Skip to content
94 Comments
  1. January 8, 2009 12:36 pm

    Thank you for this post.

  2. blackadderiv permalink
    January 8, 2009 1:04 pm

    When a Nica was asked “Why do you come here to suffer so much?” The Nica responded “Because here (the Dole Plantation) we eat one meal a day, while at home we don’t eat for days.” Blackadder would defend this and say “see, look, quit your bitchin’. You are so blessed to even eat.”

    Please don’t put words in my mouth. It’s beneath you.

    Nowhere have I said that the workers in sweatshops should stop complaining and be grateful for their lot. Not even close. My point was that if a person is faced with the choice of eating one meal a day or of not eating for days, you aren’t doing him any favors by taking away the option of eating one meal a day. Is that really so hard to understand?

  3. January 8, 2009 1:05 pm

    “Blackadder gives us the choice between DEATH or slave labor conditions. As many readers rightly pointed out, BA, you are giving us false choices. When a Nica was asked “Why do you come here to suffer so much?” The Nica responded “Because here (the Dole Plantation) we eat one meal a day, while at home we don’t eat for days.” Blackadder would defend this and say “see, look, quit your bitchin’. You are so blessed to even eat.” But the Church does not teach us this. The Church says that human dignity demands more. Dole is a multi-billion dollar company. They can afford to justly compensate their workers, who by Costa Rican law, are completely dependent upon them.”

    Bravo. I think you nail the heart of the confusion here. Blackadder is looking at the question “is it better to have sweatshops or nothing?” which for most poor countries the answer is “sweatshops.” But the Church rejects this dichotomy to promote a policy of true justice towards workers, asking the question “which is best: just wages, sweatshops, or nothing?”

    However, RCM, I would also point out to you that the Church’s insistence on true justice also motivates its rejection of contraception to diminish abortion rates. In that, the promotion of contraception by Catholics is similar to the promotion of sweatshops by Catholics.

  4. S.B. permalink
    January 8, 2009 1:14 pm

    More of the complete failure in communication and understanding. Blackadder expressly says, “Don’t take away someone’s choice to have one meal a day and leave them with nothing.” Other people, for reasons unknown, get the bizarre impression that he said, “One meal a day is great! No one should ever try to have three meals a day.”

  5. radicalcatholicmom permalink
    January 8, 2009 1:31 pm

    “However, RCM, I would also point out to you that the Church’s insistence on true justice also motivates its rejection of contraception to diminish abortion rates.”

    I will agree with you and will be writing a post on this very topic.

  6. radicalcatholicmom permalink
    January 8, 2009 1:36 pm

    SB: I don’t believe it is a “complete failure in communication.” I absolutely reject the belief that we “take away the sweatshop.” Here’s a choice: Why can’t Blackadder make it between zero food and the option of a company to provide enough money to eat three meals a day, to have children receive education and not have to work, and all the protections and benefits American workers receive? I don’t understand why we are being told to accept the status quo. I reject his assumptions and choices. The ONLY reason these companies go abroad to manufacture is because the countries are poorer and have less legal structure. Why is THAT acceptable?

  7. blackadderiv permalink
    January 8, 2009 1:38 pm

    Blackadder is looking at the question “is it better to have sweatshops or nothing?” which for most poor countries the answer is “sweatshops.” But the Church rejects this dichotomy to promote a policy of true justice towards workers, asking the question “which is best: just wages, sweatshops, or nothing?”

    It would be great if the options faced by workers were just wages, sweatshops, or something even worse. But wishing won’t make it so. Whether the realistic options are as I describe them is a factual question. And as I pointed out in my post, the general view of people whose knowledge and experience of the subject extends beyond having once spent a weekend in Costa Rica giving a speech on human rights is that no, the options really are largely sweatshops or something worse, and pretending otherwise will only leave you with something worse.

    Take Kristof as an example. The guy lived in Asia for 14 years. He is, on most other issues, quite a lefty. And by his own admission, when he first arrived in Asia he was strongly predisposed to view sweatshops as an intolerable and necessary evil. Yet after a while he “came to accept the view supported by most Asians: that the campaign against sweatshops risks harming the very people it is intended to help.” One cannot dismiss his views as being based either on heartlessness or on ignorance. How then, can we explain it? One possibility, I would submit, is that he is right.

  8. radicalcatholicmom permalink
    January 8, 2009 1:56 pm

    “Yet after a while he “came to accept the view supported by most Asians: that the campaign against sweatshops risks harming the very people it is intended to help.” One cannot dismiss his views as being based either on heartlessness or on ignorance. How then, can we explain it? One possibility, I would submit, is that he is right.”

    Ok, it seems that the solution thus offered is to shut down the company. That is not what I or anyone else is saying. We, we being North Americans and Europeans, should make it a crime, with serious financial repercussions, to go abroad and offer the above choices.

  9. blackadderiv permalink
    January 8, 2009 2:07 pm

    We, we being North Americans and Europeans, should make it a crime, with serious financial repercussions, to go abroad and offer the above choices.

    Before we do this, shouldn’t we take a moment to consider what the probable consequences would be? If the law says that companies must either offer significantly higher wages or shut down their factories, might they not respond by shutting down the factories? And, if so, won’t that be equivalent to telling the worker now facing a choice between one meal a day and no food for days that he can no longer get one meal a day?

  10. Zak permalink
    January 8, 2009 2:09 pm

    In this specific case, let’s say CAFTA required that US labor standards be employed in all the Central American countries. These workers’ rights would improve. Unless Dole and competitors moved all banana farming to West Africa, where they could produce bananas more cheaply by continuing to employ such labor practices as are described here. Then there isn’t much benefit to having standards when people don’t have any jobs.

    On the other hand, maybe pairing labor standards with trade agreements would prevent that, since by remaining in Costa Rica, Dole benefits from lower tariff rates (along with lower shipping costs, presumably).

    But maybe the question should not be “Are sweatshops bad” or “Are sweatshops the lesser of two evils” but “what specific actions can we, as Catholics and as Americans, undertake to create better alternatives?”

