Last week, we looked at a grim, but sadly pertinent, topic in the era of global markets: forced labor. The State Department has helped to fund a new website that tracks slavery—or its equivalents—in countries around the globe. When, we asked, does work become slavery? And what can we do about it?
From reader George L. Williams we have the concise definition that:
Work becomes slavery when choice is absent, limited, or in crucial ways denied.
And reader Maverick18 suggested that a remedy might lie in a willingness to shell out extra for what we buy:
Perhaps we should stop importing supplies and services from countries that allow any aspect of slavery. Paying a little premium for real American goods supplied by workers who earn a living wage and don’t pollute the environment is an old idea that is timely once again.
[EXPAND More]Reader Mike Grayson averred that looking at forced labor might be too narrow:
Slavery can exist in many forms and is not limited to the plantation or the factory. Entire societies can be enslaved. Slavery is an absence of freedom. . . . It is doubtful that the action of the State Department will do much good since the countries in which these factories are located allow the practice. The society in which it exists must reject it.
And reader Jim DellaNeve saw a knotty problem with no one simple remedy:
Firms like Nike try to ensure that the workers are treated fairly, but they are an exception. The values in these countries are the core of this problem. Government policy usually reflects societal values. In many of these countries, children are employed in these sweatshop factories, but the alternative is often being sold into the sex slavery trade. Whatever the solution, it’s likely to be combination of solution alternatives.