Saturday, January 02, 2010

No disrespect

Karl Marx, Capital:

The [Factory] Act of 1844 certainly "robbed" the silk manufacturers of the "liberty" of employing children under 11 for longer than 6.5 hours each day. But as against this, it secured them the privilege of working children between 11 and 13 for 10 hours a day, and annulling in their case the education which had been made compulsory for all other factory children. This time the pretext was "the delicate texture of the fabric in which they were employed, requiring a lightness of touch, only to be acquired by their early introduction to these factories." The children were quite simply slaughtered for the sake of their delicate fingers, just as horned cattle are slaughtered in southern Russia for their hides and fat.

Do you think the silk manufacturers harbored special ill-will toward children? Of course not! Doubtless many had children of their own, and loved them profoundly. More likely, manufacturers only did what their industry required, in order that they could each captain a successful, productive enterprise. The fact that this destroyed children was just part of doing one's job as well as one possibly could; surely we can appreciate the "virtue" of that!

What other industries contribute negatively to human health and liberty without overtly intending to do so, but merely as a function of the "productive" process? An illustration: one my employers lays off personnel when products assembled in one part of the world are not shipped long distances by jet aircraft for consumption on the other side of planet. Bad for people who depend on employment, good for the environment. When "the economy" booms, it's just the reverse.

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