Sunday, January 13, 2008

Good Intentions Create Child Prostitution

From "Economics: Public and Private Choice" by Gwartney, Stoup, Sobel and Macpherson:

Guidepost #6 to Economic Thinking: "Economic actions generate secondary effects in addition to immediate effects."

Pitfall #2 to Avoid in Economic Thinking: "Good intentions do not guarantee desirable outcomes."

Application/Case Study:

Fact 1: Due to Western pressure, Bangladesh outlawed work in garment factories for children under 14.

Fact 2: Somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 children lost their jobs when the garment factories introduced the age limit, and many of them ended up on the streets as prostitutes.

Fact 3: Working as a prostitute is much worse than working in the garment industry, according to Rasmus Juhl Pedersen, adviser to Save the Children Denmark.

Fact 4: Western companies are so afraid of being associated with child labor that the children are thrown out of the factories even though no one has prepared any alternatives for them. Well-meaning Western consumers who boycott products that can be tied to child labor do more harm than good, according to Save the Children Denmark.

Source: Jonah Norberg, Good Intentions Create Child Prostitution


At 1/13/2008 9:05 PM, Anonymous Alex said...

Wow, to be honest, that never crossed my mind as being an after-effect of outlawing child labor in certain countries. Interesting post.

At 1/14/2008 1:17 PM, Anonymous Mario said...

Unfortunately, what Alex is saying is a consequence of the sad state of public information. These ideas have been studied, beating to death figured out by economist since the times of de Tocqueville and Adam Smith on. Economics in one lesson by Hazlitt was written 50 years ago and we still have that most people are ignorant of the simple laws of economics. It seem to me that the educational system and the media did a very good job keeping people away from elementary economic reasoning. I should know, as I was ignorant of all these laws a few years ago, despite having obtained several university degrees.

At 1/14/2008 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Child labour was a fact of life in the U.S. well into the 20th century. It was quite commonplace for children to be let off school to help with harvesting in the 1930's.

Our society no longer has child labour due to its affluence. Why should we shun other countries or companies that contract for goods from foreign nations for the economic reality of poverty in developing nations? Are we not discouraging investment that can improve lives and enable families eventually to be able to afford to send their children to school.

I found it particularly ironic to listen to a friend talking about how agonizing it was to see children making carpets. Like most women, she thinks nothing of buying jewellry comprised of miniscule diamonds. The smallest diamonds in the world are cut by children. Even when I mentioned the child prostitution, she still didn't think it was preferable to make carpets.

One can send money to feed, cloth and educate children in developing countries and there are many westerners, such as the late Sir Edmund Hillary, who have built schools and tried to improve the lives of people in developing countries. These are positive initiatives that anyone is free to support.

Forcing western standards onto other nations without regard to the consequences to children and families is unethical and irresponsible. Using the issue of child labour as a populist rallying cry is even more deplorable.

At 1/14/2008 7:27 PM, Anonymous Alex said...

Mario, I'm currently majoring in economics and usually tend to pick up on these things, but in this case I just never did. This post was like a lightbulb going off...which is why I love sites like these as a suppliment to my continuing education.

At 1/14/2008 9:53 PM, Anonymous mario said...

Alex, I am glad to hear that. You are right about sites like this. They are a wonderful resource for people like us, who like to see the world with the light of reason. Let's hope many other bulbs lighten up!.
Thanks Dr. Perry, keep up the good work!

At 1/22/2008 3:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bring them on over to America! I'm sure with the right oppertunities these childen can grow to be great people. I do find it disturbing that our influences can result in such a ludicrous after-affect, but talking about it is not going to help the youngsters, so lets see some action people!


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