Calpundit's knowledge problem

?One?s initial surprise at finding that intelligent people tend to be socialists diminishes when one realizes that, of course, intelligent people will tend to overvalue intelligence, and to suppose that we must owe all the advantages and opportunities that our civilization offers to deliberate design rather than to following traditional rules, and likewise to suppose that we can, by exercising our reason, eliminate any remaining undesired features by still more intelligent reflection, and still more appropriate design and ?rational coordination? of our undertakings. This leads one to be favourably disposed to the central economic planning and control that lie at the heart of socialism.?
- F.A. Hayek, 'The Fatal Conceit'

Western civilization in the late 18th century and throughout the 19th century was able to bring about incredible change to human life and standards of living through the application of science and technology in the Industrial Revolution. All throughout Europe and the US, intelligent men applied reason and knowledge to improve their material situations, ushering in an unprecedented era of prosperity in all of human history. So it is perhaps inevitable that intelligent men would seek to extend the mastery of reason and science into the social arena, and apply order and design to the ?chaos? of the marketplace. Several schools of thought began to think that ?man is able to shape the world around him according to his wishes,? which became in general the system called 'socialism.' This is what F.A. Hayek called ?the fatal conceit?.

In brief, Hayek believed that socialism suffered from many defects, and the central and unsolvable one was ?the Knowledge Problem?- that the knowledge vital to central planning was unavailable; it was dispersed, known only at the individual level. Value is revealed in individual transactions, where people?s true preferences, people?s true needs and wants, are revealed only at the point of exchange (this is also Mises? central argument contra socialism; that economic calculation cannot rationally happen without private property and individual exchange).

Thus, Hayek predicted after WWII that the communist experiment was doomed to failure because central planners do not have, and cannot have, the necessary knowledge to carry out rational plans- if you cannot know, you cannot plan. And lo and behold, Hayek was proven right in country after country in the past 70 years; even in western mixed economies, the Keynesian/interventionist model was revealed to be smoke and mirrors, and Hayek and Mises vindicated.

So when Kevin Drum posts his thoughts on the ?Free? Market, saying:

[t]he problem is that while market-based economies are terrific at a wide range of allocation problems, free market capitalism isn't a law of nature or a command from God. It's an invention of human beings, and like any human tool there are places where it works well and places where it doesn't.

?I have to channel the Gipper and say ?there they[illiberals] go again.? Kevin?s belief that ?free market capitalism? is an invention of human beings is correct, to a point- it is a product of human action, but not of human design. His plan, however, is the fatal conceit all over again. Kevin identifies two reasons why governments should intervene in markets- interventions that are designed to make capitalism work better, and those designed to correct things that capitalism does poorly. The examples he lists for the former type of intervention are antitrust legislation and securities regulation. Unfortunately for Kevin, economic theory does not predict the emergence of monopolies as a general effect of laissez-faire economics (although it does state that monopolistic pricing is often only maintained by government regulation). And the history of antitrust legislation is spotted at best. And indeed, some of the ?interventions? that many illiberals speak of are nothing of the sort, but rather the legal traditions of liability, torts, and contract law, which do not flow from state mandates but from centuries of trial and error, and ultimately form a truly ?democratic? consensus on how business should operate.

Regarding the latter justification (intervening to do things the market doesn?t do very well), Kevin goes on to say:

As a democratic society, we can decide for ourselves what our priorities are, and if unregulated capitalism doesn't meet our needs, we should feel free to intervene.

Along with Hayek (who has already addressed the knowledge problem facing Kevin?s interventionist ideals), Ludwig von Mises anticipated this argument by 54 years when he said in Human Action:

The interventionist doctrinaires repeat again and again that they do not plan the abolition of private ownership of the means of production, of entrepreneurial activities, and of market exchange. [?] But, of course, all these advocates of a middle-of-the-road policy emphasize with the same vigor that they reject Manchesterism and laissez-faire liberalism. It is necessary, they say, that the state interfere with the market phenomena whenever and wherever the ?free play of the economic forces? results in conditions that appear as ?socially? undesirable. In making this assertion they take it for granted that it is the government that is called upon to determine in every single case whether or not a definite economic fact is to be considered reprehensible from the ?social? point of view and, consequently whether or not the state of the market requires a special act of government interference.
- Mises, Human Action

In the end, interventions cause distortions, which cause more ?social? problems, which thus demand further interventions, until one is left with government intervening in everything, everywhere. Fortunately, at least part of the lesson of the monumental failure of communism, central planning, and the ?mixed? economy (see ?The Commanding Heights?, a great PBS documentary on Hayek and the free market revolution of the 80s) and the toll of human misery they took has been remembered, as Kevin gives the following caveat:

