1.18.2010

sweatshops are good enough for them

Two quotes.
Before Barack Obama and his team act on their talk about ‘labor standards,’ I’d like to offer them a tour of the vast garbage dump here in Phnom Penh. The miasma of toxic stink leaves you gasping, breezes batter you with filth, and even the rats look forlorn. . . . Many families actually live in shacks on this smoking garbage. [For families living in the dump,] a job in a sweatshop is a cherished dream, an escalator out of poverty. . . . The central challenge in the poorest countries, is not that sweatshops exploit too many people, but that they don’t exploit enough.

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist, 2009

If the children employed in these mills would, otherwise, be living in decent homes, going to school, eating sufficient and wholesome food, getting some sort of moral, mental and manual training, then, without question, mill-work for children deserves to be decried as a flagrant social evil. As a matter of fact, however, the alternative presented to these particular children is to live in dilapidated houses, wear wretched clothing and eat food which is inadequate in quantity and abominable in quality.

Julia Magruder, novelist, 1907

Both observations are quoted by Ken Silverstein in last month's Harper's, in "Shopping for Sweat: the human cost of a two-dollar t-shirt".

Silverstein writes: "Kristof’s speakers’ bureau, American Program Bureau, says his typical fee is approximately $30,000 for an hour, during which he offers 'a compassionate glimpse' into global poverty and gives a 'voice to the voiceless.'"

Excerpts from this stellar article coming soon.

6 comments:

James said...

How very Dickensian.

I guess paying the parents enough to support their children isn't an option, for some reason.

M@ said...

So how many of Kristof's relatives are working in sweatshops just now? None, huh? Surprising.

I kind of wonder what Paul Krugman is doing at the Times, honestly. He's a kind of papier-mache dam against a swelling tide of asshole. Bill Kristol, Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd... that anyone can even read the editorial page of that paper any more astounds me.

redsock said...

Maybe the stench of asshole is rubbing off -- because Krugman is wildly wrong here and here. ... Note to PK: If it's wrong, it's wrong for everyone.

L-girl said...

Maybe the stench of asshole is rubbing off -- because Krugman is wildly wrong here and here. ... Note to PK: If it's wrong, it's wrong for everyone.

Hm, I'll have to take a look at that. We've disagreed w/ Krugman before, but... I hope he hasn't gone over to Obama Ass-Kissing Nation.

I notice one of the links appears to be Greenwald on Sunstein. Cass Sunstein is one of the people we're reading in my Intellectual Freedom class. Of course, the writing is from before he was with the administration.

that anyone can even read the editorial page of that paper any more astounds me.

I'll see your astound and raise you one flabbergast: people still call that paper "left-wing"!

L-girl said...

How very Dickensian.

I guess paying the parents enough to support their children isn't an option, for some reason.


Because t-shirts that retail for $40 must be made for $2 or less, including door-to-door global shipping.

I kid you not. That is the markup.

Excerpt coming later today.

L-girl said...

So how many of Kristof's relatives are working in sweatshops just now?

Ah, but M@, that's the point. For Kristof's relatives, it would be several steps down. For those people its an "escalator" upwards. Julia Magruder explains the difference.

It has to do with "those people". It's good enough for them.