Friday, February 12, 2010

Making The Case for Child Labor and Sweatshops

"As any historian could tell you, no society has every pulled itself out of poverty without putting its children to work. Back in the early 19th century, when Americans were as poor as Bangladeshis are now, we were sending out children to work at about the same rate as the Bangladeshis are today.

Having had the good fortune to get rich first, Americans can afford to give Bangladeshis a helping hand, and there are plenty of good ways for us to do that. Denying Third Worlders the very opportunities our ancestors embraced, whether through full-fledged boycotts or by insisting on health and safety standards they can’t afford to meet, is not one of those ways."

~Economist Steven E. Landsburg

Here's more from Landsburg on closing sweatshops.

28 Comments:

At 2/12/2010 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr.Perry
You are getting this info out of web,i believe. I would really appreciate if you can pullout information and write the about Clandestine Sweat Shops called Software Outsourcing Companies. When they get people from india to US for a short period those people are told to work Unlimited hours here in USA. Also in India they get a letter/email every other week from Bosses in US saying they dont encourage working overtime hours. After halfhour their local boss comes and tells them how the bosses want the work to be done with in unreasonable time .( they can complete the work only if they work 20 hours a day)(THe company i am saying here is very big and has presence in aerospace engines to everyday lights and fans)
How in the world a 20 year old from india with no exposure to computer is better than the people with masters in USA for these outsourcing companies? How come a person with no knowledge to company process is coming here on
L1/B1 visa as intercompany transfer/ Business VIsa for the outsourcing company and work on site for the other company as low paid worker. Mr.perry for you it may be "Free Markets" but for those in US suffering it is cheap labor and Cheating. how come EU is slapping VAT on outsourcing successfully . Cant we do that ?

 
At 2/12/2010 10:58 AM, Blogger Evil Red Scandi said...

Personally, I think it's incredibly arrogant of a wealthy country like the US to tell poorer countries to limit their growth based on our mores, especially mores (as expressed in the post) that we shared at their stage of development.

I would argue that a major problem has developed in the US with the near-elimination of child labor - people are now entering the work force in their late teens / early 20s and a very large number frankly don't know "how to work" (show up on time, dress appropriately, not slack off, complete tasks, etc). I managed to work full-time while I was in high school, and have been continuously employed (often by myself) since I was 14 years old. I seem to have turned out OK, and I don't think I'm particularly exceptional in that regard.

With regards to the anonymous poster above - if the work you produce as a software developer is on par with what a "coding sweatshop" in India can put out (utter crap), then you probably don't have any grounds for complaint. Hopefully that's not the case, and you'll be able to find employment someplace where the management realizes the value of good code. Managements go through fads over the decades, and hopefully the negative value inherent in offshoring software development will eventually penetrate their thick skulls. Until then, find work where what you do is appreciated.

 
At 2/12/2010 11:07 AM, Anonymous Nicki said...

Put your own air mask on first, then assist others.

 
At 2/12/2010 11:10 AM, Blogger Xavier Onassis said...

"I would argue that a major problem has developed in the US with the near-elimination of child labor - people are now entering the work force in their late teens / early 20s and a very large number frankly don't know "how to work" (show up on time, dress appropriately, not slack off, complete tasks, etc)."

I wholeheartedly agree, and my experience is much like yours. My dad had a strong work ethic, and it was expected that I get a job to pay for gas, auto insurance, "cool" clothes that I wanted, etc. There is such a sense of entitlement, it seems to me, among young ppl that they expect that society owes them a good paying job (as they were given most of whatever they wanted growing up without having to work for it) that they don't perform up to snuff when they actually get a job. Oh, Christ...I just realized I sound like my grandfather.

 
At 2/12/2010 11:13 AM, Blogger juandos said...

" I would really appreciate if you can pullout information and write the about Clandestine Sweat Shops called Software Outsourcing Companies"...

O.K. anon @ 2/12/2010 9:52 AM how come you don't set up a blog to do just that?

It seems like it might be something quite interesting to look into...

"Personally, I think it's incredibly arrogant of a wealthy country like the US to tell poorer countries to limit their growth based on our mores..."...

Very good point!

Loved this line by Landsburg: 'Probably Moyna’s only half right. Tom Harkin doesn’t loathe her; he just doesn’t give a damn about her. Ditto for the union goons and the American business owners who tout their made-in-America, untouched-by-Third-World-hands product lines'...

