Worked Up

bangladeshBack in 1992, a ten year old Bangladeshi girl named Moyna was one of 50,000 children who lost their jobs in the wake of protectionist legislation sponsored by the execrable union-backed Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. How does Moyna feel about Americans now? “They loathe us, don’t they?”, she says. “We are poor and not well educated, so they simply despise us. That is why they shut the factories down.” (The quote is from this report by the Bangladeshi activist Shahidul Alam.)

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. Those people (by and large) aren’t hateful; they’re just mercenary and callous. It’s their customers–the ones who would cheerfully pay extra for the privilege of supporting a $30-an-hour middle class American instead of a struggling $1-an-hour Bangladeshi—who are motivated by something like hate.

If hate is too strong a word, then let’s just call it bigotry, which is, after all, what it is. Not all favoritism is bigotry; it is natural and unobjectionable to care more about family than your friends, more about your friends than your neighbors, and more about your neighbors than a stranger in the next town. Unfortunately, it is perhaps equally natural to care more about strangers who happen to speak your language and share your skin color than strangers who look and sound a little, well, strange. So bigotry is natural. All the more reason to resist it.

If bigotry isn’t the culprit, what is? Misguided concern for Moyna? Maybe so, though it’s hard for me to imagine concern quite that misguided. As Moyna could tell you, poverty sucks. 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 fullfledged boycotts or by insisting on health and safety standards they can’t afford to meet, is not one of those ways.

A hat tip to my favorite ninth grader, who learned about Moyna in school, and cared.

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104 Responses to “Worked Up”


  1. 1 1 GregS

    It’s odd that people can so decry “sweat shops” without giving a moment’s thought to the sweat shop workers’ alternatives. I’m guessing subsistence farming and scrounging through trash heaps for scrap are far less pleasant and less lucrative than working in a factory. The workers apparently agree…they’ve decided themselves to go to work in the factories.
    It’s also odd that anyone can observe a consensual transaction between two people and complain that one of the two consenting parties is being exploited.
    Sorry, Moyna. I, for one, would give you my business in a heartbeat.

  2. 2 2 jambarama

    I think someone opposing child labor might be right that the children are exploited. But you need to look at why – why don’t children get better wages? Maybe they aren’t as productive as adults, so they’re paid less – but that’s not exploitation unless they’re being paid less than they’re labor is worth.

    More likely they simply have a poor bargaining position. If true, the solution isn’t to prohibit them from making any bargain, but to find ways to improve their bargaining position. Move more work to Bangladesh to compete for their labor, give children more information, let them organize, or do any of a dozen other things to improve the conditions. As GregS said, the alternatives are almost certainly less attractive.

  3. 3 3 Steve Landsburg

    Jambaramba: Both theory and evidence tell us that you can’t raise wages nationwide through bargaining. (You might raise them in one sector, but only at the cost of lowering them in other sectors, and overall you’ll make people poorer, not richer.) The only way to raise wages is to make people more productive. This means providing them with more and better capital and giving them opportunities to trade.

  4. 4 4 GregS

    “Both theory and evidence tell us that you can’t raise wages nationwide through bargaining.”

    Is it also true that you can’t raise wages worldwide through bargaining? Or is “nationwide” a different constraint than “worldwide”?

  5. 5 5 Steve Landsburg

    GregS: Is it also true that you can’t raise wages worldwide through bargaining? Yes. I should blog about this sometime.

  6. 6 6 GregS

    Steve,
    You should indeed blog about it, although I do foresee an imminent “moral objection to economic theory.”

  7. 7 7 Manfred

    Jambarama and GregS: Steve is right (as usual, but not always… :-)). The only way to raise Bangladeshi wages is for Bangladeshi authorities to encourage capital formation in Bangladesh. At the end of the day, all (real) wages are a reflection of the marginal product of labor. This marginal product of labor increases only when the amount of capital in the economy increases [in other words, when "labor" in Bangladesh, or anywhere else, becomes scarcer compared to capital]. This is how wages in the U.S., Germany, Denmark, Singapore and South Korea increased; they did not increase by “bargaining”, or by “exploitation” or by “central planning” or by “government decree”. They increased because such countries had magnificent capital formation over decades [and maginficent policies that allowed such formation], and now their labor is very productive, compared to Bangladeshi labor or Senegal labor or Ugandan labor. Final note: this does NOT mean that Bangladeshi or Senegal labor is not hard working; do not confuse “highly productive” with “hard working”. High productivity comes because of the amount of capital you have to work with, which in Bangladesh and Senegal is much lower than in South Korea and Denmark.

  8. 8 8 Josh

    Typing on iPhone so excuse typos, but I don’t think the customers are biggots really. Call them simple-minded and stupid in this issue perhaps, but I just think they haven’t thought the issue through enough. They haven’t asked the question “what is the alternative for these people”? That’s why you’re important mr. Landsburg. You ask the important questions.

  9. 9 9 Dave

    Manfred – thanks for the great comment!

    “”when “labor” in Bangladesh, or anywhere else, becomes scarcer compared to capital”" – was a true “aha” moment for me.

  10. 10 10 Harold

    Congratulations for pointing out that bigotry is natural, and the need to be always on our guard to combat it. If we say bigotry is only for the bad people, we cannot allow ourselves to see our own bigotry, and so cannot counteract it.

    I have a couple of points. In the old days in Britian, there were many laws introduced to limit child labour – 10 hours act, compulsory education and others. These were all decried at the time as disasterous for industry, but turned out not to be so. Since then they have been championed as wonderful. Is it the case that these laws were merely a distraction, and did no good to reduce child labour? Was it just increased wealth that produced this result?

    “Both theory and evidence show you can’t raise wages nationally through bargaining” I will take this as read. But you could still have good outcomes even within this restriction. Taking issues of bonded labour and effective slavery out of the equation, the parents of the working children presumably want the best for them, but need to send them to work simply to survive. These are in no position to bargain, and so cannot raise their own income. If you introduce legislation to pay them more, this must be taken from others. But if those athers are very well able to afford it, and reduce their income by a scarecly noticed amount, then isn’t the outcome better? The small amount of money does much more good at the bottom than at the top, even if there is a bit less to go around.

    Within the raising wages nationally argument, I do not know the origins, or how imports are taken into account. Say the factory owner spends much of his wealth on imported goods and pays the children a pittance. If he is forced to pay the children more, or to employ adults instead, he will have less to spend on imported goods. The workers spend their money locally, so more money goes artound the local economy, making thenm all better off. I am sure I have missed something here, but what is it?

  11. 11 11 przemek

    I think misguided concern plays as great of a role as bigotry. Generally people are opposed to free trade for two reasons. The first one is to “protect jobs in our country,” and the moral motive of this attitude is clearly bigotry. Most of those who use this argument have never actually thought all the way through to the moral premises on which it rests, but the fact that they don’t know they’re bigots doesn’t mean that they aren’t.

    The second reason is to “protect impoverished people from exploitation.” I think most of those who avoid buying products made with “sweatshop labor” genuinely believe they’re helping poor people. Their intentions are good (they want to protect the poor from being exploited), and it’s hard for some to believe that good intentions can lead to bad outcomes.

    Which, as is the case with “unwitting bigots,” does not absolve them from moral responsibility for those outcomes.

  12. 12 12 SJA

    I think the answer is not bigotry or hate or misinformed concern for Bangladeshi children—it’s ignorance. Customers buy from these types of businesses because they are ignorant of the consequences. They’ve never heard the arguments you present here; perhaps they don’t have the capacity to understand them. In any case, they simply want to buy their goods, and they’ll shop for what’s available without consideration to the political process that prevents them from purchasing elsewhere. And insofar as misinformed concern does play a role, I agree with @przemek’s analysis—except for the parts about moral responsibility, which is too vague a notion to agree with.

    In any case, the solution is to inform people about the consequences of their actions. I recognize that the focus of this particular blog entry is examining the motives of people who purchase from Made-In-America stores, but it also plays an informational role as well. But in purveying the information, this particular post is insulting and a bit condescending to those who are indeed misinformed. Whether this attitude is justified or not, calling people names is probably not the most effective way to convince them of the truth of your arguments. Is it?

  13. 13 13 Bennett Haselton

    The reason we have child labor laws in the U.S. is not because the work is dangerous or degrading (it usually isn’t), but because it’s a much better investment in the long run for kids to spend their time learning, and then over the rest of their lives, doing more productive work that they’re able to do as a result of the early education they received.

    In the U.S., we’re rich enough that we can “coast” on just the labor being done by adults, while educating the kids. Then the kids grow up and use their education and we come out ahead in the long run.

    So it seems the most effective way to help the Bangladeshis would be not to find ways to put their kids to work, but to fund schools and essentially loan them money to educate their children. Then they can pay it back later through their increased productivity, and have plenty of productivity left over for themselves.

    (Economic theory predicts it would be more effective to lend them the cash and let them decide how to invest it, whether in education for their children or in something else, but due to practical problems with corruption and waste, it would probably be more effective just to build the schools for them directly.)

    We could choose not to try to collect on the loan, making it essentially a gift. Or we could allow them to work off the debt by, say, working in a clinic that we set up for other Bangladeshis (of course, a free clinic that we’re providing to Bangladeshis is still a gift, but now we’re making a gift to the general public there rather than to the recipients of the education). Of course the problem with a gift is that if we get nothing back, we run out of money for gift-giving. A loan can be mutually beneficial.

    Basically, it seems that both sending them jobs and lending them money for an education can be mutually beneficial, but the education loans would be more so.

    It’s true that the first societies to get rich had to do so by sending their children to work. But now, individual American families typically escape poverty by sending their children to school, not work. This is because they live in a rich country that can essentially lend them the money to educate their kids, and expect you to pay it back later. If we can lend the money to the Bangladeshis in the same way, it seems it would help them more than sending them jobs for their children.

  14. 14 14 Roger Schlafly

    It is not bigotry for an elected official to represent the citizens who elected him. You are just unhappy that he happens to disagree with some obscure Bangladeshi activist.

  15. 15 15 Dave

    Roger – acting on behalf of an electorate doesn’t absolve you of bigotry. I hat to invoke a toned down version of Godwin’s law but it makes the point that slave owners who voted in politicians who wll uphold slavery laws were also mired in bigotry. Pointing that out doesn’t mean that I’m unhappy that they disagreed with some obscure black activists.

  16. 16 16 Steve Landsburg

    Roger: I was aiming the accusation not at the elected official but at his constituents.

  17. 17 17 Harold

    Following from Bernett’s idea about education, how about this. We don’t fund a school, but we boycot factories that employ children. That way, the factories must employ adults, which costs more. If the boycot was succesful, and the people genuinely prepared to pay more for its produce, we wealthy westerners would be effectively giving them a gift. The parents have enough money now to educate their children. We are a bit worse off, they are a lot better off. The money goes directly to the parents (workers), who can choose to spend it as they will. Most parents with funds do choose to educate their children (I think).

  18. 18 18 Benkyou Burito

    Wow. I to not to comment on topics I agree with (which is why my posts are often so contrary) because no-one loves a yes-man (except the millions of people who enjoy yes-men).

    So anyway, the only way I can disagree with Steve here is to say that he does not go far enough. He says, “Not all favoritism is bigotry; it is natural and unobjectionable to care more about family than your friends”

    When your family lives in prosperity, with a savings account, a retirement account, crime free streets to walk down. And when your friend sleeps atop a sewer grate, hungry every night. And your loyalty to “blood” motivates you to spend $6 on a box of girlscout cookies instead of a dollar for a bag of oranges from your friend, or 5o cents for the stranger to squeegee your windshield. Or a nickel so some kid in Khmer doesn’t starve to death. That’s bigotry.

    Roger- If you don’t like a product, don’t buy it; no matter who makes it. But to rob yourself of value by choosing to pay more for an equal product just because a foreigner made it is pure bigotry. You’re not adding anything to America by giving that work to an American. The value of that work you give is taken from your pocket not the little kid in Bangladesh.

    Go read “the candle-maker’s petition” (that one IS in the public domain)

  19. 19 19 Roger Schlafly

    I understood the comment as accusing Tom Harkin of bigotry. He is the one who introduced the law that you are complaining about. Are you now conceding that Tom Harkin may have had legitimate motives that have nothing to do with hate and bigotry?

    Or are you attacking individuals citizens who might have made purchasing decisions that you do not understand?

  20. 20 20 Philip

    First, let’s get some facts straight:

    One, the 1992 legislation you refer to was the Child Labor Deterrence Act. It was not enacted in 1992. In fact, it was never enacted. Therefore, I assume it’s safe to say, one cannot attribute the results you condemn to that legislation.

    Two, the force behind much of the pressures you deplore to roll-back child labor in Bangladesh actually came from an Indian organization, the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude, founded by Kailash Satyarthi.

    One significant aspect of their program places any children identified in their inspection process into SACCS-supported schools, financing the schools from a service fee charged to importers who obtain licenses from SACCS. (Am I right to assume that you oppose such licenses as an obstacle to free trade?)

    By 1997 (I don’t have later stats) this program had placed 10,000 Bangadeshi children in free schools with a small stipend to replace their lost wages.

    Three, most child labor in Bangladesh is forced or indentured labor. Some of it is slavery perpetrated by child traffickers.

    Finally, it is a canard to write off Tom Harkin’s efforts on child labor to shilling for “union bosses”. (There are many other examples of his work on child labor that have no relationship to his labor support).

    I know Tom Harkin. He is an honorable man, not “execrable”. And his record on free trade is not as deplorable as you imply. For example, see his votes in support of the Andean FTA, normailization of trade with Vietnam, eliminating restrictions on trade in technology, normalizing trade with China, expanding trade with Africa, Latin Am and the Carribean, the Doha Round, the US-Australia FTA, and NAFTA. Many of these votes conflicts with strong labor’s opposition.

    The factual errors you commit combined with the inflamatory rhetoric you’ve used and the callousness of this blog entry is staggering. You would condemn these children (and by extension, the Am children who were rescued from child labor by reformers using the instument of a strong federal govt.) to a life of poverty-ridden labor bereft of any meaningful educational opportunity.

    Strong words, I know, but earned.

  21. 21 21 Bennett Haselton

    Philip,

    By all means, set up the schools, which is what I said in my post. I think what Landsburg is saying is that in the absence of such schools, you might as well let the Bangladeshi children work in those jobs. (As long as it is voluntary work and not slavery, but you referred to the “wages” that the children earned and that were replaced by the school stipend, so I assume in those cases they were earning money and not doing forced labor.)

