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  1. Policraticus permalink*
    January 8, 2009 6:38 pm

    In fact, if you’re not careful declaring that people have a right to something can even impede their possession of it. After all, if something is yours by right, then it hardly seems right for you to have to pay someone else to provide it to do, or to give them something of value in exchange.

    Why not? Some rights are inherent, others are imputed. Those which are inherent (e.g., value of the person) are not always inherently recognized. It is surely better to ensure that those rights are recognized and protected by exchange than to permit those rights to go unrecognized by remaining silent or languid. Those which are imputed (e.g., certain civil liberties) are quite often secured by some manner of exchange, be it taxation or obedience to law. I think that in your attempt to refute some of RCM’s points you attempt to prove too much.

    God help us if we are dependent for our subsistence solely on the altruism of businessmen.

    Exactly RCM’s point, only you cast it rhetorically.

    Even if we decide that something is a basic human right, this will not settle the question of how best to secure people in possession of that thing.

    This premise is not in dispute by RCM.

  2. blackadderiv permalink
    January 8, 2009 6:52 pm

    Some rights are inherent, others are imputed. Those which are inherent (e.g., value of the person) are not always inherently recognized. It is surely better to ensure that those rights are recognized and protected by exchange than to permit those rights to go unrecognized by remaining silent or languid.

    Well sure. But the point is that a lot of people don’t see it that way. For example, a while back I had a post arguing that the best way to get clean water to people who didn’t have access to it was to allow some form of water market. The response to the post from some was that water was a basic human right, and therefore shouldn’t be bought or sold (whether you agree with me on the practical question of water markets, it is at least an example of what I’m talking about). Whether or not this thinking is ultimately sensible, it is common.

  3. George Crosley permalink
    January 8, 2009 7:17 pm

    Yes!

    From a lot of the chatter elsewhere on the web, I was under the impression that this was a strictly liberal blog. Sounds like there is a lot of common sense mixed in.

    I would add to your points the distinction between “negative” and “positive” rights. The so-called positive rights are hard to prove, regulate or mandate for the reasons you’ve articulated. On the negative rights side, someone has a right to life merely on the fact of their being alive and, according to natural law, a product of God. “Negative” rights are gifts given to us to God, as recognized by natural or common law. No such relationship exists for “positive” rights, particularly since the only recognition or application of such “rights” (in the sense of a right) would be the State.

    Hope that makes sense … I’m a student of economics, not the law.

  4. blackadderiv permalink
    January 8, 2009 7:22 pm

    Policraticus,

    One other thing. Your comments make it sound as if you agree with the idea that workers in the developing world are dependent for their subsistence solely on the altruism of businessmen. If this is not your view, then I apologize for falsely ascribing it to you. If it is your view, however, then I think it is mistaken. Companies that operate sweatshops aren’t being run as charitable organizations. Clearly they have no problem paying workers very low wages. The fact that they do not pay even lower wages, therefore, probably not best explained by altruism.

  5. Michael Enright permalink
    January 8, 2009 9:15 pm

    BA–

    Do you really think that the businesses who employ sweatshop labor can afford to pay no more than they do? Are the extremely low wages a result of bare market mechanisms or do you think there is some play involved and some room for better treatment?

  6. radicalcatholicmom permalink
    January 8, 2009 10:08 pm

    George, this is primarily a Catholic blog: not an economics, not an American, but a Catholic one.

    BA, yeah. Companies cannot afford to pay their workers more. These workers just have to be content with the status quo. If you lived in a 3rd world country and worked in a sweat shop then MAYBE you might have a little more credibility. But when you live in the luxurious comfort that you do and you make these types of statements, I am sorry, it is quite obscene to be coming from a Catholic. You can do better than this.

  7. January 8, 2009 10:17 pm

    Rights-talk is by all means crucial. While it does not makes them appear deus-ex-machina style, It paves the way for them actually manifesting in public. Long before slavery and segregation ended, before women were “given” the right to vote etc., people talked about rights. As such, declarations are important. Or why do you think the Vatican, and every pit of hell country in the UN, opposed a declaration in favor of addressing the special protective needs of gay people around the world ? If rights-talk is just that, the Vatican wouldn’t be worried. They are worried that discriminating against gay people, as the Catholic church does, might become illegal.

    There is no need to prove that these rights exist because of this and that. Common decency tells one that discrimination, segregation, the American economic and political system, Communism, Wonderbread etc. are wrong. You shame people into accepting equality. This is what MLK did by using terms and rhetoric familiar to American Christians.

    I mean I am aware you guys are Catholic, but the whole Natural Law (TM) stuff is really rather embarrassing. As if there were this wonderful land of Oz, in whose library the Grand Tome of Natural Law can be found. Nowadays, it usually is used as an argument for screwing people over, like your pope does with gay people. Natural Law is whatever you say it is.

    “And that question, being a practical one, cannot be settled simply by appeal to moral principle, let alone to moral sentiment. ”

    Moral principle and moral sentiment are the necessary precursors of anything legal happening. Every time. You have to feel the shame of your position. Not that it’s going to happen with all people, as Prop. 8 showed. But it happens with more and more people. All the things that have been overcome were made possible by appealing to people’s decency and fairness. Slavery, segregation, women’s rights, gay rights, you name it – and of course against the resistance of “social conservatives.”

    Of course, oppressive systems do not like rights talk at all, whether it’s Cuba, whether it was the Soviet Union or, to a lesser degree, the American system (which works via brainwashing rather than brute force – much more effective and easier). Thus, rights are turned into vices, signs of laziness and so forth. Vacation time, fully-paid maternity leave, unions = frivolous. Lazy Europeans ! Don’t believe it ? Read from National Review on down.

    Rights-talk is crucial because many people have to be made AWARE that they have rights. Black people in the South had to be encouraged, often against resistance – not to mention the resistance of the “social conservatives”-cum-attack-dogs. It is one of the hardest tasks to convince people to oppose their own oppression. From getting women to stop performing female genital mutilation to convince people long shunned that they have worth. So yeah, rights-talk is by any and all means necessary. It’s how people get organized and take a rise against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.

  8. January 8, 2009 10:31 pm

    RCM,

    Although the trope that progressives think with their hearts while conservatives think with their brains is not universally true, your approach here seems to be lending some credence to it. You can denounce BA in emotional terms if it makes you feel better, but given that in his post he among other things quotes the sentiments of Tsi-Chi, a Vietnamese woman who actually works in a “sweatshop” and considers it a substantial improvement for her, it would seems that you would have to also accuse _her_ of being heartless and out of touch with the third world dynamics which _you_ really understand. And that’s a bit of a stretch.

    Again, read what BA is really saying. He’s not saying that people _should_ work in poor conditions for low wages, that we should want them to or encourage companies not to improve those conditions — he’s saying that the sort of “we should ban this” emotional reactions which you seem to feel so strongly inclined towards would actually hurt the very workers that you feel so deeply for.

  9. blackadderiv permalink
    January 8, 2009 10:38 pm

    BA, yeah. Companies cannot afford to pay their workers more. These workers just have to be content with the status quo.

