30 July 2014

Victorian Britain: 'Yoke Up the Children'

"Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."
"Are there no prisons?"
"Plenty of prisons."
"And the workhouses." demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"
"Both very busy, sir."
"Those who are badly off must go there."
"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."
"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Efficient markets, the glory of Empire.

Britain and the Victorians were not alone in this of course.  In the face of stiff opposition from industrialists who enjoyed a supply of inexpensive and pliable labour, and of course their servile politicians preaching the value of work and the evils of compassion and kindness, child labor was finally regulated by the US federal government in 1938.  

I find it fairly remarkable that laws against the exploitation of child labor are under assault again, as 'a socialist impediment to the free markets.'  The usual arguments and distortions are applied.

'Free trade' with the benign and universal benefits of globalisation is another economic myth that is used by greedy multinationals to erode the force of sovereign laws, and the will of democratic government, whether it be in child labour, human trafficking, or financial fraud and repression.  

"It would be better for a man if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than if he would cause harm to any of these little ones."