My more liberal friends at church tend to rag on me for being so anti-government. They would like to believe that government power could be used for good purposes, such as supporting living wages, in the hands of the 'right' people. But to me, the fundamental idea shouldn't be to get the government to force employers to pay a living wage, but rather to convince consumers to demand that the producers of the products they buy earn a decent living! That's how the free-market could help us toward a just society!
I decided to put my money (literally!) where my mouth is. I've made a decision to begin a personal boycott of slave labor. While I could try to go cold turkey and apply this decision too all of my purchases, I am going to start out with clothing.
There are two companies that sell clothing that is hand made by the Amish and Mennonites in Indiana and Pennsylvania. One is a website called Plainly Dressed out of Pennsylvania and another is the Gohn Brothers out of Indiana. (You can request a Gohn Brothers catalog by writing to P.O. Box 1110, Middlebury IN, 46540)
Both of these companies sell hand made, plain clothing and have assured me that their laborers earn fair wages. I ordered three shirts from Plainly Dressed as well as a pair of pants and am looking at some of the fall/winter wear that the Gohn Brothers sell for later this year.
I think the Quakers have it right when it comes to the testimony of simplicity. William Penn, the Quaker who founded Pennsylvania, once wrote:
[Personal pride] leads people to a fond value of their persons, especially if they have any pretence to shape or beauty. Some are so taken with themselves it would seem that nothing else deserved their attention. In these things they are precise and very artificial and spare no cost. But what aggravates the evil is that the pride of one might comfortably supply the needs of ten. Gross impiety it is that a nation's pride should be maintained in the face of its poor.
If we would just take a look at our own lives and "simplify, simplify" as Thoreau once said, perhaps then we'd have the money to feed to poor and afford to pay living wages to those who need it most. And first on my list to simplify, my dress code!
Plain dress, here I come!