I appreciate your reply- it was thoughtful and lucid. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Well, I thought I wasn't going to have time for a long(-ish) reply, but once I started writing I couldn't stop, so here you go-
First, I'd say that "free choice" obviously isn't an absolute state. But I think that there are more or less free choices. Working for a factory in the US is a more free choice while working for a factory in a country that has no other good options is a less free choice. I could have been more clear about that.
Second, I'm not going to argue for or against free will itself, because whether or not it exists, we have the appearance of free will and have to make decisions as if it does exist. It's similar to the simulation arguments in that way- maybe we live in a simulation, but it doesn't really matter from a practical perspective.
Lastly, I don't believe that it's paternalistic to evaluate the possible outcomes of my own actions (as the factory owner) and change my behavior based on them in order to conform to my own system of ethics.
It's funny, but during the original conversation that led to this essay, the person arguing for factories was arguing that it's the best way to pull poor countries out of poverty. He was accused of paternalism as well, so that argument goes both ways.
Unless I'm misunderstanding, it seems like pumping the water up from an aquifer to the surface would be enough height to act as a battery- you wouldn't drain it to ground level, you would drain it back down into the aquifer.
I considered that. I wonder if you could plant some hardy, dry-climate crop the first few years and till it under to improve the soil composition.