 
At 2/12/2010 12:06 PM, Anonymous morganovich said...

pulling up the drawbridge once you are inside the castle to stop others from getting any of what you have is a time honored tradition.

it's what drives wealthy capitalists to suddenly become liberals once hey are done accumulating THEIR fortune.

countries are the same way - the carbon crowd is trying to tell the developing world not to develop. fat chance. we want them to act rich before they are. it's essentially the equivalent of telling them to buy gucci suits and porsches instead of saving up for a house or reinvesting in their business.

that's how wealth is destroyed, not how it's created.

 
At 2/12/2010 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh Mark, I normally respect your blog and you post a lot of good material, but come on - have you ever read about the injuries and deaths that occurred to children in the 19th and 20th centuries, of whom worked in deplorable and dangerous conditions? There's a very good reason why this was outlawed in the 20th century; we don't allow abuse against children by parents or teachers, nor should we allow it by employers. What's next - legalized prostitution of fourteen-year-olds?

I'm not against outsourcing, but if there's anything our industrial base proved for decades, it's that nations can build what they need without the base of child labor.

Seriously - would you want your son or daughter working 14-hour days, six or seven days a week, around hot vats of oil or volatile chemicals, or around risk getting their fingers cut off in textile mills?

 
At 2/12/2010 3:21 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"I'm not against outsourcing, but if there's anything our industrial base proved for decades, it's that nations can build what they need without the base of child labor"...

Really?!?!

You might want to take a look at this MAP...

The History of Child Labor in the United States: Hammer v. Dagenhart

By Sharron Solomon-McCarthy

 
At 2/12/2010 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" ... have you ever read about the injuries and deaths that occurred to children in the 19th and 20th centuries, of whom worked in deplorable and dangerous conditions?"

We here about it incessantly, it's called "White Privilege".

 
At 2/12/2010 3:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

--
O.K. anon @ 2/12/2010 9:52 AM how come you don't set up a blog to do just that?
--
I follow prof's blog and i am expressing what i felt to him. Looks like the facts we write cause Heart burn to the Outsourcing Companies and their henchmen( called Lobbyists ).
Point out if even one line is wrong in what i wrote. Tens of thousands of people that come here from India on H1B, L1 B1 are slaving out.

 
At 2/12/2010 4:32 PM, Blogger juandos said...

anon @ 2/12/2010 3:55 PM writes: "Point out if even one line is wrong in what i wrote. Tens of thousands of people that come here from India on H1B, L1 B1 are slaving out."...

Why every word of every line...

First and foremost No One is forcing those people to come this country on these special visas...

Second and this is most important, NO ONE is forcing anyone in this country to work in a sweat shop....

Are there some obscure state or national laws mandating certain people to work in a sweat shop?

If so you should link us to a credible source so we can see for ourselves...

Third we have the laws we deserve since we have the choice to vote in the politicos who make and pass these laws on a local, state, and national level...

 
At 2/12/2010 5:44 PM, Blogger QT said...

Anon.,

It is not up to others to disprove your assertions. In argumentation, when one makes a claim, one also provides supporting evidence to support that claim. ie. source material, links.

Unfortunately, your postings do not provide a shred of credible evidence to support your assertions. From the "why can't we do that?", I assume that you don't live in India so what is the source of your information on SOC in India? Is it a credible source?

By contrast, Steven Landsburg makes his claim and links to a report on child labor. He further discloses that the report is from an activist so we might wish to do further research on the topic accessing more objective sources.

 
At 2/12/2010 7:18 PM, Anonymous Craig said...

There's a very good reason why this was outlawed in the 20th century

Yes, there is. It's exactly what the article was about -- did you even read it?

By the early twentieth century, we were wealthy enough that we could begin to worry about poor labor conditions for children. People in poor countries can't; they're too busy trying to earn money to eat. And our trying to force them into enlightenment just prolongs their poverty.

Why can't or won't you do-gooders comprehend that?

 
At 2/12/2010 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Juandos said,

Really?!?!

You might want to take a look at this MAP...

The debate is about protecting young children from predatory child labor practices - something that has a history of children - some of whom were 10 years of age and younger - from working in dangerous, deplorable working situations such as canning factories or facilities with volatile chemicals. This is not about keeping teenagers from working at McDonald's or "Quickie Mart."