    Please point me to where I said such things. Or, if you cannot, I once again ask you not to put words into my mouth.

    If you lived in a 3rd world country and worked in a sweat shop then MAYBE you might have a little more credibility.

    Well, as the guy on Reading Rainbow used to say, you don’t have to take my word for it. Read Nicholas Kristof (who lived in Asia for 14 years). Read the accounts of the various sweatshop workers in the links I’ve provided.

  10. January 8, 2009 11:57 pm

    It’s seems that those who believe that the fruit of my labor is a basic human right for someone else (whether I’m a business owner or a taxpayer) want to work to enforce their mandate with the violence of the state.

    Jesus wanted us to help the poor. He said: “Sell what you have, give it to the poor and follow me…”. He never said: “Steal what your neighbor worked for and give it to the poor”.

    I don’t lend much credence to the assertion of one person that wanting to let people hold on to what they earn if they want to is not Catholic. Especially in a country where the number one nutritional problem among the poor is obesity.

  11. January 9, 2009 12:22 am

    Having the right to eat more than one meal a day is not the same as being able to eat more than one meal a day, and it is a fallacy to assume that declaring that people have a right to something will bring them into possession of that thing. Calling something a human right, a natural right, a fundamental or basic right will not change this, nor will writing the word ‘right’ using all caps.

    Proclamation of human rights is a first step, BA. Providing “intellectual” defenses of sweatshops will do nothing to secure the right to food either, BA, but you feel perfectly fine doing THAT. As Daniel Conway said in the other thread, use your intellectual abilities in ways that promote the dignity of the human person, not in ways that provide justification for atrocities. You are part of the problem.

    I find it amazing the number of Catholic lawyers ostensibly concerned with “social justice” who do nothing but criticize “rights talk.”

    From a lot of the chatter elsewhere on the web, I was under the impression that this was a strictly liberal blog.

    Was it ever?

  12. January 9, 2009 12:32 am

    So, you say, “After Rights, Then What?”

    I see, let’s not go so far as to talk about human rights. Let’s just defend the existence of sweatshops and leave “rights” out of it.

    Too many Catholic lawyers are “concerned” about the poor. Too few are committed to them.

  13. January 9, 2009 12:38 am

    I fail to see the intentions of such posts.

    Let me add that capitalism (and yes, Europe is capitalist, just with much better services and protections) can help reduce discrimination and facilitate equality. Along with hatred diminishing thanks to moral sentiment (feelings boohiss), the willingness to get new customers overcomes a lit of injustice, since it makes shunned people more familiar and less shunned. Heck, a tv character can achieve that. At some points even racists wanted to get blacks’ business.

  14. January 9, 2009 12:39 am

    Shouldn’t Catholic lawyer be an oxymoron ? :-)

  15. January 9, 2009 12:51 am

    While I am annoyed at BA because the Reading Rainbow song is stuck in my head, I have to agree that RCM would do better to focus her sarcastic emotive condescension on the issue considered in the post. Namely, what is the best means of ensuring that people receive basic necessities (whether they are referred to as rights or not)? These are difficult questions in many cases, and reasonable people can disagree. But surely it is not too much to ask those who disagree to address the question being discussed. There is no disagreement about what is ideal here – ideally everyone would have the basic necessities for human flourishing that most Americans take for granted.

    The dispute is about what we are to do since that goal is not currently attainable. To take a common example, ideally all workers would be well-paid and have low hour requirements. Less ideally, a person could have a job with high hours and very low pay. Worst of all, a person could have no job. These are issues of ideal -less than ideal – worst. RCM seems to think that stating that the less than ideal situation is, well, less than ideal, resolves the matter.

    Certainly, in many cases, a sweatshop job may be worse than no job at all. But I am reluctant to substitute my judgment for that of the person who chose to take the job on this issue. The question in these circumstances, as with water or any other basic good, is how we can best help ensure human flourishing. We should have a firm grasp of what the ‘worst – somewhat better – better – best’ scenarios are to ensure we do not make a problem worse. Good intentions are necessary but not sufficient.

  16. S.B. permalink
    January 9, 2009 9:47 am

    Too many Catholic lawyers are “concerned” about the poor. Too few are committed to them.

    You can’t judge someone else’s commitment in that way. Everyone here is “committed” to the poor. It’s just that Blackadder is familiar with the factual evidence suggesting that some supposedly beneficial actions actually hurt the people they’re intended to help. You might disagree with that factual evidence (it’s completely unclear why, since you can’t seem to come up with any reasons), but that’s still just a factual disagreement, not a moral disagreement about whether it’s good to help the poor.

  17. Zak permalink
    January 9, 2009 11:10 am

    Maybe the solution is that along with pressuring for labor standards to be improved, we should make more of an effort to cushion the effects. Thus, if Nike is going to close a factory in Nicaragua because it longer makes as high of profits there with higher labor standards, Caritas, or a fair trade NGO will work with its employees to form cooperatives producing blankets, or something like that. But to do it, then money (capital) is needed. Where should that come from? Maybe we Catholics have an obligation to part with more of what we “earned,” but how can it be done?

    My favored route, I think, is to expand free trade and labor standards, and concomitantly to include structural funds distributed through states and NGOs (including faith-based ones). This is equivalent to what’s going on in the EU, but with more subsidiarity.

  18. January 9, 2009 11:11 am

    Michael,

    Well if the Catholic Lawyers are convinced that “rights talk” of a certain kind (right to water, right to education, right to housing) tends to both be inaccurate in describing human experience and also actually inhibit people’s ability to get those essential human needs, than it would be their very concern for social justice which would lead them to speak against rights talk.

    But if you’re going to complain about people who don’t do anything: How many grad students in liberation theology have gone out and successfully got funded and started companies which provide good jobs with decent conditions and reasonable pay to people in the third world?

    A great many people follow a great many perfectly worthy vocations which do not, unfortunately, allow being personally involved in starting or running a company which makes the lives of people in the developing world better. However, it would be wrong to both to blame all people who are not directly involved in such activies, and also to imagine that going around proclaiming one’s righteous indignation on the internet actually does anything to help the world’s poor. Emotive writing is not, itself, something which feeds, houses or pays the needy.

  19. blackadderiv permalink
    January 9, 2009 11:40 am

    Maybe the solution is that along with pressuring for labor standards to be improved, we should make more of an effort to cushion the effects. Thus, if Nike is going to close a factory in Nicaragua because it longer makes as high of profits there with higher labor standards, Caritas, or a fair trade NGO will work with its employees to form cooperatives producing blankets, or something like that.

    I don’t think you are going to be able to put the entire population to work making fair trade blankets, and if you could do this (and the wages and conditions making such blankets were superior to those in sweatshops) then any push for labor standards would be redundant, as people wouldn’t accept such jobs to begin with.

  20. January 9, 2009 11:52 am

    At the risk of sounding excessively cynical: The problem with programs such as the “homemade in the third world” products or fair trade blankets or what have you is that generally the product being made is not much valued for itself — at least not enough for it to have a large market other than through knowing that buying it “helps people”. As a result, people dependant on that kind of effort are in danger of being forgotten when another trendy cause comes up and their difficulties are forgotten.

