Monday, November 02, 2009

The Joy of Sweatshops

A historically-challenged anarcho-capitalist (okay, that should go without saying) decided to take some of his precious time trying to educate me about the real world and why unregulated capitalism is soooo wonderful. I would like you to especially take note of this "Libertarian's" laughably insincere concern for the poor sweatshop-less people of Cambodia.
Okay--now that you've had your say, will you listen to a staunch anarcho-capitalist? If yes, I would like to start you off with a great article from (of all places) Nick Kristof at the New York Times, entitled "Where Sweatshops Are a Dream." Watch the video attached, read the article, and ask me questions if you wish.

But just remember a few maxims underpinning libertarian thought: 1) Poverty cannot be cured through force of arms or government decree--only by independent business. 2) Wealth is the foundation for all businesses except multinational conglomerates with sweet government contracts. Redistribution hurts everyone _except_ the Monsantos and Halliburtons. 3) The only power governments have military, and the only money they have is other people's money. 4) Subsidizing an enterprise with 'government' money is no different than when identity thieves buy jet-skis with your credit card--it's theft, pure and simple.

Next time you want to talk about capitalism being about "controlling and hurting other people," remember that capitalism is the only thing keeping you from living a terribly harsh subsistence-agrarian lifestyle, such as the vast majority of humans on this planet must endure. Perhaps if the mother of that article had been in a more capitalist country, her son wouldn't have been backed over by a garbage truck looking for scrap plastic. It's rather hypocritical to mock the very thing that allows you and I to maintain such an expensive and comfortable existence, isn't it?

This is my response.

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to educate me on the harsh reality (which apparently you inhabit 24/7) outside of my little utopian fairytale. I have a few humble comments about your enlightening and historically-accurate interpretation of how the world works. First, I'll start with your list:

1) Poverty cannot be cured through force of arms or business—which continue to exacerbate it—or government decree, though that can make a huge difference. Poverty can only be cured by local communities taking responsibility for their people's welfare.

2) Wealth is the foundation of all businesses. Period. Multinational conglomerates may have sweet government contracts, but that is still wealth. The problem with our system isn't whether or not businesses are founded on wealth; it is that wealth in this economy is based on wage labour and the exploitation of the poor. Redistribution doesn't "hurt" anyone. If I tell a child to share a toy with their friend, is that hurting them?

3) The only power that Objectivists want governments to have are through the military and criminal law. These are the two reasons why governments are so dangerous in the first place. Take away the military and criminal law, and all they can do is serve the people. You essentially have an anarchist society.

4) Subsidizing an already enormous enterprise through government money is completely unnecessary, but that's what gets subsidies. Subsidizing a small business gives them the leverage they need in a competitive environment. Otherwise, the most ruthless competitors (AKA the ones that exploit humans and the environment the most) would have the upper hand…as they do today. So wouldn't taking subsidies away from large corporations even the playing field? Yes, in the same way that cutting my hair would me closer to the height of an infant.

Aww yes, those poor people living in landfills. That must be because they aren't working in wonderful sweatshops! Please learn a little history. Have those people been living in landfills for hundreds of years? Are they the People of the Landfill, whose simple culture has been waiting forever for a chance to work sixteen hours a day absorbing toxins through the air and passing out from exhaustion? Or is it perhaps related to the industrial revolution, or Western countries ravaging Third-World nations' resources at the expense of the majority of the people on Earth? Such a simplistic view of labour is reserved only for the economist (who is taught from a young age to have tunnel-vision and accept economics as a "hard science"), and the Objectivist (who agrees with Rand that Native Americans deserved to be destroyed due to their primitive economic systems). That's exactly how this mess started: Westerners destroyed the land that other societies lived on, and massacred indigenous people, so now they cannot hunt and gather or develop small farms; instead they must become intentional slaves.

Perhaps if you wish to understand the real reason why Cambodians are in such a bad way they're willing to work in sweat shops, you will read this.

And now for my favourite: Capitalism is keeping us from living a "terribly harsh" subsistence-agrarian lifestyle. Let's look at that for a second, shall we? People who live subsistence lives tend to be the happiest, most fulfilled people in the world. If African nations still used subsistence agriculture, they wouldn't have any of the problems they have today (as a result of their subsistence lifestyles being forcefully transformed into cash-cropping and exports-based agriculture). No, the harsh existence that most people on this planet endure is directly caused by capitalism and imperialism, and is due to the fact that subsistence living has been all but destroyed globally. I hope that one day everyone will realize that the only way to combat poverty and environmental destruction is to grow your own food.

By the way, I live in an ecovillage community. We grow our own food here. We look after each other. And—whaddaya know!—we like it.

No comments:

Post a Comment