2005
Section: Opinions

Mainstream economists tend to be cautious about fair trade, even skeptical about it, even critical of it, in terms of its potential effects on consumers and on the owners of coffee plantations. Mainstream economics is not geared to worry about, let alone take into serious consideration, the lives, working conditions, and human realities of workers in fields, factories, offices, and other institutions.

That these are real people with real lives and real problems and real victimization by a heartless economic system is at the heart of the fair trade movement as I understand it. The fair trade movement is a daring, perhaps even brilliant, attempt to redress that gaping hole in mainstream economic thinking. It raises the question of whether human compassion is more important than profit-at-all-costs. It answers that question, Yes.

Editors Note: Gordon Fellman is a professor of Sociology and Chair of Peace and Co-existence Studies.