Sunday, 2 May 2010

Let's try again, using small words

Our view has been one of idealism, we do not deny that, and a hope that harming the economic might that underpins the removal of liberty in the third world can help to bring about the end of that system. The critique often levelled is mixed: on one hand there is the fair point that these people may earn very little, but what they do earn feeds their families and such a boycott would harm them; the second a far more insidious ultra-capitalist position of they should be grateful for whatever they can get and the bosses have the right to do what they want.

The latter, let's not delude ourselves, is the ultimate propertarian position. The boss owns the land and the factory and he pays the wages, therefore the workers may be practically slaves and live in grinding filth and poverty with zero liberty or rights, but it is the bosses right. If they don't like it, they can quit - presumably to starve to death somewhere - or they can rise up.


These people are already starving. They have been struggling along as subsistence farmers since forever. This job is an improvement on their lot, one they have a) voluntarily taken and b) probably fought hard to get, since supply is much greater than demand.

They don't need to "rise up" and revolt against their employer. They can simply go back to subsistence farming. But why would they, because it's an even worse life than what they have working in a factory?

These people already were slaves, slaves to their families, slaves to poverty, slaves to a lack of any chance of a better life. This awful, soul-destroying job is their first step to economic and social freedom. It's an awful existence, but crucially, it's better than what they had before. If it wasn't, they'd simply go back to subsistence farming.

Unlike idealists, this old cynic looks at outcomes. I would far rather someone got richer, healthier, lived longer and ultimately became freer through my callous heartlessness, than that they starved because of some idealistic bell-end.

Remember, kids, these guys are taking these jobs voluntarily because the jobs are better than any other option they have. Wages are low because there is vastly more supply than demand for the workers. But for all that, it's still better than what they had before.

You can rail about the heartless über-capitalist, but the capitalist is the guy who decides where he spends his own money. And the rational thing to do is to maximise your return on investment. If he chose not to invest his money in Outer Cuntistan, those people would continue their shitty lives scraping by an even worse existence off the land. And if you're going to start with minimum wage or any of that shit, he may still bother because he's a really nice guy, but crucially, he may well fuck off somewhere else.

Your noble ideals will have doomed Outer Cuntistan to another generation of desperate, grinding poverty and misery. But since your heart is in the right place, you can feel good about it. It is your right to feel good about people being worse off, kids dying, people being denied the chance to a better life. No, really, it is.

Motives trump outcomes, every single time, especially for social democrats.

21 comments:

Mark Wadsworth said...

"You can rail about the hearless über-capitalist"

Or indeed a "heartless" one.

The original article, and to some extent you, both miss the point. The existence of slave labour in the third world is not down to the capitalists, it is down to third world dictators. In fact, a lot of people in PR China are effectively slaves.

Sure. the first world is 'exploiting' the existence of these slaves (with a modest improvement in their living standards as you explain) but the first world is not to blame for there being slaves in the first place.

Mitch said...

To the left its all about how righteous they can feel actual results can be spun.

Anonymous said...

Two key assumptions, which you've not backed up by supporting fact:

1. Subsistence farming is a struggle.

2. People take jobs because they are preferable to subsistence farming (as opposed to having their land stolen and thus no choice).

I could make a case for anything if you allowed me to make groundless suppositions as a starting point. But let's not let reality intrude into your corporatist fantasy, eh?

bayard said...

There is an additional dimension to this problem that you appear to have missed: due to population growth, the alternative to working in the factory is not subsistence farming, there's not enough land for that, the alternative is beggary, starvation or migration. How many people would really prefer death to slavery?

bayard said...

Anon @ 9:31.
Let's not let reality intrude into your socialist fantasy, eh?

No-one is necessarily stealing the land from these people except themselves. A rising population (yes, most third world populations are rising, look it up if you don't believe me) on a fixed amount of land means less land for each or some with no land at all. The less land you have, the more of a struggle subsistence farming is.

Trixy said...

