There's a whole genre of free-market literature that defends sweatshops and the like on the grounds that they're the best available option for their workers—jobs they've freely chosen because the immediate alternatives are all worse. I don't reject that argument outright, but I've never found it entirely satisfying either. That's partly because some of those sweatshop titans don't just give their charges low wages and long hours; they engage in direct coercion or fraud. It's one thing to choose a job because the other alternatives look worse. It's quite another to find yourself cheated out of your pay at the end of the day or, worse yet, held captive on a citrus farm with hundreds of other workers and threatened with death if you try to leave.Good stuff!
And by the way, for a refreshing libertarian perspective on sweatshops in the Third World, check out this article by Ellennita Muetze Hellmer in the Summer 2005 issue of the Journal of Libertarian Studies. It's refreshing because it debunks the "it's their best option" argument that free-market advocates start and stop with on this issue.
Hat tip: Kevin Carson.