  11. January 8, 2009 2:13 pm

    Don’t take away someone’s choice to have one meal a day and leave them with nothing.

    And which anti-sweatshop advocates are suggesting such a thing?

  12. Mark DeFrancisis permalink
    January 8, 2009 2:15 pm

    The central question is: Should Christains just stand by and cheer on the mythological mechaninisms of the ‘free market’, as it dispenses benefits ever so slowly to those areas not yet fully capitalized; or, should Christians step into reality and demand of pesons in control of economies that they as much as prudently possible treat all others– especially those with very little power and wealth–with the full respect that their fundamental dignity as persons in God’s image deserves?

    in the end, are we going to answer to God as we treated himin the least of or brothers and sisters, or to some primpordial power behind the mythical providence of thatfictional construct, the free market?

  13. January 8, 2009 2:23 pm

    Zak,

    That’s a point, but part of the equation would also be: If American labor standards were mandated in Costa Rica, and the banana production stayed there, would the price of bananas increase sufficiently to reduce demand and thus significantly reduce the Costa Rican workforce needed to harvest bananas — thus putting many of them out of work and back to the no food problem. Ideally what you want is other economic opportunities (either more profitable crops or other sectors such as manufacturing) to open up in Costa Rica, driving up the cost and down the supply of labor so that Dole has to come up with a way to improve conditions and/or work more efficiently.

    Making a sudden, non-market, mandated shift is more likely to blow-back on the workers.

    Michael,

    You’re not baldly suggesting leaving people with nothing, but the sort of solutions which anti-sweatshop advocates seem to be tossing around present a certain danger of producing that effect whether you suggest it or not. Or is that simply “collateral damage” to pushing quick-fix reform proposals?

  14. January 8, 2009 2:26 pm

    Blackadder has gone the way many Libertarians go – insane. The task isn’t to abolish the jobs but to freakin’ improve the factories. If they are American-run, it’s not exactly an impossibility.

    This country’s bad enough for employees, probably the worst in the Western world, so not only do we defend the exploitation here, we are also supposed to cheer the fact that people abroad now get raped more gently – it’s progress, after all. Corporations outsource so they can go from treating people badly to treating people worse – and Blackadder cheers on the progress. Ask Michael what Canada’s life. Freakin’ Commies.

    I talked to my wife about this whole unjust American system – and the very people screwed by it embracing it – and she said that from childhood on (not by her parents, mind you) you are taught that socialism is basically communism, that a lot of vacation time is immoral, that this is the greatest country in the world (a statement never backed up by anything) and so forth. She hadn’t known what Europe provides. Other than dolts like me, there aren’t all that many people fleeing Europe for the gold-plated shores of America.

    Since the state of California requires someone giving birth to take “sick leave” – instead of prohibiting work 8 weeks before and 8 weeks after, at full pay, the common European solution – imagine what the American sweatshops are like. The people there would be like “Sick leave ? Oh, the blessed concept”. But hey, let’s cheer on the progress that newborns don’t have to work the assembly line anymore.

    The American dream basically means that you come from a totally screwed place and think this is heaven by comparison. Since no one’s lived in Canada or Europe and Americans are indoctrinated into the BS, everyone thinks this system is the “envy of the world”. Well, not only does everyone envy America, it even hates us for our freedom, which is why we have to slay them, so they’ll love us.

    For me it’s advantageous in some areas, but for the average employee it’s infinitely worse. Heck, for my doctor-wife it’s worse, far worse. As I said, I was laughing reading Austrian, German etc. labor laws, protection of mothers, what have you. Americans don’t even know what they don’t know. They are victims of the perfect con job – the one where you don’t have to hide what you’re doing because you’ve made your own victims cheer you on.

    And, since American corporations run many of the sweatshops, Americans think they are so much better off.

  15. S.B. permalink
    January 8, 2009 2:44 pm

    Don’t take away someone’s choice to have one meal a day and leave them with nothing.

    And which anti-sweatshop advocates are suggesting such a thing?

    If you’re not suggesting such a thing, then you don’t disagree with Blackadder. That’s always been his point, I think.

  16. S.B. permalink
    January 8, 2009 2:51 pm

    Darwin hits on a nice parallel:

    Bush claims that in bombing Iraq, he was just trying to root out the bad guys and bring peace and democracy to the region. Thus, if some bystanders and civilians are killed, or if their lives in fact turn out to be worse off, that doesn’t taint the noble ideals that Bush had in mind. Just collateral damage.

    Similarly, some of you seem to think that if you mandate all sorts of protections and rules and impose them (imperialistically, I suppose) on how Third World countries operate, you’ll be improving the lives of workers there. But if it turns out, in fact, that some of the workers are thrown out of work and end up in prostitution, in the streets, or back in the hated rice fields — well, that wasn’t your intent, and therefore you don’t have to bear any responsibility. No need to pay any attention to the results of your actions, if your heart is pure. Just collateral damage.

    The obligatory disclaimer to preclude misreadings: I’m not saying that any particular workplace protection would have this result. Mandating bathroom breaks, for example, sounds like a great idea and I find it hard to imagine that anyone would be thrown out of work as a result. At the other extreme, imposing an American minimum wage that is 10 times the average wage for certain countries is guaranteed to throw some people out of work. The only message here is that people should think more about facts, and less about what corresponds to their own sense of self-righteousness.

  17. digbydolben permalink
    January 8, 2009 3:06 pm

    And, if so, won’t that be equivalent to telling the worker now facing a choice between one meal a day and no food for days that he can no longer get one meal a day?

    You know, “man does not live by bread alone.” Ever heard that one?

    Somebody in Latin America once said something remotely like, “If we have to die, it’s better to die on our feet like men, than crawling on the ground like animals,” and the Roman Catholic Church talks about the “DIGNITY” of labourers in her social justice teachings–not about the abundance or scantiness of their “meals.”