Tell them to google 'Kuznets Curve' and then shut the fuck up with their Glenys Kinnock style pontificating whilst they plot the starvation of millions just to eat some 'fair trade' humous.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 9:31.
Let's not let reality intrude into your socialist fantasy, eh?


ROFL. I'm a libertarian, not a socialist.

Unfortunately, and whilst bleating about the coercive nature of the state, too many self-styled libertarians are happy to see the state's coercive power be employed as long as it's helping the corporatist agenda. And that combination is exactly what is fucking over many of the poor on this planet.

BigGibb said...

No idea what this excerpt is from/specifically about but; there is a difference between exploitation & market level wages.

I've just posted an interview on Twitter with a Haitian union head that explains how they are suppressed via the military & free trade zones etc.

In this unusual instance your view is a smidge simplistic.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

"1. Subsistence farming is a struggle."

Subsistence farming is a struggle, and organic subsistence farming even more so.

I'm surprised you even question this assertion. Subsistence farming was all we had for thousands of years. people had to farm for everything they'd need (with maybe a bit of hunting on the side).

Specialisation and trade came about when people realised that certain crops grew better in certain places than in others.

But hell, if you believe that subsistence farming is like the "The Good Life", I strongly recommend you get out more. None of the places where I've seen people depending on subsistence farming has looked like a good time to me.

"2. People take jobs because they are preferable to subsistence farming (as opposed to having their land stolen and thus no choice)."

As bayard says, the primary "theft" of land is due to population growth. Even if the factory steals land and resources, this theft is only localised and is comparable to any natural disaster that might befall them anyway.

I don't, in any way, endorse this kind of theft, by the way. If a factory wants resources and land, it should pay a fair price for them. If they engage in theft, it's no longer a voluntary transaction.

I also don't endorse the concept of state-sanctioned slavery. This is also not a voluntary transaction. PRC is one of the few places I haven't got personal knowledge of, so I can't argue about the slavery or not of the people there.

However, in all the places I have got personal experience of, including military dictatorships and the usual third-world banana republics, the factory job is definitely a step up for the people who work there. And in all those cases, reverting to subsistence farming was still an option, although one nobody wanted to take.

Anonymous said...

You can rail about the hearless über-capitalist, but the capitalist is the guy who decides where he spends his own money

....most crucially by placing it directly into the hands of those who need it most.

I suspect that what lefties really object to about capitalist money is that they don't get to spend it. On the other hand,the bit of first-world aid that makes it past administration costs and Mercs all round for the ruling elite gives the do-gooders the perfect opportunity boss other people around.

Excellent post, thanks. Changed my mind from yesterday and voted. You've got your wish about being above BevaniteEllie, BTW - if it wasn't for iaindale, you'd be right on top of her!

Obnoxio The Clown said...

I was briefly sandwiched between them.

And boy, were my eyes watering! :o)

Chuckles said...

Right on target Obo, but I think we need to stress that there is seldom any theft of land, other than in the addled heads of save the world brigade.

One of the major problems in the 3rd/dev world is that land is held as community land or at the whim of some functionary. There is therefore no security of tenure/land rights, often little to no rule of law. There is therefore little in the way of assets against which to raise capital to start the journey out of the feudal subsistence system.
the filthy capitalists factory often provides that first small step, which is all that is needed.

Parlour Pachyderm said...

It all depends on the work offered.

If the work on offer destroys people's health and renders them crippled, then subsistence arming beats the job every time.

Alas there are plenty such 'jobs' going -- equipment is expensive, and it's cheaper to waste people who are ignorant of how dangerous this is, especially if they are too poor and uneducated to know better or even to sue. I'm not talking of minor ailments here, but of folks going blind, losing limbs, rotting their lungs with poisons etc.

Another such issue is when kids are sold as slaves into years of servitude as soon as they can toddle.

As always, one solution does not fit all sizes, there are bad situation and good ones, and it still needs some level of policing because there are too many sadistic assholes out there.

Other than that, I'm in agreement with you Obo.

J Demetriou said...

