Excellent News!

Isn\’t it?

Children as young as five are routinely being used to quarry stone for the booming British patio and garden landscaping market, one of Britain\’s leading stone importers has warned.

Chris Harrop, a director of Marshall\’s Plc, said that large sections of the gardening industry were turning a blind eye to the use of child labour in the sandstone quarries of Rajasthan, western India, in order to maximise profits.

Only about a third of the 200,000 tons of patio stone imported into the UK from India each year was sourced ethically, Mr Harrop said, with the rest often being produced in atrocious conditions.

Jobs, incomes, good things to have, eh? Sadly, that\’s not the way this bloke is thinking (quite apart from the fact that he imports "ethical" stone and faces price competition from those who don\’t). But it is the way he ought to think. Paul Krugman:

When the movement gets what it wants, the effects are often startlingly malign. For example, could anything be worse than having children work in sweatshops? Alas, yes. In 1993, child workers in Bangladesh were found to be producing clothing for Wal-Mart, and Senator Tom Harkin proposed legislation banning imports from countries employing underage workers. The direct result was that Bangladeshi textile factories stopped employing children. But did the children go back to school? Did they return to happy homes? Not according to Oxfam, which found that the displaced child workers ended up in even worse jobs, or on the streets — and that a significant number were forced into prostitution.

The point is that third-world countries aren\’t poor because their export workers earn low wages; it\’s the other way around. Because the countries are poor, even what look to us like bad jobs at bad wages are almost always much better than the alternatives.

So, buy ethical stone and force children into prostitution. Good idea, eh?

13 thoughts on “Excellent News!”

  1. Tory:

    So what part of “contrary to purpose” is it that you don’t (and either can’t or won’t) understand?

  2. Ah yes, but once kids are forced to live in streets or turn to prostitution then the UN and other meddlers have even more excuse to go and interfere and call for even higher aid payments and so on.

  3. ‘Tis why the solutions put forward for “other places” by poliscum and NGOs that haven’t spent time there are different from those that come from the locals or people who have been there for some time.

    We cannot just impose rich-world 21st century morals on countries that have no connection at all with our standards of living.

    Is it better to for a 10p bribe to go to a local policeman to allow the delivery of £100 of aid to a village?

    Is it better for education to be provided by a foreign church or by the local state.

    In the latter case – our local church funded the primary school in a village in Uganda. When education became provided by the government, it also became chargeable. Immediately, all the girls were pulled out.

    The law of unintended consequences is the most relevant to political activity – and the road to Hell is paved with good intentions (okay, paved with, IIRC, double glazing salesman and the younger devils skate down it at the weekend.)

  4. Steady on. Jobs are good things to have, sure, but not necessarily good things for kids as young as five to have. Especially not if those kids are being paid two cents a month, or whatever. I can’t accept child slavery in sweatshops simply because it’s better than the ‘alternative’.

  5. So, TimT, you’re saying that you’d rather, given the lack of an alternative, that these children were forced to endure something worse than your tendentious ‘child slavery’. That’s asinine. It’s morally vain.

  6. No David. I’m not saying that. I just think people should have a better alternative than whether or not to slave in a sweatshop from the age of five or be forced into prostitution.

    It’s something that may be difficult to achieve, but nevertheless, we should work towards it.

  7. Actually, I do see how I worded my original comment in an ambiguous way, but I strongly deny that I said that child prostitution was ‘acceptable’. You were too hasty in your attack, David.

  8. “I just think people should have a better alternative than whether or not to slave in a sweatshop from the age of five or be forced into prostitution.”

    Yes, I and I want a fucking pony. Given the alternatives, which would you prefer? OF COURSE I would rather children in Third World countries had better choices than they do. But they do not. To wish otherwise is a counsel of perfection. Have you ever read Oliver Twist? Less than two hundred years ago, children were employed in the horrific trade of ‘picking oakum’. Why do ten-year-old orphans in the U.K. not get sold into indentured servitude? Out of an excess of moral piety? No, because us Britons are fantastically, spectacularly wealthy. Any attempt to graft our level of social conscience onto societies without even the economic fundamentals required to support such a system is doomed to failure. In any moral calculus which is (blessedly) free from religion one is practically enjoined to choose the lesser of two evils. Do I not recoil in horror from the idea of my five year old niece being forced to work in a sweatshop? Of course I do. But do I not recoil even more strongly from the idea of her living on a garbage heap, scavenging for food? Yes, yes, yes. The fact that I am not required to make this choice, given that she is being raised in a loving home in a jaw-droppingly affluent environment, does not detract from the basic point that the same moral calculus applies independent of the circumstances of the observer or the observed. The only way to transition societies in which child labour is considered the better choice to our current Shrangli-La is to allow them to grow economically. All your moral preening about how you’d love there to be a third way won’t bring it about. By trying to force third world economies into your Procrustean mould, you are condemning not merely legions of children, but legions of their children to misery and poverty. There is one way, and one way only, that we have observed peasant cultures transform themselves into modern, wealthy societies: free market capitalism. Any interference in that process is de facto an attempt to keep poor people poorer for longer. Shame on you.

  9. Unbelievable. You can not possibly condemn TimT for finding child labour unacceptable. If adults are paid at an adequate rate, then they are better able to care for their children and do not need the children to work. Surely it is better to pay a higher price for ‘ethical’ products than to support businesses that employ young children. It is not logical to suggest that either children work or become prostitutes, these are not the only alternatives.

  10. Golly gee David: here we are, wallowing in our gluttony and wealth, and not an iota of child labor in sight.

    Funny how the wealthiest countries manage to be obscenely rich without condemning little kiddies to short miserable lives. Funny how development in the West only went off the charts when children were sent to school instead of to mines and factories.

    Now, in the West, our wealth, our indulgences, are now bought at the cost of the child labor in third world and so called “developing” countries you frooking twit.

    How proud you must be to know that your lifestyle is bought at the cost of brutal child labor in other countries.

    But, yeah, sure, you keep telling yourself that those kiddies would kiss the hem of your trousers in thanks for the wretched and short lives that you collude to entrench. On ya.

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