Myth: Capitalism exploits child laborers
This myth is extremely annoying since it is so commonly accepted as a fact. According to the distorted history children learn in government schools, children like themselves were forced by companies into working in factories in mines doing extensive physical work for hours on end. Their teachers blame capitalism for the hardships of the young and praise the government as the entity by which child labor has been abolished, through law.
While it is true that children in the 19th century and beforehand has to work hard and for many hours a day, such conditions are not caused by capitalism but rather inherited by capitalism. To paraphrase Thomas E. Woods Jr., it is not as if throughout the history of mankind, children skipped through meadows all day and then one day, capitalism came along and their parents said, "Capitalism's here kids, off to the mines".
In truth, poverty is the natural state of man and child labor has existed throughout the history of the human race's existence. Child labor has not disappeared in developed countries because governments passed laws prohibiting it, rather it has disappeared because our economy has become so advanced and productive that it takes less people to support a family. The wealth an individual produces today is far greater than the wealth that an entire family would have produced 100 years ago.
The question is, why are the children working? The answer is that the society in which they live is so unproductive that if they don't work, they will likely starve. In the 19th century and before then, whether the child works or not may be the difference between whether the family eats or not.
Also, banning child labor in developing countries has been a terrible idea and has lead to children being put into even worse conditions than the ones they previously had. I want all you Austrians to take a breath (I knew I had to) for a moment because you're about to agree with Paul Krugman.
"In 1993, child workers in Bangladesh were found to be producing clothing for Wal-Mart, and Senator Tom Harkin proposed legislation banning imports from countries employing underage workers. The direct result was that Bangladeshi textile factories stopped employing children. But did the children go back to school? Did they return to happy homes? Not according to Oxfam, which found that the displaced child workers ended up in even worse jobs, or on the streets -- and that a significant number were forced into prostitution." - Paul Krugman
I would also like to share a personal experience. When I was 17 years old, I worked a summer job as a dishwasher. I wanted to work as much as possible so I could save up for the school year and spend my money as I saw fit. Unfortunately, child labor laws prevented me from working more than 30 hours a week. I was ready and willing to work but the law denied me the opportunity to do so. This must be certainly damaging to low income families whose children chose to work summer jobs as it limits the amount of income the child can actually earn.
In conclusion, child labor has existed since the beginning of mankind and is by no means the result of free market capitalism. Contrary to what the thought controllers in public schools want you to believe, Free Market Capitalism is the cure to child labor as it allows society to become vastly more productive than it otherwise would have been which means that people have to work less to survive and Mom and Dad can support the family without having their kids work.
"How much more delightful would have been the gambol of the free limbs on the hillside; the sight of the green mead with its spangles of buttercups and daisies; the song of the bird and the humming bee...' But for many of these children the factory system meant quite literally the only chance for survival. Today we overlook the fact that death from starvation and exposure was a common fate before the Industrial Revolution, for the pre capitalist economy was barely able to support the population. Yes, children were working. Formerly they would have starved. It was only as goods were produced in greater abundance at lower cost that men could support their families without sending their children to work. It was not the reformer or the politician that ended the grim necessity for child labor; it was capitalism."
--"The Incredible Bread Machine" a book published by "World Research, Inc." in 1974