"The History of Child Labor in the United States: Hammer v. Dagenhart"

So? The Supreme Court's justices have a history of imposing or upholding deplorable laws on society as they see fit - slavery anyone?

"In Prigg v. Pennsylvania, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793, stating that slaveowners have a right to retrieve their "property."

How about Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission?

Consider Thomas Jefferson's reaction to Marbury vs. Madison:

"To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so. They have with others the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps."

Anyway, U.S. v. Darby overturned Hammer v. Dagenhart in 1941. As I recall, families evidently didn't starve because of it, and we seemed to do just fine building our arsenal during WWII - without kids in the ammo plants.

Seriously, would you want your young child doing this or this?

 
At 2/12/2010 8:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Craig said,

"Yes, there is. It's exactly what the article was about -- did you even read it?"

You mean this?

"Back in the early 19th century, when Americans were as poor as Bangladeshis are now, we were sending out children to work at about the same rate as the Bangladeshis are today. Having had the good fortune to get rich first, Americans can afford to give Bangladeshis a helping hand, and there are plenty of good ways for us to do that."

The excerpt is incorrect. Predatory child labor didn't get outlawed until U.S. v. Darby in 1941 - that's not the early 20th century.

"By the early twentieth century, we were wealthy enough that we could begin to worry about poor labor conditions for children. People in poor countries can't; they're too busy trying to earn money to eat. And our trying to force them into enlightenment just prolongs their poverty."

This assertion is outright silly. Both Europe and Japan managed to rebuild themselves from the ashes of WWII without kids working in the steel mills.

Take the lesson from a Christmas Carol: Bob Cratchit was able to take better care of Tiny Tim because he got a pay raise - not because he sent Tim off to work in the coal breakers.

 
At 2/12/2010 8:16 PM, Anonymous Stephen said...

Should child prostitution of a 10 year old as a result of a rational choice due to dire economic circumstances be allowed? If not, than to what extent should a 10 year old choosing to work in very dangerous conditions be allowed? Both put the child in danger. Is it because the potential for harm of one is greater than the other? What about a situation where the potential for harm was roughly equal?

What about a situation where the parents force a young child to work in very dangerous conditions, using the child effectively as a slave? Should the first world oppose that? Would it be a bad thing to refuse to purchase the products that were produced by children in such a situation?

 
At 2/12/2010 11:45 PM, Anonymous Lyle said...

Recall that on a farm children worked, and farms have always been dangerous places. I suspect by 10 or 11 the child might have driven a team plowing in the old days. When people moved to the city the same economic situation continued. At that point the question is where the next meal is coming from, so that whatever it takes is done. Once you get to the point that its more or less clear for a significant part of societ you can afford to worry about child labor, and also pollution and occupational disease.
As a society gets richer you see concerns with this, note the concern about air pollution in Bejing starting last year.
Conditions were as bad in the US in 1900 see the Triangle ShirtWaist disaster for details.

This also gets into the whole problem of judging the past by todays standards, rather than the standards of the time. One does need to look at the wealth of a society to determine when restriction on child labor will be rational.

 
At 2/13/2010 11:27 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"The debate is about protecting young children from predatory child labor practices..."...

I don't think it is about predatory child labor practices at all, its all about choice and government interference in choice...

"So? The Supreme Court's justices have a history of imposing or upholding deplorable laws on society as they see fit - slavery anyone?"...

Sorry anon, no pseudo white guilt over slavery on my part, you'll have to do better than that...

Funny how your Harper's link was at best spotty in its historical reporting...

"How about Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission?".

183 pages and the phrase, 'child labor' doesn't occur once, so what's your point?

"As I recall, families evidently didn't starve because of it"...

Wow! I didn't realize you were that old...

"Seriously, would you want your young child doing this or this?"...

Again you fail to see that its all about choice...

Now I may not want my own children to do what was done back at the turn of the 20th century but I wouldn't dream of stopping you from sending your own children out to do that sort of work...

 
At 2/13/2010 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can clearly see how strong is the Lobbyist money is working for outsourcing. You write one line they are ready to spin the truth .
DOnt be under the impression you have a written proof for everything. Just because ppl like you are around Companies that are so called Big5 or whatever consulting are able to get away with cheap labour. No one is forcing the ppl to come here .right . Can you even guess why US unempolyement is going up while China and India are going down. You sending the wealth away.