The important thing is to understand the costs and limitations of interfering with free markets, to treat our ignorance with respect, and to be willing to change our minds based on changing evidence. Free markets work wonderfully well in a wide variety of cases, and we should be skeptical about our ability to improve on them ? but not petrified into inaction

Kevin was right, up to the very last phrase. We should be skeptical about our ability to improve on markets, and we should work to actually allow them to be free. And most of all, we should not repeat the errors of the past, and engage in the fatal conceit that ?this time, we can get [intervention] right!?

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I think you're really

I think you're really underestimating the extent to which capitalism is an invention. It didn't exist for thousands of years, and exists today (in some places) only because people have decided that it works well.

Government intervention is inevitable. Libertarians seems to think there's some magical guideline that allows exactly the right amount of intervention (just enough to protect property rights) but no more. But it just doesn't work that way. Capitalism doesn't work without government in the first place, and once that's in place it's virtually impossible to define "protecting property rights" in such a way that it doesn't include a lot of other things as well.

One other thing: socialism is a straw man at this point in history. My post didn't even come close to suggesting anything socialistic, but I *do* believe that the Fed, the SEC, and the Wagner Act (for example) have improved the performance of our economy tremendously. Would you prefer that we were still on the gold standard?

Speaking of socialism, it

Speaking of socialism, it was not meant as a straw man, but to give proper context to my quotes. But it is true that the logic is there to slip from minor interventionism to full-blown socialism- its fortunately institutional memory that prevents backsliding these days.

And I just called you illiberal, not a socialist. ^_~

Starting from the bottom, I think that the US *would* be better off if it were still on the gold standard, because inflation is a bad- it used to be called 'seignorage' in the middle ages and classical times, where the sovereign, in order to invent new money for himself, would confiscate coins, melt them down, and debase them with lesser metals. Its, I believe, where the term "debasement of the currency" actually comes from (the metal issue).

Having a gold backed currency, or even any commodity-backed currency, would be a welcome check on inflationary tendencies. And by inflation I mean monetary inflation, not simply rises in price level. Since 1980, that's essentially what the Fed has *tried* to do with the dollar- making it the "gold standard" for the rest of the world's currency. And whoever controls the gold, makes the rules... (a lot of the debt of the 90s, personal, corporate, and federal, has been financed based on the strength of the Dollar as the world's reserve currency)

The Fed, according to many analyses, was responsible in great part for the Great Depression (by allowing an unsustainable credit boom in the 20s, and by backing Britain's profligate post-war monetary inflation). Indeed, credit-based boom-bust cycles are at the heart of the Austrian Business Cycle Theory. So I don't agree that the Fed has helped the economy (there were more bank failures in the US from 1917-1969, with fully integrated fractional reserve banking, than in Canada, which did not have a central banking system but did have deposit insurance, or in Hong Kong, which had free banking (and no deposit insurance). There are 2 failures of banks during that time in Hong Kong (before the UK forbade free banking).

The SEC has a number of problems that Jane Galt & Mindles Dreck have gone over in greater detail at Asymmetrical Information (www.janegalt.net), but I believe that the SEC now epitomized "regulatory capture", and whatever good it may have done in the past, I believe it is more of a drag now (indeed, the SEC and co. never saw Enron coming- and the market punished Enron & co. 6 months or so earlier than the government finally did, so I'm not sure how well the SEC prevented fraud in that case.)

I don't know the Wagner act off the top of my head, so I can't comment (its late, so I won't bother looking it up right now)- is that the one preventing commercial and investment banks from being the same entity?

Since it is late, I won't get into the Libertarian question, but that is a valid one that I should post on later in a separate reply.

"Capitalism" is older than you may think, as elements recognizable to us as part of the "capitalist" system were present in Roman times (interest, contract law, specialized production, property and commodity markets, etc). While the institution has waned and waxed over the millenia, the market has been with us since the dawn of man (neolithic trade). It is the market that is the thing, and while it IS supported by laws and institutions, those laws and institutions were not 'designed' but rather 'evolved'.

