In his comment on my post on child labor, Ryan Chamberlain argues against child labor, emphasizing child slavery, as if I had advocated child slavery. This is truly strange, given that I wrote:

In other words, school goes beyond child labor. It is forced child labor.

So I thought it would be clear to readers that I’m against having the government use force on children. So if I’m against that, it would seem to be obvious that I’m against child slavery. You can’t have slavery without using force. I guess it wasn’t obvious to Mr. Chamberlain.

While Chamberlain starts out claiming that “Chile [sic] labor is clearly defined by umpteen international organizations,” his further statements, as commenter George F. Haley notes, show lack of clarity. For example, he states that child labor, which, I’m gathering, he objects to, includes “work that is likely to harm children’s health, safety or morals.” By whose standards? Moreover, he writes that what matters is “whether the child is in a constructive, nurturing and supportive environment or not.” That seems to be upping the ante.

My first job for pay–it was probably illegal–other than when I was a newspaper boy, was when I was about 12 and the guy who ran the local drive-in hamburger stand in Carman, Manitoba hired me to clean up the garbage and burn it each morning. He paid me 50 cents a morning. It was great! At the time, my allowance was only 25 cents a week and so this fifteen-tupled my income. Constructive? What’s that mean? Nurturing? No way: if I did my job right, I saw him once a week to collect my $3.50. Supportive? Who knows?

Now you might argue that that hardly is comparable to a child in Bangladesh working to make money for food. Exactly! The stakes are much higher in a dirt-poor country than in Canada. An Oxfam study found that when carpet makers in Bangladesh were pressured to fire their child laborers, the kids went to their next best alternatives: prostitution or starvation.

By the way, although I have no idea what Paul Krugman would say about this now, in 1997 he agreed with my 1996 analysis and said it eloquently.

The person who tries to get you fired is not your friend.