 
At 2/13/2010 8:00 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...


pulling up the drawbridge once you are inside the castle to stop others from getting any of what you have is a time honored tradition.

It's not so much "pulling up the drawbridge" as much as it's a counter to the "businessman can do no wrong".


Personally, I think it's incredibly arrogant of a wealthy country like the US to tell poorer countries to limit their growth based on our mores

Not at all if we want to trade with them. While you might have had a good experience at an earlier age, it provides incentives for business to not do so.

The arrogance is on the other end thinking that they can get away with said practices. It is also with the people who run those organizations as if they were some projection of the Almighty.


Now I may not want my own children to do what was done back at the turn of the 20th century

That's what you're advocating, juandos. This is one concept that has remained historical in the US for a non-political reason.


Seriously - would you want your son or daughter working 14-hour days, six or seven days a week, around hot vats of oil or volatile chemicals, or around risk getting their fingers cut off in textile mills?

This is the reality that child labor brings. Modernizations, appeals to cultural differences, or claims of "wealth" don't change it.

 
At 2/14/2010 1:43 AM, Anonymous Lyle said...

In reply there are a group of enterprises where children do dangerous work in the us that are unregulated, the family farms. Kids drive tractors, deal with large dangerous animals and the like. Farms are among the most dangerous work environment in general because there is so little regulation with respect to safety, and for example tractors tend to turn over very easily, and many older models don't have a roll bar.

 
At 2/14/2010 1:54 AM, Blogger sethstorm said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2/14/2010 1:57 AM, Blogger sethstorm said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2/14/2010 2:02 AM, Blogger sethstorm said...


Managements go through fads over the decades

So actually respecting the worker was just a fad? How telling.


In reply there are a group of enterprises where children do dangerous work in the us that are unregulated, the family farms. Kids drive tractors, deal with large dangerous animals and the like. Farms are among the most dangerous work environment in general because there is so little regulation with respect to safety, and for example tractors tend to turn over very easily, and many older models don't have a roll bar.


Indeed, but the damage that a family farm could cause is relatively small versus the Third World "company towns" that use child labor. IIRC, there's an exemption for family farms in the US(depending on the state's affinity to agriculture), so that makes your point moot.

It is not arrogant to do something when business has bought influence in the town, region and country.

 
At 2/14/2010 7:54 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"That's what you're advocating, juandos. This is one concept that has remained historical in the US for a non-political reason."...

I see what your problem is sethstorm, your command of the English language is more than a bit 'iffy' at best...

BTW even at the turn of the century there was NO ONE holding a gun to the head of parents and forcing their kids to work in these shops in the United States...

Oh, one more thing, are there laws in these third world countries mandating child labor? If so name off a few (credible links would help your case)...

 
At 2/14/2010 10:57 PM, Anonymous Frank said...

If the people of Thailand want their 13yr old girls to work as prostitutes to earn money to feed their family, it's nobody's business.

Why don't liberal mind their own business !!!!!!!

 
At 6/09/2010 12:36 PM, Anonymous Delhigirl said...

Mr Perry,
As an Indian, now living in the USA, I have had personal experience with child labor and I now believe that I have sufficient distance to analyze the problem.

When a child works instead of going to school, he/she is condemned to a life of penury, of working as a driver, a maid, a farmhand.
You take away any possibility of advancement.

I know because the people who work in our household as maid and driver (now adults) all left school to work as children. They are intelligent honorable people who were never given an opportunity to better themselves.

The argument of course if that if the children do not work, the family will starve. This argument is responsible for much of India's population explosion.

Children are being given meals in schools now (although like many things in India, this policy doesn''t work as well as it should). No child should choose between food or school and no parent should force a child to work.

 
At 11/01/2010 12:19 PM, Blogger Maureen said...

“If the people of Thailand want their 13yr old girls to work as prostitutes to earn money to feed their family, it's nobody's business.”

Can we stop talking about the children and let the children speak for themselves? Children are people and have a voice of their own but we keep smothering because we believe we know whats best. The problem is that money is so wrapped up in this issue that people fail to the value of each individual who are victims of child labor. These are children's LIVES at stake, forget the wealth of the country, something needs to be done.

 

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