    The only question I would have about the SACCS schools is why the schools have to be funded by a tax on imports, rather than coming out of the general government fund. Or, a tax on what the kids earn later in life, as a result of the superior education that they got in the schools.

  22. 22 22 GregS

    A lot of folks think “more education” is the answer. I’m really skeptical that education alone can really solve these children’s problems. That’s a very idealistic response, and very western. You can’t exactly turn these kids into computer programmers and send them back to their villages. What exactly are they learning that makes them more productive? I’m sure they can learn SOMETHING that helps them, but there are diminishing returns to additional education, especially when your country lacks capital. In a place as poor as Bangladesh, it may not even be worthwhile to become literate. Many don’t, but I’m certain they would do so in a moment if it would increase their incomes.
    The economist in me says, “People acquire an education when it becomes worthwhile to do so.” Sure, there’s a lack of schools. But the economist in me again says, “People build schools when it becomes worthwhile to do so.”
    It’s easy to think in categorical terms, as in “Education is categorically a good thing, so the more the better.” (Education, housing, healthcare, insert your favorite commodity.) But one has to think about trade offs, too, as in “Education is good, but costly, so people should educate themselves until further education is no longer worthwhile.” Something marginal (the value of additional education) equals something marginal (the cost of additional education). We ought to think more in those terms.

  23. 23 23 GregS

    Forgot one thing. The article in the link implies that the child workers are very much aware of the trade off of factory career vs. education, and many of them choose the factory career. They speak quite candidly about it. They are aware of the benefits of education, and they forego it. The young girl’s synopsis of the two career paths is precise, almost actuarial. None of us should presume to correct their decisions.

  24. 24 24 Benkyou Burito

    Okay Phillip, then the Harkin-Engel Protocol, or the Trade and Development Act, or the $200 million he spent through IPEC to lobby child labor law changes in other countries, or the prohibition on child labor created goods he pushed through the whitehouse to an executive order, or the ILO Convention 18; all of these had the same effect.

    Or the fact that it was Harkins CLDA, unveiled in 1992 that let to the firing of 50,000 or more young workers. This credit is given by UNICEF (http://www.unicef.org/sowc97/download/sow2of2.pdf ). Which also states that most of these kids ended up going on to work as rock crushers and prostitutes to make ends meet. I’m sure that little girl running through 30-40 Jons a day is glad Harkin targeted “the worst kinds of child labor”. It’s funny that the “worst” kinds of child labor only included the jobs that American Union labor competes with. Maybe if there had been a destitute whore union in his district…

    You say- “You would condemn these children to a life of poverty-ridden labor bereft of any meaningful educational opportunity”. But that’s pure crap. I taught English for 6 months in rural china as part of my undergrad. Stories of a mother killing her newborn so that her other two or three children (this is in the farmland) wouldn’t starve are not uncommon. If a razor blade factory opened up in that town, would you say a child is better off starving to death than working at a whett stone?

    These families don’t send their kids to factories so that they can live a more luxurious life, they do it so they can live. And YOU would deny them that. Go dig up a few old documentaries. One is called “Working Sisters” and the other is “Little Happiness”, I believe both done by the annenburg Foundation.

  25. 25 25 Benkyou Burito

    Roger- If Harkin isn’t a bigot, then he delightedly used the bigotry of his constituency to leverage political capital.

    “Or are you attacking individuals citizens who might have made purchasing decisions that you do not understand?”

    Individual citizens whose actions benefit neither themselves nor even their countrymen, but are committed solely on the basis of another humans nationality must be driven by the most base corruption of humanity or by the most willful ignorance.

  26. 26 26 Philip

    Benkyou-

    You attribute a remarkable (indeed, not credible) degree of influence to a bill that was merely introduced, not passed, not signed by the president, and never a law, by a senator who was not even a member of the Senate’s international trade committee, and in fact I don’t believe *ever* sat on the trade committee. (I know something about this because I was a senior member of the staff of that committee (Senate Finance) in 1992.)

    Then, supposedly, in a matter of one or two years, that unpassed bill drove Bengladeshi garment makers to throw 50,000 children out of their jobs.

    This is fantasy land, built by someone with an interest in selling this narrative or by someone who is woefully ignorant of how the real world of politics and policy making works.

    You list a bunch of child labor initiatives Harkin pushed. Now look at the year in which they were enacted. You’ll meet up with the inconvenient fact that they post-date the 1993-95 time period Alam’s article covers. Last I checked, even liberal democrats hadn’t developed the ability to redirect the causal arrow from events in the future to results in the past.

    I’ll have more to say on this subject tomorrow when I’m fresh and have my facts together, but I’ll leave you to ponder how you all evaluate the credibility and economic insights of a photographer-writer who says the following:

    “A nation with a history of genocide and slavery, and a reputation for being a bully in international politics, suddenly proclaims itself a champion of people’s rights, but refuses to make concessions over the rates it will pay. The dollar price-tags on the garments produced in some factories suggest a vast profit being made at the US end. The buyers claim that what they pay for the garments is determined by ‘market forces’. The garment owners make the same claim with regard to the conditions of employment for their workers. Both are simply justifying their own version of exploitation.”

    Sound economic theory there, heh?

    This is one of the problems with combining selective citations with exaggerated rhetoric. It tends to motivate someone who might disagree to look under the rug. Getting the facts wrong doesn’t help either.

  27. 27 27 Nichlemn

    It is not unreasonable that the mere threat of the bill passing could motivate firms to sack employees.

  28. 28 28 jambarama

    I understand the argument that you can’t raise wages nationwide, or you can only raise them in one sector at the expense of another – but that assumes a perfectly competitive market. If there is only one employer in a town, as is often the case, and it is not costless to move, then wages *can* be artificially depressed, and collective action *can* raise wages. In this case, the employer is the one who gets soaked, not other sectors & other employees.

  29. 29 29 Philip

    Bennett-

    (1) These programs are founded, operated and funded by NGOs, the ILO and UNICEF (i.e., do-gooders who don’t understand the wisdom of markets) not by the govt. The funds come from licenses paid by industry participants under an agreement negotiated between the parties. Some companies participate voluntarily. Many have been “coerced” into doing so by the prospect of consumer boycotts, primarily, if I recall correctly, in Germany.

    (2) I agree with your characterization of Steve’s argument: that in the absence of such schools, these children are better off keeping their jobs. Here’s why I object to it:

    * It implies a passivity to addressing the issue of child labor through any means other than market forces. I understand the basis for this passivity: according to the waterbed theory of economic “reform”, when non-market forces push down on one side of the market mattress, they just shift distortions somewhere else in the bed, leaving no net gain to the sleepers.

    * The rhetoric employeed to criticize and mock the naivete (or worse, the bigotry, ignorance, and callousness) of activist reformers vs. the enthusiastic endorsement of the industry for its virtue and wisdom in responding to market forces reveals more than its advocates probably intend.

    The industry has a great deal at stake in its child labor practices and much to lose in limiting or ending it. Moreover, individual companies see little immediate gain in changing these practices and because of competitive pressure, much to lose in doing so.

    * I hesitate to use this example because it appears intended to inflame. It’s not, and I think it has some heuristic power.

    How would the application of your economic theory to child labor be fundamentally different from its application to antebellum slavery? Following the logic, can’t I argue that absent schools, alternative sources of income, and places to live, that slaves were better off in chains than being freed?

    Wouldn’t the massive influx of free wage labor in southern markets drive wages through the floor and further impoverish freed slaves? But eventually southern capital would respond to cheap labor by creating new jobs lifting freedmen to a status better than their previous slavery.

    But the “market” didn’t respond this way. It responded with the KKK and Jim Crow for another 100 years, until other reformers in the 1930s, ’40s and ’60s, combined with economic forces, finally broke the back of the legacy of slavery.

    * These economic theories urge us skeptics that the creative destruction of the market will impose costs on the current generation, but in the mid- to long term, through secondary market effects, that destruction leads to economic growth and to benefits for all. I agree.

    But why do we stop our analysis at the *initial* economic effects of reform and ignore the analogous argument that the immediate economic costs of (say) ending slavery, the creative destruction, lead to economic and other benefits for the progeny of freedmen.

    * This example illustrates the role reformers have played repeatedly over the past 250 years in driving cultural and economic change in the US. Through social and political pressure non-market reformers have driven capital to accept changes that the market on its own *might* have adopted at some time in the future, or might not. In this case, several generations of slaves would have borne the cost of waiting for this change.

  30. 30 30 Benkyou Burito

    Hold on.
    “You attribute a remarkable (indeed, not credible) degree of influence to a bill” – I do, and so does UNICEF, an organization uniquely qualified to make such an attribution.

    “This is fantasy land, built by someone with an interest in selling this narrative or by someone who is woefully ignorant of how the real world of politics and policy making works.” – Two parts to this. The push to prohibit child labor is generally made by those with a deep financial interest in selling a narrative of their own. And you suggest I’m “woefully ignorant” because I haven’t sat in on trade committee meetings? I would match my time in a Chinese classroom where school lunch was unchaffed rice and the “rich” kid brought a pinch of salt to anything an ILO politician would claim as experience.
    In Phnom Penh, Cambodia we would watch the Politicians and the NGOs get off the airport shuttle and these “experienced” people would wince at the smell. When it takes 6 or 7 hours of grueling manual labor to do a families laundry, you do it less often. The opposite of factory work for many of these kids is not “happy days of my youth spent in school” Phillip. Perhaps your younger days had this option. I know mine did. But for many, the opposite of factory work is starvation, or forced labor, or infanticide, or being sold into slavery at a brothel. I’ve driven through those towns and seen those brothels (from the street. plz.) Is that a better option than a T-Shirt factory? Because no-one’s building many free schools where they pay kids to learn.

    “You list a bunch of child labor initiatives Harkin pushed”- No, I listed a bunch of initiatives that he got implemented. There were many more that he pushed. This was to illustrate the motivations of the man himself. His work in 1992 on as cited by the UNICEF report I linked shows causal relationship to the Bangladeshi case. No one is saying that his work in 1996 resulted in Bangladesh results in 1994. But if his campaigning in 1992 caused the 1994 firings (which the factory owners themselves say it did) then how many other lives has he ruined by his actions in 96. 98, 2000, 01, 02, etc.?

    “The dollar price-tags on the garments produced in some factories suggest a vast profit being made at the US end.” and then this critical analysis, “Sound economic theory there, heh?” – It’s not economic theory, but it is astute observation. What the author doesn’t realize is that the high price tags of these garments are the result of Import Quotas and Tarrifs. The Sledge Hammers of protectionism, and used especially hard on the garment industry in the early 90′s. 1992 in particular saw many such protections. Many targeted at the garment industries of poorest nations like Haiti and Bangladesh. And pushed through by pro-labor under the guise of saving the poor savages from themselves.

    These are countries where the results of government policy is still measured in the average growth rate of the people there (because bad policy results in less to eat which results in less height). Before you start slinging “Ignorant” around go put your feet on the ground in Haiti or Uganda or Bangladesh (I’m going to a Haiti Coffee plantation next month to help salvage it. Get your shots and airfare and I’ll cover your bunk). Get the stink in your nose. Or just spend a week on 100 calories a day. Then tell me that is better than working a sewing machine.

    If you do that, at least I won’t call you ignorant.

  31. 31 31 Benkyou Burito

    Jambarama- In the very short run what you say is true. But where there is only one employer in town and he sets the price very low, he can only set it as low as “a little better than what they had before” if he wants to attract employees. Which means that whatever employees he does get are still better off than before he came. If he set his wages so that a person would be better off sorting through a trash heap in Malawi for scrap metal (real example) then he’s not going to get any work done because they would all keep rooting through the landfill.

    But what happens is, if one employer comes in and offers a penny a day for 10 hours work, then more will follow. And if they never clear the labor market then all those people still have better jobs than they had before. If they clear the market, then the next guy who wants to set up shop will need to pay 2 cents, or lower the hours, or provide a free lunch, to get an employee.

    And as long as employees can be recruited for a profit maximizing wage (maybe it’s 50 cents a day or 4 dollars a day) employers will move into the region. This is in evidence in Special Economic Zone China.

    Further, The menial labor market in 1949 Taiwan paved the way from agrarian subsistence to prosperity under careful balance of free-trade and pragmatic limited protections.

  32. 32 32 Izzydog

    Phillip,

    Your patience is infinite. There are two basic problems with utilitarians, and by nature of their philosophy, they are incapable of understanding either. First, they make justice a matter of calculation, not principle. Second, by trying to translate all human goods into a single, uniform measure of value, it flattens them, and takes no account of the qualititive differences among them.

    In this way, child labor becomes a rational choice, not the result of dire economic circumstances, and so instead of addressing the cause any attempt to stop child labor is simply misguided, harmful, and racist. Somehow in the utilitarian realm children become tiny adults just in need of more information to help them make their choices. That children’s brains are literally not formed, leaving them vulnerable to extreme exploitation doesn’t enter the discussion. Steve L dresses all of this up in racially charged rhetoric, and economic claims, turning it into an ad-hominim attack on the person who rightly knows that child labor is wrong, debasing all of us in ways that he and utilitarians in general cannot value or comprehend.

    Phillip. I wish I had your patience. You are a good man. Keep fighting the good fight my brother. I’m glad there are people like you in this tired world.

  33. 33 33 Steve Landsburg

    Izzy:

    In this way, child labor becomes a rational choice, not the result of dire economic circumstances

    Why can’t it be a rational choice made as a result of dire economic circumstances?

  34. 34 34 Benkyou Burito

    Lzzy- “the single, uniform measure of value” is suffering. The cause is not Child Labor, as shown that continues even after child labor is prohibited.

    The cause of suffering is abject poverty. Poverty is caused by not having any resources worth developing except human labor. By limiting the amount of that resource a country may employ you diminish the attractiveness of investing in the region and slow the economic development. You prolong the condition that causes the suffering.

    EVERY developed nation began as labor based economy that employed child labor. By imposing developed world ideals onto a developing nation you are denying it the same trajectory that your own nation ascended.

  35. 35 35 Izzydog

    “Why can’t it be a rational choice made as a result of dire economic circumstances?”

    Professor,

    I already answered this in my earlier post, but I’ll play Glaucon to your Socrates, and elaborate a little more. A full answer would require more time and desire than I have right now, so let’s just start with a couple of points. As I said before, Utilitarian’s try to flatten all human goods into a single uniform measure of value, taking no account of the qualitative differences among them. Some of the examples of this flattening in this particular case include:

    1) Someone’s choice to work in a sweatshop might reflect dire economic necessity, but it doesn’t reflect free choice in any meaningful sense. The definitions of free and choice have been flattened here.

