John Calfee of the American Enterprise Institute has a great reminder about the value of international business and the unintended consequences that come when profit-seeking firms do business. He illustrates both in his analysis of a story about Pakistani women who are working in low-level jobs at places like McDonald’s. The jobs, which they take at great personal risk in some cases due to societal mores about women, provide much needed income, skills, opportunity, and freedom for these women. He concludes with this:

It remains to be seen how well things will go for the young Pakistani women venturing to work for McDonald’s and Makro in Karachi. But much good may come of it. If so, that good is unlikely to be the result of government programs, mandates, or benchmarks (whether Pakistani or American), or the result of work by international agencies or non-government organizations. We probably cannot even give much credit to anyone’s “bully pulpit” or to corporate “social responsibility,” to use the standard term for do-goodism by profit-seeking firms. The truth is simpler. These crucial improvements for women seem to be a routine byproduct of the search for new profits by international firms. Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” is once again providing unintended benefits from business enterprises, benefits that may well eclipse the intended benefits from just about everything else.