    The advantage of making Nike shoes or Ann Taylor shirts or what have you is that even people who don’t feel sorry for you want them — and thus your employment is less likely to go away, and indeed likely to expand and eventually pay more and have better conditions.

    Usefulness is often a more reliable means of providing for oneself than sentiment.

  21. George Crosley permalink
    January 9, 2009 11:59 am

    radicalcatholicmom,

    My apologies, I should have said strictly liberal Catholic blog.

  22. January 9, 2009 12:13 pm

    But if you’re going to complain about people who don’t do anything: How many grad students in liberation theology have gone out and successfully got funded and started companies which provide good jobs with decent conditions and reasonable pay to people in the third world?

    What I complained about is BA’s use of ideas, not that he “isn’t doing anything.” BA and I both are interested in “doing something,” perhaps among other ways, by using ideas. BA’s preference is to use ideas as a kind of “intellectual” smokescreen for atrocities. This is the problem that I have with his posts.

  23. January 9, 2009 12:14 pm

    …than (sic) it would be their very concern for social justice which would lead them to speak against rights talk.

    Perhaps. Perhaps not.

  24. radicalcatholicmom permalink
    January 9, 2009 12:25 pm

    So the argument be8ing made by Darwin Catholic and BA, if I understand correctly, is that my ideals are disconnected from the “real world?”

    What I know, from studying good ol’ American history, is that change occurred in this country, like oh, say, the 8 hour work day, the weekend, fair pay, benefits, etc, when the laws changed and enforced them. If we relied on the real world, the real world is full of greed. And I love how Tony talks about the “fruit of [his] labor” yet who really produces? It takes BOTH management and the worker to make profit. Without the worker, there is no profit. Period. When I helped organize a walk out at Neiman Marcus in the Catalog Call Center, Management quickly changed their plans when it became quite apparent they would lose millions the moment 50% of their workers stopped receiving calls. Whose profit is that?

    The other question we have to ask and should be asked, is why are American companies moving abroad? BA, don’t you think this should be part of the equation? I think it is quite relevant.

    I remember back in the day when I was kid and I refused to buy anything Chinese. I could actually do it. Now I cannot. Why is that?

    But your assertion and others’ that CEOs who are making, how much again, and what they are flying in again, while the economy is tanking, that they cannot justly compensate their workers is just disconnected at best from reality. You have utterly failed to make your case.

  25. blackadderiv permalink
    January 9, 2009 12:28 pm

    Darwin,

    My view of so-called Fair Trade products is not so negative. If a company can raise demand for its products by marketing itself as socially responsible, I see no real problem with its doing so. It’s true that ethical fashions change, but the same is true of fashions in general and only time will tell whether a job making Fair Trade blankets is more or less secure than a job making shoes for Nike.

  26. blackadderiv permalink
    January 9, 2009 12:30 pm

    What I know, from studying good ol’ American history, is that change occurred in this country, like oh, say, the 8 hour work day, the weekend, fair pay, benefits, etc, when the laws changed and enforced them.

    If that’s what you were taught, then you were misinformed.

  27. Policraticus permalink*
    January 9, 2009 12:38 pm

    From a lot of the chatter elsewhere on the web, I was under the impression that this was a strictly liberal blog. Sounds like there is a lot of common sense mixed in.

    Having the impression that being liberal and having common sense are antipodal qualities could be the reason that such “chatter” is believed in the first place.

  28. blackadderiv permalink
    January 9, 2009 12:38 pm

    The other question we have to ask and should be asked, is why are American companies moving abroad? BA, don’t you think this should be part of the equation?

    Presumably because they think they can make more money by doing so. If doing so will also improve the conditions of workers in the developing world, then the fact that businesses make lots of money off the deal doesn’t bother me.

    I remember back in the day when I was kid and I refused to buy anything Chinese. I could actually do it. Now I cannot. Why is that?

    Presumably because we buy more goods from China now than we used to. One consequence of this has been that over the last couple of decades tens if not hundreds of millions of people in China have moved out of extreme poverty. Would you really rather we all bought only American products if it meant all those people would still be in extreme poverty?

    But your assertion and others’ that CEOs who are making, how much again, and what they are flying in again, while the economy is tanking, that they cannot justly compensate their workers is just disconnected at best from reality. You have utterly failed to make your case.

    Perhaps the reason I haven’t made this case is that I never made the assertion (indeed, this is now the third time I have had to correct you on this score, to no apparent effect).

  29. Policraticus permalink*
    January 9, 2009 12:53 pm

    If doing so will also improve the conditions of workers in the developing world, then the fact that businesses make lots of money off the deal doesn’t bother me.

    This is precisely what is in dispute, and you cite little scholarly or economic evidence to buttress either side.

    It seems that you operate under a very naive assumption that all things remain equal when a factory or mill is built in a Third-world community. First, you limit the discussion to “workers.” What about those who do not gain employment in these factories and mills? Their lives are affected, too, because the economic structures of their communities and state are altered. Dislocation, scarcity of resources (which are allocated to the new workplaces), and social stigma often follow (see the work of Robert Kaplan, Joseph Stiglitz, and Kevin Bales for real studies). What about the jobs that are cut in the U.S. when these businesses move overseas? Is that not also troubling?

    You have not cited a single authoritative economist, sociologist, or political scientist in support of your claims of stratification and global impact. Instead you have relied on journalists. The funny thing is, you do cite Burke, who is actually concerned about the very thing you are doing: thinking abstractly about matters that necessitate a practical acumen.

    Your arguments, from what I can tell, stem mostly from quixotic notions of business and armchair thinking. I appreciate your attempts, and they are thought-provoking, but they seem to me to be rather exaggerated and bereft of any genuine familiarity with the topic.

  30. Zak permalink
    January 9, 2009 1:14 pm

    Clearly you couldn’t put an entire country to work making such products. You could take the population of a factory and give them various kinds of public works employment (coming from the state) and fair trade employment (through NGOs). Wages could be higher because there wouldn’t be the need to generate 10% returns on investment if the investment is coming from public (structural adjustment funds) or charitable sources.

    Blackadder,
    You’re response to RCM confuses me on one point. Are you arguing that the legislative efforts of Progressives and New Dealers were not responsible for many of the improvements in working conditions in the US in the first half of this century?

  31. M.Z. Forrest permalink
    January 9, 2009 1:31 pm

    Needless to say there is complexity involved in Foreign Investment. A book I recommended about a year ago “Bad Sammaritans” gets into this. I received this book surprisingly for Christmas.

    Exports aren’t the be all and all. For example, the Dole plantation would have added very little to the local economy. Once you know how to get bananas to market, it isn’t like people are then able to transfer those skills to be better able to feed their countrymen.

    The second issue that is run into is that there most likely isn’t more money available and this condition will persist. Banana picking is basically the equivalent of an artisinal good. Competing against a commodity like sunflower seeds or cucumbers is only possible because the artisans wages are sufficiently lower than the capital and labor costs for the commodity goods. When NAFTA finally opened up the corn market in Mexico, Mexican corn farmers were no longer able to compete with Americans because they didn’t have the capital necessary to produce at the American price. Where trade offers the most benefits is in technology transfer, something that is impeded through America’s patent system that extends patents to everything for a very long time. That is probably a debate for another day though.

