The proposed ‘evils’ of child labor.
The concern that much of society seems to have, as well as some of my peers, is that child labor is unethical. Let me postulate: If a family can force (no child labor laws in place) a child to work in a sweatshop for the extra cash they will. In many of the countries in question there are already educational institutions in place, these institutions have alarmingly low attendance, likely due to the presence of child labor. If a child is able to work and bring money for their family; they will work in the place of schooling. Children are working in evil sweatshops and not getting educations. Damn corporations.
This is the view of a simpleton who does not have any understanding of the real world. By making ‘sweatshop’ labor illegal, children will just be forced to look to other avenues. Among these avenues could be school, but due to the impoverished state of the areas the children will likely have to turn to illegal forms of labor such as prostitution, theft, or drug peddling. Not to mention simple ‘less than legal’ businesses that avoid following the law wherever possible. To impose laws that will limit their ability to work will only result in greater detriment.
Market social responsibility
Bhagwati mentioned the possible use of “moral suasion” in today’s market. Consumer identities such as CNN or Oprah can vilify certain corporations for their ‘In-humanitarian acts’ and the sheep of the market will crucify the evil capitalist dogs. I do see a value in this act not inasmuch the negative ‘suasion,’ but in positive publicity. This can be achieved through what some naïve individuals would call altruistic socially responsible business. I will cite the example of Merck pharmaceuticals ‘courageous fight against river blindness.’ What happened was Merck accidentally discovered the treatment for an African ailment. In this ailment a parasite enters the human body through the bite of a blackfly. Upon which larvae spread throughout the body. When the worms die they release a toxin, this triggers a host immune system response that causes intense itching and can destroy nearby tissue, such as the eye. Lovely description eh? Well Merck tried to get funding to supply the drug to people who could not afford it. Unable to get outside funding Merck decided to offer the drug to the people for free. I feel that the good publicity they gained from this venture has certainly helped Merck maintain its’ position as one of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world.
This application of marketing, what Milton Friedman would call "Fraudulent window dressing", can apply to not only pharmaceuticals but also child labor, the environment, and other issues of human rights.
I feel that social responsibility and proactive ‘altruism’ (effective advertising) are both excellent practices which can alleviate the ‘evils’ of the global market.