Tuesday 24 June 2008

Poverty and progress.

There's a superb piece here by Tim Worstall:

It was found that at the bottom end of Primark’s supply chain were some child labourers. This was considered an outrage.


No, it’s not what I want for myself, not I would want for any child I know, not even what I want for Mantheesh herself: except that, of the available options that sewing is the best one there is.

Is her life going to be made better by hysterics insisting that she should have no work and thus no income? Or should we continue to do the best we can for the poor? Something which, as we all know, means buying the produce of poor people living in poor countries?

Yes, we can also do more than that, but it does seem very strange to start the process of making the world better for such children by denying them the best of the limited range of alternatives that they already have.

We know how we got to our current comfortable lifestyles, because our ancestors helpfully wrote it all down. We know how to get on top of infant mortality and have an industrial revolution and create such massive amounts of wealth that luxurious civil rights become viable and end up working puny eight-hour days and eating foreign food three nights a week in our multi-bedroomed houses. It took about two hundred years, and it took our recent ancestors a lot of bloody hard graft; it killed a lot of them. I for one am grateful to them that they worked their arses off and lived through appalling crap so that I wouldn't have to.

Now, two hundred years is a long time. Having had quite a few societies find their way down the painful road from getting up at five to milk the goat to staying up till five playing Tomb Raider, I'd hope that by now some people out there had some decent ideas of how to get that time reduced. Maybe we could get it down to a hundred years of sweatshops — that'd be cutting it in half, which is really pretty damn good. Or maybe even fifty years, which would surely be an astounding achievement.

Instead, I notice that we as a society have decided not to tolerate even twenty minutes of some bloody foreign poor people trying to do for their descendants what our ancestors did for us. And we don't wade in and stop the hard work because we've got a new magical off-the-peg just-add-water industrial revolution for them to try out for free. No. We just wade in and stop the hard work. We replace it with absolutely nothing. And then we pat ourselves on the backs about how fucking compassionate we are.

We're pulling up the ladders 'cause we don't like the rungs. But it's really, really nice up here.

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