  32. January 9, 2009 1:47 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.

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

    Policraticus,

    Actually, based on the vast majority of comments on this series of posts, the question of whether sweatshop jobs are an improvement over other available jobs in the developing world does not seem to be seriously in dispute. Even RCM’s post, for example, acknowledges that people work in sweatshops because the alternatives are even worse. At the very least, this hasn’t been the main issue in dispute.

    As for the issue of evidence, I’ve cited quite a lot of it over the course of this argument, everything from the work of Nobel Prize winning economists to the opinions of actual sweatshop workers. I would be happy to cite additional material if you wish. Heck, I’ll even send you a book on the subject if your interested (same goes for RCM and Michael, too).

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

    Are you arguing that the legislative efforts of Progressives and New Dealers were not responsible for many of the improvements in working conditions in the US in the first half of this century?

    That’s correct, yes.

  35. Policraticus permalink
    January 9, 2009 2:18 pm

    Actually, based on the vast majority of comments on this series of posts, the question of whether sweatshop jobs are an improvement over other available jobs in the developing world does not seem to be seriously in dispute.

    I do not gauge the realities of economic and political structures on how the majority of blog comments on a non-specialist’s post tend to line up. I prefer to go with the analysis, study, and experience of those who have done real work in the area.

    I’ve cited quite a lot of it over the course of this argument, everything from the work of Nobel Prize winning economists to the opinions of actual sweatshop workers.

    This is a bit exaggerated. You cited an opinion column from the NYT, a guy with an M.A. in the “history of ideas,” a Fox News write-up of a poll of workers, and one factory worker. Not one of these sources addresses the economic impact and stratification in communities and states, especially on those who do not gain employment in these factories or mills. Your efforts here are found wanting.

    I, on the other hand, pointed you to three experts of varying political ideologies who have studied the issue up close for decades. You won’t find Pew Research polls and NYT opinion pieces as the crutch of their evidence. You refer us to NO experts on this precise question. It appears you’ve done a few internet searches at best.

  36. blackadderiv permalink
    January 9, 2009 2:33 pm

    I do not gauge the realities of economic and political structures on how the majority of blog comments on a non-specialist’s post tend to line up. I prefer to go with the analysis, study, and experience of those who have done real work in the area.

    Your claim was about what was in dispute. If what you meant to say was that you don’t dispute this, then that’s fine. But that’s not what you said.

    This is a bit exaggerated. You cited an opinion column from the NYT, a guy with an M.A. in the “history of ideas,” a Fox News write-up of a poll of workers, and one factory worker.

    Paul Krugman is more than just an op-ed writer from the NYT. He does have a Nobel Prize for his work on international trade. For that matter, Jeffery Sachs and Thomas Sowell aren’t economic ignoramuses either.

    Is the objection that my links are generally to items in the popular press (news stories and columns summarizing other material and evidence) rather than to original scholarly sources? I do this mainly for two reasons.

    1) Original scholarly material tends not to be readily available on the internet (I’d note, for example, that your contrary evidence consists of little more than mentioning a couple of people’s names).

    2) Even where it is available, scholarly work tends to be lengthy and technical. My experience is that when I link to such things, people pretty much just ignore it. Which, to my way of thinking kind of defeats the purpose.

  37. S.B. permalink
    January 9, 2009 2:37 pm

    Poli —

    Can you specify exactly which works by those thinkers are relevant here, and how?

    I know Stiglitz is brilliant, but I’ve had a hard time thinking highly of him after Ken Rogoff’s famous open letter.

  38. January 9, 2009 2:48 pm

    I still don’t understand the point or intention, for that matter, of Blackadder’s posts. Sweatshop = better than Holocaust ? And ? The point is not to take away jobs but to improve them.

    And rights-talk he rather dismisses as emotional is crucial for any rights to come into being, as I wrote above. I guess libertarian-conservatives like to be jerks ? I know I sure did. Maybe you should take the same meds I am taking :P Limbaugh should switch from painkillers, too. There’d be no “social conservatives” left :-)

  39. January 9, 2009 2:55 pm

    Amazing. Now BA says he has “no problem” with Fair Trade products (gee, thanks), but dismisses them as a mere “ethical fashion.”

    Could it be any clearer whose interests he really intends to serve?

  40. blackadderiv permalink
    January 9, 2009 3:16 pm

    Poli,

    Since you think the issue in dispute is whether sweatshop jobs represent an improvement for workers, and you haven’t been satisfied with the scholarly level of the evidence I’d cited so far, I managed to find an ungated version of a paper examining the question. The paper was published in the Journal of Labor Research. Vol. 27, No. 2. Spring 2006. Here is the abstract:

    Many studies have shown that multinational firms pay more than domestic firms in Third World countries. Economists critical of sweatshops have responded that multinational firms’ wage data do not address whether sweatshop jobs are above average because many of these jobs are with domestic subcontractors. In this paper we compare apparel industry wages and the wages of individual firms accused of being sweatshops to measures of the standard of living in Third World economies. We find that most sweatshop jobs provide an above average standard of living for their workers.

    Here, also, is a link to testimony by Prof. Bruce Blonigen, summarizing research on this subject. Here is an excerpt:

    A new wave of research has had access to plant-level data on manufacturing production from less-developed countries. The researchers have obtained data on every single manufacturing plant in Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Taiwan, Venezuela, Turkey and more new countries are being added every year. Every single one of these studies comes to the same conclusion: Controlling for all other plant-level characteristics, foreign-owned plants pay higher, often substantially higher, wages than locally owned firms.

    Note first, this is examining the universe of all manufacturing plants in a country and is the overall effect, which is much more powerful than previous case studies that either document a few “good” or “bad” foreign-owned plants. Second, note that the relevant comparison is between the wages at foreign-owned plants versus local-owned plants, not how these wages at foreign-owned plants compare to U.S. wages or some other metric that is not directly comparable. In the end, the stark conclusion is that no matter which country you look at, multinational firms pay higher wages.

  41. January 9, 2009 3:19 pm

    BA,

    Certainly, if you can create a market for your products and thus secure lasting employment for your workers at a better wage through “fair trade” marketing, have at. I tend to be highly skeptical of the long term benefits of “fair trade” woven and handicraft products for two reasons:

    1) They’re often not functionally or aesthetically equivalent to their mainstream competitors, and so they are generally only able to make it into a limited market where “it’s the thought that counts” rather than the actual product.

    2) They tend to emphasize hand-produced products, which means that there’s no way for those workers to increase their output efficiency and thus make more money in the long run. Thus, it’s a bit of a dead-end for them economically.

    I would tend to think that working up a product set which was marketed based on quality (which could be based off a materials and workmanship message) would be a better option in the long run — and you’d want something which you could successfully make significant productivity increases on over time while still maintaining those marketed characteristics.

