Child Labor and Chocolate -UPDATED

A multi-billion dollar American industry should be able to do better than this.

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Socialism does not work, but one of the reasons socialist movements succeed is because capitalists and the free market fall prey to that all-too-human failing: yeah, greed.

Those who support capitalism and free markets have a responsibility to demand that manufacturers and suppliers do the right thing. In a case such as this — where a multi-billion dollar industry is based on something human beings want, but do not really need — it should not be nearly enough to simply get the child-workers out of these forests. The U.S. chocolate industry can afford to pay adult workers a living wage and — here’s an idea — help subsidize the creation of a water system for the villages that exist to harvest their cocoa beans.

I mean…a little running water?

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Even better, why don’t these businesses — Nestles, Mars, Hersheys, Cadbury-in-the-US and others — together donate a couple of million (pocket change; they could probably do something spectacular with far less) to build proper schools to educate these children of adult workers, so they can dream a little. At the very least, these corporations may find the effort generates an educated local support and supervisory staff, but perhaps something really wonderful will happen, and the people they help educate will end up pursuing other professions that could help improve their communities. I mean, come on! It’s the 21st Century! Do children have to grow up without shoes, or toilets because of cocoa barons?

That video kills me; the little boy who harvests cocoa beans, getting his first taste of western chocolate. That’s a great smile. I wonder how often he gets to use it!

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Oh, I know, I know, in order to practice fair trade — in order to employ these people in a manner that acknowledges the dignity of their human personhood, costs will rise. And if your costs rise, then everyone else’s costs will rise, too. Chocolate morsels will become more expensive; baked goods, desserts, ice cream, candy — it will all cost more, as the effect of the dent to profits trickles down, finally to the puniest of consumers, the kid with an allowance. And maybe he’ll balk at spending a bit more for a treat.

And I hear your warning: if Americans consume less chocolate, these poor people will have even less of a chance to be employed!

Why don’t we take that chance? I think it’s very likely Americans will continue to eat chocolate, even if — because you can’t bear a hit to your profits — it costs a little more.

Do the right thing. Employ adults and let children have a chance to go to school. Seems little enough to expect of any American industry — we’re the exceptional nation, remember?

Be smart. Halloween is coming. I can’t think of a better ad campaign for U.S. chocolate companies to mount for Halloween and the holidays than this serious, grown-up message: our products do not exploit children for labor.

And I think I can certainly sacrifice chocolate — and do my waistline some good in the process — until such a pronouncement is made, and the chocolate industry can get the kids out of the trees and into some schools.

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Thanks to Lisa Mladinich, Mary Ellen Barrett for bring this up

UPDATE: In the combox and in a few emails
, I’m getting some responses I did anticipate while writing this piece: “Anchoress, don’t you know this is just media manipulation?” and “It’s that country’s problem…”

Well, of course I know there is manipulative “pathos and bias” in the news report — when is there not, in mainstream media, anymore? But we who understand that have eyes and sense enough to see past that, don’t we? And to understand that, press manipulation aside, this is an unjust situation we can directly affect with an action as simple as not buying chocolate, until the companies dealing with this country act responsibly? I think throwing up one’s hands and saying, “oh, but there is corruption! Can’t get around corruption!” is absurd. Business, governments and even human rights and human welfare agencies deal with and get around corruption every day.

And I don’t even want to hear, “it’s that country’s problem.” Maybe it is — but then let’s be consistent. If we support our service folk losing life and limb for “other countries problems,” then why is wanting to positively affect this “other country’s problem) (by very simple means) so wrong?

I know that some of the folks making these comments are Christians. We Christians talk a good game helping others. For crying out loud, can you think of an easier way to help others than to hold out for responsible and ethical chocolate harvesting? Jesus didn’t say, “hey, if you see a bad situation, but it’s part of a manipulative mainstream media report, you don’t have to even have to think about it; you just flip that channel, turn that page, you’ll still go to heaven!”

He said, “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me…”

And he said he’d remember it, too.

UPDATE II: Glenn Reynolds — greatest editor on the ‘net — links at Instapundit. Thanks, Glenn!

Pray about it.