Of course, that prompts the question of "well, how do you evolve those laws and institutions in the first place?", which is a valid point (and the one you get at with your libertarian question). Hayek would answer with something along the lines of "trial and error", which isn't satisfying at all (either to you or me), so I think you've got me somewhat there, although I will try and wiggle (yet hopefully not weasel) out of that in a later post. I do think, though, that ala the Volokhs, taking a "presumptive libertarian" position is the right way to go in general, and in that regard I think we're actually not that far apart

Brian, read a Dickens'

Brian, read a Dickens' novel, visit a child labor facility in some backwards country, and observe the tobacco industry marketing to children in China and elsewhere.

In some cases, these "social" problems need to be checked, and transformed, because of basic human dignity, and rights doctrine, as idealistically pronounced in the Declaration of Independence, and as enshrined in our Constitution.

Our political free market here in America, which honors certain rights and dignities as non-negotiable, will always come before the economic free market, if we are remain to true to American ideals.

It's best not to be too absolutist about free economic markets. It is NOT what are society and democracy is based on. With this said, I agree that beyond ensuring human rights and essential dignity, we need to encourage as free an economic market as possible. This would also include dismantling the ludicrous spoils state capitalist distortion that we currently run, and which Reagan and the Bushes have perfected better than anyone else.

Information is key. In any free market, where individual agents will try to maximize self-interest. In politics, economics, and other areas of life. Free the information, and stop the secrecy. Any libertarian who does not speak out against undue and crony secrecy is not worth the title.

Oh, I'm totally with you on

Oh, I'm totally with you on the state capitalism, freelixer. Welfare for producers is no good, especially when the end result is usually to hike the prices that the poor have to pay! (Such as the case with tariffs in general; the steel tariff in particular gets me really POed.)

with regards to:
-----------------------------------------------
Brian, read a Dickens' novel, visit a child labor facility in some backwards country, and observe the tobacco industry marketing to children in China and elsewhere.

In some cases, these "social" problems need to be checked, and transformed, because of basic human dignity, and rights doctrine, as idealistically pronounced in the Declaration of Independence, and as enshrined in our Constitution.
----------------------------------------

I agree with you here, too, but where I think we diverge is how to go about checking those social problems. Where the problem is the violation of basic human rights (the right not to be beaten, enslaved, or otherwise physically coerced by government OR private entities or individuals), there is an obvious government solution (police action, round up yon criminals). When it is a matter of economic reality not fitting what we would prefer from a values standpoint, the answer is to work within civil society and voluntary means to solve the problem- not to order the coercive force of government to seize property from others (unless, of course, that property was clearly and obviously stolen to begin with).

And while child labor is not the best, in the areas of the world where it exists, it is often the best choice of a constellation of bad ones. I believe it was in India (or Bengal, which is in Bangladesh I believe) where a western corporation was forced (by non-government pressure, IIRC) to stop employing children. The children then resorted to prostitution or being drug mules in order to make up the lost funds. I'd say that working in a Nike factory for $5 a day is better than being some western tourist's sex toy any day.

American Ideals cannot (and do not, IMO) embrace coercion and state-backed theft and still have any moral claim. Of course, we can't get to nirvana in a day, or even one election cycle, but I do believe that we must reaffirm individuals' natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of property as paramount- and work to get a better society through voluntary means (which, to me, is the epitome of the market process).

Aside from this one point (which can essentially be a quibble, in the larger view), I do believe we are close to agreement on the subject.

Oh, and since I forgot to

Oh, and since I forgot to say it, I'm all for transparency in markets (aside from obvious trade secrets, etc) and for an elimination of political cronyism.

I do believe that we must

I do believe that we must reaffirm individuals' natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of property as paramount- and work to get a better society through voluntary means...

I'm going to sleep now, but I'd like to discuss this with you later. We agree on much, and disagree on some other, but this may be the crux of our difference, and I want to fully understand your stance on this before comparing it to mine.

Cheers!

Beware Brian, for Kevin is

Beware Brian, for Kevin is using the word "capitalism" in the Marxist sense -- that is the most recent "stage" that happens after "feudalism." You are better off abandoning the word "capitalism" and sticking with "free market".

As for the "Dickens child labor" red herring, the answer to that is that more children (and more workers in general) were freed from labor by markets than by any intervention. As societies accumlate more capital and technology through the increased efficiancy of markets, the amount of time and labor to maintain and grow living standards is reduced.

Child labor is as old as history. It was liberalized markets that createded the capital necessary to no longer require it. Third world countries do not have the capital to do this and maintain a modern standard of living. As these countries accumlate the capital, child labor and 'sweatshops' will be phased out naturally -- unless of course, the illiberals get their way!

