Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Slavery: You're wearing it

Did you know that much of the cotton used in today's cheap clothing comes from Uzbekistan? Did you know that the cotton you are wearing was picked by slaves -- many of them child slaves?

Our State Department is demonizing Russia right now -- even though there are no slaves in Russia. In fact, the CIA has used Uzbekistan as a torture center. We have supported Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov, a psycho who has been known to boil his opponents in oil -- literally! -- and to freeze them to death.

We have no import restrictions on cotton picked by slaves. Let's put that fact into perspective: We are enforcing absurd import restrictions on Kolinsky artists' brushes, on the grounds that the sable is an endangered species, even though the Kolinsky is technically not a sable and is hardly endangered. Yet we have no such restrictions on the importation of cotton picked by slaves.

Now let's bring this into the realm of economic doctrine. As noted in a previous post, mixed economies (such as those in Sweden, Norway, Germany, France, or the U.S. during the 1940-80 period) do not rely on slave labor. Libertarianism creates slavery. There were four million slaves in the United States before the Civil War; today, there are between twenty and thirty million slaves -- so many that the price per slave has been driven down. Treatment of slaves is even crueler than in older times, because the commodity is cheaper and therefore more disposable. The only countries in which slavery thrives are those wedded to unbound capitalism.

Well...that's the case in most places where slavery exists. The situation in Uzbekistan is very weird:
There may be all kinds of interesting debates we could have about the nature of socialism in Uzbekistan but one thing is incontrovertible: the collapse of the Soviet Union and the transition to capitalism have led to the rise of coerced child labor in cotton production.

As Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson explain,
After independence, farmland that was previously under the control of state-owned firms was distributed to farmers. But they weren’t suddenly free to plant and sell what they wished. The government introduced regulations that determined what they should plant and how much they should sell it for. For cotton, that meant they would receive a tiny fraction of the world market price. For many, it wouldn’t make sense to grow cotton at these prices. But the government dictated that they had to. Before independence, much of the cotton was picked by combine harvesters. Yet given these rewards, farmers stopped investing in or maintaining farm machinery. So coerced child labor was Karimov’s cost-effective method of picking cotton. . .

There was no coerced child labor in Uzbekistan when cotton was produced by state-owned firms.
And here's the Libertarian Institute praising current economic policy in Uzbekistan. (Always remember that Libertarians like Peter Thiel don't like democracy. Always remember that Michele Bachmann manages to conflate Libertarianism with Dominionism, which advocates slavery.)

The only good news: There are stirrings of rebellion in Uzbekistan.
Comments:
thanks for educating me. i was unaware of all this. james
 
This issue has haunted and bothered me for years. I try to make my clothes last as long as possible (I haven't put clothes in the dryer since 1977 when I realized I was throwing them away every time I emptied the Lint Catcher) but eventually they do wear out.

So where does a person go to get new tee-shirts and jeans -- whatever. It's not just the finished clothes that are the problem. I wouldn't mind sewing my own clothes - I took lots of sewing classes in school (even tailoring) ... but the Fabric itself has questionable history.

I'm really stumped. Is there such a thing as ethical clothing anymore?
 
While I was aware of this generally, I didn't realize it was centered in Uzbekistan, thanks for that info. Of course, there is no surprise that our government is fully supportive of an insane tyrant and his nations use of child slave labor. I almost forget that there was a time I would never have made such a statement, let alone think it was obviously true. How far this nation has fallen.
 
The only thing that concerns me: is Rand Pauls' libertarianism strong enough to withstand being rolled over by the war party?
Answer thus far: no.
The apple fell too far from the tree.
 
posted by Blogger katiebird : 11:50 AM

Do some searches on line there is some and more coming every day. I try and buy Union made in the USA there's a few companies that do this and most of the clothe is made by the last makers in the US. You pay a little more but they are well made
 
katie, jo -- as I've said on a few occasions, Balmer has the best thrift stores in America. If you buy clothing in a thrift store, are you freed from the ethical conundrums? I mean, I got a great Brooks Brothers merino sweater for around five bucks. I don't know where the wool came from -- the UK, I hope.

At any rate, thrift stores usually fund charities. So, like, there's that.
 
The only problem with thrift shops is that getting the good stuff (stuff that fits for one thing) requires regular visits. And I absolutely hate shopping.

I'm trying to grow up though. So if that is what it takes, I'll have to learn to enjoy it.
 
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