    Food stuffs often work better with “fair trade” messaging, in part because one can usually assume that “fair trade” products are also produced under higher quality conditions. However from what I’ve read about fair trade coffee, those who push hard on a quality message (say, specific estate grown coffees) are actually able to make better money for the growers than the standard “fair trade” rates.

    Policratus,

    If you’re going to get lofty about how you listen to only academic sources, you might want to at least mention specific books and articles. For instance, I’m aware of two Robert Kaplan’s, the mathematician and the Harvard business/accounting theorist, but neither to my knowledge has written anything along the lines of what you suggest.

  42. S.B. permalink
    January 9, 2009 3:26 pm

    There’s also Robert Kaplan, the journalist.

  43. Zak permalink
    January 9, 2009 3:31 pm

    Blackadder,
    What were the mechanisms whereby work weeks grew shorter, working days grew shorter, and children stopped working in factories? Although these activities may have been driven in part by workers’ behavior (not working in such jobs), it seems to me there was substantial legislation involved as well.

    And if sweatshops and banana plantations are better than the current alternatives, what more can be done to improve alternatives? DC noted elsewhere he thinks it should be through increasing economic opportunities. Well how do we do that? Lowering trade barriers can do something, but that too has adverse effects (as MZ cited in Mexico). Allowing more immigration to developed countries (reducing labor competition, thus giving workers more bargaining power) may be another. But do you really think it is sufficient to observe, “well, at least their not worse off”?

  44. blackadderiv permalink
    January 9, 2009 3:43 pm

    What were the mechanisms whereby work weeks grew shorter, working days grew shorter, and children stopped working in factories? Although these activities may have been driven in part by workers’ behavior (not working in such jobs), it seems to me there was substantial legislation involved as well.

    Increases in worker productivity, mainly. As the labor done by workers became more valuable to employers, there options improved and they were able to demand higher wages, better conditions, shorter hours, etc. It’s true that legislation on such topics did often get passed, but this usually happened after a significant improvement in the problem in question. In fact, if you just look at historical statistics, it’s often not possible to tell when a given piece of worker protection was passed.

    I’m reading a book right now on Singapore’s economic development . Singapore has no minimum wage, no unemployment insurance, and no independent unions (unions do exist, but the wage increases they bargain for have to be based on increased productivity rather than “abstract notions of justice.”) Yet per capita income in Singapore went from being around $500 in 1965 to around $35,000 today.

  45. January 9, 2009 3:50 pm

    True, SB. But since Poli had just slammed BA for citing journalists (even when they happen to be journalists who got Nobel prizes in economics for their work on international trade), I assumed it would be a bit odd for him to turn right around a cite someone who writes for the Atlantic.

  46. January 9, 2009 3:51 pm

    Yet per capita income in Singapore went from being around $500 in 1965 to around $35,000 today.

    Mere citation of per capita income will not do.

  47. January 9, 2009 3:55 pm

    Cite journalists, cite academics… it doesn’t matter. Neither are neutral. Both are motivated by certain commitments. I have no time for journalists and academics (and bloggers for that matter) who are not fundamentally committed to the poor. Academics and bloggers who spend their time and intellectual capacity defending corporations rather than defending human persons cannot be said to be committed to the poor. “Concerned about,” perhaps. Not committed.

  48. blackadderiv permalink
    January 9, 2009 4:01 pm

    Mere citation of per capita income will not do.

    What would do, Mike? What sort of evidence would it take for you to say, “yeah, okay, Blackadder has a point”? My guess is that the answer is nothing. No amount of evidence will be enough. As you say, “[c]ite journalists, cite academics… it doesn’t matter. Neither are neutral.” Anything or anyone I could cite contrary to the anti-sweatshop position is to be rejected for the very reason that it is contrary to the anti-sweatshop position.

  49. January 9, 2009 4:24 pm

    It does not take a genius to see that merely citing per capita income obscures the complexity of a given socio-economic situation.

  50. January 9, 2009 4:41 pm

    And I love how Tony talks about the “fruit of [his] labor” yet who really produces? It takes BOTH management and the worker to make profit. Without the worker, there is no profit. Period.

    It doesn’t take management and the worker to make a profit. All it takes is a worker. One person who provides goods and services for another person who has the need, and the means to pay for the good or service.

    This is at its most basic level. When it expands, you get things like factories. Most workers can’t create their own factories. They are created by people with a vision who usually borrow money from investors like myself (yes, I’m both a worker and an investor. I have a 401k) to create a factory. They then negotiate with people to come and work for them at a certain wage that is agreed upon by both the worker and the company. The best companies treat their workers best and get the best workers with the best productivity. The worst companies go out of business.

    Where we come into a disconnect is where many libs see the multi-millions that a CEO makes, and is horrified because compared to him the worker is making so little. The CEO brings skills to the company which maximize profits and make my 401k go up so I can retire comfortably in my old age.

    So the fruits of my labor are mine regardless of whether I am earning them with the labor of my hands, the power of my brain, or the prudent and sometimes lucky profits of my investments.

    And I would prefer that you, RCM, (with the power to threaten violence using the state) leave my earnings alone. If you wish to donate to the poor, feel free, but please don’t rob me at the point of a gun to do the same.

  51. January 9, 2009 4:53 pm

    And I would prefer that you, RCM, (with the power to threaten violence using the state) leave my earnings alone. If you wish to donate to the poor, feel free, but please don’t rob me at the point of a gun to do the same.

    That’s right, RCM. Being an american means having the right to call oneself a Christian and then act like something else. Do not deprive Tony of his rights.

  52. blackadderiv permalink
    January 9, 2009 5:21 pm

    It does not take a genius to see that merely citing per capita income obscures the complexity of a given socio-economic situation.

    If the worry is that all the growth has gone to those at the top, income inequality in Singapore (as measured by the GINI coefficient) is less than in the United States. Life expectancy is higher. Infant mortality is lower. Something like 90% of the population owns their own homes. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

  53. January 9, 2009 5:45 pm

    When you say that you have no time for anyone who is not fundamentally committed to the poor — what exactly do you mean? Obviously you don’t mean only people who are currently actively working full time in helping the poor in some sense, because you don’t do that yourself. Does it consist mainly of loudly denouncing other people for not being sufficiently committed to the poor?

    How is “defending corporations” necessarily in conflict with “defending human persons” if it is often through the businesses that are run by corporations that people are able to make a living, increase their standard of living, have more liesure time, etc.? Or is it a fundamental commitment of yours that working for a corporation must necessarily result in less human thriving than working for… What? Independantly? A workers cooperative?

    Frankly, that it sounds a lot like you are saying is, “I have not time for people who don’t share my own policy prescriptions when it comes to helping the poor,” which may be true, but if so makes you a rather incurious person when it comes to actually finding ways to… help the poor.

  54. Mark DeFrancisis permalink
    January 9, 2009 5:55 pm

    Some men here better leave their violent fantasies-nightmares involving guns to themselves.

    It is rather unbecoming to share them publicly.

    Do all gun-touting conservatives have such imaginary fears? Does this contribute to your fetishization of your own guns?