Obo

Your piece is interesting and thought provoking. But you still have our position entirely wrong.

Businesses exist because of the market - a market willing to buy the product or service up for sale.

If the market changes, the business responds or dies.

If we accept that, then we can assume that if the punters want certain things, the business will respond accordingly. Look at how massive organic and freetrade stuff has got - the market responds.

All we argue for is a shift in attitude, awareness, consciousness and consumer choice. Not a min wage, not state intervention, not laws and regs, simple choice.

People can ignore pleas for a change in consumer attitudes, or they can listen.

But at no point have I argued for state intervention.

This means that with much of what you say, I am in agreement. Why do you get so rattled when we write stuff about boycotts and awareness of human rights issues?

What is your real agenda here?

Obnoxio The Clown said...

Ironic really:

"If the market changes, the business responds or dies.

If we accept that, then we can assume that if the punters want certain things, the business will respond accordingly. Look at how massive organic and freetrade stuff has got - the market responds."

The organic market is collapsing because it's a luxury good that people can't afford it any more. The Soil Association is already asking for regulations on what constitutes "organic" to be relaxed so that they can compete and still retain their brand differentiation. (And I assumed you meant "fairtrade", which isn't?)

"All we argue for is a shift in attitude, awareness, consciousness and consumer choice. Not a min wage, not state intervention, not laws and regs, simple choice."

People are already massively aware of the situation in these countries because they are so frequently flagged up in bleeding-heart articles in the Guardian.

But if you really cared about these people, you'd care about the outcome, rather than the motivation.

The fact that you care more about appearing noble than about a society getting wealthier and more able to feed itself makes me wonder what your agenda is.

"Why do you get so rattled when we write stuff about boycotts and awareness of human rights issues?"

I don't get rattled, I get fucking annoyed because you push social democratic positive rights and yet still claim to be the über-libertarian.

"What is your real agenda here?"

I want people to think through the consequences of their actions, rather than short-stroking themselves over the nobility of their ideals.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Chuckles said: "There is therefore no security of tenure/land rights, often little to no rule of law. There is therefore little in the way of assets against which to raise capital to start the journey out of the feudal subsistence system."

Wot?

Most people start life with no assets and they work themselves up. While 'security of tenure' is of course very important, especially for farmers, there is no evidence to say that tenant farmers do worse than owner-occupiers.

And if 'the state' gives away freeholds for free, then that's good for this generation but equally and oppositely impoverishes the next generation.

Chuckles said...

Mark,

When the ground on which you build your hovel/mud hut and the ground which you are allowed to cultivate (and pay some in 'tribute') for food belongs to 'the tribe', and is granted to you at the indulgence and whim of a chief, and can be withdrawn the same way?

When there IS NO freehold or leasehold or anything. It is the equivalent of Crown land and regal favour.

You get injured, you get turned out in favour of someone who can produce. You die, out goes your family.

Until the factory comes along, that's it. Like it or leave and become a squatter in 'the city', if there is such an option.

ukipwebmaster said...

Why aren't the Tory Blogs reporting this?

http://www.people.co.uk/news/tm_headline=baroness-thatcher-s-verdict-on-david-cameron-s-campaign&method=full&objectid=22227897&siteid=93463-name_page.html

Anonymous said...

"Why aren't the Tory Blogs reporting this?

http://www.people.co.uk/news/tm_headline=baroness-thatcher-s-verdict-on-david-cameron-s-campaign&method=full&objectid=22227897&siteid=93463-name_page.html"

I don't know. Why don't you ask a Tory Blog and then let us know?

Anonymous said...

That anonymous bloke is a cunt. That bloke at the front may be accurate. So are you.

Vladimir said...

ukipwebmaster: Saw some posts from yourself on Iain Dale today. Did you try posting that link there? Did it get through moderation?

I'd be genuinely interested to know, as the Red Tories have tried to distance themselves from Thatch and would probably regard her scorn as a good thing. (I'd love to know exactly what she thinks of Cameron but it's likely to be unprintable.)