    2) We are talking about children (the example was a 10 year old girl). They don’t have either the experience, or the capability to understand the true consequences of this decision to enter into a truly voluntary employment agreement. Informed consent here has been flattened into tainted consent.

    3) The right way of valuing goods and social practices is not simply up to us. Certain modes of valuation are appropriate to certain goods and practices. In the case of commodities, such as cars and toasters, the proper way of valuing them is to use them, or to make them and sell them for profit. But it’s a mistake to treat all things as if they were commodities. It’s wrong to treat human beings, especially children, as commodities, mere things to be bought and sold. Child labor flattens children into instruments of profit rather than as persons worthy of love and protection.

  36. 36 36 Izzydog

    Benkyou wrote:

    “EVERY developed nation began as labor based economy that employed child labor. By imposing developed world ideals onto a developing nation you are denying it the same trajectory that your own nation ascended.”

    I’m not enough of an historian to confirm or deny the claim that every developed nation began by employing child labor – Although I have read Upton Sinclairs The Jungle and have some sense of the joys of unregulated working conditions. I also know that this particular argument is fraught with peril. Our nation’s trajectory also included genocide and slavery, and I have no problem denying that to any emerging nation.

    Truth be told, I’ve been hearing this exact same argument a lot lately. Substitute the words “protectionist policy” for “child labor,” and you get the Chinese argument for keeping the RMB artificially low – Every developed nation began by following protectionist policy. By imposing developed world ideals onto a developing nation you are denying it the same trajectory that your own nation ascended.

  37. 37 37 Philip

    A blessing on you, Izzydog. A word of encouragement in the face of this sandstorm of cruel and arid logic and overheated rhetoric is water to parched lips.

    Steve said:

    “Why can’t it be a rational choice made as a result of dire economic circumstances?”

    When her children are brought to her and she is told she must choose one to live or both will die, is it a “rational” choice that Sophie faces?

    I suppose it is, in some twisted meaning of that word.

    But perhaps it’s “more rational”, in a world that forces such a choice in “dire circumstances”, for Sophie not to choose and allow both children to escape that world.

    Are you all so deeply buried in the beautiful art of abstract economic theory that you have so removed yourselves from the arts of emphathy, humility, circumspection, and perhaps even charity? Where do these deeply human qualities survive in this world of yours?

  38. 38 38 Steve Landsburg

    Izzydog:

    You are right that it’s not so much children who are making these choices as their parents, and that it’s legitimate to worry about whether the parents have the childrens’ best interests at heart. The best evidence that that’s largely true is that parents consistently pull their children out of the labor force when their incomes rises above a certain threshhold level. Further evidence is that parents the world over have made the same choices when faced with the same circumstances.

    As for the rest, you keep talking about utilitarianism as if someone had invoked a utilitarian argument, but there’s nothing specifically utilitarian about believing that people should be allowed to make choices that improve their lives. I believe that gay Americans should be allowed to get married for more or less the same reason that I believe Third World children should be allowed to work in factories. Are you going to assume that I am a utilitarian (I’m sure I’m not, by the way) and then conclude that my reasoning is illegitimate?

  39. 39 39 Philip

    Steve-

    “You are right that it’s not so much children who are making these choices as their parents, and that it’s legitimate to worry about whether the parents have the childrens’ best interests at heart. The best evidence that that’s largely true is that parents consistently pull their children out of the labor force when their incomes rises above a certain threshhold level. Further evidence is that parents the world over have made the same choices when faced with the same circumstances.”

    Can you cite the “best evidence” you reference re: parents pulling their children out of the labor force when their income rises to a certain level? I can’t find any source for this. Thanks.

    I’ll offer some evidence to support my view:

    Source: Conclusions from ILO IPEC’s Bangladesh child labor surveys:

    * Re: claims that child labor in Bangladesh can be effectively addressed by market forces alone:

    “Child labour is part of a vicious cycle, with poverty as a main cause as well as a main consequence. This implies that child labour cannot be addressed in isolation. Among factors contributing to child labour are rapid population growth, adult unemployment, bad working conditions, LACK OF MINIMUM WAGES, EXPLOITATION OF WORKERS, low standard of living, low quality of education, LACK OF LEGAL PROVISIONS AND ENFORCEMENT, LOW CAPACITY OF [governmental and NGO] INSTITUTIONS, gender discrimination and TRADITIONAL ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF CHILD LABOR.” (emphasis supplied)

    * Re: claims of “consent” by Bangladeshi child laborers:

    “Trafficked individuals may develop consent for the exploitative and abusive [employment] environments and conditions they face, possibly reflecting the lack of control and choices available to them.”

    * Re: claims that economic growth will reduce or eliminate child labor in Bangladesh:

    Source: “Child Labour in Bangladesh: Trends, Patterns and Policy Options”, Dr Rasheda KHANAM (2005).

    “The striking finding in the trend and incidence of child
    labour in Bangladesh is that… it has been increasing in Bangladesh.”

    Some key facts about child labor in Bangladesh:

    Source: Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics “National Child Labor Sample” (2002-2003) conducted under ILO IPEC’s SIMPOC Program.

    * Children as young a 5 yrs are included in Bengladesh’s definition of child labor (i.e., 5-14 years). [Mr. Alam's article would have had a different impact, I think, if he had interviewed 6 year old laborers instead of 13 year olds.]

    * 13.4% of all children ages 5-14 work.

    * More than half of the children who work do not attend school.

    * 60% of working children ages 5-9 do not attend school

    * There is no general prohibiton of work likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children under 18. In the few specific industries where prohibitions exist in law, children below the age of 16 are exempt if the employer simply files a certificate of fitness. Enforcement is weak

    Bangladesh has not ratified the…

    * Human Trafficing Prtocol of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC)

    * Smuggling of Migrants Protocol of the CTOC

    * ILO Forced Labor Convention (No. 29)

    * ILO Minimum Age Convention (No. 138)

  40. 40 40 Benkyou Burito

    Lzzy- I liked The Jungle, I cried like a baby through the whole thing, but it was fiction. Critical analysis and research has proven the worst of Sinclair’s claims to be flat out plot device.

    Every nation may have started off with protectionist policies, but economic expansion occurs most (all things being equal)as those protections diminish.

    Phillip- Your analogy is false. The people forcing Sofie to choose are unjust. In the developing world it is nature that is forcing people to starve to death. And often it is opportunities for employment (even for children) that prevents it.

    It would be more accurate to say “Both of your children will starve to death, due solely to the accident of their place and time of birth, unless you choose one of them to work a sewing machine. Send one to work and both are saved.”

    What is the rational response to this in your world phillip? “Heavens no! let my children starve, child labor is cruel!” or “No thank you, we’ll wait arround for someone to build a free school for them where they will get paid to learn”

  41. 41 41 GregS

    Izzydog or Philip:
    Can you finish this sentence:
    “Child laborers should quit their factory jobs and do _______.”
    You don’t have to invoke some complicated economic theory to see they have no better options.
    I keep hearing the refrain of “more education” in this thread. Perhaps you can finish this sentence:
    “The children should go to school to learn to ________.”
    What exactly are they supposed to learn in school that makes them more productive? If going to school increased their wages/productivity, they’d already be doing so.
    It’s absurd for you to presume YOU can make better decisions for these people than they can make for themselves. What in the world allows you to think that you care more for these children than their own parents?
    You can’t simply decry child labor as a bad thing. Child poverty is also a very bad thing. There’s a trade off between the two: more child labor means less child poverty (obviously because of the additional income). This is a real trade off with moral consequences, not some academic abstraction. The people best qualified to get this trade off right are the third world workers living in poverty. They are much more aware of the economic realities they face than self-anointed western intellectuals.

  42. 42 42 Izzydog

    Professor,

    You have a point in that I sometimes conflate libertarian with utilitarian because the two are joined at the hip. You may not think you are a utilitarian, but your arguments generally are. You occasionally throw in Rawls’s Veil of Ignorance as a diversion, but you ignore the conclusions that Rawl’s draws from behind his veil. Rawls is pretty clear through his difference principle that while someone’s “choice” to work in a sweatshop might reflect economic necessity, it doesn’t reflect free choice in any meaningful sense. For this reason, Rawls writes that if we want society to be a voluntary arrangement, we can’t base it on actual consent; we should ask instead what principles of justice we would agree to if we set aside our particular interest and advantages.

    You demonstrate my point when you write “nothing specifically utilitarian about believing that people should be allowed to make choices that improve their lives.” Actually professor, framing and flattening the question of child labor as one of “choice,” instead of asking questions about “justice,” is a uniquely utilitarian approach, begging a particular “solution” in line with a particular libertarian market ideal. It completely ignores the questions about the moral limits of markets, and by implication, shutting out other ways in which these children’s lives might be improved.

    When you ask the wrong question, you generally get the wrong answer. Child Sweatshop Labor is wrong. As any good private sector business manager worth her salt would say, start with that as the assumption and go figure it out from there.

  43. 43 43 Izzydog

    Izzydog or Philip:
    Can you finish this sentence:
    “Child laborers should quit their factory jobs and do _______.”

    Child laborers should quit their factory jobs and their jobs should go to the unemployed adults all around them.

    Can you name any place where child sweatshop labor is used and there is already full adult employment? If yes, source it. If no, tell me exactly why that might be.

  44. 44 44 Philip

    We are now debating this issue under two posting so I’m copying this post from “Working Overtime”

    Izzydog-

    If you’re not following that string, take a look. Steve has made a small concession in response to Harold’s strong counter-arguments.

    Bennett-

    “OK so you can’t enrich the parents by boycotting child labor.”

    I don’t think it’s in dispute here whether parents of children who lose income are enriched (or even impoverished) by child labor boycotts.

    The issue is whether reducing child labor (by whatever non-market means)…

    (1) increases wages and income of parents, generally, (through reductions in the supply of labor) offset the income lost from their children,
    (2) increases the long-term income of child laborers by increasing the likelihood they will receive more years of schooling and reducing the persistent physical and psychological damage of long hours of labor at a very young age, and
    (3) increases the wealth of the society at large via the effects of (1) and (2).

    There is evidence available that answers both (1) and (2) in the affirmative. I don’t know about evidence re: (3).

    “What about lending the families the money to educate their kids, would that work?

    These families are not creditworthy. Moreover, this solution violates the laissez faire assumption that seems to previal on the other side of this argument, i.e., it’s a non-market intervention that distorts the market

  45. 45 45 Izzydog

    Phillip,

    Thanks, I hadn’t been reading that string. Will go look now.

  46. 46 46 Steve Landsburg

    Philip: for the withdrawal of children from the labor market as incomes rise, see the paper by Kaushik Basu and Zafris Tsannatos on “The Global Child Labor Problem”; I’m not sure if the full paper is on the web but there’s an abstract and a citation here: http://wber.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/17/2/147 .

    See also references in the appendix to my book “More Sex is Safer Sex”.

  47. 47 47 Steve Landsburg

    Izzydog:

    Two completely separate points:

    1. framing and flattening the question of child labor as one of “choice,” instead of asking questions about “justice,” is a uniquely utilitarian approach

    This is sheer ignorance on your part. There are a great variety of normative criteria other than utilitarianism that would lead you to frame the question in this way. The criterion of economic efficiency, for example, which is quite distinct from utilitarianism.

    2. I agree with you that child labor is a very bad thing. I also believe that children eating from garbage heaps is a very bad thing. Nevertheless, there are children who eat from garbage heaps. Do you think it would compassionate/wise/desirable to put fences around those garbage heaps to prevent those children from eating?

  48. 48 48 Philip

    GregS-

    “Can you finish this sentence:
    ‘Child laborers should quit their factory jobs and do _______.’”

    This question demonstrates that you have entirely missed the point Izzydog, Harold and I are making.

    Individual child laborers are trapped in a cycle of poverty, lack of educational opportunity, often abusive labor conditions, and long daily hours and years of labor at very young ages (as young as 5 years old) that persistently damage their physical and mental health, a cycle from which, acting as individuals, they cannot escape.

    And even if their employers wanted to end their own employment of children, acting as individuals, they could not. Unless they acted in concert with their competitors, the higher cost of adult workers would place them at a competitive disadvantage, and the practice could not be sustained.

    Therefore, intervention in the market is necessary to address the issue.
    ————-

    “I keep hearing the refrain of “more education” in this thread. Perhaps you can finish this sentence: “The children should go to school to learn to ________.” What exactly are they supposed to learn in school that makes them more productive? If going to school increased their wages/productivity, they’d already be doing so.”

    This one amazes me, GregS. Studies beyond number have demonstrated the strong, positive correlation between education and income across many cultures, including Bangladesh. I’m sure you can find many of them with a Google search. But I bet you won’t make the attempt.
    —————

    “It’s absurd for you to presume YOU can make better decisions for these people than they can make for themselves. What in the world allows you to think that you care more for these children than their own parents?”

    This is a straw man. I make no such claim. I’m using economic reasoning (Harold does it better than I do) supplemented by moral outrage (as Steve did in the orginal post against Harkin and other do-gooders) to refute this falacious argument based on laissez fair economic theory. By employing economic theory, I have chosen to fight this battle on YOUR ground. I could chose other arguments but I know I’d be wasting my breath with disciples of Hayek and Rand.
    —————

    “You can’t simply decry child labor as a bad thing. Child poverty is also a very bad thing. There’s a trade off between the two: more child labor means less child poverty (obviously because of the additional income).”

    Yes, I can. I just did. See above.
    ——————————–

    “This is a real trade off with moral consequences, not some academic abstraction. The people best qualified to get this trade off right are the third world workers living in poverty. They are much more aware of the economic realities they face than self-anointed western intellectuals.”

    Exactly. And the most effective organizations addressing the issue are in fact “third world” (you need to learn the new vocabulary) activists who are seeking to end child labor for the very reasons I’ve provide along with strong moral arguments that seem to escape you except when they’re convenient to use to fight off any market intervention that might make something constructive actually happen.

    And what are libertarian “theorists” if not self-appointed western intellections using academic economic abstractions?

  49. 49 49 GregS

    Philip,
    “This question demonstrates that you have entirely missed the point Izzydog, Harold and I are making.”
    No, I get the point. You are saying, in a clever way with a lot of details, that “Child labor is bad.” The issue here is a trade off between two undesirables, child labor and child poverty. Without acknowledging the trade off, you can say nothing of value on this topic.

    My skepticism about the value of added education comes from Muhammad Yunus’ book “Banker to the Poor.” He also insists that the poor working people in his home country know the skills necessary to survive, or acquire them when necessary. He also complains about benighted westerners insisting on “education” as a cure-all for his people.
    Besides, it wasn’t an entirely rhetorical question; I am curious what specific skills/education are helpful to workers. I guess you don’t know, or else you would have answered.

