- 17 Feb 2011 15:52
We already FORCE children to work for zero pay. We force them to go to school, which is absolutely a form of work. And that environment, which we subject every one of them to, is far more psychologically traumatizing than most modern occupational environments I can think of, which is why suicide is the third leading cause of death among 10-14 year olds.
The idea that if we allowed children to work, they would be slaving away in smokey sweatshops is false. Anything resembling what you see in those photos could only happen in developing countries, where the general quality of life of the average person is much, much lower. In the 19th century, real poverty (as opposed to modern, western "poverty", which isn't poverty at all) was widespread, and the children you see weren't experiencing anything worse than they would have had they stayed at home. Without that employment, they probably would have gone hungry, and resorted to begging on the streets, where they would have been exposed to all kinds of horrors far worse than a dirty face.
But the growth of industry and technology changed all that, raising the general standard of living to the point that child labor became unnecessary, as people could afford to raise children without needing them to generate additional income. Only as a consequence of that does society's ideas about the ethics of child labor change. That's why poorer countries to this day still engage in the practice and don't find anything particularly immoral about it.
Child labor has, in fact, been the standard for most of human history, eradicated only by the growth of widespread prosperity that accompanies industrialization and capitalism. Government decrees only follow those changes in attitude, which would undoubtedly remain in place in absence of said decree. The only difference would be that those few children in special circumstances that could benefit more from employment than being subjected to the public school system (or selling drugs on the street as some do now) would be allowed to do so.