Related: Some thoughts on Wealth and Giving it Away
by Rev. James V. Schall, S.J.
Msgr. Charles Pope: The failure of the world to satisfy

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://www.hermitofbardstown.com Stephen Taylor

    Good work! This is a message the entire world needs to hear. We must take responsibility. It is part of Catholic Social Justice too.

  • zmama

    Wow. Finished watching the first 2 parts. Will watch the rest later. I can’t help thinking how ironic it is that the school Milton Hershey founded for underprivileged children has the largest endowment of any private school in the world. Were children in Africa harvesting the cocoa when Milton Hershey built his company or is this a more recent problem? I always considered Milton Hershey to be an example of capitalism at its best, based on how he treated his factory workers and indeed the whole town which he created. I am not a fan of socialism either because I think it never works in practice precisely because of that little word you mentioned-greed. It is a part of human nature, perhaps part of the original sin, to constantly want more for ourselves no matter what the cost to others.
    The first segment mentioned that the major companies claim to have spent $75 million on improving these villages. Not to let the chocolate manufacturers off the hook but I wonder whether some of those funds have ended up in the hands of government officials as so often happens in such countries. Still it sickens me in this day and age how companies try to maintain such high profit margins off the backs of the poor around the world. This is true of so many products, not just chocolate. Another irony in this is many of us feel we should challenge China to treat its workers better, many companies in China are going to Africa to look for even cheaper labor. As someone who made it clear to my future husband that I never wanted a diamond after seeing an image in Nat Geo at the age of 12 of diamond workers in Africa working with guns continuously pointed at their backs and then later becoming the mother of a daughter born in China, one of the fortunate ones who had not been aborted there, it grieves me to see children having to grow up like this. I’m not a big chocolate eater but I often give it out at Halloween. Looks like I’ll be giving out gummy candy instead, along with those Jr Frosty coupons from Wendy’s that benefit adoption programs.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    This is slavery and should not be tolerated.

    But be careful. Primitive cultures have always used child labor. Children are an extension of the family income, and given a culture that either does not value education or where education does not provide value to the family, then putting your children to work is as old as humanity. It’s quite normal for agricultural based societies to have their children working. Actually just go to a farm here in the US and see how children are put to work. Yes, I agree free trade involves basic human dignity. But be careful about imposing our cultural norms onto others.

    The moral discretion here is slavery, not so much that children are put to work.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    Oops, that last sentence should have said moral indiscretion. Too bad we can’t edit our posts.

  • Sherwood Rose

    Here’s a list I found of what chocolate brands are “Fair Trade” certified. From what I understand, it means that they don’t use child slavery AND the proceeds help to improve the communities of the cocoa farmers (or something like that). If we support these, not only will we be able to satiate our sweet tooth, but we’ll also be helping (theoretically, at least) the laborers’ lives to improve! I think it’s worth checking out, anyway.
    http://vision.ucsd.edu/~kbranson/stopchocolateslavery/main.html#Table
    Looks like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Dagobah are all on the Good List. :)

  • Greta

    While I can somewhat agree on your points here, I think that it is not quite as easy as it might seem. As a former CEO who actually worked with companies who had global markets, you do not have the ability to go into those countries and do whatever you want to do. What you quickly find out is that you have to negotiate with the leaders of those countries which usually means you have to make payoffs. Many of them are in or close to civil wars and sometimes you have to pay one side not to kill or kidnap employees. What makes the good ol USA such a great place to do business is that we have laws and infastructure that is, or use to be, conducive to business. Obama is quicly killing that as outlined by his jobs council and detailed by Jeff Immelt about his many czars and agencies who are not friendly to business.

    Another factor is that these countries are far below what we would have seen in the US in the 1800′s and in fact giving them a job even for peanuts often saves their lives. If you go in and start paying out of the ordinary for jobs, you will be blocked because it will upset the entire economy in an area.

    At a time when business’s are suffereing under the yoke of Obama regulations and obamacare creating havoc with healthcare costs, to suggest that companies now take on the mission of fixing the third world countries is not quite fair. If you suggest that we ask the consumer to donate an extra percentage of the total sale to help the poor in those countries, guess how much you would see even after they see these video’s? We have become somewhat immune to seeing these pictures because we have donated billions and when we look back to see the impact, there is not much to show for our efforts.

    Where we can make a difference, and where Reagan and Bush I made a huge difference is that they made some conditional requirements part of trade agreements. You can only do this from a position of strength.