What Hayek had in mind when

What Hayek had in mind when he proposed the brilliant concept of "a product of human action, but not of human design" (which I understand had already been suggested by Adam Ferguson) was the market in general, not capitalism in particular.

Brian, you're playing to the illiberals' false strength, one that lets them get away with most everything (like saying capitalism instead of free market, as Lazarus suggests), by not calling them socialists. Historically, their differences have been only of degree, not of kind. I can't believe we call them "liberals" in the US, thus helping them even more.

Statist Third World countries make child labor (and other economic malaises) possible in the XXI century by not doing what South Korea, Taiwan, Singapur and Hong Kong did long time ago. Ask me, I come from one of those places (Venezuela). For example, the huge informal economy is maintained over there because the unions are job-protecting rackets and it is almost impossible for anybody to form a company, too expensive, legally complicated and subject to unbelievable state corruption. Give me a break, socialists!

The Commanding Heights film was based on the great book of the same name by Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1998.

It seems that we have a

It seems that we have a disagreement on the meaning of the word 'capitalist'. Just as Brian says that the word liberal was usurped by interventionalists, the word capitalist was usurped by free-market advocates. Unfortunately, not everyone sees 'capitalist' the same way. I would take Lazarus's advice and stick to 'free-market.'

Actually "capitalist" still

Actually "capitalist" still has meaning, as in a word to describe an individual's action of investing for future returns (creating capital).

But the word "CAPITALISM" is meaningless, it is an invented word of illiberals such as Marxists to describe their braindead historical system. As in poker, it is also a "tell." It shows how cluless these illiberals are about the free market - as they only focus on set of actions (capital accumlation, which all humans do) which then then transmogify into a "class" (capitalists) and an era of "class rule" (capitalism). They completely ignore that ALL humans can and do accumulate capital and also take risks to discover markets (act as entrepruenuers), consume resources (act as consumers) and spend labor (act as workers). Their view is one-dimensional ("capitalists oppressing workers"), ignoring the myrid of factors that have been discovered by Austrian economics.

BTW - Someone here should read _The Triumph of Conservatism_ by NEW LEFTIST author Gabriel Kolko about interventionism in the early XXth Century.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0029166500/qid=1054744909/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/104-4889157-1813531?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

Just want to step up for

Just want to step up for Kevin a bit here, and say that I take Kevin at face value when he says that he is in favor of the regulated market (and not in favor of nationalizing industry), and there is a reason that I choose to make a distinction between socialist and illiberal.

Socialists do still exist- people still are out there that think that society can be re-ordered by political whim, that wealth grows on trees or is simply 'distributed', and thus can be 'redistributed' at will. I do not believe that Kevin is this kind of guy (although he does seem to think that complex budget issues are just matters of 'values', when talking about, say, the medicare and social security long-term funding problems).

There are interventionists that, ala Mises, sincerely do not want to set up central planning boards and have state ownership of the economy. Some of them are more towards the socialist side of the spectrum than others. Indeed, many are of this position by default, or 'accident of history', and so might be able to be 'shown the light'.

So, lumping interventionists in with unrepentent, unreconstructed socialists, by convention of language you encourage them to think like socialists (or otherwise cast their lot with socialists), regardless of the approbrium you put on the word. By continuing to disparage socialism (and socialists) while referring to interventionists as illiberal, I figure its a way to get them to think of their position as different from the socialists (and perhaps more like us, just mistaken). Hey, I'm trying to be a "glass half full" guy here.

The point about "capitalism" is well-taken; an econ professor of mine back at VT (Fred Foldvary, a visiting prof at the time, not faculty) went on an extended riff one day about the silliness of much of the modern vocabulary when it comes to describing economic systems, as all economic system use capital, and all economic systems are made up of people (are thus social)... he, too, preferred just using 'market based economy' and 'command/centrally planned economy', for clarity and precision.

It is also true that 'capitalism' is the name given to private-property market-economies by Marxists as a pejorative (characterizing those economies as being run for the benefit of machines (Capital)), and picked 'socialism' because it sounded like Marxists, unlike those machine(capital) worshippers, were on the side of people and society.

Unfortunately, ala the word "Queer" with gays, entrepreneurs & free marketers took the term over and championed it (probably because it was a nice, one-word descriptor, despite it's origin).

A quibble of my own, though, with 'free market', is that it's lost a lot of its own meaning. And since there is no real world example of a truly free market, when the term is used, people think that it is a relative term, and then all sorts of errors creep in (such as saying "the regulated free market" or "intervening in the free market"). A market with intervention isn't free... It may be a free-r market, but there are still regulations hither and thither.