    “And what are libertarian “theorists” if not self-appointed western intellections using academic economic abstractions?”
    I’m not a spokesperson for the libertarians, but they generally don’t presume to make decisions for other people. Theirs is a philosophy of non-intervention or minimal intervention. I wasn’t complaining about intellectuals in general; I was complaining about the ones who presume to organize the lives of people they don’t know.

  50. 50 50 Stephen

    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?

  51. 51 51 Andre

    GregS – unfortunatley, very few ever consider alernatives. Well, at least not real ones. Maybe they just assume Moyna can play soccer, or go to dance classes.

    What is also never considered are the unseen effects. When we are forced to pay higher prices for the shirts or sneakers in order to keep the money flowing into the pockets of a certain group of politically influential American workers, who gets hurt? With less disposable income, maybe that car purchase is delayed. Maybe that wide screen will have to wait. And who is likely to get hurt when that happens? Other American workers! That can not be quantified. But just because it can’t doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

    Just a thought – we are outraged when we hear that some 15-year-old is getting paid 65 cents per hour. Meanwhile, Sally Struthers is telling us that “5 dollars can feed this child for a month”. Maybe it’s just me, but it would seem that that 65 cents per hour job might feed the whole family and the neighbor’s too.

  52. 52 52 Benkyou Burito

    “Child laborers should quit their factory jobs and their jobs should go to the unemployed adults all around them.”

    The business owners don’t want older workers. They will pay less or go elsewhere.

    But a better answer is that young people, in particular girls, end up in factories because the adults are out in the fields or in rock quarries. If these adults you think are lined up for jobs did as good a job, then why would the younger kids get hired?

  53. 53 53 Izzydog

    Professor writes:

    “This is sheer ignorance on your part. There are a great variety of normative criteria other than utilitarianism that would lead you to frame the question in this way. The criterion of economic efficiency, for example, which is quite distinct from utilitarianism.”

    Professor,

    LOL! Not the first time I’ve been called ignorant and I’m sure it won’t be the last. My sheer ignorance is enormous. I’m even ignorant about things I don’t even know I’m ignorant about. But I thought you were supposed to play the Socrates role and I was supposed to play the Glaucon role in this discussion.

    I did concede that I do have a tendency to conflate libertarians and utilitarians. I make this mistake because both make their case for free markets but they generally appear to be confused about the differences themselves.

    The case for free markets generally rests on two claims – one about freedom, the other about welfare. The first is the libertarian case for markets. It says that letting people engage in voluntary exchange respects their freedom; laws that interfere with the free market violate individual liberty (hence the name libertarian). The second is the utilitarian argument for markets. It says that markets promote the general welfare; when two people make a deal both gain. As long as their deal makes them better off without hurting anyone else, it increases overall utility. Or so the theories go.

    The moral crux of the libertarian claim is the idea of self ownership, and from there it is a straight line from taxation (taking my earnings) to forced labor (taking my labor) to slavery (denying that I own myself), hence the allergy to taxes. Technically speaking, market efficiency is precisely a ultilitarian argument about maximizing wealth (ie utility) not a libertarian one. It is also a utilitarian argument that in The Big Questions allows you to conclude that it is okay to throw a fat person (at least fatter than the person doing the throwing) from a bridge to save the lives of five others on the train tracks below. Could it be you are actually more of a utilitarian than a libertarian?

    But hey, I could be wrong, perhaps you could lead me from my ignorance. And while you’re at it, I’m a little confused about the second part of your post as well. It reads:

    “I agree with you that child labor is a very bad thing. I also believe that children eating from garbage heaps is a very bad thing. Nevertheless, there are children who eat from garbage heaps. Do you think it would compassionate/wise/desirable to put fences around those garbage heaps to prevent those children from eating?”

    You’ll have to elaborate a little more about the leap from my views on child sweatshop labor relate to the building of fences around garbage heaps. Is there some moral equivalence here that I’m missing? Are those the only alternatives? Does one imply the other? How?

  54. 54 54 Benkyou Burito

    This part is simple enough that even a Keynesian can explain it:

    “I agree with you that child labor is a very bad thing. I also believe that children eating from garbage heaps is a very bad thing. Nevertheless, there are children who eat from garbage heaps. Do you think it would compassionate/wise/desirable to put fences around those garbage heaps to prevent those children from eating?””

    Your position is that Child Labor is bad so ending it must be compassionate.

    By the same logic, Children eating out of land-fills is bad so fencing them off must be compassionate.

    In both cases the bad thing is less bad than the absence of it. You say it is not so with Child Labor but the 40,000 Bangladeshi kids kicked to the street who are now working hard labor or on their backs in a filthy hovel would disagree. Even many of the 10,000 kids that got into the school program try to find factory work outside of class.

    Similarly, if there were a better option than eating out of a landfill, don’t you think someone would have done it? Walling it off doesn’t create a soup kitchen or a bread line, just like prohibiting child labor doesn’t create free schools where they pay you not to work. If you want to argue that we should be building free schools where they pay kids not to work, that’s fine, But let families choose the best option from what’s available.

    There is some kind of cognitive dissonance being experienced by one side of this or the other, but how are you able to support the plan that defiled tens of thousands of little girls putting them to work as whores and still claim to be the compassionate voice here?

    Also … doesn’t the Chicago School dismiss the utility function?

  55. 55 55 Steve Landsburg

    Izzydog:

    market efficiency is precisely a ultilitarian argument about maximizing wealth (ie utility) not a libertarian one.

    Here is the crux of your confusion. Market efficiency is most assuredly not the same thing as utilitarianism and wealth is most assuredly not the same thing as utility.

    Regarding the garbage heaps, Benkyou does an excellent job of explaining the analogy.

  56. 56 56 Ed

    Economics 101: Not letting the children work drives up the wages of their parents. By decreasing supply of labor, you drive the price up.

    You know what’s really excrable – you’re complaining about a decision made EIGHTEEN years ago, and blaming it on unions.

    Unions protect labor – Unions are what got rid of sweatshops in the US. Unions brought about 5 days weeks, 8 hour days, and benefits like medical insurance. If you enjoy ANY of those benefits, you have a union to thank. Because before unions demanded these benefits, they did not exist.

    These employers EXPLOIT children. Just like employers exploit workers whenever they can. Which is why we need more unions. We need to stop the exploitation of workers everywhere. These children are certainly not “freely contracting” for their labor.

    P.S. You make me sick.

  57. 57 57 Kevin

    Pardon my ignorance and/or simple minded thinking and, I must admit, I have not read all the comments BUT, what would happen-in Bangladesh for example, if one or more co’s (Nike for example) were to strike a deal with the sweatshops that they (Nike) will pay a bit more, in exchange-the shop will pay their workers more, etc…Why CAN’T a company pay more and demand that their contractors pay their workers more, make conditions better, so on and so on??

  58. 58 58 Philip

    Steve-

    To Izzydog: “I agree with you that child labor is a very bad thing. I also believe that children eating from garbage heaps is a very bad thing. Nevertheless, there are children who eat from garbage heaps. Do you think it would compassionate/wise/desirable to put fences around those garbage heaps to prevent those children from eating?

    So, other than (1) waiting for economic forces alone to (someday) ameliorate the problem of children driven by desperation to eat from garbage dumps, and (2) fending off market interventions that address the long and short term tragedies of child dumpster diving–even interventions designed to complement and accelerate economic forces to that end–what do you propose to save these children from “a life of poverty-ridden labor”?

    And let’s not sugar-coat it. Her fate is set when a child as young as five leaves school for years, many times for ever, and begins to work an average of 42 hours a week, even if the work environment is relatively safe and supervisors relatively benign. In this regard, your garbage dump metaphor is apt.

    But your fence metaphor is not and seems designed to trivialize and dismiss our arguments re: what can be done. It might work better if by raising a fence around the dump we increased the incomes of adults who are then better able to feed those children and send them to school. But I think your metaphor is beyond saving in this way.

    This dialog reminds me of a story I once heard about your hero Lincoln. He was confronted in a cabinet meeting by a member who urged him not to issue the Emancipation Proclamation because of all the potential costs to the war effort and to Lincoln’s political prospects, as well as, what we would call, the unintended consequences. Lincoln did his usual thoughtful pause and then said something like, “A surgeon takes the Hypocratic Oath but, regardless of his doubts about the final outcome, he still operates to save the soldier on the battlefield.”

    As far as I know libertarian economists take no oath to “first, do no harm”, so your passivity in the face of the abuses of child labor is baffling to me. It strikes me as an ideological imperative that’s impervious to reason.

    Returning to the Hypocratic Oath (the modern version), it contains language about “avoiding the twin traps of overtreatment and thearapeutic nihilism.” I think that is exactly what most libertarians have done. To avoid the overtreatment of Socialism they have adopted the thearapeutic nihilism of Social Darminism.

    But for Social Darwinism to work, the children must die before they reproduce.

    ——————

    “Philip: for the withdrawal of children from the labor market as incomes rise, see the paper by Kaushik Basu and Zafris Tsannatos on “The Global Child Labor Problem”; I’m not sure if the full paper is on the web but there’s an abstract and a citation here: http://wber.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/17/2/147 .”

    I will. Thanks.

    ———
    ““““““““

  59. 59 59 Philip

    Harold, under “Working Overtime”:

    “I have another point to make – the model in the paper is run over time, with decisions made by one generation affecting the next. The outcome is not instantaneous. I think the isocost / isoquant model is an instantaneous one. I suspect this can explain the difference in outcome from the two. The time model may not help todays children, I don’t think it is designed to test this. It shows that eventually the outcomes are better with CLR than without.”

    In reading this, I’m struck by the similarities between Harold’s argument here and Steve’s argument about the effects on labor of eliminating all taxes on capital.

    Despite the fact that making all capital tax exempt implies an inevitable and irreversible shift in tax burdens to labor, Steve makes the “rising tide (eventually) raises all boats” argument. Similarly, Harold notes that according to the Doepke model, CLR may not help today’s children but eventually does so.

    I raise this point because it drives home to me an asymmetry (double standard, maybe) in the libertarian arguments I see here.

    On the one hand, libertarians move readily and enthusiastically from the immediate effects of one of their policy prescriptions to the secondary and tertiary effects laissez fair theory leads them to. For example, if we eliminate all taxes on capital, it will enrich capital owners (before it benefits labor), who will invest more thereby raising worker productivity, which creates more jobs and raises wages. See, they say, labor benefits; society benefits.

    This is a wonderfully coherent narrative, and any initial, short term dislocations are easily dealt with through the invocation of “creative destruction”.

    On the other hand, when they are asked to consider the merits of some economic reform prescription, the libertarian brain freezes. They grasp at some intial market distortion, wave it furiously in the air, and condemn the proposal as dragging society toward poverty and socialism.

    Just try to get them to discuss the beneficial secondary and tertiary effects of a reform prescription (as Harold does above–under “Working Overtime”). Make an agrument similar to the concept of creative destruction about how those follow-on effects overcome the initial effect they condemn. It’s all for naught.

    It is very rare to see even a modest concession of merit like Harold received from Steve.

    This is why I say libertarian advocacy of laissez faire policies
    has come to resemble less economic theory based on evidence and reason and more like faith-based ideology.

  60. 60 60 Philip

    ED-

    “You know what’s really excrable – you’re complaining about a decision made EIGHTEEN years ago, and blaming it on unions.”

    Yes, and they’re dragged up a 13 year old article by a photographer-writer who makes decidedly un-laissez faire arguments which they conveniently overlook.

    But it’s worse than that, Ed. The Harkin legislation they cite was NEVER passed. And re: the claim that Harkin was shilling for labor, earlier I cited MANY free trade votes Harkin made against the unions. Moreover, there are no US garment makers (or jobs) in Iowa for Harkin to protect by using the pretext of child labor (which is the claim made here) to impose restrictions or obstacles on Bangadeshi exports to the US.

    As I’ve said, this is a canard. But checking facts before launching screeds is apparently not a common practice among libertarians.

  61. 61 61 Curmudgeon Geographer

    “The Harkin legislation they cite was NEVER passed. ”

    You keep saying this like not passing had no effect. As was mentioned above, UNICEF itself claims otherwise.

  62. 62 62 Josh Weil

    Ed,

    You invoke one of the greatest economic myths of our modern time:

    “Unions protect labor – Unions are what got rid of sweatshops in the US. Unions brought about 5 days weeks, 8 hour days, and benefits like medical insurance. If you enjoy ANY of those benefits, you have a union to thank. Because before unions demanded these benefits, they did not exist.”

    Unions only protect the worker at the expense of other workers. What actually makes things better for workers is competition among firms for workers. The only way to raise real wages is to increase productivity. The “bargaining argument” does not stand up to evidence.

    P.S. Read Free to Choose by Milton Friedman or watch the PBS series on Google Video.

  63. 63 63 Philip

    Steve and Benkyou-

    “Your position is that Child Labor is bad so ending it must be compassionate. By the same logic, Children eating out of land-fills is bad so fencing them off must be compassionate.”

    No, that’s a self-serving distortion and brainless simplification of what our position is, and it indicates either a failure or unwillingness to understand our position or the use of rhetoric to dismiss it without any consideration.

    No, *this” is our position (you may need to take notes):

    (1) child labor, especially of children 5 to 9 years of age, is inherently exploitative of the child. Under the best of circumstances, meaningful consent is impossible to obtain at that age. CConsidering the desperate circumstances their parents typically face, claiming parents execise “free choice” sending their child to work requires twisting the meaning of the word “choice” beyond all recognition, and

    (2) considering the incidence of child trafficking, slave labor, indentured servitude, abusive treatment, hazardous work environments, mandatory, excessive hours of work, and the absence of effective, independent institutional oversight, the claims of child labor apologists represent a head-in-the-sand posture adopted on the basis of a laissez faire ideology, at best, or a policy of social Darwinism, at worst, and

    (3) child labor forecloses opportunities to break the generational cycle of poverty by denying children a meaningful education or higher-skill job training. Moreover, child labor subjects children to bodily and psychological harm they bear for the rest of their shortened lives, and

    (4) child labor imposes a cost on adult workers by expanding the supply of labor and providing capital a cheap and more easily “managed” workforce. And by doing so, parents are kept in desperate circumstance and forced to “choose” to send their children to work;

    … therefore, child labor is immoral.

    Furthermore, (5) because child labor obstructs investments in children’s education and undermines the opportunity of productive work for their parents, child labor is economically inefficient and is a cost to the entire economy by sub-optimizing the long-term value child laborers represent.

