Saturday, December 29, 2007

By the terrifying power of blog comments, I condemn you to poverty

Check this out.

I made a comment the other day on Tim Worstall's blog about how it's probably not a good idea for five-year old children to be forced into slave labour. The comment is subject to a slight ambiguity, which is why I got challenged by another commenter. After making two short clarifications, I get subjected to a huge blast in which I'm accused of 'moral preening', 'trying to force third-word economies into your Procrustean mold'*, of 'condemning not merely legions of children, but legions of their children to misery and poverty' and making an attempt to 'keep poor people poorer for longer'.

I love the internet.

*Not sure what this means, but how do you do this by making a comment on a blog?


TimT said...

Procrustean (say proh'krusteeuhn)
adjective (also upper case) tending to produce conformity by violent or arbitrary means. [from Procrustes]
- Macquarie

nailpolishblues said...

You seem surprised by something...?

Proserpina said...

Personally I was struck by the idea of "moral vanity", of which, try as I might, I can't make head or tail. Perhaps it's actually having a moral sense in which one invests some sort of belief one isn't prepared to compromise according to expediency which is "vain". I would have thought it was simply honourable, but I guess all honour is vain in the brave new "free market" world of child labour. The "counsel of perfection" also sounds like a fascinating organisation. And no nineteenth-century child picked oakum because Britain was somehow a poor country at the time. What bunk!
This is why I don't like the internet. It's too much like the relative who insists upon fighting with you about politics at the family dinner in a maddeningly idiotic way.

TimT said...

I'm not so much surprised, but just a little bit impressed. I have difficulty beating out a coherent sentence about politics, much less a paragraph like the one linked. Though I do get the impression that it was an aimless internet argument searching for an opportunity to be expressed.

Moral vanity = Indulging in moralistic arguments for pleasure and self-gratification, presumably.

nailpolishblues said... was an aimless internet argument searching for an opportunity to be expressed.

Aren't they all? This is why I do not get involved at all any more. I pike on real life arguments as well.

Caz said...

The fact that the blog host set the tone by suggesting that the problem is not ours, and that we do-gooders in the West shouldn't tut-tut over child labor, lest our inappropriate ethics and moral sensibilities lead to child prostitution.

At best, the initial argument was an emotive, unsupportable, load of tripe. At worst it invited vindication of greed, selfishness and continued abuse and exploitation of third world and developing countries, hence the rabidly stupid and arse-holish response to your perfectly sane, and human, comment.

TimT said...

It wasn't one of Tim Worstall's best posts.

Maria said...

Hi TimT,

I get challenged on blogs by people all the time - often it's because they just want a fight, often it's because their name is Piers Akerman.

As for wanting kids to not be forced into child slavery, I do think it is something worthwhile to work towards. My belief is the mix-up between your arguments was David's idea of alternatives as immediate alternatives, and what you seemed to propose as a more longterm goal that was worthwhile achieving.

The trouble with blogs is that you often don't have space (or if you do, you'd never hold someone's attention for long enough in a considered comment) to explain yourself fully, and they often get vitiolic and irrational.

I think that's why some people detest them ... and others love them.

On a highnote

Happy New Year :)

TimT said...

Yeah, that's right - it's easier to be vitriolic and irrational when you can't see the person you're discussing an issue with. And though it's possible to clarify what you mean, exactly, sometimes you risk going on and on and getting caught up in a huge pedantic debate and seeming like an awful bore.

There was a good point there well worth discussing - that well-intentioned first-world groups and causes may unintentionally make more problems for the people they're trying to help. But no point really discussing that with a person who clearly wants to have an argument!

Thanks Maria, and you have a fantastic New Year yourself!

Caz said...

The intellectual sloppiness of the case was ludicrous to start with Tim, thus making any sensible argument un-winnable.

It takes a particularly diminished intelligence to state there are two options for little kiddies in poor countries: be put to work in shocking, cruel, life-shortening conditions or work as a prostitute.

That's a moronic proposition, and ethically null and void.

Which is not to suggest that first-world thinking hasn't been the cause of much heartache in poor countries, and even our own (eg, Queensland). Most often this is the result of environmentalists insisting that the *natives* should be denied a means to earn a living, or even to aspire to sanitary living conditions, because, gosh darn it, the environment is so derned perdy, and living a pile of dung with no food to eat is so primitively romantic.

Tim Worstall said...

"It takes a particularly diminished intelligence to state there are two options for little kiddies in poor countries: be put to work in shocking, cruel, life-shortening conditions or work as a prostitute."

Really? I must be of particularly diminished intelligence then, for I would go even further. There's only one option for little kiddies in poor countries: to be put to work in shocking, cruel, life-shortening conditions.

For, as you have noted, they are in poor countries, and all of the options are exactly that.

Some are worse than others of course, prostitution or a textiles factory, quarrying perhaps.

But the reason that there are only shitty options available is that being poor means that only shitty options are available.

To which the answer is some attempt to make both poor countries and the poor people within them richer, so that better options appear.

Fortunately, we know how to do that, it's called trade. Which is why I buy things made by poor people in poor countries: it makes them richer and provides them with less shitty options.

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