Benjamin Powell uses his position as head of the “Free Market Institute” to argue that sweatshops are good for sweatshop workers. “I never understand, if you’re not making a living wage, how come you’re alive?,” jokes Powell in a standard stump speech line.
With his funding and position as head of the “Free Market Institute,” Benjamin Powell travels around and casts aspersions over and over again on the worth of the anti-sweatshop movement because he says it gets its money from unions and is therefore ethically tainted.
If it’s acceptable to cast doubt on the stance of anti-sweatshop organizations with the observation that they’re funded with union money, as Powell has done all over the country, it must be acceptable to evaluate Powell’s stance on sweatshops with reference to his funding.
The Free Market Institute is supported by a $1.7 Million grant from the John Templeton Foundation. Benjamin Powell defends sweatshop wages of $2 a day, but apparently he feels he needs more than $2 a day to do his work. Grants from the like of the John Templeton Foundation (including additional anonymous multimillion-dollar grants) allow the Free Market Institute to pay undergraduate students $1,000 a semester to read free-market books and follow discussion prompts of a FMI faculty member; apparently, Benjamin Powell feels the students are worth more than $2 a day to do their work. The John Templeton Foundation providing $1.7 Million to support Benjamin Powell’s activities can engage in such funding because it holds the wealth of the late Sir John Templeton, who made his fortune in no small part through the Templeton World Fund, an investment fund that has long generated income for wealth holders by investing in companies operating in third world countries (“emerging markets”) some of which invest in further companies with further subcontractors that find advantage by paying low, low wages. You and I know some of these as “sweatshops.”
If the arguments of anti-sweatshop organizations are less worthy for receiving union money, what is the worthiness of pro-sweatshop arguments funded by sweatshop money?