I read an interesting post the other day from CorporateMonkey about children in the workforce and its relative cultural appropriateness.
It got me to thinking. (About 2 posts really, see the other one I wrote on What Do Children Know About Money.)
Childhood is a relatively new concept, even for America. It seems like a great idea to me, but it does not necessarily bother me that children elsewhere would be working at young ages.
Our lifestyles in the west are an ideal and one that we ‘got to’ by trailblazing through a particularly dark forest. It is somewhat hypocritical for us to tell others not to let their children work when we sure did in our recent past.
It is along the same path as telling other countries that they should stop burning coal. Easy enough for us to say AFTER we got our booming economy from burning coal and other nasty environmental pursuits.
Maybe it is defensible to say, “Yes, but now that we know how bad it is for the planet, nobody should be doing it.”
A real economic ethical dilemma.
This same argument could be made for hazardous working conditions. So it was fine to have our Industrial Revolution exploit the heck out of everyone. Build up enormous advantages in shifting from an agricultural economy to a manufacturing/technology one and THEN figure out that we should not have let people live like that.
Is it right to withhold trading status and capital loans based upon a country’s lack of modern working safeguards in regards to both who is working and where are they working? Both the type of worker, the length of that work, the pay, and the very factory floor conditions?
Yes, is t is ok. Call it the privilege of figuring it out first. When something is NOT OK, we must act to change it. We can not change mistakes of the past, that does not mean we have to tolerate mistakes in the present.
That is cultural imperialism. What is not OK for you might be ok for someone else. It is up to workers from that country to decide their own destiny. Unless you want to supplement countries for telescoping past tactics that you prospered from, mind your own business.
At what point is the cost too high to defend the ends justifying the means?
American capitalism has certainly had its growing pains. Some ideas are just plain wrong, like slavery. But does our evolving conscience mean that struggling countries need implement our playbook right out of the gate? Is something like a living wage a right or a goal?
P.S. I just realized this might be too edgy for the PF community.
Sorry. But then again, I am probably never gonna monetize this blog for profit so I can afford to be more controversial.