    When I lived in Sri Lanka, I actually witnessed, one night, a pair of Indonesian brothers who owned shirt factories which only employed women–women working 12-14 hours a day, standing on their feet, I might add–run down with their chauffer-driven limousine a woman in the streets of Colombo. They refused to stop, and ordered their chauffeur to drive on, and told the hysterical female Peace Corps Volunteer who was their “guest” for the evening, that no constabulary in the country would stop them because they were major players in the “development” of the country.

    As well as providing “meals” for workers who otherwise wouldn’t get to eat a square meal a day, as “blackadder” has suggested, they were also helping to solidify, in the country, a brutal, unjust class system which was also INSTITUTIONALIZING the country’s DISRESPECT for the rights of labourers, as well as INCREASING the power and influence of the few elements of that still vaguely-feudal society who could afford to collaborate with their country’s economic plunderers.

    Yes, for the sake of the country’s traditional culture, traditional Buddhist ethos of respect for labour, and for the sake of the labourers’ sense of their own worth as human beings, it WOULD be better for them to go without some of those “meals” “blackadder” harps on.

    Again, “man does not live by bread alone.”

  18. digbydolben permalink
    January 8, 2009 3:12 pm

    Oh, and I forgot to say it (and also confused “radicalcatholicmom” with “MM”) so thank you–very much–“radicalcatholicmom,” for this post.

  19. blackadderiv permalink
    January 8, 2009 3:20 pm

    You know, “man does not live by bread alone.” Ever heard that one?

    To my way of thinking, twisting the words of the Scripture to make them the modern equivalent of “let them eat cake” is ill advised.

    Somebody in Latin America once said something remotely like, “If we have to die, it’s better to die on our feet like men, than crawling on the ground like animals,”

    If someone would rather starve than work in a sweatshop, then that is his choice. But I would rather he make the choice for himself, rather than having someone he’s never met make it for him.

  20. Zak permalink
    January 8, 2009 3:28 pm

    DC,
    Good points. It would seem that one would see some automation of agriculture, leading to fewer jobs, at the very least.

    Does it seem feasible to you that these dilemmas reveal a fundamental flaw of capitalism – that on a global scale it cannot provide the goods which must be the proper exchange for labor and that it cannot provide a working environment that respects workers’ dignity?

  21. digbydolben permalink
    January 8, 2009 3:37 pm

    To my way of thinking, twisting the words of the Scripture to make them the modern equivalent of “let them eat cake” is ill advised.

    That’s YOUR interpretation of my words, “blackadder”; MY interpretation of MY words is, “Let them organise and resist.”

  22. January 8, 2009 3:59 pm

    Zak,

    I would more tend to say that all systems become highly problematic when you try to make changes very rapidly.

    And this is really what we’re seeing here. In countries where most people live totally out of touch with the Western world living off subsistence farming (which in much of the world means living in pretty abject poverty) bringing in firms from the developed world will at first produce sweatshop-like conditions in many cases.

    I’m not sure that any other approach would help faster than a free market one. The big problem is that these people have so far to go from where they were before western firms arrived to what we would consider a level of human dignity.

  23. blackadderiv permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:05 pm

    Digby,

    I don’t you think really mean “let them organize and resist” so much as “let us organize and resist on their behalf.”

    In any event, “organize and resist” is one strategy for increasing the prosperity of a country. “Truck, barter, and exchange” is another. And while people in every society are going to engage in both strategies to varying degrees, history seems to show that of the two “truck, barter, and exchange” is the more successful.

  24. January 8, 2009 4:05 pm

    Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights.

    It was done in Europe, the USA (with, uh, worse results) – it can be done anywhere. Slaving away 12 hours instead of 16 is not a “natural process”, there are shortcuts, in particular when American corporations run things. The American system of employee exploitation isn’t an inevitable fate either. Prohibit donations to politicians, open up the way for third parties – oh, wait, why would the two parties allow that….

    As they say, to organize a union, bring in the Jesuits. Of course, they’d be busy in the US, too, heh. Let the Evangelical nutters talk about being “saved”. It’s the ultimate way of controlling people. The Lullaby of Heaven (Heinrich Heine). Those Catholics – a dying breed, as it were – actually did and do something. Not that their solutions are error-proof of course, but the “orthodox” lovelies don’t just not care, they embrace all this crap, from war to hunting ‘illegals’.

  25. blackadderiv permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:19 pm

    Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights.

    From Wikipedia:

    Although some assume that the song is a simple call to people all over the world and Rastafarians in particular to stop allowing themselves to be abused and mistreated, the song actually harkens to a fundamental Rastafarian belief: that the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I (Ras Tafari) was God incarnate.

    Who’da thunk it?

  26. January 8, 2009 4:21 pm

    …but the sort of solutions which anti-sweatshop advocates seem to be tossing around present a certain danger of producing that effect whether you suggest it or not.

    Please provide some evidence for this claim, such as an anti-sweatshop campaign that is isolated from the larger global economic justice movement, or which says “all we want is for sweatshops to go away.” Please. You won’t find one.

    Or is that simply “collateral damage” to pushing quick-fix reform proposals?

    There is obviously nothing “quick” about fixing the problem of capitalism. And anti-sweatshop activists know this. You and BA obviously have little knowledge of these movements.

  27. January 8, 2009 4:39 pm

    ….which of course doesn’t take away from the general message, nor does it prohibit inspiring people to stand up for their rights….

  28. digbydolben permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:46 pm

    “Blackadder,” as a prep school teacher of IB/AP English (which means, in part, an instructor of how to put together research papers) I have to train my kids to AVOID wikipedia.com as anything other than a source of “cross reference terms.”

    So, does somebody so intelligent as yourself actually trust wikipedia.com as a SCHOLARLY source on such things as reggae music and Rastifarianism? I don’t.

    Oh, and by the way, as somebody who has first-hand experience of the vestiges of colonialism as well as of economic neo-colonialism and the racist condescension that those systems instill in their practicioners, I assure you that I absolutely DO NOT encourage “organising and resisting on their behalf.” I spent five years of my life in Asia training–and, I hope, inspiring–such folks to do it for themselves!