  • Sharon W

    Unfortunately Greta is right. Corruption at the helm is what is responsible for the terrible plight of the poor in third world nations. Read the book Dead Aid. It is depressing to discover that poverty in Africa has risen commensurate with western aid.

  • http://desperateirishhousewife Susan Vigilante

    Nick Kristoff reported in his book “Half the Sky” how well-intentioned Americans can make huge mistakes re: child labor. In one country a group successfully got child labor banned in a factory. The little girls who once worked there were promptly sold to brothels. It can’t be hopeless- it can’t be- but it is tragically complicated.

  • craig

    Sadly, Greta is right. Nation-building by corporations works about as well as nation-building by the military, which is to say not at all. The only instances in which it has ever made a difference have been due to outright conquest and colonization, which is evil according to this week’s PC “wisdom”. Local cultures are resistant to Western ideas and institutions even where these benefit them directly and materially. Eventually the demands to respect local customs — bribery, theft, tribal score-settling — result in the corporations’ (or the military’s) either giving up or giving in. Either way, the locals suffer and the ones trying to help are vilified.

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    One other thing. I don’t know what the child labor laws are in that country but I would be pretty sure that slavery is illegal already. It becomes then a matter of enforcement by that country. Now they may be turning a blind eye, but if discovered this should violate any international trade agreement.

    Let me say I reacted differently to those videos. I sensed a journalism based on bathos and a bias to blame the outside countries or corporations. Sure they have a responsibility, but the enforcement of laws in that countryare is their responsibilty. There is only so much outsiders can do.

    [Of COURSE there is manipulative "pathos and bias" in the news report -- when is there not, anymore? But we who understand that have eyes and sense enough to see past that, don't we, and to understand that, press manipulation aside, this is a situation we can directly affect with an action as simple as not buying chocolate, until the companies dealing with this country act responsibly. I think throwing up one's hands and saying, "oh, but there is corruption! Can't get around corruption!" is absurd. Business, governments and even human rights and human welfare agencies deal with and get around corruption every day. And I don't even want to hear, "it's that country's problem." Maybe it is -- but a lot of the people writing that to me are fine with our service folk losing life and limb for "other countries problems. This is a terrible situation that can be positively affected by a very small choice on the part of many Americans, who can actually impact "that" country's problem. We Christians talk a good game helping others. Can you think of an easier way to help others than to hold out for responsible and ethical chocolate harvesting? -admin]

  • John Helferich

    Go do some research on what is really happening before you post this stuff. Go check out the World Cocoa Foundation to see the efforts the chocolate industry is putting into sustainability of cocoa.

    [I did, last night. I wasn't all that impressed. They can do more. And frankly, if capitalists and free markets want to survive the times, it is smart business to engage a little more than they do -admin]

  • Doc

    You are correct, Manny. Most journalists push an agenda that corporations are evil. It is highly likely that these same journalists would be bothered not in the least when Castro or Chavez exploit children in the exact same manner.

    In some cases, it all depends on the corporation. Powerline utterly destroyed a recent Bloomberg hit piece on Koch Industries for, essentially, daring to be libertarian Tea Party supporters.

  • Jeff Burton

    You watched a video on the internet and now your DEMAND CHANGE. Avalanche of unintended consequences in 3, 2, 1….

    [Oh, noes! Unintended consequences! Let's just keep eating chocolate then, and screw it. I've got mine...-admin]

  • Sandmich

    If you want a video that will kill you, you should watch that web series on Liberia. There are far worse fates in western Africa than being stuck in the jungle farming.

    [I am well-aware that there is evil everywhere, and we can't fix every problem in the world. But this is one you and I can impact. -admin]

  • ChurchSox

    “…costs will rise.”

    It’s not the costs to well fed Westerners you have to watch. There are unintended consequences to a sudden spike in wage rates paid workers in a single industry in a poor country.

    – Prices for local goods rise as a matter of course.
    – Skilled people — we’re talking doctors and engineers here — often abandon their professions for jobs in the newly lucrative industry.
    – Anti-colonialists complain if traditional peoples leave the forest/desert/whatever for the incrementally higher standard of living in the work camps…
    – … and once they do, find it difficult to return if the new industry shuts down or moves elsewhere.
    – If there are any refugees in the area, a sudden infusion of cash nudges them toward the money, where they concentrate to create humanitarian catastrophes.