  55. radicalcatholicmom permalink
    January 9, 2009 6:35 pm

    “Where we come into a disconnect is where many libs see the multi-millions that a CEO makes, and is horrified because compared to him the worker is making so little. The CEO brings skills to the company which maximize profits and make my 401k go up so I can retire comfortably in my old age.” Yeah. That is exactly what we have seen in the last 10+ years. That is why our economy is doing just fabulous.

  56. S.B. permalink
    January 9, 2009 8:22 pm

    I have no time for journalists and academics (and bloggers for that matter) who are not fundamentally committed to the poor.

    More of the dimwitted hogwash in which a factual disagreement is mistaken for a moral one.

    We’re all committed to helping the poor. Blackadder, however, has identified several factual reasons that legislating against sweatshops often hurts the very people it is supposed to protect. Thus, precisely because of his very commitment to helping the poor (as opposed to hurting them in the name of your own good feelings), he has taken the positions you see here.

    Now, for some reason (perhaps you could try to identify this reason), you think Blackadder’s facts are wrong or irrelevant. That doesn’t mean that the two of you disagree about helping the poor . . . it merely means that you have a factual disagreement about the means of helping the poor.

    To read your comments, it’s as if there can’t be any such thing as disagreement about means. If someone tries to say that he disagrees about the means of helping the poor, he’s just lying — he really knows that the true means of helping the poor lie elsewhere — and therefore he must be trying to screw the poor.

    This is a disorder often seen in people with more indignation than intellect . . . they can’t get their heads around the fact that other people might be trying to pursue the same objectives and motivations via a different means.

  57. January 9, 2009 9:18 pm

    We’re all committed to helping the poor.

    You’ve said this now twice. Sounds like you actually believe it!

  58. George Crosley permalink
    January 9, 2009 9:35 pm

    Mike,

    Because unless it’s State control for the benefit of the poor, it’s not sincere, is it?

  59. Michael Enright permalink
    January 9, 2009 9:39 pm

    DarwinCatholic writes:

    At the risk of sounding excessively cynical: The problem with programs such as the “homemade in the third world” products or fair trade blankets or what have you is that generally the product being made is not much valued for itself — at least not enough for it to have a large market other than through knowing that buying it “helps people”. As a result, people dependant on that kind of effort are in danger of being forgotten when another trendy cause comes up and their difficulties are forgotten.

    The advantage of making Nike shoes or Ann Taylor shirts or what have you is that even people who don’t feel sorry for you want them — and thus your employment is less likely to go away, and indeed likely to expand and eventually pay more and have better conditions.

    One would think that a Catholic who actually believed in treating people fairly would spend more time promoting the “fashion” of considering the fairness to producers of the products they buy when they buy them instead of complaining that fair trade products are dependent on such fashions. We should be preaching the morality of purchasing fair trade producers, not complaining about their down sides.

  60. S.B. permalink
    January 9, 2009 9:39 pm

    Well, when people are too thickheaded to get a simple point — that the disagreement is about means, not ends — then some repetition is necessary. Maybe someday you’ll be able to respond to Blackadder in good faith, rather than distorting and twisting people’s words.

  61. January 9, 2009 9:44 pm

    Because unless it’s State control for the benefit of the poor, it’s not sincere, is it?

    I’m not arguing for “state control for the benefit of the poor” at all. I’m arguing against ideological justification for structural injustice.

  62. S.B. permalink
    January 9, 2009 9:49 pm

    It strikes me that Blackadder would be every bit as justified in claiming that Michael hates the poor, and is defending his leftism rather than the dignity of the poor. It would be a bad argument (just like everything Michael says), but not any worse.

    After all, Blackadder has pointed out that campaigns against sweatshops have a proven record of hurting the poor — of being counterproductive, in other words. And, if he wanted to sink to Michael’s rather low level, Blackadder could reason that no one could really disagree with this fact. Thus, if people like Mike nonetheless want to abolish sweatshops, it can’t possibly be because they sincerely believe that they’re helping matter. No, it will be assumed that no one could sincerely disagree with Blackadder about the facts. Thus, if people who know abolishing sweatshops will hurt the poor still try to abolish sweatshops, it can only be because they actually do hate the poor and are trying to hurt them.

    That would be the precise parallel to the argument that Michael has attempted to make.

  63. Michael Enright permalink
    January 9, 2009 9:55 pm

    Blackadder,

    I really don’t understand what you are saying. You appear to deny that the low sweatshop wages are demanded by the market. Would you agree that paying workers at least some additional wages would not make these sweatshops totally economically unprofitable for their owners and investors?

  64. January 9, 2009 9:58 pm

    How could Americans care about the poor when they don’t even care about being chattel.

  65. January 9, 2009 10:33 pm

    Ok, Michael. give me your wallet. Don’t want to? That’s awful “unchristian” of you.

  66. January 9, 2009 10:38 pm

    Yeah. That is exactly what we have seen in the last 10+ years. That is why our economy is doing just fabulous.

    Our economy is doing “fabulous”, in part, because of massive government regulation. If government would just get out of the way things would be a lot better. But then you couldn’t take my stuff and give it to people you believe are more worthy.

  67. January 10, 2009 12:35 am

    You’re a bright one, Tony.

  68. blackadderiv permalink
    January 10, 2009 12:44 am

    Would you agree that paying workers at least some additional wages would not make these sweatshops totally economically unprofitable for their owners and investors?

    That would depend on the sweatshop in question. If a factory were only marginally profitable, then paying additional wages would render the factory economically unprofitable. For most factories, though, it probably isn’t the case that paying some level of additional wages would turn a profitable factory into an unprofitable one, at least in the short term. The factories would be less profitable than they otherwise would be, but they wouldn’t be totally unprofitable.

  69. January 10, 2009 1:02 am

    “Our economy is doing “fabulous”, in part, because of massive government regulation. If government would just get out of the way things would be a lot better. But then you couldn’t take my stuff and give it to people you believe are more worthy.”

    Massive government regulation ? That over-regulator Bush. Kept the nice bankers and brokers from doing their nice work. Those humanitarians had their hands tied. Who needs Dali, this country is surreal.

  70. January 10, 2009 1:05 am

    If only government got out of the way, we could have 16 hour work days back, and make some real profit.

  71. S.B. permalink
    January 10, 2009 9:23 am

    Why do you hate the poor, Michael?

  72. blackadderiv permalink
    January 10, 2009 9:28 am

    Massive government regulation ? That over-regulator Bush.

    If one looks only at the political rhetoric, then of course the idea of Bush the regulator will seem absurd. But if one instead looks at the reality (which involved things like Sarbanes-Oxley, McCain-Feingold, and No Child Left Behind) then the picture looks somewhat different.

  73. blackadderiv permalink
    January 10, 2009 9:30 am

    If only government got out of the way, we could have 16 hour work days back, and make some real profit.

    Right. Because the only thing preventing a return to the 16 hour work day is that the government says we can’t.

  74. January 10, 2009 11:14 am

    Michael Enright,

    I guess I’d say that that the appeal of fair trade messaging is entirely negative. “Buy our product, we don’t abuse our workers.” Well, as the Chris Rock routine goes: “What, you want a cookie? You’re not supposed to abuse your workers.”

