You said this among other things:
Complaining that the factory conditions are atrocious is all very well, but what if the alternative is unemployment and starvation? Difficult, very difficult.
... and I found that whole post of yours to be very balanced, honest, and considerate.
This is something I've talked over numerous times with my wife (who works in fighting domestic human trafficking here in the USA) and with our friends, most of whom are into socially-conscious purchasing, and the like.
I think it's interesting to consider the micro- or mini-economic impacts of our exporting our own cultural values onto other developing economies. What I mean by that is just what you've pointed out here -- that while the proliferation of sweat-shop labor or harsh working conditions might seem unconscionable to progressive-minded western consumers, sometimes the very workers who are in those east-asian factories would strongly object to the closing of those jobs. We forget quickly (as was also pointed out) that the robber-baron age, or gilded age, of US history was very much the same way, and was critical to our own industrial revolution and creation of an urban middle class. At least, this is the story that's been taught to me.
So what is the solution? As Roger said there may not be a clear-cut choice that is airtight from all sides. If we purchase counterfeit, knockoff, or sweat-shop produced goods, we may subject distant laborers to some temporary suffering. If we refuse to buy those same goods, then we inadvertently lay off those workers, most of whom were at work voluntarily in those sweat shops, and force them to compete for ever-fewer jobs in order to feed their families. The labor will flow inexorably toward whatever opening the market creates, and for the western consumer of conscience, there may simply not be a quick fix.
This is probably an amateurish consideration of the overall issue, as we're getting into a pandora's box regarding macro-economic development and a lot of stuff that I know pitifully little about.
But my point is ... in my view it would seem an oversimplification for us to assume that simply by purchasing from fair trade or ethically supply-chained companies, that we have decisively solved one of the world's problems. Upon closer inspection from the other end of the supply chain, the issue looks a bit more nuanced than that.
This is not to put anyone down here or to take a particular side. I'm just sharing the fruit of some own IRL conversations I've had with activist friends here.
As a final gift, if anyone really wants to explore the rabbit hole and see how far you have to go to avoid being a hypocrite, take a look here:
Through large amounts of gathered data and statistics, this little app will make an educated guess at how many slaves you employ, based on your consumption and existing possessions. Pretty eye-opening.
Update / Edit
Just took the survey again myself. Looks like I employ an estimate of 42 slaves.
Maybe instead of talking about lowest base weight, we could compare how many (or few) slaves each of us employ inadvertently. I'm joking of course. Well, at least half-joking.