  29. January 8, 2009 4:52 pm

    Michael,

    Given that I was responding in the main to RCM’s suggestion (seconded by others) earlier in the thread that the US and Europe should impose “serious financial consequences” on US or European companies who did not provide US-level benefits and working conditions to third world workers, I think that I have pretty good evidence of a suggestion which I think any serious degree of thought would reveal would hurt workers more than it would help them.

    As for how much I know about these movements, it seems like the last time I asked you for specific examples of other approaches to third world manufacturing the only thing you provided me with was a link to some articles about workers occupying existing factories that had closed — something which is not sustainable as there’s no obvious way of funding more factories, and obviously didn’t work consistently since the workers reported having to occasionally go a month or more without paying themselves. If you have more things to post about developing the third world while “fixing the problem of capitalism” it would certainly be interesting if you’d write a post about them or something.

  30. January 8, 2009 5:19 pm

    BA, in the prior thread you pointed out that good government seems to make the difference between developing nations that achieve prosperity and those that do not. On this point, I recommend “The Mystery of Capital” by Hernando de Soto, which argues that, specifically, the secret is an efficient and stable system of property rights which “unlocks” the otherwise extralegal wealth held by the poor and transforms it into usable capital.

  31. S.B. permalink
    January 8, 2009 5:22 pm

    As for the title of the post, check the spelling.

  32. radicalcatholicmom permalink
    January 8, 2009 5:32 pm

    “As for the title of the post, check the spelling.”Thanks, SB. Sigh, I am getting sloppy in my old age.

  33. January 8, 2009 11:55 pm

    Given that I was responding in the main to RCM’s suggestion (seconded by others) earlier in the thread that the US and Europe should impose “serious financial consequences” on US or European companies who did not provide US-level benefits and working conditions to third world workers, I think that I have pretty good evidence of a suggestion which I think any serious degree of thought would reveal would hurt workers more than it would help them.

    Pardon me if I need to ask you again: where is the evidence?

    As for how much I know about these movements, it seems like the last time I asked you for specific examples of other approaches to third world manufacturing the only thing you provided me with was a link to some articles about workers occupying existing factories that had closed — something which is not sustainable as there’s no obvious way of funding more factories, and obviously didn’t work consistently since the workers reported having to occasionally go a month or more without paying themselves. If you have more things to post about developing the third world while “fixing the problem of capitalism” it would certainly be interesting if you’d write a post about them or something.

    So you admit that you know nothing about global economic justice movements?

  34. January 9, 2009 12:15 am

    A good way for global justice is to get things right at home, from buying from local farmers to fighting the windmills of the American employment racket. After all, the US exports that to other places, where blackadders then cheer it on as progress. No easy task, mind you, the rigging and brainwashing is so splendidly done that people sentenced under RICO would tip their hats.

  35. blackadderiv permalink
    January 9, 2009 8:49 am

    Pardon me if I need to ask you again: where is the evidence?

    How about this:

    In the early 1990s, for example, the U.S. Congress considered legislation that would have imposed sanctions on corporations who benefit from child labor. The bill never got through Congress, but it did trigger enormous political pressure on such companies. One German company buckled under pressure from activists, and laid off 50,000 child garment workers in Bangladesh. The British charity group Oxfam later conducted a study on those 50,000 workers, and found that thousands of them later turned to prostitution, crime, or starved to death.

    In 1995, anti-sweatshop activists persuaded Nike and Reebok to close down soccer-ball manufacturing plants in Pakistan to thwart planned protests during the 1998 World Cup. The closings laid off tens of thousands of Pakistanis. Additional activist-inspired closings laid off hundreds of thousands more. The UPI reports that the mean family income in Pakistan soon fell by more than 20 percent. In Tomas Larsson’s book “Race to the Top,” University of Colorado economist Keith Maskus says the Pakistani child laborers who lost their jobs were later found begging, or getting bought and sold in international prostitution rings.

    UNICEF reports that an international boycott of Nepal’s child-labor supported carpet industry in the 1990s forced thousands child laborers out of work. A large percentage of those child laborers were later found working in Nepal’s bustling sex trade.

    Or this:

    when corporations voluntarily cut their ties to sweatshops, the victims can be the very same people sweatshop opponents say they want to help. In Honduras, where the legal working age is 14, girls toiled 75 hours a week for the 31-cent hourly minimum to make the Kathie Lee Gifford clothing line for Wal-Mart. When Wal-Mart canceled its contract, the girls lost their jobs and blamed Mrs. Gifford.

    Or this:

    Nike used to have two contract factories in impoverished Cambodia, among the neediest countries in the world. Then there was an outcry after BBC reported that three girls in one factory were under 15 years old. So Nike fled controversy by ceasing production in Cambodia.

    The result was that some of the 2,000 Cambodians (90 percent of them young women) who worked in those factories faced layoffs. Some who lost their jobs probably were ensnared in Cambodia’s huge sex slave industry — which leaves many girls dead of AIDS by the end of their teenage years.

  36. S.B. permalink
    January 9, 2009 9:42 am

    The British charity group Oxfam later conducted a study on those 50,000 workers, and found that thousands of them later turned to prostitution, crime, or starved to death.

    Aw, that’s just collateral damage . . . just like any civilians who happen to get in the way of the bombs dropped in Iraq.

  37. January 9, 2009 1:51 pm

    So here is something funny – on the last Law & Order people made the same argument as Blackadder in his sweatshop stuff.
    These people ran an “adoption” racket, importing Haitian children to the US, where they basically were slaves of their “parents”, doing all the chores, living in dirty rooms etc.

    Their argument for this ? They were still doing much better than in Haiti.

  38. January 9, 2009 2:47 pm

    BA – It’s impossible to take you seriously when you cite as “evidence” 3 editorials whose explicit purpose is to defend the existence of sweatshops. The first one, from FOX News, even denies that corporations move to “Third World” countries to take advantage of cheap labor. You, if I am reading you correctly, would readily admit that they do — it’s just that you think this is better than nothing.