    These are not arguments for exploiting Third World workers, and special care needs to be taken in choosing and supervising local labor vendors (I’m looking at you, Northern Marianas).

    But some of the problems these videos describe point toward the fact that corporations are not configured for social engineering, and not to management bloody-mindedness.

    [I understand that. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, etc, etc... but what is your suggestion, then? Just let it ride as it is? Does that seem right to you? -admin]

  • Jordan

    I don’t think we have to assume costs will rise.

    Agriculture in the western world produces more now than ever, at low cost, all while requiring less unskilled labor than ever before.
    I don’t really know how that kind of transformation can be made to happen, but I don’t see any reason it couldn’t.

  • http://tim.2wgroup.com/blog/ Tim (Random Observations)

    First, why pressure Nestle (for example) to provide clean water? Since when did Christianity embrace the (leftist, IMO) tactic of arguing that Christian acts of charity should be carried out by those who aren’t, under coercion? Why not just take that extra money that you’d voluntarily pay for more expensive chocolate, and give it to any of a number of charities providing clean water? After all, why is a chocolate-worker-village without clean water somehow more tragic than an African lettuce-worker-village without clean water? (Because the media has picked chocolate, a “sin” food which requires penance, rather than lettuce, a “health” food, that’s why.)

    I’m sad to see Christians buying into the idea that it is their responsibility to ensure that non-Christians are doing all “our” alleged good deeds, often using someone else’s money. Worse, this approach ensures these things are done in the name of “social responsibility”, not in the brand name (Christ), *we’re* supposed to be marketing and promoting. Why keep handing that good will and effort over?

    Second, and sounds hard-hearted, but truth is important — this kind of sentence is utterly false: “Do children have to grow up without shoes, or toilets because of cocoa barons?” First, let’s note the obvious class-warfare stuff. It isn’t “cocoa barons” who demand the lowest price possible on chocolate — it’s consumers. And if there isn’t some charity building them a pump, then it’s a sign we haven’t given enough. (Easier to blame rich unbelievers, though, isn’t it?)

    Next, these evil “cocoa barons” aren’t actually depriving them of anything. What did they have *before* the evil “cocoa barons”? A worse situation, even. (They wouldn’t have taken these jobs if they weren’t an improvement.) It takes time, but this sort of ability to trade and produce good will continue, even without charity, to gradually elevate their living standard. Demonizing those who engage in trade — when no laws or ethics are being broken — ends up giving power to those who want to end or restrict that trade — which often ends up doing more harm than good. (Look at the number of things Africa can’t produce because of EU restrictions!)

    Give them a cup of water in the name of Christ, as we were instructed to. Not in the name of our global oneness, or social responsibility. Why isn’t the gospel more distinctive today? Can’t imagine…

    [The challenge of the Gospel is to balance head to heart; it's a huge one. We often fail. Faith and reason work together or neither, alone, works very well, at all. -admin]

  • deiseach

    Over here, in Ireland and Great Britain, Cadbury is using Fairtrade chocolate in its bars. Does Cadbury’s US not do the same? Easily done, I would have thought.

    http://www.fairtrade.ie/assets/files/Fairtrade_Mark_Ireland_&_Cadbury.pdf

    [No, Cadbury US is not using fairtrade, at least from what I saw in my reading last night. -admin]

  • John

    Are we so sure that banning this will make the children’s lives better? If you take away their economic value, what good are they to the survival of the family unit? What are their alternatives in life? Why keep them around if they cant produce anything? You would have thought we would have learned from our own history. A job allows you to survive, you “do-good-ers” will take that from them. Your response to the unintended consequences of your actions will cause you to promote actions that will further exacerbate the problem. When the eventual starvation and war come about, you will look away and say “How did this happen?”

  • Steve

    Employing only adults will not ‘give the kids a chance to go to school’, it will cause the parents to put them to work somewhere else. Raise costs 1% and you will decrease the number of people employed by a proportionate amount in a competitive environment which I’m led to believe exists by the fact that, “Nestles, Mars, Hersheys, Cadbury-in-the-US and others” are already there. The problem for these people is not that chocolate companies are exploiting them. They problem is that they live in abject poverty that causes them to prefer being exploited by a chocolate company to not doing so. You can’t change that fact by only employing adults or paying a ‘living wage’.

