Thursday, July 24, 2008

Child labor laws

People who think they are libertarians should live for awhile in a country like Azerbaijan. I was thinking about that when I headed out for my early morning walk. At roughly 7 a.m., a boy about eight years old was sweeping my street. A man was about 50 feet away, with a trash barrel. Perhaps the man was his father? I don't know. I felt a little shy about photographing the scene - so the picture isn't that good.

I should note - the scene is not that unusual. Children routinely work in restaurants and in other occupations at very young ages. This is just the first time I've seen one sweeping the streets. When I was teaching in Ganca, one of my students wrote an article on the subject of child labor. It was a good piece. He focused on one family - and in this case the child stayed out of school, because his time was more profitably spent working.

What is the loss for the child? For the family? For the society?

Yes, minimum wage law and child-labor laws are intrusive and free market dogmatists argue that the market will take care of any abuses. The market is a self-correcting system.

But before the system corrects itself, how many opportunities are lost, as children are sacrificed to the material aspirations of parents and guardians?

Anyway - that's my rant for the day.

Here's a photo of the street as I returned home this morning. Note the old woman on the side, probably resting after finishing cleaning chores for the morning. And a picture of the Old City walls. And the moon.