Tue, 10 May 2016
I know that title is going to ruffle some feathers, but I'm dead serious. We hear from Johnny and Suzie do-gooder all the time telling us how we shouldn't support companies or countries that use child labor. But I want to take some time on today's show and demonstrate how child labor, in combination with free market principles and the rule of law can lift people out of poverty.
I'll admit it's hard for me to think about my young girls being sent off at the age of 7 or 8 to a factory to make t-shirts. What kind of monster would do such at thing? I can hear you right now saying something like "We're lucky here in America because we have laws that prevent that kind of child abuse. "
But is it the law that keeps kids out of sweatshops in America? Certainly laws can act as a deterrent to crime but if you were starving to death would a child labor law keep you from putting your son or daughter to work helping feed the family?
In fact, the "law" doesn't even prevent child labor today. When I was growing up, we lived on a farm, and I was regularly required to help move irrigation pipe, change water and drive the tractor at harvest season. It was part of what you did because the family needed help to get the work done.
Countries that utilize child labor do so because they are economically depressed to the point that children would starve if they did not work. To suggest that you are helping a child in Cambodia by not buying products made there out of a sense of compassion for the children working in the factories is nothing short of madness.
Without those jobs, those children would likely be out on the street. Many would starve to death or be forced into work in the industries like the sex trade.
Only after incomes rise beyond a certain point does it become socially unacceptable to send children to work. What makes it possible to have child labor laws is a combination of free markets, property rights and the rule of law allowing for technology and productivity increases that make it unnecessary for children to be in the labor force.