  • Steve

    Also, the idea that people ‘want but don’t really need’ chocolate is immaterial. What is it that people ‘really need’ that can only be supplied by child labor? Nothing. The process of developing from a dirt poor country into a developing country unfortunately probably includes kids working. If you can champion a global treaty that says anyone making any product that is sold in the US may not use child labor, I might support it. Good luck with that. And even if you’re successful, would that mean that these kids are not working for less money at a more dangerous job? Unlikely.

  • ErikZ

    (Sorry if I’ve covered anything that’s in the videos, but I’m at work. I can read, but I can’t watch videos.)

    Have you tried buying “Free Trade” chocolate bars? It ends up being 3-4$ a bar.

    Sure they need clean water. But the water well isn’t some 1st world technology. It is literally THOUSANDS of years old. Why are they unable to do this? Why does it take some foreigner to come in to help them?

    There have been MANY 3rd world countries over the decades start start off with junk jobs and child labor. Some of them use that spark to build something great, and some, never do. They remain a sodden mess that never catches fire to progress.

    The worst counties hold their people as slaves/hostages. By helping the people out of the goodness of our hearts, we are making the slave owners more wealthy and ENCOURAGING slavery/hostage taking.

    Lets say we’re getting Coca from some incredibly corrupt, 3rd world hellhole. Just to get the product out requires bribing so many people that it ends up costing us 3$ a bar. Sure, we do it, and we’re also supporting corruption and graft!

    How much does it cost to get free trade chocolate vs the normal stuff? For the free trade chocolate companies, is there a standard 3rd world development fund they’re donating to, if they’re donating at all? What level of improvement is their goal before they move on to the next area?

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    @Anchoress in reply to my comment above (we no longer have numbered comments?)

    I agree. If there is anything I can do I will. If there is a company that has knowingly supported this I can boycott, I will.

  • Acksiom

    And yet, you’re somehow perfectly okay with harvesting significant amounts of healthy erogenous tissue from baby boys to make patent nostrum anti-wrinkle cream for old women.

    The contradiction, it confuses me.

    [You must be writing to someone else. I don't even use face cream -admin]

  • Katherine

    Functioning municipal water systems are not rocket science, but they do need decent government in place to be created and operate through time. Even the most philanthropic corporation can not set aside this basic fact.

  • Bradley

    “Do children have to grow up without shoes, or toilets because of cocoa barons?”

    Oh Anchoress. You are usually so wise, but your kind heart has led you astray this time. The cocoa barons did not cause the poverty that afflicts these people. The companies are alleviating even worse poverty. It is the society in which they live that impoverishes them. I agree with an earlier commenter, instead of coercing 3rd parties into charitiable acts, you should be encouraging direct charity to responsible organizations.

  • newton

    This is not different from what the West’s 15th-19th century addiction to sugar (and cotton, and gold, and rum, and…) did to those Africans who crossed the ocean and worked the plantations or the mines against their will.

  • Acksiom

    No, I’m writing to you. I don’t understand why one form of abusive child exploitation is horrible enough for you to not only condemn but call upon others to act against as well, but the other is perfectly acceptable.

    Not to mention Catechism 2297. You do consider yourself a Catholic, right?

    [Well, until this very freaking minute I didn't know there WERE face creams using whatever it is you're talking about (foreskins?), so don't speak for me. -admin]

  • newton

    Acksiom, you don’t know her.

    She has stated a long while ago that she doesn’t approve of beauty products that use any kind of technology that compromises human life, such as embryonic stem-cells used in rejuvenating creams. She has decried such thing and has called it abominable.

    I have read her blog for YEARS and I can say I know her well enough to say what I’m saying to you here.

    Again, you don’t know her.

  • MikeP

    Sorry, but your indignation here is a crock. Just because you watched some feel-bad western-guilt video about the chocolate industry does not mean you know squat about defining this as greed, exploitation or anything else.

    How do you know the cocoa industry doesn’t pour money into these areas?
    How do you know the money isn’t siphoned off by local officials?
    How do you know that the life in these areas isn’t already 10x better with their investment?
    How far do you think corporations should have to balance profit versus charity and why do you have any right to judge?