    I know this is a great deal to master, especially for anyone whose grasp of our position boils down to “Child Labor is bad so ending it must be compassionate.” The walking dead could come up with a more sophisticated position than the one you offer here.
    —————–

    “You say it is not so with Child Labor but the 40,000 Bangladeshi kids kicked to the street who are now working hard labor or on their backs in a filthy hovel would disagree. Even many of the 10,000 kids that got into the school program try to find factory work outside of class.”

    What this the source of the claim that 40,000 kids have been “kicked to the street and who are now horking hard labor”? I would bet a large sum of money you have none, other than maybe a few antecdotal examples you can dig up on Google.

    What’s you source of your other statement about the 10,000 kids trying to fid factory work outside of class?
    ——————–

    “Similarly, if there were a better option than eating out of a landfill, don’t you think someone would have done it?”

    There is. We’re presenting one. What alternative are you offering? None, other than your laissez faire claptrap about how someday economic forces, left alone, will make things better.

  64. 64 64 Philip

    Curmudgeon-

    “You keep saying this like [the Harken legislation] not passing had no effect. As was mentioned above, UNICEF itself claims otherwise.”

    First, cite me the UNICEF source you’re using here.

    Second, I wonder how often you cite UNICEF as an authority on economic theory and whether you accept UNICEF statements as a credible source when used against your views. I’ll bet never.

    But you’re happy to use UNICEF when it suits your purpose, aren’t you.

  65. 65 65 Benjamin Seghers

    Yes, we also rapidly developed using slave labor. Is that an argument for slavery? It’s a pretty weak argument in mind.

  66. 66 66 Josh Weil

    But Ben, we didn’t rapidly develop using slave labor. The most fantastic economic growth came after slavery had already been abolished and the economy transformed from routine agricultural production to advanced industrial processes.

  67. 67 67 Benkyou Burito

    Phillip-
    ” First, cite me the UNICEF source you’re using here.”
    ” What this the source of the claim that 40,000 kids have been “kicked to the street and who are now horking hard labor”?”

    In ( http://www.unicef.org/sowc97/download/sow2of2.pdf ) – on p. 15 of the PDF ” In 1992, between 50,000 and 75,000 of its workforce were children under 14, mainly girls”

    ” Then, when Senator Harkin reintroduced the Bill the following year, the impact was far more devastating: garment employers dismissed an estimated 50,000 children from their factories”

    And then in (http://www.newint.org/issue292/thank.htm ) – ” As of now 10,547 of the estimated 50,000 children have been registered, and of these 8,067 have enlisted in school.”, 50,000 – 10,000 (my numbers are sloppy) leaves 40k kids somewhere. From the unicef paper, “A series of follow-up visits by UNICEF, local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) discovered that children went looking for new sources of income, and found them in work such as stone-crushing, street hustling and prostitution — all of them more hazardous and exploitative than garment production.”

    ” What’s you source of your other statement about the 10,000 kids trying to find factory work outside of class?”

    Hard numbers on how many are working and going to the school program don’t exist. Which is why I weasel worded my assertion. But out of 10,000 kids if you have a report of one, suggesting that there are many is not a stretch,

    ” Shahjahan (pictured on the facing page) was one of the lucky ones admitted to a BRAC school. The 300 taka per month is a small sum for him too, but he works in a tailoring shop from nine till eleven in the morning, and again from two-thirty in the afternoon till ten at night. … he feels he is getting the best of both worlds: free schooling, including a stipend, as well as paid work and a potential career. “

  68. 68 68 Philip

    Benkyou-

    Thanks. I’ll take a look at your citations and respond.

    In the meantime why not address the core thrust of my post which you seem to have overlooked:

    You: “Your position is that Child Labor is bad so ending it must be compassionate. By the same logic, Children eating out of land-fills is bad so fencing them off must be compassionate.”

    Me: “No, that’s a self-serving distortion and brainless simplification of what our position is, and it indicates either a failure or unwillingness to understand our position or the use of rhetoric to dismiss it without any consideration.

    No, *this” is our position (you may need to take notes):

    (1) child labor, especially of children 5 to 9 years of age, is inherently exploitative of the child. Under the best of circumstances, meaningful consent is impossible to obtain at that age. CConsidering the desperate circumstances their parents typically face, claiming parents execise “free choice” sending their child to work requires twisting the meaning of the word “choice” beyond all recognition, and

    (2) considering the incidence of child trafficking, slave labor, indentured servitude, abusive treatment, hazardous work environments, mandatory, excessive hours of work, and the absence of effective, independent institutional oversight, the claims of child labor apologists represent a head-in-the-sand posture adopted on the basis of a laissez faire ideology, at best, or a policy of social Darwinism, at worst, and

    (3) child labor forecloses opportunities to break the generational cycle of poverty by denying children a meaningful education or higher-skill job training. Moreover, child labor subjects children to bodily and psychological harm they bear for the rest of their shortened lives, and

    (4) child labor imposes a cost on adult workers by expanding the supply of labor and providing capital a cheap and more easily “managed” workforce. And by doing so, parents are kept in desperate circumstance and forced to “choose” to send their children to work;

    … therefore, child labor is immoral.

    Furthermore, (5) because child labor obstructs investments in children’s education and undermines the opportunity of productive work for their parents, child labor is economically inefficient and is a cost to the entire economy by sub-optimizing the long-term value child laborers represent.”

  69. 69 69 Philip

    Steve-

    I’ve finally found the quote from Kuznets I wanted to accompany the following statement from an earlier post:

    “Returning to the Hippocratic Oath (the modern version), it contains language about “avoiding the twin traps of overtreatment and thearapeutic nihilism.” I think that is exactly what most libertarians have done. To avoid the overtreatment of Socialism they have adopted the thearapeutic nihilism of Social Darminism.”

    As the Oath implies, there is middle ground between these two extremes. Simon Kuznets, whose work I understand did much to strenghten economists’ confidence in the moderating effects of capitalist development on poverty and inequality, points us to where that middle ground lies. Kuznets based his famous hypothesis–that after initially increasing, inequality will diminish with capitalist economic development–not on the operation of market forces alone, but on the combined effect of economic growth and social legislation.

    In a 1955 American Economic Review article, Kuznets wrote,

    “In democratic societies the growing political power of the urban lower income groups led to a variety of protective and supporting legislation, much of it aimed to counteract the worst effects of rapid industrialization and urbanization and to support the claims of the broad masses for more adequate shares of the growing income of the country.”

    The labor codes called for by anti-child labor advocates seem to me to be an example of the “protective and supporting legislation” that Kuznets says is key to spreading the benefits of economic growth more widely.

    Do I miss-read Kuznets?

  70. 70 70 Benkyou Burito

    Okay Phillip

    “(1) child labor, … is inherently exploitative of the child. …meaningful consent is impossible to obtain at that age.”

    I disagree. On millions of farms across the globe hundreds of millions of kids wake up every day and milk cows, till fields, plant crops. In Khmer a family of 12 would all be out in the rice or millet. 4 yr olds even. They are not working any fewer hours or less hard labor than these Bengali kids. If these families could live with their kids going to school they would.

    “(2) considering the incidence of child trafficking, slave labor, indentured servitude, abusive treatment, hazardous work environments, mandatory, excessive hours of work,…”

    When a family is critically impoverished, child trafficking, slave labor, indentured servitude all become much more attractive ways to dispose of an extra mouth to feed. It is unfortunate that families are in such a devastating position But their lot will not get better by chasing employers away.

    “(3) child labor forecloses opportunities to break the generational cycle of poverty by denying children a meaningful education or higher-skill job training.”

    So does starvation or being sold to a brothel because your other siblings are starving to death.

    “(4) child labor imposes a cost on adult workers by expanding the supply of labor and providing capital a cheap and more easily “managed” workforce.”

    What are your numbers on the adult workers? Expanding the supply of labor encourages development of the area. No one is going to build a factory in Bengalidesh if they have to choose from a few dozen adults to fill a few hundred positions.

    “(5) because child labor obstructs investments in children’s education and undermines the opportunity of productive work for their parents…”

    I have yet to read of a situation where someone wanting to invest in a developing world’ child’s education being told that they cannot. Can you find me such a case? If I wanted to mail a check to one of the hundreds of NGOs in Bengaledesh that provide education to kids, what would obstruct that check? Can you tell me what jobs the parents would be getting if child labor were truely stopped there? Can you tell me that adult employment went up by 50,000 when the factories fired that number of kids?

    If the kid’s parents opportunities were improved, why did the UNICEF report show that these kids were so much worse off afterwards that they were working in rock quarries and as WHORES?

    I think what you meant in (4) was that it imposes a cost on adult American workers who feel entitled to a job that a 10 year old in Pakistan can do better.

  71. 71 71 Benkyou Burito

    Kevin- “Why CAN’T a company pay more and demand that their contractors pay their workers more, make conditions better, so on and so on??”

    They can. Look at FairTrade coffee. And Starbucks in general. Starbucks is the first large scale coffee buyer to demand sustainable growing practices and offer the kind of money that make sustainable coffee growing possible. And wow did some people flip when they were asked to pay $1.60 for a cup of coffee. But ut works out and people got better coffee as a result (though I’m not a huge starbucks fan, other companies followed suit).

    There are campaigns to stamp-and-shame people into paying more for their socks. Usually this takes the form of a “buy american” campaign “Look at the label”. But also for campaigns to help the developing world.

    Unlike quality coffee, the results of paying a bit more for a sock don’t translate into a better sock and convincing the average consumer who’s also just trying to get by that paying an extre 30 cents is a good thing is not always easy. Forcing them to pay it means they will go elsewhere, just like forcing the factories to pay more for labor means they will buy less or go elsewhere.

    Consider. though, the track record of development. Taiwan, China, Japan, Mexico, Hong Kong, Korea. The unions SCREAMED to ban imports on these places because they employed SLAVE-LABOR! They didn’t but labor was comparatively cheaper. Today the average maufacturing job in Korea makes about 85% the average manufacturing job in the USA. Chinese workers make the iPod and china’s biggest problem is convincing people to stay on the farms instead of moving to the factories. Taiwan is the goto guy for CPU design (design, not just production). And Hong Kong is a banking mecca.

  72. 72 72 Izzydog

    Professor wrote:

    “Market efficiency is most assuredly not the same thing as utilitarianism and wealth is most assuredly not the same thing as utility.”

    For time, space, and general readership interest reasons, I didn’t go into the entire history of ideas of libertarians and utilitarians, but I did clearly and accurately define the difference between the libertarian and utilitarian claim for free markets. A distinction, btw, that I don’t think you understood. And now, you find yourself in the position of not wanting to agree with ole Izzydog because it’s so distasteful. So why don’t you try this. Print off my paragraph above and walk it down to the philosophy department. Find an expert, and say “I (professor) wrote this. Have I summarized this correctly?” And see what they say. Don’t do it for me, do it for your own edification.

    If, philosophically speaking, the claim of market efficiency isn’t about increasing the general welfare (a utilitarian argument), why exactly is it then that we are supposed to worship at the alter of market efficiency (the efficacy of which is still up for debate)? Especially when it comes to the difficult and horrifying question of child sweatshop labor.

    In the second part of the note, professor wrote: “Regarding the garbage heaps, Benkyou does an excellent job of explaining the analogy.”

    Then I want to thank both you and Benkyou for making me look like a psychic (I should have picked lotto numbers instead). As I wrote you would in my very first post in this thread, you flattened my argument to suit your ends. I didn’t just say child sweatshop labor is bad, I said child sweatshop labor is morally wrong. As suggested, there’s a qualitative difference that you neatly flattened. Without the flattening, my position on fences around landfills is probably very different than what you projected it might be if I were to consider it merely bad.

    As I said before, start with the premise that child sweatshop labor is morally wrong and start working solutions from there. Nobody said the solutions would be easy.

    I haven’t yet finished reading the links Benkyou provided (these are pretty old — Isn’t there something more current?), but the UNICEF paper, which appears to have been written after the photographer’s story so the recommendations take the same factory closing story and its aftermath into account, outlines exactly the position I did.

    “It is time morality prevailed. As we step into the next millennium, hazardous child labour must be left behind, consigned to history as completely as those other forms of slavery that it so closely resembles.”

    “Since the causes of child labour are complex and include poverty, economic exploitation, social values and cultural circumstances, solutions must be comprehensive and must involve the widest possible range of partners in each society.”

    In other words, it’s not the doe eyed liberal look at the problem that Benkyou seems to like to portray. They’ve taken a hard look at the issue in it’s entirety and my preliminary skim is they have concluded the free market alone isn’t enough. Just as I did, the paper starts from the premise that child sweatshop labor is morally wrong, not just bad, and it assumes a universe with more alternatives than the single “choice” of sweatshop labor or eating from a landfill which isn’t a choice in any meaningful sense of the word. Doe eyed free market solutions alone aren’t going to cut it either.

    From the article:

    “Any comprehensive attack on child labour must also mobilize a wide range of protagonists: governments and local communities, NGOs and spiritual leaders, employers and trade unions, the child labourers themselves and their families.”

    “The worldwide drive for competitiveness draws children into the workforce. In India, which has only in recent years opened up fully to the global economy, international competition has already led some sectors of industry to seek an advantage by recruiting cheap child labour — children’s wages in Indian industry are less than half those of adults for the same output.”

    “In countries where labour unions are weak or nonexistent, collective bargaining between workers and employers can still be effective, as improvements in the working conditions of adults reduce the pressure on children to work. Furthermore, collective bargaining can also serve the interests of working children in matters such as remuneration.”

    Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just citing the article Benkyou recommended we read. I’ll try to complete the full reading of both articles in a few days.

  73. 73 73 Steve Landsburg

    Izzydog: If, philosophically speaking, the claim of market efficiency isn’t about increasing the general welfare (a utilitarian argument), why exactly is it then that we are supposed to worship at the alter of market efficiency

    There is a vast literature on the arguments for (and against) economic efficiency as a normative criterion; you can find good summaries of those arguments in many good intermediate level economics textbooks, including Chapter 8 of mine. There is nothing utilitarian about those arguments.

  74. 74 74 Philip

    Benkyou-

    “On millions of farms across the globe hundreds of millions of kids wake up every day and milk cows, till fields, plant crops. In Khmer a family of 12 would all be out in the rice or millet. 4 yr olds even. They are not working any fewer hours or less hard labor than these Bengali kids. If these families could live with their kids going to school they would.”

    Benkyou, it’s very frustrating debating a point with you because you keep oversimplifying our arguments and returning to questions that are not at issue. For example, “If these families could live with their kids going to school they would.”

