I recently heard someone argue that we should not buy products from third world countries that employ child labor. He didn’t do a good job of convincing me or giving me an example of a product or explaining why I shouldn’t buy. He went on and on about Americans being greedy and not caring about anyone else and I guess he thinks we encourage third world countries to employ children if continue to buy products from them. He also claims they exploit children by paying them less than they would have to pay an adult for the same work. These arguments probably aren’t too foreign to anyone reading this. It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard them.
I have a few problems with the above arguments. First; how does Americans not buying from third world countries help the people of third world countries? My boss makes a ton more money than me. Could you really help me out if you do not buy his products? How has our embargo helped the people of Cuba? I’m sure Fidel was starving over there while all the common folk are driving around in BMWs and eating lobster every night. The only thing it does make us the enemy.
The second issue I have with the argument is; What is so bad about child labor anyway? I know there are child labor laws in the US, but I’m not really sure what they are. Most kids in the US do some kind of work, at least they did where I grew up. We would voluntarily cut lawns or shovel sidewalks, and by the time I was 12 I was caddying at a local country club. Besides, isn’t child labor compulsory through school? It is wrong for a kid to go earn a few dollars, but it is encouraged that they sit still in a desk, try to stay awake and listen to someone preach information they will never use in their entire life? It makes no sense. Does anyone out there really think they learned more about life and how to live through school or through their extracurricular activities and work?
The third issue I have is the argument that third world countries exploit children by paying them less than an adult for the same work. This brings me to minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25. The true minimum wage is $0. If you do not work, you do not get paid (not including any welfare payments). What the minimum wage law really says it that it is illegal to sell your labor for .01 – $7.24 per hour. Can someone please explain to me how I would be exploited if I needed a job so I told Walmart I’d stock shelves for $6/hour? It’s the same if a company advertised a job for $6. They make an offer and someone can voluntarily work for that rate. When 2 sides agree both are better off, otherwise they wouldn’t have agreed.
One of the unintended consequences of a high minimum wage is that it keeps those without skills and experience out of the work force. Typically, someone without experience would be willing to work for less money in order to get experience, learn some skills and work their way up the company ladder. If the market wage for a McDonald’s entry job is $5, but McDonald’s is forced to pay someone $7.25, which could be what 3 years experience demands, then the new inexperienced worker is immediately at a disadvantage to get the job. If that new inexperienced worker was allowed to work for less, then he would have a better chance getting in the door. The worker with the extra experience could then find a job that better suited to his skills and pay demands. Certainly, restaurants would be willing to pay someone with a few years experience a little more than a worker with no experience at all.
God Bless Freedom, Liberty, and Personal Property,
Slappy Jones II