Sunday, January 15, 2012

Hey Henry, Are You Offering These Kids a Better Job?

Business Insider's Henry Blodget, trying to earn more left wing stripes, tweets:
INCONVENIENT TRUTH: Your iPhone Was Built, In Part, By 13 Year-Olds Working 16 Hours A Day For $75 A Week
Of course, all this tweet really does is point out that Blodget is clueless about basic economics.

If 13 year-olds are willing to work for $75 a week, it means that is their best alternative. Unless, Henry, as I said wants to offer them a better paying job, or perhaps fund their education at a New England prep school.


  1. Sometimes I wonder if Blodget actually believes what he writes.

    Business Insider (in my opinion) is a huge Link Bait extravaganza. Anything for an attention grabbing headline. Even the above tweet uses all caps "INCONVENIENT TRUTH".

    It obviously works, and he's not forcing anyone to his sight, so it is what it is.

    But one must he just 'doing his job'?

    Or does he really have no clue when it comes to economics?

  2. Nah, it's far better to ban these kids from working so they can rather starve, beg and prostitute themselves, eh Henry?

  3. I worked 38 hours a snow...uphill...both roads using my tongue and lived in a shoe box.....

    What is really evil about this situation is that the government probably steals 50% for the workers income. Maybe little Henry should mention the government income tax rate on their income.

    Blodget is just another government-loving parasite.

  4. I'm sure Henry will be willing to hire them at a higher rate doing the same work. But I guess doing something like that would be uncharacteristic of professional leftwing do-gooders.

  5. How do you know they're all 13, and some aren't 9 or 8 years old? Sorry, exploiting children is unacceptable.

    They should be in school.

    Unfortunately, many children must work outside the home to survive or to avoid even worse exploitation. Such employers should be held to strict requirements as to maximum hours, basic safety, breaks, and opportunity for basic schooling. Companies obtaining goods from press-shops not in compliance should be subject to confiscatory tariffs.

    The unlimited ability for US/western corporations to arbitrage workplace safety, health and basic environmental standards against human misery must be rectified.

    I've seen some of the working conditions such children are subject to.

    Many are physically wrecked, injured, or impaired, and discarded once they are unable to meet production requirements. Often they are never paid, or their pay is withheld for a 2'x5' place to sleep and they end up with nothing.

    I know the other side of the argument - if they didn't have xxx job they'd otherwise be subject to sexual exploitation or starvation. And, yes, that is often times the case.

    But the solution is not to ignore their plight, but to assure such children of opportunities for work at which pay is assured and basic standards (breaks, max. hours, basic safety) are enforced either by the market in the form of boycotts, self-regulation, (imperfect) regulatory/enforcement action, or confiscatory tariffs.

  6. If I'm reading this correctly, a baker makes $76 per MONTH (2005 U.S. dollars), so that's a pretty good salary in China.

  7. Can't they quit?
    Are they slaves?
    What school should they be in?
    Should they study about stealing from others using political violence (voting) like they teach in Amerika?

  8. Earning $75 per week means that these children earn more than 85% of the world population. See below:


  9. Oh I get it now. We're supposed to feel emotional resentment towards the economic law called scarcity, and rather than understand the source of such emotion and then adapt one's thinking to be in line with reality, we are instead to be rewarded for our ignorance, and be rescued by the loving arms of government, who will abolish such inconvenient truths. How? Don't know, don't care, as long as our emotions are validated by the government.

  10. I'm generally not a fan of criticism sweatshops, basically for the reason you noted. That being said, the idea that we should leave people to decide what is in their best interest has some implicit assumption that those people are able to make that determination.

    Most people would agree you don't spring forth from your mother's womb as a 100% rational actor, able to make well reasoned analysis of not only what you in the present, but what will serve your best interest over the course of your life. Only the most radical anarchist would support the idea that, say, a 2 year old should be permitted to decide to sell their organs or engage in prostitution if they choose to do so under their own "free will."

    Keep in mind that these are not just kids choosing to work rather than go to school, they are working in a job where injuries are a very real possibility and these kids are risking destroying their future earning potential and quality of life as a result of an accident or a repetitive stress injury.

