Monday, March 28, 2005

Acts of commerce and acts of charity - Cafe Hayek: "Why didn't the hunger-strikers demand that George Mason University or Catholic University extend charity to Georgetown University's janitors? Or why didn't these strikers demand that all merchants in Northwest DC extend charity to these janitors? Why didn't the strikers give their own money as charity to the janitors? (They're students, you say; so they don't have much extra cash. Well, they can take out loans to give charity today to the janitors and then work after graduation to repay these loans.) Or why didn't these hunger-striking students demand that Georgetown University increase its charitable contributions, not to its relatively well-off janitors, but to seriously poor people in sub-Saharan Africa?"

Thank you, Don Boudreaux, for getting to the nub of the question: "Why was the pre-strike janitorial wage as low as it was? Answer: because Georgetown University discovered that, at that wage, it got as many janitors as it needed, of sufficient quality, to perform the desired cleaning services. To pay more would have been an act of charity to the janitors and not a act of commerce."

I am reminded of the pilloring Nike receives for engaging in mutually beneficial transactions with it workers.

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