    To the extent that fair trade products bring attention to the plight of workers in the third world, I think they can be a good thing. However, there are also aspects that are concerning. Some of this has to do with fair trade labelling regulations. For instance, the rules for labelling a coffee “fair trade” in Europe stipulate that the growers must be paid a certain amount per kilo of coffee and no more. The idea, I guess, is that this makes sure that all fair trade growers benefit equally, but since even fair trade rates don’t get you much of a lifestyle by modern standards, African growers who have developed higher quality varietals have found it to their advantage not to label their products “fair trade” because they can make more selling based on quality than based on the “fair trade” labeling.

    Ideally, this is the point all products should get to: where everyone is being paid a decent wage and you decide what to buy based on quality.

    My concern with the fair trade handicraft product movement is a little different. The folks running “fair trade stores” which import woven goods and other handicrafts from the third world and pay people a “fair wage” to do their “traditional” work often try to fit stereotype by producing very rustic-looking products. They also put a big emphasis on all their stuff being hand made.

    What the problem with this? Well if you’re selling colorful quilts made in India through a fair trade store at $200 a piece (looking around on some fair trade blanket sites that looks pretty standard) and if your traditional Indian women cranking out handmade quilts are producing roughtly 25 a year (having hand quilters in the family, I can’t imagine knocking them out faster than one every two weeks — and even that would mean working constantly and taking shortcuts) then you’ve got to figure that by the time you count in shipping and distribution and the rent on the fair trade shop and so on the most this Indian quiltmaker is going to make is 100×25=2500/year. Now $2500 is a lot of money in much of the third world, but is it a long term solution as that country develops? I deal with a lot of Indian workers through work — and call center workers there often make 8000-10,000/yr. IT guys make 20,000/yr. Even low level manufacturing would pay much more than this quilt making. And there’s no way to scale up the quilt making operation so that the quiltmaker can make more money if the whole selling case for the end product is that its handmade in this woman’s home.

    My concern is thus that these “buy handmade products at fair trade prices” attempts, though very well meant, end up trapping people in an economic dead end, not developing skills that would help them make more later, and trap them selling into a small niche market in the developed world which is willing to buy excessively rustic-looking products because of the living wage marketing story.

    What would I favor instead?

    -Programs to provide educational opportunities to young people in the developing world so that they’ll be able to compete in the global skilled labor marketplace.

    -Business ventures which bring in sufficient foreign investment to install high productivity production methods and give workers training in skilled modern methods. Even if their wages seem low by developed world standards, those kind of jobs have enough productivity built in to allow higher wages as the labor market tightens, and it provides the workers with valuable skills that will allow them to shop themselves around to different companies in order to seek the highest wages possible.

  75. January 10, 2009 2:09 pm

    Michael I.,

    In your opinion, what is the ideal economic arrangement? What arrangement best serves the poor? Is anarchy the best chance for the poor? i.e., are you advocating that individuals should be charitable without someone coercing them into it? What should we do?

  76. January 10, 2009 2:21 pm

    “Right. Because the only thing preventing a return to the 16 hour work day is that the government says we can’t.”

    Well, there are unions, too. Collective bargaining came into being because people united – often under the threat, and fact, of injury and death. All progress had to be wrested from business. Of course, where they can still have their way, with “outsourced” jobs – the sweatshops not to be dismissed right away – you can see what corporations do if they can do as they please.

    Of course, it still is much closer to the golden days of exploitation in this country. Little vacation, little protection, no provisions for mothers even in state jobs, working on weekends, working at night, working on Christmas, you name it. God forbid someone couldn’t shop at 3 a.m. Of course, in EUrope the prohibitions of working on Sunday are being eroded over time. It used to be unthinkable. There is of course paralysis via governmental overlord-ship. But the Oklahoma Land Rush that is the American system isn’t exactly heaven. Businesses in Europe do try to move towards more Americanism , which is done on the backs of the people. American circumstances are a corporation’s wet dream. Sick leave for giving birth versus 8 weeks before and after birth at full pay with working prohibited, I just can’t get over that one. That and the financial collapse of this country weened me off the American teat. Well, I also blame Vox Nova :P

    I used to think, e.g. in Paris, what ! The grocery store closes at 7 p.m. ! Not thinking or caring about the people who’d like to get home to their families.

    Whoever is in a position of power is prone to exploit it. This includes stupid liberal ideas, too of course. Not that Democrats are pro-regular-people in a European sense, mind you. Instead of truly effecting change, they frequently come up with patronizing schemes that just make things worse. Government “projects” are usually pits. In Austria, they’re sought after. They don’t much change the basics of the system. And why ? Most of the people are sold on being worse off, believing they’re better off. All you need is a flag and drilling it into children. Drill sergeants don’t just exist in the military. It’s much like a beehive – they train you into either drones or soldiers.

  77. January 10, 2009 11:25 pm

    In your opinion, what is the ideal economic arrangement? What arrangement best serves the poor? Is anarchy the best chance for the poor? i.e., are you advocating that individuals should be charitable without someone coercing them into it? What should we do?

    We have been here before, Zach.

    I am merely disgusted with the number of u.s. Christians who demand the “right” to be selfish. Oops, and then ask stupid things like “after rights, then what?” Are you one of them?

  78. January 11, 2009 12:37 pm

    No, we haven’t been “here” before . . . Michael I. is full of rage and bad faith things to say about other people’s arguments, but he hasn’t offered any positive and remotely realistic program himself for helping the poor.

  79. January 11, 2009 1:34 pm

    Well, if today’s America doesn’t enrage you, what will ? Ah yes, gay marriage.

    “remotely realistic program for helping the poor.”

    Ooo Ooo I know, I know !

    Look at what the USA is doing, and do the opposite. In 2006 the poverty rate for minors in the United States was the highest in the industrialized world, with 21.9% of all minors and 30% of African American minors living below the poverty threshold. General poverty rates also rank among the highest in the industrialized world.

    Republicans don’t really care all that much to begin with. There’s always crumbs-of-our-table aka “trickle down economy”, a thoroughly insulting concept. Mind you, Democrats aren’t particularly effective either. Their projects, including “the projects” frequently achieve the opposite of what was intended.

    “Orthodox” Catholics frequently don’t give a damn. There are “fags” to be banished. Christmas is under attack ! Reasons to support the war have to be found! “Peace and Justice Catholics” are ridiculed. (as opposed to “F you all Catholics”, I suppose). http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/poverty Catholic initiatives are being ridiculed, or, mass-emailed about if someone, god forbid, dispenses the pill somewhere. Or, god seriously forbid, has gay people adopt a child. Of course, that kind of crap, isn’t confined to god’s stormtroopers, it’s doctrine.

    The American system is set up in very Darwinian manner. One can succeed more than in most other Western countries (as far as millions and billions $$ are concerned), but one can also fall way, way deeper than in most other Western countries. The only safety net is in the circus.