    Well, of course they would. But since these families are trapped in poverty, your statement makes my point, not yours. What options are you offerring these families to raise their income enough to educate their children? I mean what option other than waiting for the long arc of economic development to solve the problem for you?

    This is like arguing that Lincoln should have told the slaves to wait patiently for their freedom (and the abolitionists, to get lost) because someday slavery might die out on it’s own, and if we intervene against the southern slavocracy they’ll just get meaner. Besides, even if you’re freed, you might actually be worse off than you are now, in chains and under the lash with your children torn from you and sold as chattel.

    Even if I were to agree with you that, in the short term, it is a necessary evil for 4 yr old children to work in fields or factories and forego any education, you would still be unjustified, both morality and in terms of economic efficiency, in opposing interventions to eventually eliminate child labor.

    The moral reason you are unjustified is that, left alone, child labor is self-sustaining because (1) it undermines the work opportunities and wages of adults who could otherwise better support their children, thereby reinforcing the poverty that forces their children to work and (2) it undermines the long-term physical and psychological health of children and denies them the education they need to break out of the cycle of poverty.

    With respect to economic efficiency, the reason you are unjustified is that, by consuming the human “seed corn” children signify in every society, child labor sub-optimizes the value these children embody for their economies.
    ——————–

    Me: “(2) considering the incidence of child trafficking, slave labor, indentured servitude, abusive treatment, hazardous work environments, mandatory, excessive hours of work,…”

    You: “When a family is critically impoverished, child trafficking, slave labor, indentured servitude all become much more attractive ways to dispose of an extra mouth to feed. It is unfortunate that families are in such a devastating position But their lot will not get better by chasing employers away.”

    Me: “Unfortunately” and “more attractive”, indeed. This is an Orwellian abuse of the language. “Tragically” and “more desperate alternatives” are more apt unless, of course, you want to downplay the abhorrence of the practice and avoid offerring any remedies– because you reserve your capacity for abhorrence to violations of your laissez faire ideology.
    —————————–

    Me: “(3) child labor forecloses opportunities to break the generational cycle of poverty by denying children a meaningful education or higher-skill job training.”

    You: “So does starvation or being sold to a brothel because your other siblings are starving to death.”

    Me: What are you offerring these children other than “sorry, buddy; it won’t mean anything to you and your sisters because it’ll come too late for you, but someday the huddled masses will be better off as a side-effect of the Bengali economic elite getting richer”?

    Direct interventions to limit and eventually eliminate child labor hold the prospect of raising adult incomes, enabling the education of the current generation of children, and ending the generation after generation of poverty these families have endured.

    I want to make certain you understand this: I am not saying that interventions alone will produce the result we want. I’m saying that it is the *combination* of economic forces and market interventions that will do so.

    In an earlier post, I cited Nobel laureate Simon Kuznets, whose work greatly strenghtened economists’ confidence in the moderating effects of capitalist development on poverty and inequality. Kuznets based his famous hypothesis-–that after initially increasing, inequality will diminish with capitalist economic development–-not on the operation of market forces alone, but on the combined effect of market forces and social legislation.

    Here’s the Kuznets quote again:

    “In democratic societies the growing political power of the urban lower income groups led to a variety of protective and supporting legislation, much of it aimed to counteract the worst effects of rapid industrialization and urbanization and to support the claims of the broad masses for more adequate shares of the growing income of the country.”

    I believe Kuznets concisely captures the history of political/economic reform movements in this country since the Revolution: from the ratification of the Constitution replacing the Articles of Confederation, the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian political/economic reforms, the war on slavery, the Progressive era reforms, and the 20th century economic reform movements.
    —————

    Me: “(4) child labor imposes a cost on adult workers by expanding the supply of labor and providing capital a cheap and more easily “managed” workforce.”

    You: “No one is going to build a factory in Bengalidesh [sic] if they have to choose from a few dozen adults to fill a few hundred positions.

    Me: You must be getting tired because now you’re just making stuff up. Your example here is absurd. There is no shortage of adults in these labor markets.

    BTW, it’s spelled “Bangladesh”.
    —————-

    Me: “(5) because child labor obstructs investments in children’s education and undermines the opportunity of productive work for their parents…”

    You: “If the kid’s [sic] parents [sic] opportunities were improved, why did the UNICEF report show that these kids were so much worse off afterwards that they were working in rock quarries and as WHORES?

    Me: If you really knew anything about economics (or the real world, for that matter), you’d know how embarrassing it is having your name attached to this. (Good thing you use a pseudonym.)

    The answer is: because the increase in jobs and rise in wages for adults is a secondary effect and takes some time to unfold. Exactly like a cut in taxes on capital, leads to increases in capital investment (a secondary effect), which increases productivity and creates jobs (a tertiary effect), and finally, benefits labor. None of this happens instantaneously.

    I’ll bet the second example is familiar to you, but you’ve never thought about the first one.
    —————-

    You: “I think what you meant in (4) was that it imposes a cost on adult American workers who feel entitled to a job that a 10 year old in Pakistan can do better.”

    Me: I understand. You lack the intellectual capacity to address my real position (not the brain-dead version you’ve constructed that’s SO much easier to attack), so you turn to attacking my motives.

  75. 75 75 Benkyou Burito

    I think we have pounded this discussion into a horse, unfortunately it is a dead one. But okay.

    “left alone, child labor is self-sustaining”- As the Japanese Taiwanese, Malaysian, Chinese, economies show, this statement is not necessarily true.

    “What are you offering these children”-Even if I’m not offering them anything but a preservation of the status quo, I am at least not taking their livelihoods away from them.

    “Direct interventions to limit and eventually eliminate child labor hold the prospect of raising adult incomes, enabling the education of the current generation of children, and ending the generation after generation of poverty these families have endured.”- And I ask that you cite me some numbers to back this up.

    “Your example here is absurd. There is no shortage of adults in these labor markets.”- so you should have no problem finding government data to back this claim up.

    “BTW, it’s spelled “Bangladesh”.”- Oh no, I have committed the logical fallacy of the wrongly spelled word.

    “The answer is: because the increase in jobs and rise in wages for adults is a secondary effect and takes some time to unfold”- so you should have no problem showing me a UNICEF report (or other credible objective agency) showing a rise in real adult wages adjusted for normal growth, and a rise in the adult employment rate attributed to the policy that was put into effect in Bangladesh.

    “You lack the intellectual capacity”- In competitive debate as well as forensic language this phrase is synonymous with “I concede”.

    “(Good thing you use a pseudonym.)” – A google search of my email address will give you my name. I suspect the same about yours. Put your primary email addy up and I’ll do the same. Steven knows my addy he may consider permission granted to post it if you do the same and I refuse. Hell, he’s pulled my CV twice and knows that I have at least a cursory understanding of econ, and am a published source on Eastern Asia.

    The truth is you counter my argument with ad hominem and unsupported assertions about latency of effect.

    Your argument assumes that there is something else here for the kids that there is not. The kids were kicked out of their jobs and their lives did not get better. Evidence shows they got worse. Yet still you claim the compassionate role.

    Evidence shows that economic development leads to an end in child labor not the laws thousands of miles away. You may malign the language all you like, but It IS unfortunate that families are in such a devastating position. But putting their kids to work in a garment shop did not create their poverty and chasing employers away will not end it.

  76. 76 76 Philip

    It’s time we take a closer look at the article by Shahidul Alam that is Steve’s point of departure for his defense of child labor.

    As I read it the first time, it didn’t seem to pass the smell test, and now that I’ve looked at it closely I see why. Let’s take a critical look at the article instead of taking it at face value as our libertarian friends have done:

    I’ll discuss the red flags in the order I’ve found them.

    * First clue:

    “According to a press release by the garment employers in October 1994: ‘50,000 children lost their jobs because of the Harkin Bill.’”

    Alam earns his first red flag by citing a *press release* from one of the parties with the greatest economic interest in discrediting child labor reforms. He appears to present this piece of public relations with complete credulity and without the professional detachment one would expect.

    He earns a second red flag by making press releases (instead of direct interviews with sources) a significant part of his research. (Similar examples provided below.)

    * Second clue:

    * “A UNICEF worker confirms ‘the jobs went overnight’.”

    * “A senior International Labour Organization (ILO) official has no doubt that the original bill was put forward ‘primarily to protect US trade interests’”

    * “When UNICEF and the ILO made a series of follow-up visits they found that the children displaced from the garment factories were working at stone-crushing and street hustling – more hazardous and exploitative activities than their factory jobs.”

    * “In the wake of the mass expulsion of child garment workers it was plain that something had gone very wrong. UNICEF and the ILO tried to pick up the pieces.”

    * “‘What we have done here in Bangladesh is described as fantastic,’ says a senior ILO worker. ‘I wonder how fantastic it really is.’”

    What do these passages have in common? They all purport to provide, without attribution, direct quotes from UNICEF or ILO officials or represent (official?) UNICEF/ILO positions.

    ALL of Alam’s quotes from UNICEF and ILO sources are anonymous, which is curious, since Alam is presenting these statements and assessments as if they reflect official UNICEF/ILO positions, so there should be no need for anonymity.

    If, nevertheless, for some reason these officials felt the need to be quoted off the record, professional practice requires Alam to tell us the officials spoke on the condition of anonymity and why they made this requirement.

    Similarly, in the only two instances where Alam seems to be attributing quotes to people using their real names (both of them industry representatives), he only gives us their first names–no affiliation, no title, and no location.

    Red flag #3.

    * Third clue:

    “When UNICEF and the ILO made a series of follow-up visits they found that the children displaced from the garment factories were working at stone-crushing and street hustling – more hazardous and exploitative activities than their factory jobs.”

    I’ve done some research. This statement comes word-for-word from a UNICEF report, not from any interviews with UNICEF officials. (It can be found at http://www.unicef.org/souc97) This report presents a far more balanced assessment of Bangali child labor reform efforts than Mr. Alam suggests. Mr. Alam has been selective in his use of material within in a single source.

    Here’s a more damning example–the first two conclusions from the UNICEF report Mr. Alam (and through him, Mr. Landsberg) cites:

    “1. Hazardous and exploitative forms of child labour, including bonded labour, commercial sexual exploitation and work that hampers the child’s physical, social, cognitive, emotional or moral development, must not be tolerated, and governments must take immediate steps to end them.

    “2. Governments must fulfil their responsibility to make relevant primary education free and compulsory for all children (article 28
    of the Convention) and ensure that all children attend primary school on a full-time basis until completion. Governments must budget the necessary resources for this purpose, with donors ensuring adequate resources from existing development aid budgets.”

    These conclusions directly contradict the anti-interventionist, libertarian ideology you all advocate.

    That’s red flag #4.

    * The fourth clue:

    “Tom Harkin is sponsored by a key US trade union….”

    The claim that Tom Harkin “is *sponsored* by a key US trade union” reflects one of two possibiliities: either (1) Alam is practicing spin here (which I don’t think is the case) or (2) Alam has uncritically and naively accepted the spin of industry opponents of Harkin’s bill (which is what I’ve concluded).

    “It was when it [the Harkin bill] was reintroduced after these amendments in 1993 that the Bill had its devastating impact in Bangladesh.”

    Note the passive language here which is a classic rhetorical device used to slip unattributed or unsupported conclusions into a piece hiding advocacy behind a pose of detached reporting. Again, this might represent spin on Alam’s part. I think it probably reflects an effort to hide his source.

    That’s red flag #5.

    * The fifth clue:

    I’ve done some research on Mr. Alam’s background. When he wrote this article in 1997 he had no credentials and apparently no experience reporting on child labor, the economics of child labor, international efforts to curb child labor, the history of child labor in Bangladesh or anywhere else in the world, or journalism of any kind. I cannot find another piece he has written on child labor since this article was published 13 years ago.

    By all accounts, Mr. Alam seems to be a gifted photographer.

    What on earth gives him the exalted status to warrant libertarians trotting out this article as an argument for preserving child labor *13 years* after it was published in a leftist rag?

    Maybe it’s because that’s the best they got.

  77. 77 77 Philip

    Benkyou-

    You: “Evidence shows that economic development leads to an end in child labor not the laws thousands of miles away.”

    So how do you dismiss the quote from the Nobel-laureate in economics Kuznets?

    Kuznets: “In democratic societies the growing political power of the urban lower income groups led to a variety of protective and supporting legislation, much of it aimed to counteract the worst effects of rapid industrialization and urbanization and to support the claims of the broad masses for more adequate shares of the growing income of the country.”

    You: “Your example here is absurd. There is no shortage of adults in these labor markets.”- so you should have no problem finding government data to back this claim up.”

    Me: If it’s so easy, why didn’t you do it?

    Let me help you:

    “It is also important to consider the impact of the crisis on particular export-focused labor-intensive industries—in particular garments and textiles—prone to the recruitment of children.

    “This is a serious concern in countries, such as Bangladesh and Cambodia, where rising adult unemployment in certain export-oriented sectors may lead to a spike in child labor to support falling household income and as businesses adopt measures to keep labor costs down and maintain operations.”

    Source: Urmila Sarkar, Child Labor and Education Specialist and Leah Mosel a Research Officer on Child Labor and Youth Employment, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. Sept. 15, 2009.

    http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/newdelhi/ipec/responses/index.htm

    Here’s another one:

    “The 1999-2000 Labour Force Survey estimates that of the 74.2 million working age population (15 – 64 years), about 21.6 percent are employed for wages and salaries… 33.9 percent of men and 8.4 percent of women.”

    “Unemployment rates in Bangladesh, estimated at 4.3 percent, are comparatively low due to pervasive under-employment and the large number of people considered to be out of the labour force. Unemployment rates are high among the youth, especially among young men under the age of 30.”

    Source: the UN’s “Bangladesh Common Country Assessment, 2005″

    http://www.un.org.bd/bgd/index.html

    And another:

    “Child labour [in Bangladesh] is part of a vicious cycle, with poverty as a main cause as well as a main consequence. This implies that child labour cannot be addressed in isolation. Main factors among those contributing to child labour are rapid population growth, ADULT UNEMPLOYMENT [emphasis supplied], bad working conditions, lack of minimum wages, exploitation of workers, low living standard, low quality of education, lack of legal provisions and enforcement, low capacity of institutions, gender discrimination, conceptual thinking about childhood, etc. One or more of the above contribute to the large numbers of children working under exploitative or hazardous conditions.”

