Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Slavery in 2015

The free market is like a mischievous genie, it is very powerful and asked properly give you whatever you wish -unintended consequences and all.  If we ask for the cheapest price the market will very effectively match us up with a producer that is willing to offer the desired goods at said price.  For example, if we like shrimp, and our only criterion is the price we pay at the store we may be horrified to learn later that slave labor was used to peel the shrimp in Thailand.  "You don't like the idea of slave labor?" the market genie asks with a smirk, "you didn't say anything about not wanting that when you asked for cheap shrimp."

Here are some other things that customers did not consider when they bought cheap Thai shrimp, "Inside the large warehouse, toilets overflowed with feces, and the putrid smell of raw sewage wafted from an open gutter just outside the work area. Young children ran barefoot through suffocating dorm rooms. Entire families labored side-by-side at rows of stainless steel counters piled high with tubs of shrimp." Had those customers looked deeper perhaps they would not be dining on food contaminated with the fecal material of the slaves that prepared it.

In the US there are laws against this degree of shameless human exploitation. Once in a while there are news stories about illegal working conditions but nothing as egregious as what was just observed in Thailand.  The current arrangement is a bad deal for most of the people involved.  The workers in Thailand are working against their will for nothing so clearly they get the worst of it.  In the US shrimp producers cannot compete with foreign imports that use slave labor because while in no way ethical, slavery is certainly cheap if you are the producer.   US customers get dirty shrimp made by slaves - nothing to feel good about.  The winners are the owners and middlemen, the ones who came out on top by having the fewest scruples about how they make their money.

As human beings we have a duty to each other to do better than this.  Some governments have acted to protect foreign workers and their citizens.   According to the article, "The European Union issued a warning earlier this year that tripled seafood import tariffs, and is expected to decide next month whether to impose an outright ban." Prior to this latest news, the US actually excluded Thai shrimp producers from tariffs and reduced Tariffs on Vietnamese shrimp .   Hopefully these latest revelations of slavery will change the sentiment of the government, but their previous behavior actually enabled this problem.

I encourage you to join me in contacting our elected representatives to take action on this matter.  However, there is something more immediate you can do.   Be careful what you wish for from the market genie.  Make sure to ask for shrimp that are caught by American fisherman in US waters.  In the next few days there will be many Christmas parties over the next few days and many of them will have a plate of shrimp.   Now is a great time to bring up facts about the shrimp entering our country from foreign sources.  If it turns out the shrimp being served are caught in the US, thank and congratulate them.   If not, don't demonize your host, but simply tell them what you know and that you trust that they will make the right decision in the future now that they know.   The market genie gives us the economy we all wish for, not in one big wish but through millions of small choices. Please, help spread the word on this issue so that more of those choices are good ones.

Update:  Bought these guys to serve at the family Christmas Eve get-together.


  1. Nice blog, keep at it brother.

    America will survive the United States.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. You're my first comment! Do you reach the Archdruid Report at all?

      I will definitely keep writing. I've got enough topics outlined right now to last me the better part of a year. A few of those ideas should ruffle the feathers of the people selling this country out, so stick around. It should be fun.