    Now you can discuss whether a 13 year old is old enough that they should be allowed to choose their own path in life. You can also discuss who should be in charge of a minor before they are old enough to do so (probably either their parents, the government or some combination thereof, but I'm sure that there are other options worth considering). However, saying that we should prevent 13-year-olds from working in a sweat shop is a much different statement than saying we should prevent everyone from working in a sweat shop, and much less subject to the criticism that they would only be doing this if they didn't have a better option.

    1. "...the idea that we should leave people to decide what is in their best interest has some implicit assumption that those people are able to make that determination."

      The real question is, who are you to judge?

      "Keep in mind that these are not just kids choosing to work rather than go to school, they are working in a job where injuries are a very real possibility and these kids are risking destroying their future earning potential and quality of life as a result of an accident or a repetitive stress injury."

      If the child goes to school and learns nothing of value, their family remains very poor because of the lack of additional income, then they start the same job they would've started anyway 7-10 years late, then not only was their family's potential improvements in quality of life squandered by attending school, so the future potential improvements in quality of life has been vastly delayed if not set back a generation.

      The initiation of child labor legislation that we've been taught to worship in the U.S. wasn't about protecting the welfare of children anyway. It was meant 1) to keep another class of cheap labor from competing with union jobs, and 2) to create a passive disincentive for society's undesirables to have kids, or have more kids, as they could then not rely on them for additional streams of income to support the family. #2 was done with the hope that this would give natural selection the eugenic nudge it needed to eventually weed them out.

    2. So what is your conclusion? Are babies free to make their own decisions with parents who ground their children charged with unlawful imprisonment? Or do we let parents have carte blanche control over their children up to and including the point of selling their children into prostitution? And yes, leaving the government 100% in charge is subject to its own problems (see, e.g., the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo [fiction, but dealing with actual Swedish law]).

      This is a messy area, but the answer almost certainly some split between parental and governmental control over minors, with a fairly bright line test (e.g. turning 18) marking the point of free agency.

      If you notice, my point in my response wasn't that it necessarily was wrong that kids were working in these factories, but rather that the question of whether it is appropriate for a 13 year old to work in a "sweat shop" is not clearly subject to the same analysis as the question of whether it is ok for a 40 year old to do so.

  11. The implication of claiming that people are incapable of making a determination of what's in their best interests is that these people are sub-human and as such cannot have human rights.

    Yes, Virginia. Every time anyone claims that somebody else, 13-year old or not, cannot make their own decisions he's declaring *himself* to be a slavemaster wannabe.

    As for 13 year olds, I think it wasn't really their decisions to go to work for a sweatshop, but their parents - who know and understood perfectly well that the alternative for those kids is to starve. I have a really hard time trying to believe that the parents en mass are so horrible that they actually want to lock their children up in poverty (that being the mental aberration mostly endemic in leftists), and thus have to conclude that these sweatshops are filled with kids precisely because it's the best their parents can do for them.

    In fact, if you ever visited a third-world country and talked to natives, you'd know there's always a competition to get to work for a western-oriented "sweatshop", as they are typically much better than what the local industry has to offer.

  12. Mr. Blodget,

    Would you prefer these kids resort to prostitution? Are sweatshops THAT bad??

    [emphasis mine]

    "According to a 1997 UNICEF study, 5,000 to 7,000 Nepalese CHILDREN TURNED TO PROSTITUTION after the US banned that country’s carpet exports in the 1990s, and after the Child Labor Deterrence Act was introduced in the US, an estimated 50,000 children were dismissed from their garment industry jobs in Bangladesh, LEAVING MANY TO RESORT TO JOBS such as “stone-crushing, STREET HUSTLING AND PROSTITUTION.” The UNICEF study found these alternative jobs “more hazardous and exploitative than garment production."

    1. The Deterrence Act was an obviously stupid and ill-advised policy of applying a blunt object when a scalpel was needed. Any legislation must recognize that conditions in many countries are such that many children must work to survive to avoid far worse forms of exploitation (prostitution, organ harvesting, etc.).

      The goal should NOT be to deny any employment opportunity to children who must work to survive, but to assure the work comes with an obligation by employers/governments to also provide minimum education at the workplace, or elsewhere (e.g., writing, reading, basic math), and basic workplace safety requirements.

      A total ban on child labor for some jobs is justified for some particularly hazardous jobs - such as underground mining, brick furnaces, and the like.

      National governments can assist with this by applying confiscatory tariffs to imported goods/countries/manufacturers not in compliance.