I'm afraid not.
You can't address the problem of child labor by complaining about Western corporations such as Apple and Nike, which (a) employ only a small fraction of global child workers, and (b) offer much better wages and working conditions than the same children could earn in agriculture, as domestic servants, or in indigenous industry.
Neither can you legitimately harp on about alleged "exploitation" by Western corporations without acknowledging that these workers' lives would be much worse if they were not being so "exploited."
Even though to pay for the various government programs you undoubtedly support, treating people as a means to an end as opposed to an end in themselves is exactly the logic you support. How do you explain this apparent contradiction in your views?
Yes this is it exactly; I actually agree with a wide swathe of Libertarian principals when it comes to social things, but the core economic faults really stand out to me, and that economic part of the debate does seem to be treated in an untouchable manner.
Libertarian supporters seem to focus almost exclusively on the theory; on first glance, the theory does have some parts that look distasteful, but which make more sense as you read up on it more, so I can totally see where people are coming from there.
Lets assume (assume because I haven't read up on it enough yet) the theory (while controversial) is completely fine, and the world it would in theory implement seems like it may well be far better, but when you start examining the core economics from a pragmatic/practical sense, i.e. actually implemented it and deliberately seeking out potential problems (i.e. applying falsifiability), a lot of holes start to appear.
There are a lot of Libertarian supporters that I can't even get to agree that it has not been empirically tested, and as a consequence, who I can't get to agree that it should be examined empirically rather than ideologically/theoretically.
I can't even get some people to discuss this stuff, so I can't even determine if they do or do not reject testing Libertarianism in a scientific way, which (from my point of view) is bizarre.
Its the "If you can't address every issue you can't address one argument". As stated several times it would be preferable for companies to pay enough so that children can go to school instead of working.
Just to be clear, child labour is ok with libertarians?
Yes or no answer will do thanks.
Where is this limited to Western corporations? Also, I don't think that you can assume their lives would be "much worse" without sweatshops. That argument is like saying that someone should be glad to have one leg cut off, because it would be "much worse" to have both cut off.
The point is that the sweatshop system is a trap, it only benefits the employers and consumers, it doesn't operate to alleviate poverty in the long term - I'm all for western corporations setting up in third world countries, but only if steps are taken to address the gross power imbalance between the corporation and their workers, to ban child labour - before the age of 15, per the ILO minimum age convention - and to fix wages consistent with basic human dignity.
I'm taking a wild guess that you haven't actually ever been to a third world country, spoken to street kids, spent time in the slums, or seen working conditions for child labourers?
It's not difficult when your understanding of rights extends beyond A Very Short Introduction to Locke and Kant.
We can start with the internationally accepted standards of basic human rights and basic human dignity for everyone. The same kinds of values that underpin organisations like the ILO and UNICEF, as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Once these basic rights are protected, and any encroachment on the rights of of others can be rationally justified, by objective criteria, to be communicated to those whose rights are thus curtailed, and are proportional to the rational object, including the minimum violation of the right sufficient to attain the goal. The UDHR neatly traverses this:
Under such an arrangement, I don't see how anyone could properly claim to be treated as a "means", their fundamental rights and human dignity are, at all times, respected.
Denying less powerful sectors of society these rights, in the name of unrestricted rights for others, allowing exploitation in the name of freedom, is a huge difficulty with the general "libertarian" theory of rights, as I see them ... any errors are my own, and I'm sure you'll all be quick to correct me.
Seems to me that it's an anaemic scheme of rights, existing only minimally in the economic sphere taking in self-ownership, the corollary of the ownership of the "fruits of one's labour", and a basically unrestricted property right.
Essentially, the right to property trumps all, because you have the absolute right to be left to your own devices on your own property.
Further, the theory of coercion is very limited, extending only to "force" and "substitutes for force". It doesn't seem adequate to take account of coercion by necessity - yes, the slum kid or child worker on a Kenyan vegetable farm comes looking for work, but that doesn't mean that he or she hasn't been forced by circumstances - a lack of viable alternative - to accept exploitative conditions. Those without property are very limited in their options ... less property equates to less freedom.
Very often, the lack of viable alternative comes down to common agricultural and grazing lands having been expropriated to private hands in the first place, but that's another story.
And, seeing as we're on the topic of contradictions, I don't see how below-subsistence wages are consistent to a right to the "fruits of one's labour", and conditions that tend to damage the most fundamental "possession", the childrens' own bodies, could be justified, even under the most narrow libertarian approaches.
You people aren't actually trying to justify child labour, are you?
Can anyone point to a prelapsarian era when child labour didn't exist? What came before the coal mines of the 19th century that leftists often hold up as some kind of 'result' of capitalism?
Child labour is not the result of capitalism. Capitalism is the solution to child labour. The Industrial Revolution saw dramatic and rapid increases in the standard of living for everyone in society, and that progress is something that has largely continued to this day. Developing nations that have embraced free trade are following in those footsteps, and they are working their way out of poverty. The emerging middle classes in the developing world are testament to this. What is the alternative? Grinding poverty for everyone.
There seems to be two camps of people who get involved in the various Libertarian themed threads we have on this forum.
Group 1 - People who want to engage, debate and discuss
Group 2 - People who use such threads as a fairly cheap, point scoring, e-penis measuring contest.
I suggest that people decide which group they want to be part of, (Group 1 is preferable) and then continue this discussion. Do be aware though, that it likely that those in Group 2 won't be around for much longer
No, agitation by organised labour, leading to the imposition of binding labour laws and regulations was the solution to child labour. Government acting as a restraining influence to the self-interest of employers.
No offence, but this would seem to suggest that you don't know much about the developing world, or haven't spent any significant time there.
Now, can someone tell me, is child labour justifiable by reference to libertarian principles - yes or no?
