Voluntary 'fair-trade'

From Washington Post columnist Marcela Sanchez:

An economy in which millions have no hand in their financial future is precisely the one that many fear. In the case of the coffee industry, it was free trade that flooded the market with cheaper, lower-quality coffee, mostly from Vietnam, and closed thousands of farms in Latin America. Despite new efforts to respond to the crisis, today only 5 percent to 10 percent of the product is sold at "fair trade" prices, according to Equal Exchange. [...]

We shop in a world economy whether we like it or not. The choice some consumers are making -- and hopefully more make in the future -- is to purchase products that more directly benefit those currently left behind. Happy shopping!

I have no problem with people choosing to buy goods from whomever they desire. However, why do I feel this is only the first step along the road to more protectionism, which definitely does not help 'those currently left behind'?

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I find the first sentence

I find the first sentence quite curious. Under what system do millions of people have a hand in their financial future? Using the political process to crowd-out and replace the market process doesn't give people any more control; instead of being just one consumer among many, individuals become just one voter among many. Personally, I feel I have much more control over my life as a consumer than as a voter. I suspect the same is true for most people in general as well, if they honestly think about it.

So Vietnamese coffee farmers

So Vietnamese coffee farmers are less important than South American coffee farmers, or what? It seems to me that if Vietnamese coffee is cheaper, then Vietnamese coffee farmers are making less, so they're even more "left behind" (whatever the hell that means) than the SA farmers.

Obviously, I've got no problem with people choosing to buy SA coffee over Vietnamese coffee if it makes them feel better about themselves, but it's a pretty twisted logic that values South Americans over relatively poorer Vietnamese.

And I agree with Micha. I have no idea what it means for someone to "have a hand in their financial future" (since the author of this article is obviously using the phrase in a way to which I'm unaccustomed), but I suspect consumers feel more empowered than people standing in line for bread.