    What I know is that the people working in these corporations….the so called ‘cocoa barons’ are the same people we call neighbors, friend, and family. They are no different in morality, charity, kindness, epathy, or any other aspect of the human condition. They are not all consumed by greed. And for every bad apple that is, there are plenty more true Christians in this corporations that provide the same necessary checks-and-balances that moral people provide in the general society. Don’t bash corporations, it’s frankly childess and ignorant.

    What do you know about ‘fair-trade’ organizations? How greedy are they? Are they any better than Hershey or are they worse? Do they use a ‘feel-good’ marketing label to squeeze extra profits from an ignorant guilt-ridden consumer that is desperate to feel that they can impact the world without having to do much real work or charity? Do the ‘fair-trade’-barons laugh all the way to the bank, while making western-guilt videos about poor village children for the sole purpose of taking market share away from the ‘evil-big-corporation’? Just like a large number of ‘save-the-children’ charities that use 80% of their take in donations for ‘internal costs’ while giving themselves six-digit salaries.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Acksiom, what the heck are you burbling about?

    You do realize the Anchoress is anti-abortion, right?

    If you just want to do some tub-thumping, go do it elsewhere, please.

  • Surellin

    There are some fairly serious criticisms of Fair Trade, including, 1). Often the small farmers must join a co-op to participate, and become, in essence, employees, which may be bad depending on the management and in any case seems to me to be a chancy proposition to force someone else into, and 2). There seems to be little solid evidence at this point that the extra money ponied up in the West for Fair Trade products actually trickles down to the producers. BTW, the Wikipedia article on “Fair Trade” seems to be reasonably even-handed and well worth a look.

  • Tennwriter

    I would be worried that the children would end up sold like happens in Thailand. But I do not know the local culture and its moral strength, nor do I know the temptations that are placed before it, so hopefully I am totally off the mark.

    Sadly, what Africa needs is for some guy to invent a time machine, and go back in time, and tell the English, ‘please, please, please…do not give up your Empire.’

    Mem sahib, may, may!, have been racist, but he was also smart, relatively honest, compassionate, well educatedin the local culture, fair, and backed by the Maxim machine gun. The difference between him and this years President for life is vast.

  • DensityDuck

    Ha. Dodd-Frank declared that no “conflict minerals” could be used in government-funded technology programs. The result is that what little economy there was in the Congo crashed. The Chinese bought the mines and moved in a large contingent of Chinese miners, and now the Congolese are worse off than before. But at least we aren’t using conflict minerals!

    As for the subject: There are exploited agricultural workers a lot closer to home. You know those stories about e. coli contamination in lettuce? e. coli is bacteria found in human fecal matter. e. coli contamination means that there’s human fecal matter on that lettuce. Know how it got there? It got there because lettuce pickers don’t get bathroom breaks. And these are lettuce pickers who work right here in the United States.

  • Ryan Waxx

    If they don’t want the jobs, they don’t have to take them. I don’t see anyone enslaving them, which means that however horrible or nasty their conditions are, they are better… often FAR better than what would occur if evil white men weren’t bringing their evil white companies to noble brown countries.

  • David

    “Just like a large number of ‘save-the-children’ charities that use 80% of their take in donations for ‘internal costs’ while giving themselves six-digit salaries.”

    Exactly. That’s why I stopped giving to ChildFund. Over $200,000 for the CEO. Really? I’m suppose to be feeling guilty because of a freakin’ video. I’m surprised Ms. Scalia is so taken in by such sappy propaganda. You do realize that our argument is that ‘Fair Trade’ and similar programs make things WORSE? Therefore, yes, doing nothing is actually better than what you propose. And shame on you for quoting the Gospels out of context to guilt your fellow Christians.

  • CT

    Your premise, “socialist movements succeed because capitalists and the free market fall prey to that all-too-human failing: yeah, greed” is false. First, an economic concept such as a free market cannot commit the sin of greed. Second, socialist movements succeed because the movements’ leaders easily get their members to commit the sin of envy and thereby violate the 7th and 10th commandments. Finally, once the “reasonable” enviousness of the socialist/marxist takes hold among the people then the so-called great “greed” of the capitalist abstraction must be rectified with two other greater wrongs: the violation of divinely ordained right to private property and the principle of Catholic subsidiarity. Anchoress, you just fell prey to their template.

