Thursday, November 08, 2012

Child Labor

Many defenders of "capitalism" (a contested term, I grant you: we have markets anarchists like Rod Long promoting "markets not capitalism"!) note that child labor was nothing new in the industrial revolution: most children had always worked in human history, from the time they were old enough to do so. But this ignores a huge qualitative difference in what "work" meant: going out to hunt one's own lunch in the wild (go to about 9:10 in the video) is a wee bit different than laboring 14 hours a day in a textile mill or coal mine, because the ruling class had enclosed all of the common land you might have used to go fetch your own lunch.


  1. OMG, private individuals making decisions? We certainly cannot have that. They just might be able to succeed!

  2. There was also a long gap between then and the industrial revolution in which child labor was on farms, and significantly more similar to factory work.

    On a side note, if they unenclosed all that land and let people hunt their food, the only megafauna left to eat after about a year would be humans...

    1. 1) You are surely are correct about that.

      2) Hunter-gatherer societies were pretty good at staying in balance with their prey. Look at American bison under the unenclosed Amerindian regime versus enclosures! From maybe 25 million to 541 in a space of a few decades.

    2. 2) Yes, because their population was so low -- that's the point. As a matter of resource limits, unenclosed England couldn't handle its population at that time -- certainly not with a hunter/gatherer diet high in megafauna.