Saturday, January 24, 2009

Kristof Copies Krugman

A couple of years ago I posted a link to Paul Krugman's excellent essay on sweatshops in the third world (this was back when Krugman was an actual economist).

For many years a huge Manila garbage dump known as Smokey Mountain was a favorite media symbol of Third World poverty. Several thousand men, women, and children lived on that dump--enduring the stench, the flies, and the toxic waste in order to make a living combing the garbage for scrap metal and other recyclables. And they lived there voluntarily, because the $10 or so a squatter family could clear in a day was better than the alternatives.

So I was a bit surprised to read this editorial recently by Nicolas Kristof in the New York Times:

Before Barack Obama and his team act on their talk about “labor standards,” I’d like to offer them a tour of the vast garbage dump here in Phnom Penh. This is a Dante-like vision of hell. It’s a mountain of festering refuse, a half-hour hike across, emitting clouds of smoke from subterranean fires.

The miasma of toxic stink leaves you gasping, breezes batter you with filth, and even the rats look forlorn. Then the smoke parts and you come across a child ambling barefoot, searching for old plastic cups that recyclers will buy for five cents a pound. Many families actually live in shacks on this smoking garbage.

Now I think both editorials are good mind you, and the wording is different enough that it is not plagiarism, but Kristof is hardly being original.

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