    As far as the Oxfam study goes, I’d like to see that study itself rather than the FOX News version of it.

    S.B. – Even if former sweatshop workers turn to prostitution, etc. when their sweatshop jobs are shut down, it is inaccurate to call them victims (or “collateral damage”) of anti-sweatshop activists. They are victims of capitalism. The inhuman living conditions in which they find themselves are not a result of sweatshops shutting down. Sweatshops do not provide salvation from prostitution, etc.

  39. S.B. permalink
    January 9, 2009 3:06 pm

    Nonsense. Prostitution existed long before capitalism. Ever heard the cliche, the world’s oldest profession?

    I suppose you’re using “capitalism” as an all purpose boogeyman — even things that happen in the absence of capitalism are the fault of capitalism.

  40. S.B. permalink
    January 9, 2009 3:24 pm

    Likewise, inhuman living conditions existed long before capitalism. Indeed, were it not for capitalism, you wouldn’t be rich enough to have the luxury of studying theology and spending your afternoons making snarky comments online. You’d be hunting or farming, trying to get enough food to live. It might be a relatively happy life, given that you wouldn’t know any better, but it would almost certainly be “inhumane” from the vantage point of your actual life here and now.

  41. blackadderiv permalink
    January 9, 2009 3:24 pm

    It’s impossible to take you seriously when you cite as “evidence” 3 editorials whose explicit purpose is to defend the existence of sweatshops.

    I’m not sure I understand the objection. Is it that you think the authors of the stories made the incidents up, or what? I could hunt around on the Internets and find some corroborating press accounts, but I don’t feel like wasting my time if your only reaction is going to be that it doesn’t matter.

  42. January 9, 2009 3:35 pm

    S.B. – Are you suggesting that farming is necessarily an “inhuman” living condition?

  43. January 9, 2009 3:36 pm

    BA – My response to you is certainly not that “it doesn’t matter.” This shit matters, which is why you need to do better than cite FOX News.

  44. blackadderiv permalink
    January 9, 2009 3:56 pm

    My response to you is certainly not that “it doesn’t matter.” This shit matters, which is why you need to do better than cite FOX News.

    The question is whether the sourcing matters, not whether the overall issue is important. Suppose I provide corroboration for each of the incidents mentioned above in which 1) anti-sweatshop activities protest conditions in factories; 2) the companies that owned the factories respond by shutting them down; 3) the workers in those factories end up worse off than they were before. If I do that, are you going to say “okay, I guess I was wrong. Anti-sweatshop activists *are* perusing a counter-productive strategy.”? Or will you just say something like “yeah, well it’s still all capitalism’s fault”?

  45. January 9, 2009 4:24 pm

    If you show those three things, that’s great, but no, it does not show that activists are “perusing (sic) a counter-productive strategy” because it does not appear to me that you have any sense of the broadness of the strategy.

    “Worse off than they were before”… before what?

  46. S.B. permalink
    January 9, 2009 5:20 pm

    Um, you’re the one saying that if someone has to go back to the rice fields (i.e., farming), that’s an inhuman condition caused by capitalism (before 1800, no one in the world ever grew rice, apparently).

  47. blackadderiv permalink
    January 9, 2009 6:12 pm

    “Worse off than they were before”… before what?

    Before the factory closed.

  48. January 9, 2009 9:20 pm

    Um, you’re the one saying that if someone has to go back to the rice fields (i.e., farming), that’s an inhuman condition caused by capitalism

    I said no such thing. More willful distortion from S.B.

    Before the factory closed.

    Why draw the line there? Why not talk about the way capitalism preys upon already-existing poverty and socio=political injustice in the first place?

    BA: When you start defending human dignity instead of defending capitalism, we’ll be able to take you more seriously.

  49. January 10, 2009 3:00 am

    “Why not talk about the way capitalism preys upon already-existing poverty and socio=political injustice in the first place? ”

    Well, I’d say it’s not an inevitable characteristic “capitalism”, but the answer is easy. It’s cheap, it means not dealing with unions at home and you get applauded by Blackadder :-P

  50. S.B. permalink
    January 10, 2009 2:59 pm

    Michael is complaining about willful distortion! What chutzpah, coming from someone who rarely does anything else himself. In any event, if you’re not classifying working in the rice fields as inhumane, fair enough. Maybe you were just referring to prostitution . . . but that still doesn’t change the inanity of the claim that prostitution is due to capitalism.

  51. January 10, 2009 11:23 pm

    …but that still doesn’t change the inanity of the claim that prostitution is due to capitalism.

    I didn’t make that claim.

  52. January 11, 2009 12:36 pm

    OK, despite what you wrote, you didn’t try to blame the boogeyman of “capitalism” if your activist friends get a sweatshop to close down and then some of the workers have no options other than prostitution. Good, then.

  53. January 11, 2009 3:25 pm

    S.B. – Try thinking. Of course capitalism did not create prostitution. But capitalism does often drive its victims into professions such as prostitution.

  54. S.B. permalink
    January 11, 2009 4:19 pm

    How sleazy. You and your ideological friends campaign to close a sweatshop, closing your eyes to the fact that the workers there might be driven into prostitution, and then try to escape blame by pretending that what you’ve done to the workers is really the fault of “capitalism.” Nonsense. People were driven into prostitution long before capitalism, and will continue to be driven into prostitution under any system that you could devise, even if you had Stalin’s firepower to impose your will. It’s not the fault of “capitalism,” particularly in a situation where capitalism is offering a woman the chance to make more money while you’re the one driving her out of work.

  55. January 11, 2009 9:56 pm

    S.B. – Try thinking.

  56. S.B. permalink
    January 11, 2009 10:18 pm

    Try thinking yourself, not just regurgitating whatever you read in leftist tracts. You’re way too impressionable.