Perhaps 'liberal market' is better?

Children have as much of a

Children have as much of a right to work as anybody else, and it is absolutely disgusting how children are treated as chattel property of their parents, or the State, everywhere in the world. Of course adults wanted laws prohibiting child labor when mass production developed--they didn't want to go to the factory every day and be reminded that their job could be performed just as well by a little child.

"Brian, read a Dickens'

"Brian, read a Dickens' novel, visit a child labor facility in some backwards country, and observe the tobacco industry marketing to children in China and elsewhere."

I've read several Dickens novels. And I'm well aware that the time that Charles Dickens lived in compares unfavorably to the time that we live in in practically all respects. But all that tells us is that we have not managed to completely stop or reverse the march of human progress since the time of Dickens. It most certainly does not tell us that preserving some or all of the government policies that existed in the 19th Century would not have allowed even more material and technological progress over the intervening years than replacing them with leftist interventionist policies did.

"In some cases, these "social" problems need to be checked, and transformed, because of basic human dignity, and rights doctrine, as idealistically pronounced in the Declaration of Independence, and as enshrined in our Constitution."

These social problems were checked and transformed - by technological progress and material growth. Government intervention could not have banished the hunger and deprivation of the 19th Century while using only the resources and knowledge available to Dickens' contemporaries; that is simply physically impossible. As the economy grew, as people figured out how to produce more goods and services with less work, the government then stepped in, took a cut of the proceeds, and then managed to claim credit for the better lives that people were leading.

The naivete of the true

The naivete of the true believers of economic libertarianism amuses me (though to be admired as a manifestation of fealty to freedom). When reading history, paying attention to the facts that support your ideas, and ignoring or downplaying those that don't, can easily confirm your ideology. In reality, with perception, the mechanism is the same. You see what you want to see, find what you want to find.

History is not as simple as some have characterized it above. Life-and-death struggles and conflicts have occurred. People have united under the banner of labor to assure a better quality of life, so as not to be just grist for the mill. All of this has much more to do with human dignity and values, including American rights and freedom docrine, than it does with the "success" of capitalism.

Not that I seek to disparage capitalism. As a best-case description of a free market, and acculumation of free choices of individuals, through an economic lens. Just remember that that's what it is. Through an economic lens.

A free market ranges much farther and wider than the concept of property and capital. It is also intimately involved in the realm of politics, through which lens we have democracy as the best-case scenario (so far). Bigger than we like, but still a great example of accumulated freedom.

There are others. As I argue earlier, just remember that it all boils down to information, at the root level, whether this later manifests as capital, property, money, votes, and what not. The freedom of information. Freeing the flow of information is the best way to reach a level of reality, and society, which makes the most beautiful and accurate description of a free market, if as a human being and artist a free market is what appeals to you most. Freedom. Beyond market in the limited sense, and beyond economics.

A market as in availability and flow of information, and ability to choose based upon that. Without undue interference from other actors. Need I boil this down any simpler?

And, I repeat, all

And, I repeat, all libertarians should be against crony capitalism and governmental secrecy. These are most artfully (well, maybe clumsily but forcefully) employed by the current Bush administration.

I fail to see how any libertarian can support the current leadership of the United States. If you are in favor of a "big" government, then feel free to support these empire-makers.

If you believe in freedom, shout them down. They threaten the very future of the small-government, republican American idea, vision, and dream of freedom.

freelixir, And, I repeat,

freelixir,

And, I repeat, all libertarians should be against crony capitalism and governmental secrecy. These are most artfully (well, maybe clumsily but forcefully) employed by the current Bush administration.

I fail to see how any libertarian can support the current leadership of the United States. If you are in favor of a "big" government, then feel free to support these empire-makers.

If you believe in freedom, shout them down. They threaten the very future of the small-government, republican American idea, vision, and dream of freedom.

If you have ever seen anyone on this blog write anything remotely supportive of crony capitalism, please let me know. If it takes you more than the fingers on one hand on which to count the number of times Bush or Republicans have been supported on this blog, let me know.

For example, this post is highly critical critical of the administration's tariff polices (a form of crony capitalism).

If you look through the archives, you will find many more articles critical of crony capitalism, Bush, the loss of civil liberties, and Republicans.

freelixir, History is not as

freelixir,

History is not as simple as some have characterized it above. Life-and-death struggles and conflicts have occurred. People have united under the banner of labor to assure a better quality of life, so as not to be just grist for the mill. All of this has much more to do with human dignity and values, including American rights and freedom docrine, than it does with the "success" of capitalism.