  • Steven Brockerman

    Your fundamental ideas are not consistent with either capitalism or with a constitutional republic based on and limited by individual rights. Your fundamental ideas–your religious metaphysics, your epistemology of faith and, most critically, your Judeo-Chrisian ethics–are however consistent with Platonism and with Marxism.

    Platonism is marked by the mind-body dichotomy, your implicit acceptance of which is marked by your talk (in your response to a reader’s comment) of a “balance” between ‘head (reason) and ‘heart (faith, i.e., feelings). Indeed, Neo-Platonism is the very foundation of Christian theology. (For further on this, please see _City of God_, by Christian philosopher, Augustine of Hippo, who is recognized by the Catholic Church as the man who formalized Catholic dogma into a systematic philosophy.)

    Marxism, of course, is defined by it’s selfless morality–”from each according to his ability to each according to his need.” And as such, it is simply the secular version of Christianity.

    You really ought to get clear in your own mind precisely what exactly are your convictions–especially prior to writing essays of this sort. Perhaps this quote by Frederic Bastiat will make my point crystal clear: “The mind never fully accepts any convictions that it does not owe to its own efforts.”

    Finally, you ask what should “we” do (note your collectivists premise?), just let them alone to fend for themselves? Well, if *you* wish to help them (somehow), no one will stop you.

    (I do hope you allow this comment. Of course, I’ll understand precisely why if you do not.)

  • Chris

    Forcing rule changes distorts what works in an economy and society we dont understand. I lived two years in Zimbabwe and adapting to household staff was really hard – and they cost USD $50 a month, with house and food on top. That exploitative wage was how the good part of the country worked; white employers would pay up for Mom’s cataract operation and daughter’s school fees, but the black wealthy did not pay such people, they came from the village and worked for the privilege of being there. By working in the system, making fair employment contracts at sensible local standards and spreading benefits when we could, the least harm is created by attmpts to ‘do good’.

  • Patricia Cornell

    Anchoress: Your comparisons of our trying to aid countries with fairtrade to our sendng our men and women to countries and returning with missing limbs is beautiful.

    We are our brothers’ keepers, now and here and for the other countries. I liked Gret’s comments (former CEO) re improving a country and upsetting their economy. Very important.

    We either ACT as keepers would act or we turn our backs and wonder why. generations later, our country is invading that country to ‘save it’.

    Patricia in St. Louis, MO

    Consider one country in South America and in other countries as well….Young Living Essential Oils. They started schools, are helping the people by coordinating with GOOD leaders of the countries t hemselves. The man is charge of Young Living is Gary Young. He brings healing with his essential oils (not the smell-good kind with toxic stuff) to the world’s people and he brings the healing of education to those in need.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Doc

    Wow, this comment string reminds me of the scene in Airplane! where everyone is lined up waiting to whack the hysterical woman.

    Anchoress, may I recommend reading a little Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams. Corrupt governments and the lack of evenly-applied rule of law cause far greater poverty than any corporation is capable of.

  • rosaryfixer

    Thank you for exposing this child-dependent industry. The kidnapping of children to work for greedy companies just sickens me. I think I will give up chocolate entirely (including ice cream sundaes, cakes, brownies, etc.) unless I know where the chocolate originated. My waistline will thank me! And just because it’s only a greedy corporation rather than a greedy government doesn’t negate our obligation to do what we can to stop it from employing children to work, and offering them an education instead.

  • Steven Brockerman

    Some additional thoughts–to be just.

    1. Businessmen who do business in countries that have despotic (& in most cases, leftist, i.e., fascist or socialist) governments, are sheer pragmatist (acting first, thinking later) and, thus, quite impractical. Just ask Shell (Iran), Cargill (Venezuela), Dole, Chiquita and United Fruit (Central America).
    2. If these children are in truth being *forced* to work in these factories, then whatever these so called companies are enaged in, it is not capitlaism: “Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is *privately* owned.” -Ayn Rand
    3. What were these children–and their families–doing prior to working in these factories? Working in the fields? Starving? Or ought we subscribe to the notion (offered by the likes of 19th Century social critic, Thomas Carlyle) that children, prior to the Indistrial Revolution (& in this instance, prior to working in these ‘evil’ chocolate factories) led lives of agrarian bliss?