  57. adamv permalink
    January 11, 2009 10:37 pm

    you wouldn’t be rich enough to have the luxury of studying theology and spending your afternoons making snarky comments online. You’d be hunting or farming, trying to get enough food to live.

    This is a false dichotomy, SB. The only thing that puts these things out people’s reach is the necessity of capitalistic electronics and technology corporations to constantly bombard people with the latest, greatest, iteration of their products. There are sustainable ways to do these things that do not require capitalism.

  58. S.B. permalink
    January 11, 2009 11:39 pm

    You’re looking at this backwards, just as if someone looked at the world and said, “My goodness, what explains the fact that there’s anyone who doesn’t have MRI machines!” As if having MRI machines is just part of the state of nature, and the absence of an MRI machine is some weird phenomenon that has to be explained.. The really unexpected thing is that anyone in the world ever came up with an MRI machine in the first place.

    Same with poverty and wealth. It’s backwards to look at the world and ask, “Wow, how come anyone is poor.” The whole human race has been poor (in contemporary terms) for 99% of its existence. The really weird thing is that anyone ever rises above having to scrape about for food all day long. And that happened only with industrialization and capitalism.

    If you claim to know of a way other than capitalism that wealth could supposedly be generated, it will have to remain completely theoretical: The history of the world just didn’t happen that way.

  59. adamv permalink
    January 11, 2009 11:56 pm

    The world came far enough, amassed enough wealth, to bring about capitalism. Since wealth preceded capitalism, I have no doubts that there are plenty of ways of doing things to generate wealth that don’t entail unregulated-as-possible markets.

  60. January 12, 2009 1:38 am

    Try thinking yourself, not just regurgitating whatever you read in leftist tracts. You’re way too impressionable.

    Aw, c’mon Uncle Stu, why don’t you just come over to my place sometime and check out my collection of Leftist Tracts! They’re so quotable, and easy to regurgitate!

  61. S.B. permalink
    January 12, 2009 9:09 am

    Adam — you’re wrong on two levels: Wealth did not precede capitalism (not in the sense of a widespread middle class), and the word “capitalism” simply doesn’t mean “unregulated-as-possible.” In fact, one of the dangers of capitalism is that businesses will engage in rent-seeking behavior or will lobby for greater government regulation so as to stifle their own competition (read George Stigler on the economic theory of regulation, or Bruce Ackerman’s book “Clean Coal, Dirty Air” for a real-life example).

    Michael — you’re doing a great job regurgigating whatever crap you read, and refusing to admit that anyone could possibly have a different view or different evidence.

  62. S.B. permalink
    January 12, 2009 9:15 am

    Let’s put it this way: No one here is accusing you of hating the poor. All of the disputants think that you are merely sorely misinformed about the facts; your determination to help the poor seems genuine enough (if accompanied by a quite heightened sense of self-righteousness). Are you intellectually able to grasp the point that all of us care about the poor too, and that (if your positions are correct) the only problem is that we’re just sorely misinformed about the facts?

  63. January 12, 2009 12:19 pm

    Michael — you’re doing a great job regurgigating whatever crap you read,

    Thanks. Since you seem to have me figured out, why don’t you compile for everyone a bibliography of the “Leftist Tracts” that I am regurgitating?

    and refusing to admit that anyone could possibly have a different view or different evidence.

    Obviously, since I oppose the views of you and DarwinCatholic, I admit that others have different views.

  64. S.B. permalink
    January 12, 2009 12:31 pm

    You didn’t answer my last question. The issue isn’t whether you admit that others have a different view (that was an unclear sentence on my part), but whether you admit that their view is in good faith, or whether you are determined (contrary to all evidence) to believe that everyone who disagrees with you here does so from evil motives, i.e., defending injustice, harming the poor, etc.

  65. January 12, 2009 12:57 pm

    As I said earlier, it is entirely possible that you and BA “care about the poor.” But if you end up defending sweatshops, then you are not committed to the poor.

    I’ll be waiting for that bibliography.

  66. adamv permalink
    January 12, 2009 1:05 pm

    SB, there has been a middle class in the West since the rise of the burghers. This was several centuries before capitalism. And I’m not sold on the definition of wealth that you give.

  67. S.B. permalink
    January 12, 2009 1:25 pm

    Michael —

    The problem, again, is that you’re confusing a factual belief (about the efficacy of trying to close sweatshops) with a moral commitment. You really can’t tell the two apart? You think your own factual judgments (based on nothing that you’ve been able to cite) are so infallible that anyone who disagrees must have their moral commitments called into question?

  68. S.B. permalink
    January 12, 2009 1:26 pm

    Put another way, Blackadder would be every bit as justified — much more so, since he has cited more facts than you can muster — in pointing out that “if you end up closing sweatshops, then you are not committed to the poor.”

  69. January 12, 2009 2:05 pm

    I’m not sure BA has cited many “facts.” He has cited editorials, some from FOX News, and has expressed his opinion. Yet even supposing his basic opinion — that sweatshops are “better than nothing” — one would expect someone who actually gives a shit about the people involved to then call for “corporate responsibility,” tougher laws, etc. but he has made no suggestions to this effect. All he seems to want is for global corporations to be able to do — exploit the poor, and there is no way around the fact that this is what they do — and to be able to do it freely and with no consequences. He is committed to fighting the “oppression” of capitalism, not committed to fighting the oppression of the poor.

  70. S.B. permalink
    January 12, 2009 2:14 pm

    Blackadder has repeatedly made the argument that tougher laws often are counterproductive. Did you somehow miss this point in your eagerness to get your self-righteousness on record? In any event, you certainly haven’t refuted it. And it’s a factual disagreement. If tougher laws DO, in fact, make things worse, then you shouldn’t want tougher laws unless your goal is to HURT the poor.

    Try, for once, to put yourself in someone else’s shoes: If Blackadder sincerely believes that tougher laws would hurt the supposed beneficiaries, then from his perspective you are asking him to HARM people.

