Why? Those unintended consequences--"But I didn't intend that to happen!"-- that the heart doesn’t foresee but the mind does.
Take Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) whose misguided proposition back in 1993 sought to ban the import of goods from nations that allowed children to be employed in sweatshops. Remember the horrific pictures and the stormy petrils on the talk show circuit? Paying them slave’s wages, the evil capitalist corporations were gouging US consumers by charging exorbitant prices for logo’d designer clothing, shoes, and the like. If Harkin would have his way—his feelings of hatred for those evil capitalist corporation doing his thinking for him—those evil capitalist corporations would either have to raise wages or forswear their smarmy trade.
Well, Senator Harkin had his way. Guess what happened?
50k Bangladeshi children were fired from their jobs with the garment companies.
And with what consequences?
According to a study by the Director of the Free Market Institute, Benjamin Powell, for many of the children and their families, the child labor was necessary. So, they had to take jobs in unregistered sweatshops and in even worse working conditions. Others were forced onto the streets and some into prostitution.
Letting his mind guide his thinking, Powell cites World Bank data suggesting that ending sweatshop labor provides absolutely no guarantee that safer working conditions will ensue. Trade sanctions, he explains, only limit the number of work options available to these poor children, often forcing them into more dangerous work. Powell concludes his study:
The thought of children laboring in sweatshops is repulsive. But that
does not mean we can simply think with our hearts and not our heads.
Families who send their children to work in sweatshops do so because
they are poor and it is the best available alternative open to them.
The vast majority of children employed in countries with sweatshops
work in lower-productivity sectors than manufacturing. Passing trade
sanctions or other laws that take away the option of children working
in sweatshops only limits their options further and throws them into
worse alternatives. Luckily, as families escape poverty, child labor
declines. As countries become rich, child labor virtually disappears.
The answer for how to cure child labor lies in the process of economic
growth—a process in which sweatshops play an important role.
Thank you, Senator Harkin, for thinking with your heart, not your mind. Those 50k Bangladeshi children and their families as well as others in dire straits like them are truly grateful that you have such a big heart.
Let the discussion begin...
To read Benjamin Powell’s article, click on the following link:
"A Case against Child Labor Prohibitions.”