How do you take your coffee? Black? Cream and sugar? Fair?
Over the past decade, “fair trade” labels have become ubiquitous. Not limited to coffee, the fair trade movement has taken root in many agricultural industries, including sugar, cotton, tea, and even wine.
Fairtrade International, a de facto governing body of the movement, states that its mission is “to connect disadvantaged producers and consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower producers to combat poverty, strengthen their position and take more control over their lives.”
Despite its meteoric rise in popularity, does fair trade translate its noble intentions into tangible results? Unfortunately, like a stale cup of coffee, fair trade can leave a bad taste in your mouth. Thankfully, there’s something else with the ability to address the problems that fair trade fails to solve: bitcoin.
To be a part of the fair trade program, producers must become “certified.” Certification is granted to producers who satisfy rigid requirements set by Fairtrade International and other similar organizations.
The certification process is flawed from the outset. Small, disadvantaged producers—those that fair trade seeks to help—are least likely to have access to certification. Many producers do not get certified simply because of the small size of their operations. As researchers Aurélie Carimentrand and Jérôme Ballet conclude, “[C]ertification does not necessarily assist the most marginalized producers, and can in fact actually exclude them due to the high costs associated with certification.”
While fair trade cannot empower the vast majority of farmers, bitcoin can. As a borderless digital currency, third-party organizations—financial or otherwise—are wholly unnecessary. Producers can communicate directly with consumers. Bitcoin can be sent directly from a coffee shop in Seattle to a farmer in Colombia with the click of a button. With bitcoin, restrictions imposed by political boundaries and geographic disparities vanish entirely.
Producers don’t even need to have access to a bank. All that’s necessary in order to send and receive bitcoin is a digital wallet. “Bitcoin can be an alternative for the unbanked community either domestic or abroad,” writes Roger Wu at Forbes.
Joseph Diedrich is a Young Voices Advocate and law student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. As an avid liberty-oriented blogger, author, and speaker, he has been featured or referenced at The Washington Times, Reason Magazine, Liberty.me, The MacIver Institute, the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom, The College Fix, LibertyBlog, and elsewhere. Joseph also holds a bachelor’s degree in music composition and has worked with multiple internet startups. He constantly seeks to identify and illuminate connections between the many diverse people and ideas in his life.