Sunday, April 11, 2010

Should Child Labor Be Illegal in Poor Countries?

I know it's been Steven Landsburg hour around here lately, but I want to share an idea from his book "More Sex Is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics" (not my first choice for a book title, I'll admit).

Landsburg argues that rich nations aren't helping the extremely poor in third-world countries by limiting their choices, such as forbidding them to put their children to work:
Being poor means making hard choices, such as whether to work more or to eat less. Neither alternative is terribly palatable, but it requires more than a bit of hubris to suggest that middle-class American and European demonstrators can choose more wisely than the African and Asian families who have to live with the consequences.
He also cites studies suggesting that parents do truly care about their children and want them to have enough to eat, and he points out that child labor drops dramatically as families exit abject poverty.

I'm not sure if my drive-by synopsis did Landsburg's point justice, but it's well argued in the book.