    Source: Nurul Hague, Area Coordinator, Plan International Bangladesh.
    From The Daily Star (the largest English language newspaper in Bangladesh), October 27, 2007.

    http://74.125.47.132/search?q=cache:0LgeEHGfT8gJ:www.thedailystar.net/law/2007/10/03/advocacy.htm+adult+unemployment+in+Bangladesh&cd=32&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    There–I’ve done your homework for you.

  78. 78 78 Benkyou Burito

    Your link is dead, but I imagine it is the same report I linked 2 or 3 times already.

    So I take it from your recent post that you haven’t actually found any official data or credible reports to back up your earlier claims or refute mine? Here’s a quote from your earlier post, “What this the source of the claim …? I would bet a large sum of money you have none, other than maybe a few …you can dig up on Google. … What’s you source of your other statement …?”

    I showed you mine and yours is either non-existent or too small to see.

    You pull quotes from a UNICEF report that condemn child labor and say “Surprise Suckers!!!”, of course the whole report was put together to encourage bettering the welfare of children. Just a paragraph away from the one you quoted is this gem:

    “While just as committed to
    its eradication in the long term, they
    are immediately concerned about
    protecting children at work, rather
    than liberating them into conceivably
    more difficult circumstances.”

    Surprise!!, who’s cherry picking now?

    And when in doubt, with no data to back your own self-serving claims, you attack the author? How many books had JK Rowling written before the HP books? How many had Khaled Hosseini, before kite Runner. Were they not qualified to tell their stories.

    If you don’t like a message, show it to be wrong. Ad Hominem is petty and makes for a very soft argument.

  79. 79 79 Philip

    Benkyou–

    I’m sorry you couldn’t find them, Benk. Here, I’ll spoon-feed them to you.

    So you don’t miss them again, I’ve even bracketed the stats with ***:

    * “There has been slow employment growth at the national level***AS THE ADULT EMPLOYMENT RATE WAS 58.5 PER CENT IN 2006*** with only 1.1 per cent annual growth rate in last six years, said the [Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)] report finalised recently.”

    http://74.125.47.132/search?q=cache:jcZJTiWQVE4J:www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2009/09/27/80001.html+bangladesh+adult+employment+unemployment&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    * “The total size of the working population in Bangladesh is about 51.2 million (World Bank 1999). ***The unemployment rate was 26%*** (14 million) in the financial year (FY) of 1998-99 among the economically active population.”

    http://laborsta.ilo.org/cgi-bin/broker.exe

    * Unemployment rates for adults males with no education:
    1995-95: 1.3%
    1999-2000: 9.5%

    Adult males with some primary/secondary education:
    1995-1996: 4.0%
    1999-2000: 4.2%

    Source: BBS: Labour Force Survey (Dhaka, GoB, 1995-1996, 1999-2000)

    http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_emp/@emp_elm/documents/publication/wcms_114033.pdf

  80. 80 80 Benkyou Burito

    “I’m sorry you couldn’t find them, Benk. Here, I’ll spoon-feed them to you.”

    This is priceless. You want ME to research YOUR claims for you and if I don’t I’M the lazy one? Sounds like big union philosophy at work here. But in all your work you only made my case that much stronger.
    You show that Adult unemployment was “58.5 PER CENT IN 2006 with only 1.1% rise per year.”, that it was 9.5% in 2000 and 1.3% in 1995.

    But during that period the participation rate of children in the workforce is decreasing. Generally attributed to Child Labor restrictions since that trend begins right at 1994 (http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/8008/1/MPRA_paper_8008.pdf ) and through it all adults have made up a huge majority of the workforce (http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/newdelhi/ipec/responses/bangladesh/index.htm ).

    So now we have statistical evidence that as you restrict child labor, adult unemployment contracts. Your union goons are not content with destroying the lives of the children there, they want to ruin the adult population’s lives too. I asked for data supporting your claim that as children were removed from the workforce the lives of adults would get better and you bring me the opposite. Did Tom Harkin FIRE you? is that why you don’t work with him anymore?

    I’m beginning to believe that poor girl in the interview. You really do just hate them. They are poor and uneducated and you despise them so you shut her factories down.

  81. 81 81 Benkyou Burito

    I’m sorry. Typo got me.

    “as you restrict child labor, adult unemployment contracts.”

    Should read:

    “as you restrict child labor, adult employment contracts.”

  82. 82 82 Philip

    Benk, you’re as sloppy as you are dim-witted. Here’s what you wrote:

    “You show that Adult unemployment was “58.5 PER CENT IN 2006 with only 1.1% rise per year.”

    Now go back and take a close look at what I actually wrote. Do you see the difference? Why don’t you tell me just what it was you screwed up?

    And nice try at changing the subject, but the stats I presented seal the case that there are plenty of unemployed adult to fill the ranks of those children if we sent them to school instead of labor camps like you prefer.

    And, no, I never worked for Harkin but would have been proud to.

    What about you? Have you ever been gainfully employed? If so, I pity the poor soul.

    You’re too ignorant and incoherent to be any fun to debate.

    Run along now.

  83. 83 83 Benkyou Burito

    “AS THE ADULT EMPLOYMENT RATE WAS 58.5 PER CENT IN 2006*** with only 1.1 per cent annual growth rate in last six years,”

    You post this and then call me sloppy? It was in mixed context. Ambiguous. Did you mean that Economic growth was only 1.1%? If so then you’ve show that during the time where the most children have been removed from the workforce, the economy, adult employment rate, and overal income levels per capita have dropped the most.

    Call me names if you like, but it won’t make up for you having lost this argument.

  84. 84 84 Izzydog

    Professor wrote:

    “There is a vast literature on the arguments for (and against) economic efficiency as a normative criterion; you can find good summaries of those arguments in many good intermediate level economics textbooks, including Chapter 8 of mine. There is nothing utilitarian about those arguments.”

    Professor,

    There is a vast literature. Since this is the third time you’ve made the claim that the argument for market efficiency (mythical) isn’t a utilitarian one, but you haven’t stated what it actually is, you probably should just tell us because my understanding is quite different.

    My understanding is that a long time ago it was recognized that utility could not be measured or observed directly, so instead economists devised a way to measure actual behavior and assume that, in a perfectly competitive equilibrium, this behavior reveals the underlying relative utilities. These ‘revealed preferences’, as they were named by Paul Samuelson, were revealed in price.

    “Utility is taken to be correlative to Desire or Want. It has been already argued that desires cannot be measured directly, but only indirectly, by the outward phenomena to which they give rise: and that in those cases with which economics is chiefly concerned the measure is found in the price which a person is willing to pay for the fulfillment or satisfaction of his desire.” Alfred Marshall

    The literature also reads “The whole intellectual edifice collapsed in the summer of last year.” Alan Greenspan Testimony to the House of Representatives October 2008

    It’s time to end this libertarian apology for child sweatshop labor, with it’s Orwellian claim that in order to end child sweatshop labor we must employ child sweatshop labor — unless the normative criterion doesn’t include the ending of sweatshop labor and includes only the rather thin position that its better than eating from landfills.

  85. 85 85 Steve Landsburg

    Izzydog: The simplest example to illustrate the difference between a utilitarian criterion and the efficiency criterion is this: If Jack is wealthier than Jill and we can somehow costlessly redistribute wealth from Jack to Jill, ought we do so? The utilitarian answer is “yes”, whereas the efficiency criterion declares the redistribution a matter of indifference. Two criteria that make different policy recommendations can not be the same criterion.

    There are multiple philosophical bases for using the efficiency criterion. One is that under an efficiency criterion, most people will tend to lose the fights they care least about and win the fights they care most about. Another is that inefficient outcomes (by definition) forgo opportunities to make everyone better off, and it is desirable to make everyone better off. There is nothing utilitarian about that argument. In fact, I teach a course every year in which we explore the differences between utilitarianism and efficiency in considerable detail.

  86. 86 86 Philip

    Steve-

    What’s your response to my posts…

    (1) re: the red flags in Alam’s articles undermining his credibility, and

    (2) our esteemed, Nobel laureate Kuznests’s conclusion that, after initially increasing, inequality will diminish with capitalist economic development, not on the operation of market forces alone, but on the combined effect of economic growth and social legislation?

  87. 87 87 Steve Landsburg

    Philip: I often hesitate to respond to your posts because they are so very long I feel like I need time to digest them—and time is sometimes pretty scarce around here. I do read these, I do value them, and I do hope I find time to write replies (which entails re-reading), but I don’t want to make any promises I’m not sure I can keep. So: I do promise to try to find time for this; I don’t absolutely promise to find it.

  88. 88 88 Philip

    “Did you mean that Economic growth was only 1.1%? If so then you’ve show that during the time where the most children have been removed from the workforce, the economy, adult employment rate, and overal income levels per capita have dropped the most.”

    Jeeze, Benk. I provided the links so you could answer this type of braindead question yourself. I’ll spell it out for you:

    * ““AS THE ADULT EMPLOYMENT RATE WAS 58.5 PER CENT IN 2006*** with only 1.1 per cent annual growth rate in last six years,”

    This refers to the 58.5%% of all adult Bengali males who are employed (not “unemployed”) and the fact that the annual employment growth rate of this group was only 1.1% between 2000 and 2006. This demonstrates that, contrary to your unsupported assertions, that ((1)economic growth is not generating big increases in employment and (2) there are there are huge numbers (something around 100% minus 58.5%) of adult males available to fill the ranks of child laborers when we send them to school.

    * Re; the unemployment stats I provided:

    * The 9.5% unemployment rate (1999-2000) of adult males with no education also demonstrates there are more than adequate numbers of adult males (at the lowest income levels) ready to fill the ranks of children going off to school

    * The difference between the 1.3% unemployment rate in 1995-96 and the 9.5% in 1999-2000 demonstrates that economic growth is not creating the job opportunities for the lower classes claimed by laissez faire proponents. In fact, their position has dramatically deteriorated.

    * The 4.0% unemployment rate for adult males with some primary/secondary education in 1995-96 vs the 4.2% rate in 1999-2000 demonstrates that even for those above the lowest education achievement levels, economic growth has not expanded job opportunities as claimed by the laissez fairees.

    Goodbye, boon companion.

  89. 89 89 Philip

    Thanks, Steve-

    This isn’t necessarily addressed to you, but I’d like to hear from others to get educated on the difference between the utilitarian and the efficiency criterion.

    “There are multiple philosophical bases for using the efficiency criterion. One is that under an efficiency criterion, most people will tend to lose the fights they care least about and win the fights they care most about.”

    At first blush, there seem to be serious flaws in this argument due to at least three questionable underlying assumptions:

    * It assumes all people in a “fight” have the same resources to expend in a fight in which they have identical (or similar) priorities. This is clearly counter-factual.

    * Relatedly, it also assumes that people with greater resources will lose fights that are well down their list of priorities to people with fewer resources whose priorities are higher on that question. People with greater resources will be able to win these fights, even if their benefits are LESS than the losses that will be borne by those with fewer resources for the fight. Again, with sufficient resources to expend in fights well down their list of priorities, people who place a lower priority on an objective can defeat people who place a high priority on the same objective.

    * It also seems to overlook the fact that small groups of “people” (associations, corporations, a small group of wealthy individuals) who each stand to benefit a great deal from a fight are in a better position to prevail over a large group of people whose individual losses are small (but still significant) even if their collective losses are greater than the collective gains of the smaller group. Of course, this is related to the greater costs and difficulties of collective action for small groups of people who each stand to gain a great deal compared to the costs and difficulties of collective action by larger groups who each stand to lose a lesser amount.

    “Another is that inefficient outcomes (by definition) forgo opportunities to make everyone better off, and it is desirable to make everyone better off.”

    So does this mean that…

    (1) following Kuznets’ conclusion that after initially increasing, inequality will diminish with capitalist economic development, not on the operation of market forces alone, but on the combined effect of economic growth and social legislation, and

    (2) and laissez fair advocates oppose such market interventions…

    that the economic development generated by, say, eliminating all taxes on capital will be inefficent because the exacerbated economic inequalities that result from this policy will NOT eventually be aleviated?

    I suppose that depends on whether you’ve concluded that exacerbating economic inequality is inefficient, doesn’t it.

    Does anyone know what Kuznets says about the relationship between economic inequality and efficiency?

  90. 90 90 Izzydog

    Professor,
    I fear we are about to tread into an area where we accuse each other of playing semantics. Not my intent.

    I wrote: “The second is the utilitarian argument for markets. It says that markets promote the general welfare; when two people make a deal both gain.”

    And you wrote: “Another is that inefficient outcomes (by definition) forgo opportunities to make everyone better off, and it is desirable to make everyone better off.”

    I’m not really sure where we differ other than it seems to bother you that I called it a utilitarian argument – Which it is as the free market is the selected mechanism for achieving the utilitarian ideal to, as you put it, “make everyone better off.”

    If it would make you feel better we don’t have to call it a utilitarian argument for markets, but I think you will find yourself out of step with most in the field. Whatever we call it, my original complaint about your position in the article still holds. “The utilitarian approach has two defects: First it makes justice and rights a matter of calculation, not principle. Second, by trying to translate all human goods into a single, uniform measure of value, it flattens them, and takes no account of the qualitative differences among them.”

    To which I’ll now add: As a libertarian, you do try to solve the first problem by taking some rights seriously. I’d conjecture we both agree that certain rights are fundamental and must be respected – We just don’t agree on which ones. End result: You think child sweatshop labor is sad but acceptable, and I don’t.

    How the second problem is addressed is another problem for another day, but it isn’t addressed by utilitarians or libertarians, and not addressing it leads you to some conclusions in the other part of your original post that we haven’t discussed but which I would also question.

  91. 91 91 Sue

    I have a few general comments to make; I’m not sure if I’ve followed the arguments presented here completely, but in my defence there were Many Comments. Nevertheless, I apologise if I have misunderstood, misconstrued or missed a point. But I would like to argue that pushing for child labour laws that reduce child labour is unhelpful given other circumstances, and might even be Immoral.

    I believe education IS an important instrument in halting intergenerational transmission of poverty and inequality. However, it seems that many people have not considered that an education decision is based on a trade off between costs (actual school fees etc) and opportunity cost (important!) and the expected future returns.

