In response to something I’d written about labor unions, a critic started badgering me about child labor.
What a terrible feature of capitalism, he said.
No, it was a terrible feature of all of world history, I replied.
Thank goodness for people who passed laws against it, he said.
No, I said, thank goodness for capitalism, which created enough wealth that families didn’t have to send their kids to work anymore just to avoid starvation.
Then I was asked: do I really believe my kids would be better off in a factory (than in school, presumably)?
As if the choice we’re talking about is between factory work and school! The actual choice faced by these families is between factory work and starvation.
The British charity Oxfam found that in Bangladesh, where the government caved in to Western demands to suppress child labor, the children – you’ll never guess – didn’t wind up in school! How about that.
Where did they wind up? In prostitution, or dead.
Nice going, geniuses.
Yes, there were laws passed against child labor, but those came when child labor was already practically a thing of the past.
No law is going to keep families from avoiding starvation – and even the left-wing International Labor Organization admits that this is the real reason for child labor. Only capital accumulation makes it possible to end child labor humanely.
My opponent probably isn’t a bad guy. He’s just absorbed the conventional wisdom on pretty much everything.
It’s very easy to blame “capitalism” for child labor. Where is the average person going to hear any other explanation?