    SB
    “There is a morality of reason, a morality proper to man, and Man’s Life is its standard of value.” – Ayn Rand

  • richard40

    Why not form a private organization, that investigates each chocolate harvesting company and then certifies that their harvesting practices are ethical, and do not employ child labor. Then go to the big chocolate companies and offer to give them a certification as an ethical chocolate company if they only buy their raw chocolate from the ethical companies you certify, and give you a small fee to investigate and do the certifications. The companies can then use your certification as a marketing plus to people who care about the issue. If enough people actually care enough to finance the extra cost of the certification process, and the higher chocolate harvest cost, then it will work. And people who don’t beleive in your cause can buy their chocolate from companies that dont use only certified sources.

    Personally though, I can buy the no child labor, and even agree that it would be good of the company to build a school for the kids of their harvesters, but am skeptical of the “living wage” business, since “living wage” is very subjective, and subject to leftist political manipulation. If adults want to work for that wage, isn’t it a living wage to them. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t they work someplace else? If they are physically cooerced to work, or are underaged, that is one thing, but by my lights voluntary adult employment is implicitely a “living wage” because the workers are living, and haven’t left to work for somebody else. In a poor country, a good wage can be very different than what would be considered a good wage here. If your answer is that there are no other job choices for them, I would then reply that maybe any job, even a very low wage one, is better than none.

  • Revert Al

    “this is an unjust situation we can directly affect with an action as simple as not buying chocolate, until the companies dealing with this country act responsibly? ”

    Well, good luck with that. It has the virtue of being a simple
    personal action that is in accordance with your capabilities
    and ethics. However, it would seem more effective for
    direct charitable help to the people affected, particularly
    since otherwise you are trying to “directly affect”
    a vast global market at a time
    where the first world (where the chocolate consumers are)
    is obsessed with their own economic
    problems. You could leverage organizations that do this as part
    of their very mission in life.. oh say, the Catholic Church?

    To expand on this (to an area that E.S. didn’t deal
    with specifically), it should be noted that the Catholic
    Church’s influence in this area
    is most ineffective when it pontificates
    about macroeconomics (everything from usury
    to “unbridled capitalism”), and most effective when it
    works directly to end human suffering.

  • Tapestry

    People forget that child labor has been around since near the beginning of time. That whole families would work for a living in order for the family to eat, have clothes and shelter.
    This ‘modern’ society who believes in children going to school for an education on their off time, in gangs, abstaining from meat like its evil, playing video games to midnight, drinking alcohol in our country are mostly lazy and obnoxious. They aren’t dealing with the realities of life because their parents don’t tell them what grandpa and grandma used to do when they were kids. It wasn’t ‘all play’ it was maybe go to school for a half a day then return home to feed the animals, harvest the crops, slaughter the chickens for Sunday dinner, they dealt with reality and that include sweaty, hard work.
    Nowadays any children that are employed in a hard days work are considered exploited. I never heard my Grandmother say she was exploited when she working in the cotton mills or the canning production line.
    My mother wanted more and because a secretary when she was an adult.
    My dad never wanted us kids to work yet he sold newspapers when he was a kid, biking to a 50 houses to deliver the evening paper and getting pennies for his wages.
    Was this so horrible? Where exactly is the cruelty in this?
    Most kids have way too much time on their hands, they are not productive in any way shape or form. Most do not get even get passing grades and end pushing dope on the streets.
    Do you think the kids in these videos have time to do bad stuff like our ‘modern teens’ are doing? So what if they go home, eat and sleep and go back to work again, their education is in the crops themselves, they do have time for festivals and parties despite how the video wants to portray it. Nobody in our ever wants to see a teenager break into a sweat let alone break a fingernail.
    Our modern society has a very quirky way of looking at what life really is, its hard work, its not pretty, its not all pink clouds and soft beds. That isn’t a bad thing its
    just the way life really is for most of the world and as the economies of the world ‘tank’ a lot more teenagers are going to find that out. Maybe some will start mowing lawns to earn pocket money instead of money being handed to them like an entitlement.
    Yes, I know a lot of teens that are good kids but they aren’t on the 6′oclock news.


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