    Firstly, the opportunity costs of Education for most poor children in third world countries are very high. It potentially means food on the table and nourishment for their, and their family’s bodies. Poor people in the developing world do not resemble poor people in the developed world. I think certain people have the idea that these poor children are working because their parents aren’t. That is not true. In most of these families, their parent’s earn only enough to pay the rent on their house (if they are lucky enough to have anything more than metal sheeting), or put rice on the table, or buy milk for their babies; but not all of it. The marginal increase to parent’s income for a contraction in the labour force (proposed to be achieved via restriction on child labour) cannot compare to the increase in having an extra income stream. Or even in the situation where parents don’t work, most of the time they either do not exist, or cannot. Illegitimate children with no fathers are numerous, as are drug addicted prostitute mothers. But also parents who are ill with seemingly minor ailments like arthritis (which prevents them from doing manual labour i.e. being completely unemployable), or illnesses which arise from the lack of proper and affordable healthcare. Or who are dead. Then there are eldest daughters and sons who do, and who are more than willing, to sacrifice their potential and prospects and find work, so that they can pay for their younger siblings to go to school. Without providing schools for these ‘younger siblings’, what does taking work away from 12 year old Ny do, except force him into begging, or stealing, or being even more exploited on the black market (if that is possible!)

    Secondly, there are expected future returns. What good is education if jobs which are most readily available (factory work) does not justify the extra expenditure (including opportunity costs!) on it? Education might be important in a knowledge intensive, human capital and skill based economies. But are most third world countries of this variant? It would be foolish to champion education without first a change in the economic structure of the country. Then, there are children who just don’t find themselves academically inclined. Worse is this for girls. Like 15 year old Lita, who believing she could not succeed in school, left the orphanage she was living in to return to her grandmother, with the final intention of being married off. Would she have had to make that choice if she could have earned her independence by finding work? A important question to consider, but more importantly, can you imagine? This CHILD making extremely ADULT decisions. When I knew her, she was my sister’s age. But she was older; her eyes told me so. In ‘protecting’ her, careful you don’t hurt her by keeping choices from her.

    To follow from this, I don’t think child LABOUR is immoral. It is saddening and disquieting, but it is a rational individual and household decision based on an analysis of costs and benefits. What is immoral is child EXPLOITATION. That factories which employ children exist is not in itself a morally bad thing; how it is run is the issue. Consider these options for 10 year old Chan, who even after 5 more years of education is unlikely to learn more than a very basic set of counting and limited writing skills, and who is fiercely devoted to her family and never wants to leave her village. I) Entering into debt for an “agent” to bring her to Phnom Penh to find work as a secretary but realising when she’s there that there was never an office, and never a boss, but old caucasian tourists who want nothing more than to hurt her in ways she has never known to hurt before or II) walking everyday to the nearest main road 2 hours away to sell trinkets, cut fruits, or beg III) being married off and having 5 kids before the age of 16 or IV) finding work in a factory sewing buttons onto dresses? If this factory gives her toilet and meal breaks, is well lit, makes reasonable demands, lets her be close to friends, talking while they work, is it not the best choice? It is important to distinguish this from the factory where she is shackled to the chair, made to do the work of 5 women and deprived of food or water or light or company. That’s exploitation, and it is not the same as labour.

    Child labour is not unjustifiable. It is also not the first best. But it is better than poverty. The solution to this problem lies elsewhere from a mindless criticism of child-employing factories. Regulation of these factories to ensure no exploitation is a solution. Overcoming corruption of governmental officials and factory owners to overcome exploitation is a solution. Boosting the rate of return to education by building more schools, or investing in capital is a solution. Artificially constructing communities where children can work AND study but be protected from exploitation might be a solution. But closing factories, and firing children and driving them deeper into desperation and poverty. That is NOT a solution. Not yet.

  92. 92 92 Steve Landsburg

    Izzydog:


    I fear we are about to tread into an area where we accuse each other of playing semantics.

    I assume that by “playing semantics” you mean that we’re using the same words to mean different things. That might be true. I am using words like “utilitarianism” and “efficiency” to mean what they mean in all the standard textbooks. You are either using them to mean something different from their usual meanings, or you are using them too sloppily for them to mean anything at all—-I’m not sure which.

  93. 93 93 Izzydog

    Professor,

    When thinking about justice, we usually begin with the idea of maximizing welfare. For market societies such as ours, it offers a natural starting point. Our whole debate is about how to promote prosperity, improve the standard of living, spur economic growth etc. Why do we care about these things? The most obvious answer is that we think prosperity makes us better off than we would otherwise be — as individuals and as a society. Prosperity matters, in other words, because it contributes to our welfare. To explore this idea, we turn to utilitarianism, the most influential account of how and why we should maximize welfare, or as the utilitarians put it, seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

    It is standard practice for economists to say that price is a stand in for utility as a revealed preference. It is a standard practice to call an argument about maximizing welfare a utilitarian argument. Hence my sloppy non-standard, radically new and wildly unsubstaniated claim: “…the utilitarian argument for markets. It says that markets promote the general welfare; when two people make a deal both gain.”

    If you want to be a fundamentalist and say Bentham is the first and last word on utilitarianism and claim that economists don’t equate prices with utility, and call me sloppy in the process, it’s your perrogotive, but I suspect there is another reason.

    Whatever you want to call your philosophy, I’m not being sloppy about my criticisms of it, they still stand. First it makes justice and rights a matter of calculation, not principle (ie there are some things money just can’t buy). Second, by trying to translate all human goods into a single, uniform measure of value, it flattens them, and takes no account of the qualitative differences among them — Which you have already demonstrated a willingness to do in this thread.

  94. 94 94 Steve Landsburg

    Izzy:

    To explore this idea, we turn to utilitarianism, the most influential account of how and why we should maximize welfare, or as the utilitarians put it, seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

    You seem to be making this up as you go along. I teach this stuff every semester, I’ve written textbooks about it, and nothing you are saying bears any resemblance to the standard way these words are used. Your citation of thoroughly meaningless phrases like “seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number” does not instill confidence that you’ve given these matters an iota of thought.

  95. 95 95 Izzydog

    Professor,

    Seriously? Kids pay $50K a year to go to Rochester and you don’t know that Utilitarianism is known as the greatest happiness principle?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism

    Now I understand why tenure is so important to you.

  96. 96 96 Steve Landsburg

    Izzy: For $50K a year, we usually try to be a little more accurate than Wikipedia.

  97. 97 97 Izzydog

    “The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.” Jeremy Bentham

    For $50K a year, you should try to be at least as accurate as Wikipedia. Yet another example of the myth of the rational market…

  98. 98 98 Steve Landsburg

    Izzy: There’s been a little progress in this subject since Jeremy Bentham. Our physics department also fails to teach about the luminiferous ether.

  99. 99 99 Benkyou Burito

    Phillip- “This demonstrates that, contrary to your unsupported assertions, that ((1)economic growth is not generating big increases in employment”

    I have supported all of my assertions with statistics and data. Again I’ll explain your data to you. You have show that during the time when children were being pulled from the workforce fastest, by child labor restrictions predominantly, the economy slowed and adult unemployment soared.

    I asked you to show me evidence that the wages or employment rates of adults would improve after child labor restrictions were put into place and you show me the opposite.

    This was your central argument. You even justified worsening these kids lives by saying that eventually they would be better off because their parents would get more jobs, but it’s a delayed effect. My data shows the opposite all the way to 2006.

    So make a Socratic attempt at defending your position please. Cite some data that shows that the children in Bangladesh or at the very least their parents lives improved after the factories started kicking kids out. Or concede that your basis in advocating child labor restrictions is not the welfare of the people of that region. Or concede that you were wrong.

    I have shown data and logic to support my position that the children fired by factories end up worse off. With your statistics I would expand that to say that with the practice of restricting child labor in full bloom, economic growth in the region has slowed to a crawl and rampant unemployment of adults has occurred as well.

    Can you answer that point without sidestepping it or resorting to ad hominem and insults? You haven’t yet. Otherwise we’re just beating this poor horse into a pile of authentic Brazilian Fajitas.

    I’ll be kicked back on my Orphan-Leather Couch sipping Puppy-Tear Mojitos while I wait.

  100. 100 100 Benkyou Burito

    Sue- You sound like you know something about it.

  101. 101 101 Philip

    Benk-

    There you go again; making stuff up:

    “I have supported all of my assertions with statistics and data.”

    Show me your data that supports the claims that (1) economic growth is generating big increases in employment and (2) there are inadequate numbers of unemployed adults available to fill the ranks of child laborers if they are sent to school.

    I’ve presented my data. But you won’t because you don’t have any. You’ll just claim you presented it in a previous post when you haven’t.
    ——————–

    “You have show [sic] that during the time when children were being pulled from the workforce fastest, by child labor restrictions predominantly, the economy slowed and adult unemployment soared.”

    Only half right, Benk. (But then that’s better than average for you.)

    I have “show” nothing about economic growth. You made that up. But now I will.

    The average annual rate of increase in GDP in Bangladesh between 1995-96 and 1999-2000 was 5.6%. Between 1990-91 and 1994-95, it was 4.1%. (Source: Government of Bangladesh, Ministry of Finance, Economic Survey of Bangladesh 2000)

    So to spell it out for you: “during the time when children were being pulled from the workforce,” (1) economic growth accelerated sharply, it did not decline, and (2) despite stronger economic growth, unemployment rates among adult males with no education increased sharply, demonstrating…

    – that economic growth did not “raise all boats” as claimed by you laissez faire types and
    – that there were plenty of adult males to fill the jobs children held.
    —————-

    “I asked you to show me evidence that the wages or employment rates of adults would improve after child labor restrictions were put into place and you show me the opposite.”

    Show me where you asked this. You see, I presented the unemployment data to answer your challenge to my claim “There is no shortage of adults in these labor markets.”, to which you responded “so you should have no problem finding government data to back this claim up.” Which is exactly what I did. You were right, it was “no problem” at all.
    ——————————

    “This was your central argument…. My data shows the opposite all the way to 2006.”

    This is a ridiculous claim. You have no such data because it doesn’t exist. The data you have is incapable of “show[ing] the opposite all the way to 2006″ because the miniscule effect of reductions in child labor (to the extent there was any) is overwhelmed by all the other economic and social factors affecting unemployment rates during that period.
    ———————-

    You better cut back on the Puppy-Tear Mojitos, Benk, because you’re becoming delusional.

    “I have shown data and logic to support my position that the children fired by factories end up worse off.”

    You’ve presented no data whatsover supporting a claim that the children we know to have been laid off are any worse off. It has all been speculation or “logic”. Show me the data (and anecdotes are not data).

  102. 102 102 Benkyou Burito

    You keep trying to restate the question without answering it. Let me bring back the salient points to the question that is before us.

    ***2-13-2010 @ 5:27pm, You said “child labor imposes a cost on adult workers by expanding the supply of labor and providing capital a cheap and more easily “managed” workforce. And by doing so, parents are kept in desperate circumstance and forced to “choose” to send their children to work”, you restated this position again at February 14, 2010 at 12:39 am

    ###To which I responded, “What are your numbers on the adult workers?”

    ***at February 14, 2010 at 6:37 pm , absent any employment data, you add this “it undermines the work opportunities and wages of adults who could otherwise better support their children, thereby reinforcing the poverty that forces their children to work…”, basically a 2nd restatement of the first point I take issue with.

    and you added, “There is no shortage of adults in these labor markets.”, and that the benefits of restricting child labor, the “increase in jobs and rise in wages for adults is a secondary effect and takes some time to unfold”

    ###So at February 14, 2010 at 9:32 pm I responded to this quote directly with another request for data. I was challenging your point that the wages and employment rates of adults and by extension the welfare of the children would improve as more children were restricted from the workforce.

    While dubious, I never challenged that there were lots of adults who could be working, I only asked that you show me the numbers if you were going to make such an assertion. But if the benefits are going to take some time to unfold, credible data on this would help.

    ***At February 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm you go so far as to suggest that it is my responsibility to fact your un supported claims, “If it’s so easy, why didn’t you do it?”. You then cite data to show that adult unemployment is very high. A point I will happily concede.

    You then cite Nurul Hague, Area Coordinator, Plan International Bangladesh, who says that the rise in child labor is CAUSED by adult unemployment, “Main factors among those contributing to child labour are rapid population growth, ADULT UNEMPLOYMENT”. She was actually saying that the causes for child labor are so varied that it’s cruel to just turn them out of a job.

    ###I asked how that shows that removing children from the workforce makes anyone’s life better and I ask you to support your answer with credible data. Apparently supporting your arguments with research is “[My] homework” in your world.

    ***At February 15, 2010 at 8:10 pm, you cite a “Financial Express” article ” Higher unemployment, maternal mortality rates major threat to achieving MDGs by 2015. to show high levels of available adult workers I suppose. The data is suspect because the website looks dodgy and doesn’t link sources, but I don’t dispute it out of hand.

    You also cite ILO and BBS statistics showing a rise in adult unemployment between 1995 (when the child labor laws were being implemented) and 2000, “1995-95: 1.3%; 1999-2000: 9.5%”

    ###At February 15, 2010 at 9:57 pm, I cite data from the ILO and the University of Sydney that show that during this time frame levels of child labor shrank or grew much more slowly than the employment rate of adults. And state further that children make up only about 10% of the total workforce meaning that even if child labor were abolished completely, it would not greatly affect the lives of adults.

    ***Now you ask, “Show me your data that supports the claims that (1) economic growth is generating big increases in employment and (2) there are inadequate numbers of unemployed adults available to fill the ranks of child laborers if they are sent to school.”

    ###I never said there was big economic growth or increases in employment. to the contrary, in hard times it seems doubly heartless to fire anyone, especially a kid.

    ***You say “The average annual rate of increase in GDP in Bangladesh Between 1990-91 and 1994-95, was 4.1%, between 1995-96 and 1999-2000 was 5.6%.. (Source: Government of Bangladesh, Ministry of Finance, Economic Survey of Bangladesh 2000)”,

    You challenge me “You’ve presented no data whatsover supporting a claim that the children we know to have been laid off are any worse off. It has all been speculation or “logic”. Yet I have cited the opinion of several expert sources, many within documents that you yourself cite, to that very effect.

    ###So a change in the annual rate of gdp increase between these two periods changed by 1.5%, During that time frame things were good for Bangladesh, probably why their unemployment was less than ours is now. You seem to be saying that ” economic growth [isn't] generating big increases in employment” and you support it with statistics that show decent economic growth and low unemployment with unemployment getting worse as more children are removed from the labor pool.

    ### But in all of this we can come back to the beginning, where you said that restricting child labor will lead to better employment opportunities for the adults. that it will lead to a better life for the children.

    ###If you take everything else away for a moment, at least acknowledge that you made this claim, and have yet shown that employment has gotten better for adults or that the lives of the children have gotten better.

  103. 103 103 BnndnBstn

    Phillip,

    Your K9 friend has been invited to leave the conversation. She asked me to tell you that she knows it gets lonely in the desert and she is rooting for you.

    She says to take good care of yourself.

  104. 104 104 Philip

    Benk-

    You have WAY too much time on your hands.

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