Yes, of course. The government just waves its magic wand and suddenly child labour is banished. I wonder if the developing world is privy to this information. Who knew that child labour could be resolved at the stroke of a pen instead of growing and developing an economy? Before you chalk this one of as a victory for the statists you might consider the rapid increase in living standards that took place during the Industrial Revolution, and what it can be attributed to. It's a remarkable coincidence that that same increase is today being replicated in countries that have embraced free trade. Why is the West rich? If you can't answer that question without the obligatory "by exploiting the rest of the world" then I'm not really interested in your response. For all your patronising remarks to others about being confused and not understanding, you yourself have shown yourself to be lacking when it comes to understanding how an economy actually works.
I have to laugh at this. The best you can come with up is a cheap ad hominem after complaining in other in another thread about a lack of substantive discussion. What were you hoping to achieve with this remark? For what it's worth, I've been in plenty of developing countries, not that it's of any relevance. Can you tell me what you attribute China and Brazil's growth to, to pick two examples? Do you acknowledge that the average living standards in these countries has increased in recent years?
Soldie is absolutely right. Rapid industrialization and economic development of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries led to the advent of the middle-class "nuclear" family that we now take for granted. The notion that a father should work while his wife and children remained at home (more recently superseded by the model of two working parents with children in school or day care) was unheard of before that period in history. Indeed, it's often observed that the Victorians invented the modern notion of childhood as a time for play, learning, and maturation. Historians observe that children's toys were relatively rare before the 19th century, for instance.
However, many on the left are routinely unwilling to accept that the countries with the highest rates of economic freedom also have the fewest numbers of children in the workforce. Almost all countries with low economic freedom rankings have high percentages of working children. Therefore, it would seem that if one is actually serious about eliminating child labor (rather than just carping on about capitalist exploitation in this vaguely Marxist manner), maximizing economic freedom is a good place to begin.
Expanding more on my previous posts, relating to empiricism of 'Libertarian economics' (which I've defined before, as free market with no regulation or central bank, though that's open to change in definition):
All sweeping claims that "capitalism solves this" or "the free market solves that" all depend upon the premise that the theories backing Libertarian economics have been empirically shown to hold up in practice.
As I've said a lot before, it is the difference between "the free market does solve that" and "the free market might solve that", which is a very important distinction.
Basically, people are stating things as a certainty that they can not logically state are certain; this doesn't invalidate what they say, but if people don't qualify their statements with "might" and highlight the uncertainty (and that they are discussing theory), then it more easily leads to a black/white ideological discussion.
If a level of uncertainty is added to these statements, it opens them up to being challenged by looking at past economies which have had similar components to Libertarian economics (even if those past economies did not implement the whole of the components associated with Libertarian economics).
It also opens up the arguments to being challenged by pragmatic arguments, looking at the logical conclusion of implementing them in practice, and instead of people saying "capitalism solves that" and that being an argument, they have to provide greater documentation and proof showing that to back it up.
That would be a more empirical and interesting discussion, because people could use actual historical events and hard-research to back up their points, and ideological statements could not be arguments in themselves, because the burden of proof would be on you to back those statements up.
Correlation does not imply causation; back that up with something more solid (an article, anything).
There can be any number of reasons not related to economic freedom, why certain countries have more children in the workforce.
The Economic History Association entry on Child Labor in the United States (authored by Robert Whaples, professor of economics at Wake Forest University) notes that "Child labor was widespread in agriculture and in industry in U.S. economy up until the early twentieth century but largely disappeared by the 1930s." However:
Which, of course, only bolsters what posters such as Soldie are saying. Child labor disappeared from the developed world not because of government intervention but because of the industrialization and economic growth created by free-market capitalism.
The best I can come up with? There was a lot more in my post, and the one above, feel free.
And, that wasn't an attack, that was a question. From the time I've spent in the developing world, I've always been struck by how small the "middle class" is and how privileged, by comparison to the grinding poverty that defines these countries. To be honest, the term "middle class" is pretty much meaningless.
Some of my best friend are middle-class Africans, they live behind barbed wire and electric fences, with armed private security guards at their gates. Outside their gates there's a whole mass of people living in absolute destitution.
You can have a great life as part of the "middle class" elite, but there's a constant risk of robbery, carjacking, burglary. To be honest, it's always struck me as very consistent with how I'd imagine a libertarian society to look like.
Went back to Kenya for a month last year after a little while away, they've got a boom, massive growth and property bubble going on at the moment - some of my friends are getting very rich indeed, but conditions for the rest of society haven't changed one iota - there's still famine.
A 5% growth rate doesn't mean much if it's all going in to the pocket of a tiny segment of society.
Snap. I too get genuinely excited when someone puts forward claims in the OP that those who poke holes in Libertarianism are exposing their own ignorance or dishonesty.
Anyhoo to the rest of the OP.
It's interesting that you've used selective quotes from Sachs and Krugman to back up the Libertarian position of completely free markets when they are in fact diametrically opposed to the ideology.
They are both well known for being against Libertarianism policies:
no child labour laws, unfettered and unregulated capitalism, low or no corporate taxation, ending all foreign aid, etc.
However, my reading of their views on this is that they are not against any forms of globalisation that allow foreign companies to manufacture abroad, but of course aiming for or working towards a strict regulatory framework that seeks to protect workers rights, environmental rights and so on and extracts high taxation from corporate interests.
They took a pragmatic view about it, that globalisation as it exists currently is exploitative, but in some cases is at least better than starvation. Not exactly cause for celebration or for claiming vindication.
They're not in any way endorsing these practices, nor in my view do they see them as evidence that unfettered unregulated Libertarian policies would work or eventually solve these problems of poverty and inequality.