Yes, you are correct that our political ideologies shape how we interpret the course of history. That is why economics has to be studies in a methodologically sound manner; the best manner I have come across is the Austrian approach to economics, and I hope to study more about this approach on the blog.

You believe that Labor was the means by which workers acquired a better quality of life. From my perspective, Labor was often the means by which non-Labor workers were denied the freedom of voluntary association with employers. If you're not part of the Union, the company can't hire you from threat of legal action. Labor by definition prevents voluntary relationships that can often lift people out of poverty.

You, like me, regard American rights as important. If you follow that line of thought to its logical conclusion, I submit that only principled free-market policies result. That is because the free-market lacks guns.

Rights cannot be anything acquired at gunpoint; that is theft. However, unions do exactly that. Rather than allow free association, unions prevent non-union workers from becoming employed at the point of a gun. Not only is that a violation of the rights of the employer and the non-union employee, it keeps people in poverty who otherwise would be lifted out of it.

Since you are against crony capitalism as I am, I submit that unions are simply another form of crony capitalism - where one group of people in the market benefit through government intervention at the expense of the many.

Jonathan, I didn't mean to

Jonathan, I didn't mean to paint you, or this blog, as a supporter of this administration, or President Bush. Occasionally, I challenge libertarians wherever I find them to take account of their beliefs. There are many who claim to be libertarians, and yet passionately support the current administration. They do so emotionally, and thus their supposed rational championing of libertarianism is just a farce.

My apologies if you felt that was directed at you. I noticed some emotionalism mixing with rational argument above (not you), so took the opportunity to slip the dagger.

As for labor, please keep in mind that I was speaking specifically of history. It would be putting one's head in the sand to deny a positive impact of Labor on the well-being and dignity of hte American worker. At least when it counted the most in the most corrupt and immoral days of fresh industrialism. That was not a success of capitalism, but of liberty and fraternity.

And I was not speaking for the state of Labor in the present day. Though I certainly do not believe we should do away with workers' rights to organize and negotiate-by-scale, I do find current arguments about unnecessary and stifling federal regulations regarding union activity to be persuasive.

Just viewing things from the lens of human dignity, however, there is no excuse for neoclassicalist support of economic globalization in places like Mexico, where union-breaking activities, and violent suppression of worker organizing, is the norm.

No matter how you feel about it, it's impossible to deny that this is a direct counter to any influence or weight that worker organization may have here in the U.S., or in places where worker liberty and dignity is respected.

There is also no excuse for crony state laws that favor known, established big unions, and require all kinds of arcane rules and regulations for this kind of economic liberty to take place.

So we agree there. Labor laws in America, as currently constituted, violate the liberty of the American worker, and thus the free market. That is pale in comparison to the impact of the "race to the bottom" being conducted by the neoclassicalist globalizers, who see no harm in moving operations to places where workers have almost no liberty, are intimidated and threatened when acting to gain it, and where children themselves are coopted into the process.

It's not for me to say that children shouldn't work. I'm well aware of cultural, social, and economic anthropology. At the same time, there needs to be protections in place for the economic liberty of workers, and if this is not there, then I have very little hope that children coopted into the process will have any voice, rights, or dignity at all.

Frelixer, The child labor

Frelixer,

The child labor situation in Dicken's time, and in foreign countries now was, and is a positive thing. Before child labor became common, children died, or were exposed.

That children could work and earn their keep was a step toward their survival, and their survival lead to greater ability to produce as they grew. Certainly it may offend our Western schooled sensibilities, but the children are better off working than dead. The lessons learned by work can be as valuable as those taught in Government schools. Industrial schools would have great incentive to identify the best and brightest for greater schooling, even if the management had purely selfish motives.

Don M "the children are

Don M

"the children are better off working than dead" ?!?!?

Where did you see infanticide being practiced ? When ?

I have 1 million of arguments to counter your idea, but I'll settle with biology: In case you haven't noticed, we are biologically programmed to have and care for our offspring. Any species who praticed infanticide like you describe would have been extinct long ago.

Children were being "produced" and kept alive for centuries before child labor "became common" as you said. And they did work on their parents farm, store or rented piece of land. What did David of Goliath fame do before casting his stones ? Yep, worked at pop's business tending sheep.

David's pop didn't work him until death and starvation, but the industrial bosses of yesterday did. After all, it wasn't THEIR KID they were abusing... The social justice concept was what freed those half starved kids from working 24/7 to those guys.