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the complexity of freedom, part deux

December 21, 2011

Average, working-class people are usually shocked and outraged by stories about sweatshops and child labour, like the recent allegations surrounding the Kardashian clothing lines, as I think they should be. But few realize that global capitalism thrives upon, and even logically defends, this kind of exploitation, generally utilizing the classic ‘it’s better than the alternative, like x’ defense that’s perfectly exemplified here by Prof. Ben Powell:

“Hey, eating this turd on a bun with mustard is WAY better than just eating a plain ol’ turd; and since you’re starving and have no other options but these two turds I’m offering you, I think the better choice is obvious.”

Some, like Prof. Powell, at least have the balls to admit that they unambiguously support sweatshops and child labour. However, it often seems to be the case that, instead of being forced to confront and potentially question the logic of a system where the road to higher wages and better working conditions is paved with sweatshops and child labour, free-market advocates and capitalist apologists in general find it easier to simply gloss over the problem, or else blame it on specific offenders, like China, rather than the ‘invisible hand’ that guides production in global capitalism and directs “industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value.”

And this is how ‘freedom’ (e.g., of the market) can actually be used to justify exploitation, which is precisely the argument George Monbiot makes in his recent article in the Guardian.

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