  71. adamv permalink
    January 12, 2009 2:36 pm

    I’m surprised that there has been no mention of the Italian co-ops as a model of how to keep these factories open, but with a focus on people selecting how the money generated by the co-op is distributed, and the workers also vote on safety and working hours.

    I don’t know if anti-sweatshop activists try to bring about this end, but that seems like the ideal situation to me.

  72. January 12, 2009 2:42 pm

    Adam – Many anti-sweatshop activists are indeed in favor of arrangements such as co-ops. I mentioned this as an alternative in another debate we had here about capitalism; Darwin ridiculed it.

  73. S.B. permalink
    January 12, 2009 2:48 pm

    Adam — see Darwin’s 4:52 pm comment on Jan. 8 for a response to Michael’s rather inadequate attempt to rely on such cooperative factories.

  74. January 12, 2009 2:56 pm

    Darwin’s “response” was not much of a response.

  75. S.B. permalink
    January 12, 2009 3:00 pm

    It was more than your argument deserved, and you certainly didn’t refute it (you didn’t even pretend to try to come up with a sustainable way that people could engage in this activity on a broad scale and actually get paid).

  76. January 12, 2009 3:12 pm

    It was more than your argument deserved, and you certainly didn’t refute it (you didn’t even pretend to try to come up with a sustainable way that people could engage in this activity on a broad scale and actually get paid).

    I did not address his concerns here, no, because I took them to be a reference to our previous conversation in another thread in which we discussed these Argentinian factories in some detail. But since you so politely asked:

    Darwin’s first concern assumes capitalist expansionist values. I’m not sure why that would be of any concern for the workers who own that factories in question.

    You seem to have trouble reading his second concern, which is not that the workers haven’t been able to pay themselves, but that they have had to go for short periods of time without doing so. This certainly sounds like a valid concern, but seems much less so once you compare this experience to the experience of anyone who has struggled with his or her own small business.

  77. adamv permalink
    January 12, 2009 3:27 pm

    but that they have had to go for short periods of time without doing so

    This is common for most entrepreneurs, is it not?

  78. January 12, 2009 3:30 pm

    AdamV – Exactly.

  79. S.B. permalink
    January 12, 2009 3:31 pm

    I participated in that thread, as you might remember (it was the one where you engaged in the utterly contemptible tactic of calling me “racist” for no reason at all). Anyway, that was the thread in which you (just as here) had no answer to the following question:

    Michael – any examples of “communally-owned” factories that: 1) weren’t first built by evil capitalists and then seized by the workers, and 2) that actually do pay a so-called “living” wage, rather than having it said that “there are other months when we don’t have enough resources to take hom a pay check”?

  80. adamv permalink
    January 12, 2009 3:34 pm

    SB, to return to Italy’s coops, (1) many were started by the unemployed after WWII. So they weren’t capitalists, Italy was too devastated to have a working economy. (2) Many of them pay their members very well.

  81. S.B. permalink
    January 12, 2009 3:40 pm

    Do you have any evidence of this, esp. evidence that such a thing could become more widespread?

  82. January 12, 2009 3:50 pm

    S.B. – I wasn’t asked those questions here. I wasn’t asked any questions about communally owned factories in this thread until now. There are countless communally owned businesses. Here are only a couple lists:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cooperatives
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_worker_cooperatives

  83. adamv permalink
    January 12, 2009 3:52 pm

    I can only point you to the fact that many have existed for numerous decades, concentrated in Emilea Romana (sp?). I googled around and found websites for some of them. I’m sure you will be able to do the same. What do you mean by “could” become more widespread? It exists and it works in one area, so its a theoretical possibility that it could work in others. I’d have to know where we were talking about it “spreading” to. Assuming that you mean areas that presently have a lot of sweatshops in them. If there economic situation approaches the lows in Italy after the war, then I’d say “yes.” Especially with things like micro-lending available.

  84. blackadderiv permalink
    January 12, 2009 4:02 pm

    Co-ops are great. I lived in a fairly famous co-operative for a while when I was in school, and if people want to try and start a co-operative venture I say more power to them. But like everything else they have there disadvantages as well as advantages, and whether the advantages will outweigh the disadvantages in a particular case is not the sort of thing that can be determined strictly as a matter of morality or logic.

    From my perspective, constructive solutions to social problems generally involve adding to people’s options, rather than subtracting from them. If co-operative factories really are a viable alternative to sweatshops, then one need only start some, and people will gladly choose them over the old least worst option of working in a sweatshop. On the other hand, if for some reason such factories aren’t a viable alternative (and the fact that Michael’s example involved workers taking over an abandoned factory and having to go without pay for extended periods of time suggests that it might not be) then banning sweatshops in anticipation that they will be replaced with clean, well-paying jobs in a co-operative is dangerously naive.

  85. January 12, 2009 4:34 pm

    BA – No one has suggested co-ops as “the” or even “an” “alternative” to sweatshops. Any “alternative to sweatshops” that has justice as its goal will be multi-dimentional. In fact, I think your view, as it runs through your posts, is dreadfully simplistic because it assumes “sweatshops” could be unplugged and replaced with something else which may or may not solve the “problem,” etc. You are simply arguing about the merits of retaining or replacing or simply getting rid of one particular phenomenon of the global economy, “sweatshops.” It’s more complicated than that, and thankfully, movements for economic justice realize this. Opposing sweatshops is but one part of the work of these global movements.

    The major problem I have with your thinking is that sweatshops simply cannot be part of any sane vision of global economic justice. That you (and Paul Krugman and the like) spend so much time defending their existence as well as multinational corporations’ right to do as they wish appears to me (and some others here) to be putting the defense of capitalism above the defense of human persons and above any credible desire for economic justice.

    If you continue to insist that a desire for justice and “commitment to the poor” is really what is driving your posts on sweatshops, follow it up then by injecting a little Christian ethics into your reflections. OK, so you advocate allowing corporations to ‘do their thing’ and exploit poor persons across the globe because it’ll be “better” in the long run. Is that all you can say about it? You have criticized those who advocate for social and economic justice for doing it “only for show,” to make themselves look good” in front of their friends and neighbors (quite a charge), so the intentions of certain acts are important to you. Yet on the other hand you don’t seem to care that corporations us cheap foreign labor only to make more money, and say that “that’s just how it works.” Even if sweatshops DID “help the poor in the long run” as you claim (never has this actually occurred), don’t the intentions of corporations (simple exploitation) matter?