    Employees get screwed in manners unimaginable in Europe, and Americans think they’re better off, ironically. Ah, four months fully paid for pregnant women/mothers while not being allowed to work. Paradise ! The US can barely alleviate poverty because its system is completely rigged. A fundamental change is impossible, the two party system and lifelong propaganda make sure of that. In essence, you’re own your own. Health insurance tied to a job, that by itself is madness.

    Even the poorest – and maybe especially the poorest – hoist the flag and dream the American dream, which is of course a nightmare for countless people. One reason why Americans believe their country is so great is because immigrants from godawful places come here and think it’s paradise.

    And that’s just the citizens (and permanent residents like myself) – the USA has its own outsourcing within the country in the form of 12+ million people who came here illegally – not that anybody minded except perfunctory gestures for the placating of mouthbreathers come election time. It would seem any rational person would secure the border and/or legalize illegals and/or provide faster immigration processing and so forth. Truth is, why would anyone be interested in that on the business end ? Chattel is great to have. Democrats are definitely more interested because they see future voters. And, because they are generally less inclined to kick people when they’re down (well, other than partial birth abortion).

    It’s win-win for Republicans (to one of his very few credits, Bush tried to change the immigration mess) – cheap labor AND something to rile up the morons come election time. I mean, what would the GOP do without “wetbacks” and “fags” (with a cameo by “Feminazis”? They’d never win an election again.

    So, in short, poverty in the USA is here to stay. Here an incomplete list of reasons/factors:

    Health insurance tied to employment is a pretty good stranglehold. Why give that up ?
    McJobs are convenient for business, under-the-table jobs even more so. You can’t complain if La Migra is a phone call away.
    Endless hordes of lobbyists make sure that the status quo is -at least- maintained
    An unending supply of poor schmucks happy to have a McJob is provided by godawful Hinterworldistans (applause by Blackadder)
    Said poor schmucks convince Americans that this is the greate..blah, cause why else would people come here ?
    Who cares if a mother has to work until midnight if the munchies make a visit ? Twinkies at all times, I believe that is part of the Bill of Rights.

    Lastly, Americans are educated, in ways not seen since people had to sing songs praising 5-year-plans, in how great their country is. Not just great but THE greatest. (This of course proves that there’s something being hidden). Kids have it drilled into them that “country” is something to be loved above all else (well, aside from a typically vengeful god, depending on what state you live in, usually he has a drawl), something to be pledged allegiance to – DAILY ! Now, imagine how hard it is to find something wrong with one’s country after that kind of brainwashing.

    To give you an idea what a liberal Republican is like – look at that a-hole Schwarzenegger (who is from rural Austria, sad to say – although his German may actually be worse than his English) who has such grand ideas as lowering the California minimum wage, and cutting state workers’ salary by 10%. In his native country he’d be SOL with that kind of brutality. (Btw, his hometown took re-renamed a soccer stadium dedicated to him after he signed off on his first execution).

    This is a violent country, foreign and domestic, including business. Few other places would make it possible to be ruined by crazed financial plunderers. The American system’s prime interests are neither “regular” employees nor the poor but business and war. Both are waged on the backs of regular people.

    10 years ago, my friend Prof. Halperin told me, “Americans are a war-like people.” Damn straight.

  80. January 11, 2009 2:15 pm

    In summary, Michael I. will not read any evidence, and Policraticus will not provide any counter-evidence.

    Michael I. says he is committed to the poor, but that commitment does not extend to trying to find out what does and does not help them.

    Poli derided BA’s sources, then failed to provide any of his own. He did manage to sound like a high school principal talking to a student with an obviously forged parental absence excuse, though, so that’s something. Also, there appears to be a direct correlation between Krugman’s reliability and the extent to which he agrees with Poli.

  81. January 11, 2009 3:20 pm

    S.B. – I’m talking to Zach.

  82. January 11, 2009 3:27 pm

    Michael,

    If you mean that you’ve already answered Zach’s question in writing elsewhere, perhaps you could provide a link?

    I don’t think people are necessarily saying that people have the “right to be selfish” in the sense of selfishness being a positive good which one must not be prevented from exercising. However, just about any approach which involves respecting people’s right private property at all (and I would tend to see that as indeed being a natural right in the sense that one has it until it is taken away by someone else using coercion) necessarily involves leaving people some room to be selfish if they so choose.

    I seem to forget the part of the gospel in which Jesus sends his disciples after the rich young man to beat him up and forcibly redistribute the goods which he’s just gone away sad rather than parting with voluntarily. (Though obviously as the story of the rich man and Lazarus points out, the results of ignoring the poor are rather grave in the long run.)

  83. January 11, 2009 4:02 pm

    If you mean that you’ve already answered Zach’s question in writing elsewhere, perhaps you could provide a link?

    We’ve discussed it it blog comments and via email. In brief, I’ve repeatedly explained to him why I won’t give him my blueprint suggestion for a “new economy.” There is no blueprint, no perfect economy or political system. Perfect justice is always beyond us. This doesn’t mean that we don’t changes systems to make them better, just that there is no perfect system. This should be obvious to any Catholic, and is indeed the argument made against socialist systems. Yet when capitalism is challenged, the response is often “well, there is nothing better.”

    As for the “right to be selfish,” sadly, Darwin, the Roman Catholic Church does not share your libertarianism. As Catholics, we believe that our societies should be set up such that they encourage people to be good. Not this “must preserve the right to be selfish at all costs” mentality of you Catholic libertarians. Sorry, but that kind of thinking is foreign to authentic Catholic social teaching.

  84. January 11, 2009 5:40 pm

    Sometimes I find myself wondering, Michael, if you have a card next to your keyboard reading:

    1) Mischaracterize person I’m talking to.
    2) Denounce mischaracterization as incompatible with Catholicism.

    Naytheless, you are of course right that there is no single perfect economic system that would bring about justice and equity for all. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to lay out concrete suggestions and guidelines for what would constitute an order or approach better than the current one that you’re citicizing. I would assume that there must be some sort of principles along these lines that causes you to label yourself an “anarchist” rather than a “whatever-seems-like-it-might-work-at-the-moment-ist”. Further, if you’re going to roundly denounce what others say about how economic betterment for the third world is likely to be possible to achieve, one would think that you must have _some_ idea of what things _ought_ to be like.

    As for this “right to be selfish” allegation, perhaps you missed my point, but I specifically said that there is _not_ a “right to be selfish”. However, there is a right to private property (though not an absolute right) which is clearly acknowledged in Catholic social teaching as you know every well. And I was merely pointing out that so long as one acknowledges a right to private property (which would include the right to receive a just portion of the fruits of one’s labors — something I would assume from your comments in this thread you would be in favor of) one necessarily will leave people a certain amount of room to be selfish. How much room people should be left is, clearly, a question on which prudence must act, but if anyone owns anything, it’s obvious that he will have the opportunity to mis-use that ownership by behaving selfishly.

    As for whether I’m a libertarian — all I can say is that few self-identifies libertarians would recognize me as being one. Though if it makes you happy, you’re certainly welcome to call me one. I don’t want to selfish about my designations…

  85. January 11, 2009 9:58 pm

    If you Catholics defended the vulnerable the way you defend “private property” you would look a lot more like Jesus. Just sayin’.

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