  86. S.B. permalink
    January 12, 2009 5:06 pm

    The point on entrepreneurs often going without pay suggests the germ of a thought (better strangle it quickly, Michael . . . you never know where a thought will lead).

    The thought is this: Entrepreneurs face greater risks than salaried employees. Sure, salaried employees can be fired, but they don’t all go without pay for the month everytime there’s a momentary downturn. So lots and lots of people don’t want the risk of being an entrepreneur. By the same token, if they forego the risk, they’ll be placing that risk on someone else . . . namely, the evil capitalists (or shareholders), who invest their own money and then bear the risk of having month-to-month variations in profit/losses. So if someone else is bearing the risk, then the salaried employees will be paid less . . . they are sacrificing some potential income in exchange for having someone else take the risk of putting up a huge amount of money to fund the enterprise.

  87. blackadderiv permalink
    January 12, 2009 5:23 pm

    You have criticized those who advocate for social and economic justice for doing it “only for show,” to make themselves look good” in front of their friends and neighbors (quite a charge), so the intentions of certain acts are important to you. Yet on the other hand you don’t seem to care that corporations us cheap foreign labor only to make more money, and say that “that’s just how it works.”

    First, what I said was that *some* (not all) people who claimed to act out of compassion for the poor and vulnerable were really motivated by the desire to appear compassionate or to be trendy. To deny this is to hide one’s head in the sand.

    Second, if you’ll read my post closely, you’ll see that my focus was on how different motivations might lead to different practical results. Someone truly concerned with the poor may do X, while someone engaging in conspicuous compassion will more likely to Y, which is not as good for the poor but which makes them look better than they otherwise would.

    Likewise, I do think that the motivations of businessmen can lead them to do things that are socially harmful, and that we should be on guard against this. A company, for example, could increase its profit by offering people a service better than any of their competitors, or it could increase its profits by using the government to pass laws harming their competition. The first will generally speaking be socially beneficial, the second will not.

  88. January 12, 2009 5:53 pm

    Likewise, I do think that the motivations of businessmen can lead them to do things that are socially harmful, and that we should be on guard against this.

    Fantastic.

    A company, for example, could…

    How about, rather than your hypothetical example, we say:

    A company, for example, could MOVE ITS MANUFACTURING PLANTS TO A THIRD WORLD COUNTRY IN ORDER TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ALREADY-EXISTING POVERTY AND LACK OF HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTIONS SOLELY FOR THE SAKE OF PROFIT.

    Is this “socially harmful” (or hell, personally harmful to actually existing, concrete human persons with names and addresses)? If so, what do you propose should be done about it? Letting it be, simply out of some opinion that this situation is “better than *the* alternatives” will not do for any serious Christian. Are you willing to call the motivations involved “sinful”? If so, how do we work to resist this sin as Christians?

  89. blackadderiv permalink
    January 12, 2009 7:43 pm

    No, Michael. As I’ve been arguing, when corporations locate factories in the developing world, this is not socially harmful because 1) it improves the lives of the workers (even if only from a “better than the alternatives” perspective) and 2) it is part of a process by which countries can (and have) lift themselves out of poverty.

    You’ve said a number of times that the actions of anti-sweatshop activists only really make sense in the context of their larger struggle for economic justice, and that even if fighting sweatshops makes people in the developing world worse off in the short run, this is necessary as part of the larger strategy to fundamentally change conditions in the developing world so that people are no longer forced to make the sorts of choices that lead them to work in sweatshops. My support for sweatshops is also part of a larger strategy that aims at this purpose. The difference is that the strategy I support has actually been successful. Look at what happened in the West, in Japan, and South Korea, and Taiwan, and Hong Kong, and Singapore, at what’s happening now in places like China and India and Vietnam. Literally billions of people have moved out of extreme poverty in these places, not because they followed the dictates of liberation theology or anarch-socialism, but because they took advantage of the amazing wealth generating powers of the free market. And in pretty much every case, sweatshops were one stage in that economic development.

    Trying to stop sweatshops is like kicking out the bottom rungs of a ladder out of a pit. It does the people stuck in the pit no favors.

  90. January 12, 2009 7:51 pm

    The difference is that the strategy I support has actually been successful. Look at what happened in the West, in Japan, and South Korea, and Taiwan, and Hong Kong, and Singapore, at what’s happening now in places like China and India and Vietnam. Literally billions of people have moved out of extreme poverty in these places, not because they followed the dictates of liberation theology or anarch-socialism, but because they took advantage of the amazing wealth generating powers of the free market.

    Sweatshops bring people out of poverty, You are nuts. I notice that you did not list any Latin American countries among those “saved” by sweatshops.

  91. blackadderiv permalink
    January 13, 2009 9:31 am

    Sadly, most Latin American countries have tended to oscillate between mercantism (where the government is used to squelch competition and favor a few large businesses) and various forms of pseudo-socialism. On this point, I would recommend Hernando De Soto’s book The Other Path, which focuses on Peru.

  92. Tohoya permalink
    May 6, 2009 7:19 pm

    “That you (and Paul Krugman and the like) spend so much time defending their existence as well as multinational corporations’ right to do as they wish appears to me (and some others here) to be putting the defense of capitalism above the defense of human persons and above any credible desire for economic justice.”

    What about this don’t you get? We spend so much time defending sweatshops because we place the defense of human dignity and prosperity above any self-righteous measures that make first world activists feel better about themselves while further impoverishing the people who can least afford a diminution in income.

Trackbacks

  1. After Rights, Then What? « Blackadder’s Lair
  2. After Rights, Then What? « Vox Nova

Comments are closed.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 850 other followers

%d bloggers like this: