Child Labor Hypocrisy

School seems useful for basic training and for socializing folks into industrial workplaces. But how much schooling do we need – closer to eight or to sixteen years? You might think the more school option has clearly proven its superiority by now. But it wasn’t exactly a fair fight – we forbade kids to work, and then required them to school.

Watching some young girls sitting for hours in front of a grocery store selling girl scout cookies recently, I wondered, “Why isn’t this child labor?” People often talk as they feel revulsion at the image of a miserable child, working at some hard tedious job, and so they are glad child labor laws prohibit such cruel scenarios. But in fact our society is full of kids working away at hard and/or tedious jobs.

Kids work hard at school, housework, sports, practicing music, supporting clubs, etc. and none of this cruelty is prevented by “child labor” laws. Such laws only prevent getting paid to work; they don’t even stop kids interning for free. If child labor laws come from our revulsion at miserable kids, why are there no laws preventing tiger moms from making their kids practice music for hours straight without a bathroom break, or against parents who make their older kids work full time taking care of younger kids? If job safety is our worry, why not just regulate that more directly?

The history of child labor law is closely associated with unions seeking less competition for adult labor. Like minimum lot sizes for houses, child labor laws also helped to keep out poor folks. And today self-righteous indication about foreign child labor supports protectionism, to keep out foreign products that compete with local firms. Alas, keeping poor kids from working for money not only unfairly biases the work vs. school competition, it needlessly impoverishes poor kids and their families.

While we claim to care so so much about kids forced to do hard and tedious tasks, we only actually prevent doing such tasks for money – many kids around us end up doing such tasks anyway, just not for money, and we hardly care. And yet somehow we’ve used all this to tell ourselves how morally superior we are to the cruel poor folk who might even consider having their kids “work.” Hypocrisy can be amazingly shallow.

Added 9a: Art Carden argues similarly.

Added 6Apr: I devote a whole post to responding to comments.

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  • http://www.uncrediblehallq.net/ Chris Hallquist

    I’ve never actually heard the “protect kids from boredom” rationale for child labor laws. The rationale I always here is to keep kids in school longer, openly rigging the work vs. school contest.

    This rationale is compatible with the “reduce competition for adult labor” explanation. Some poor families might prefer to have their children in school while the parents work, but the only way they could afford to have their kids not work is if the government takes action to “reduce completion for adult labor,” raising the parents’ wages.

    This is not to say child labor laws can’t hurt poor folks–just that they can also help poor folks, and that there are other motivations for supporting them than the hypocritical motivations you mention.

    Also, before you cite extracurricular activities as evidence that we don’t care about kids focusing on school:

    (1) Even if not everyone cares about kids focusing on school, some do. My mom is a high school science teacher, and she complains quite a bit about students having trouble in her classes because too much of their time is devoted to extracurriculars.

    (2) People screw up. That means you have to be careful inferring motivation from the effects of folks’ actions. Kids these days have lots of incentives to pursue extracurriculars at the expense of school, but the people who give them those incentives don’t necessarily foresee all their effects. They may be thinking “music is good,” “sports are good,” or “volunteering is good,” without thinking any of these things are more important than school.

  • JB

    There are absolutely laws against “preventing tiger moms from making their kids practice music for hours straight without a bathroom break”. If you don’t let your child use the bathroom that is certainly child abuse/neglect. The difference between factories and home is a difference in enforcement potential, not a question of moral differences. It’s relatively easy for the government to shut down a factory if it is employing kids and it shouldn’t be. But it’s not easy for the government to go to every single home and ask kids if their parents are letting them use the bathroom. But certainly if a child that wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom because their parent forced them to practice music all day called child services, they would be investigated.

    Most laws often have some other non-law counterpart that is clearly hypocritical (i.e. legal alcohol, illegal marijuana). Does it really surprise you that there are plenty of hypocritical laws on the books as well as hypocritical lack of related laws? I think we are all aware that the system of laws in the US is far from hyperefficient and rational.

    You might as well have a post that says “Alcohol usually makes you more impaired than smoking marijuana, causes more deaths and more fighting yet alcohol is legal and marijuana isn’t…Hypocrisy can be amazingly shallow.” Of Course it can be. What surprises me sometimes is how much of this stuff continually surprises you!

    • http://twitter.com/afoolswisdom sark

      Well, this “My oh my, isn’t this so very surprising?” technique is really meant as some kinda reductio ad absurdum. Robin is feigning surprise for rhetorical effect to confront hypocrites with their own hypocrisy.

  • http://omniorthogonal.blogspot.com mtraven

    Here’s the typical Hanson post:

    - find some complex social phenomenon;

    - give it a superficial analysis that ignores pretty much everything significant about it;

    - proclaim that because normal people don’t share that analysis, that proves that everybody is a hypocrite.

    Maybe you should watch out, because the job of stamping your foot and declaring everybody to be hypocrites could easily be performed by a 13-year-old girl.

    Child labor laws are designed to prevent economic exploitation of children. Having them practice the violin is not exploitation. And despite whatever flaws or inconsistencies can be found in the child labor laws, you do not see 11-year-olds in coal mines or working scary machinery, which used to be commonplace and still is in many other countries. The right wing, at whose engorged teats Hanson suckles, would love to eliminate unions and the worker protections they have managed to enact.

    I’ve made this challenge before: please discuss whether you believe the intensely political nature of your funding sources influences your work and postings here, and if not, how you manage to “overcome bias”. Because posts like this look like right-wing propaganda to me, rather than any kind of serious intellectual effort to understand an issue.

    • Matt Knowles

      Typical leftist:
      * Only “credible” source is a starving artist; anyone who gets paid to think can’t possibly think anything worth hearing,and certainly can’t possibly think anything original.
      * Never argue against the facts, always go for the ad hominem.
      * Always argue with highly emotional anecdotes rather than foundational principles.

      Oddly enough, a recent “political” post of Mr. Hanson’s had me almost thinking he was a lefty. I’ll have to go back and look at it now to try to understand if I was wrong, or if you’re just flinging feces.

      • http://omniorthogonal.blogspot.com mtraven

        Re ad hominem: funding bias is one form of distortion of intellectual activity that is widely recognized. Eg, it is common practice now for academic journals to require authors to disclose any financial interest they may have in a piece of published work. It’s hardly surprising that money should bias scientists and thinkers, who are only human after all. Yet on a blog devoted to overcoming bias, there is no discussion of possible biases of the author, just the biases of other people. This strikes me as lame, at least, if not actually corrupt. Does Hanson think hismelf somehow elevated onto a plane above normal humanity, where he can view objectively the subjective biases of the rest of us, and proclaim us all hypocrites, without taking his own biases into account?

        And what is his constant assertion that everyone is a hypocrite, if not ad hominem?

    • David

      I actually think that your caricature of Hanson’s argument patterns is not that far off, minus the dig about shallowness. I think that we would all be smarter if we could release the little Hanson inside of us and think in this pattern about stuff that the non-Hansons take for granted.

      About the issue at hand, your response is quite unhelpful. You need to think more deeply about what is child exploitation, and why it’s bad. You must have missed the fact that Robin already addressed this: What should be banned is the exploitation, not the employment. And we all know that you can have one without the other. So if the goal was to ban exploitation, why ban employment instead?

      • http://omniorthogonal.blogspot.com mtraven

        You need to think more deeply about what is child exploitation, and why it’s bad.

        Actually, I don’t. Quite the opposite. I was pretty confident that the word “exploitation” would trigger the reflexes of some libertarian or other — they are famous for having shallow theories that they think are deep. That’s probably why they annoy me so much.

        Exploitation is a complex issue and hard to define. There’s no hard line between voluntary exchange of labor for money and exploitation, just as there’s no hard line between art and pornography. That doesn’t mean that pornography or exploitation do not exist, or that there are instances that are easy to classify as such.

        You must have missed the fact that Robin already addressed this: What should be banned is the exploitation, not the employment…So if the goal was to ban exploitation, why ban employment instead?.

        The law is not some all-powerful deity that can wave its hand and make any change whatsoever happen by magic.

        As I said, exploitation is difficult to define, but employment is not. Therefore it is much easier to regulate the latter.

    • Ken S

      I don’t think these posts are propaganda nor are they serious intellectual efforts… they are medium-sized posts on a blog and can only go so far in covering a specific instance of an issue. They do generate a discussion anyone can participate in… I wouldn’t blame Hanson for users that might start believing odd things because they do not read the comments section or they unquestionably accept any particular argument at face value.

    • dave

      Do you really think children would start doing 19th century jobs if labor laws were repealed.

      19th century jobs sucked because it was the goddamn 19th century, we had little capital and much scarcity.

      In a modern capital rich economy you can get rid of most labor laws and we aren’t going to descend into some Upton Sinclair novel.

      • jeff

        Children are more vulnerable than adults — they naturally look to adults for their expectation of how the world is/should be.

        I’m not sure RH is completely wrong that current child labor laws don’t do enough to prevent harm and do too much to prevent good. But that case is impossible to make without at least considering the concept that children are fundamentally more exploitable than adults — you can tell a child that he has to work in a dangerous situation and get away with it more easily than with an adult.

        Maybe the laws aren’t particularly valid in the modern day, but the arguments on this blog are completely without subtlety these days (maybe it’s just a style issue). And hey, it’s a complex world: subtlety matters.

    • candy

      Hmmmmm. Here’s a little blog of no major consequence to anybody who’s never heard of it. The author is, in my estimation, consistently wrong, incapable of any real analysis, and his voiced opinions only serve to protect the political interests of my enemies in whatever limited capacity a personal blog can do that. Hmm, what should my course of action be? Stop reading the blog? Nah, I’d much rather write indignant comments! That’ll show him.

      • http://omniorthogonal.blogspot.com mtraven

        Robin Hanson is a tenured professor at a well-known public university. That makes him a public intellectual whose thoughts do in fact have consequences, not merely some random spouting on the internet. That he is willing to share his thoughts on a blog is commendable; it would be even more commendable if he was willing to answer his critics on the same forum. This is especially true when he starts talking about public policy issues like child labor and torture. If you enter that kind of arena, you should expect to get in fights.

        I should add that Hanson is not “consistently wrong”; I’ve admired and even cited some of his work in the past. That is one reason I find it worthwhile to try and critique him.

    • fructose

      Here is a pretty typical mtraven comment:

      Stamp your feet and whine that a post that disagrees with your beliefs is “shallow”.

      Don’t explain why. Just call out a childish insult.

      Confuse Libertarianism and the “Right Wing”.

      Don’t engage with the substance of the post. At all.

  • Albert Ling

    Let’s not forget that child labour does not apply if the job has anything to do with the arts, acting, sports, singing, modeling and circus performance. Just look at the Jackson 5, professional gymnastics athletes (some even retire before reaching 21), Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Dakota Fanning, etc.

    I also know it’s very common to have “circus families” where the whole family performs dangerous circus stunts like tightrope walking, tumbling and other acrobatics…

  • conchis

    I’m with Chris, I thought the point of child labour laws was explicitly to intervene in the work/school trade-off.

    • Mercy

      I think as Albert and mtraven have sort of implied, it’s aimed specifically at preventing children from working extremely difficult and dangerous jobs that we feel they are not ready to consent to or that clash with our desire to protect children more than adults. Certainly those were the horror stories used to lobby for those laws in the first place.

      It does not follow from this that we should oppose all forms of children working and indeed we don’t, I spent a lot of my free time as a kid working down the market, my brother spent a lot of time playing weddings and so on, neither of us had teacher’s worried that this was a bad thing. It might be said that the particular form of child labour laws reflect the demands of adults for less competition, that our ideal labour laws based on not wanting kids to work in mines would be lower than it is now, but this is a far cry from saying that our main motivation is not wanting children to work in mines.

  • Scott H.

    As a parent I am alarmed at the quantity of education aimed at work as opposed to learning. Wasting my daughter’s time is viewed as a status symbol for my daughter’s teachers — we must recognize the importance of their trade! If I am not 100% supportive of numerous waste-time projects then I am “one of those parents”.

    Ironically, the problem is most pronounced in the advanced classes. These teachers know that the parents care about their kids education and will be more likely to jump through whatever hoops they set up. This is the key to going to a good college, and goodluck finding your way in going outside this path.

    I would much prefer that the concept of educational efficiency become more important.

    • Johnathan Montgomery

      Sadly educational efficiency is so bad that if I had the chance to redo high school (graduated last year) I would… Drop out, get a private tutor, and work a job while I took Community College classes, then transfer to decent school. Work up from there.

      Honor classes are so full of busy work and meaningless assignments. 5+ hours of homework every day for years on end has only given me a head ache, and an increase in knowledge so marginal. . . I could probably read a couple well written blogs over the course of a few days and get more out of it.

      Maybe I don’t oppose children working (with their consent) mainly because our education system is so full of nonsense, I think a job that puts a few dollars in your pocket and rewards the time spent, isn’t so bad when put next to how much time and effort will be wasted in public school.

  • David

    So just throwing out an undeveloped idea: Maybe there is something creepy about economically independent children – especially to their parents. So mowing lawns and running a lemonade stand are one thing, but a child who pays her way is just too much. Relatedly, maybe there’s a fear of children obeying too many distinct masters: There are parents and teachers, who have the interest of the child at heart. But a third master, the employer, might dilute the authority of the other two.

    These considerations apply even if the children are not exploited on the job, and learning faster than they learn at school.

    • Ian Maxwell

      Economically independent children are frightening because they can demand equal treatment, and credibly threaten to leave if they don’t get it. (This is of course illegal, but a smart enough kid with enough finances could probably do it anyway.)

      Many of us remember hearing, “As long as you live under my roof, you’ll live by my rules!” This ‘choice’ doesn’t work nearly so well as a rhetorical device if it actually is a choice.

      • Alan

        Spot on! I think this is really about exerting more control over children – both by the government and by parents.

        I believe that children have the right to work for pay, and I’ve seen them doing this successfully in other countries. As for the trade-off with their education – are they even getting an education in the public schools today? I suppose it is possible but it sure isn’t common.

        Perhaps Americans just aren’t aware that American education was the envy of the world in 1800s, when education was not compulsory in most locales, nor that American education is the laughingstock of the world at present.

      • http://www.hopanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

        You think this maps well to reality? Because I’m pretty doubtful.

  • dave

    I would have killed for for the chance to be an apprentice at 13 instead of being in a boring classroom. I would have learned a lot more and made money.

  • Robert Koslover

    “Kids work hard at school, housework, sports, practicing music, supporting clubs, etc. and none of this cruelty is prevented by “child labor” laws.”

    And there you go again, indirectly suggesting yet another new and dangerous idea to our already wildly-overzealous regulator-wannabee overlords! If you don’t stop, they’ll probably make it illegal for any Girl Scouts to sell any cookies at all, while justifying this action by claiming it prevents child slavery, or some other such nonsense. Well Robin, if that happens, I intend to hold you personally responsible for my cookie shortage.

  • http://blog.seliger.com jseliger

    The history of child labor law is closely associated with unions seeking less competition for adult labor

    Robert Epstein also argues this in his book The Case Against Adolescence, which I’m reading now. The book isn’t great but argues that social and legal forces essentially make teenagers into angry, irresponsible nihilists by removing responsibility from their lives. If you remove responsibility, you also remove the incentive to act coherently.

    The big thing the book is missing, however, is how much modern economies and labor contributes to this phenomenon.

    It’s still worth skimming if you’re interested in the subject.

  • http://omniorthogonal.blogspot.com mtraven

    BTW, despite my criticisms I too think it would be an excellent idea to replace some classroom instruction with something more like apprenticeship. And it may be that child labor laws should be modified to let that happen.

    • kirk

      My ex was on the local school board. Nothing – not anything – stirs more passion than a two track academic/trade secondary education. The idea that learning a trade means life as a prole is very, very hard to budge. The only thing that generates more smoke without light is closing a school. Any school, anywhere for any reason.

  • Kenneth

    Mtraven is right–most logic textbooks are quite clear that arguments about how someone arrived at a belief are not in the category of ad hominem. It is only fallacious to argue that the belief is necessarily wrong because of how it was arrived at.

  • Prakash

    Robin, If exploitability is a concern, I don’t see any reason why any particular community/nation has not taken the lead in making their children into hyper-capitalists.

    Start them on business basics, Kiyosaki, et all at 13. Assign them Michael Porter at 14 and Robert Greene, Machiavelli and Cialdini at 15.

    IMHO, the answer is close to David and ian Maxwell’s comments – Independent children are scary and difficult to control.

    • anon

      Kiyosaki is bunk, and Machiavelli is not really useful (We want more entrepreneurs, not more public choice scholars). If you want to help children to become more entrepreneureal, see Cameron Herold’s work as related e.g. in this TED talk. His website is Back Pocket COO

  • willmcbride

    While I agree that child labor laws, like most laws, tended to go to far, I can see a rationale for at least some restrictions on child labor. The banning of child labor in exchange for money makes sense because children can be, and probably often were under desperate family situations, turned into slaves. Money is key here because it can be easily transferred to the parents or whoever the slave master is.

    In contrast, chores around the house have some natural limit, i.e. under almost all reasonable scenarios a child’s time would not be completely dominated by chores. Plus it is bound up with caring for oneself, rather than working for others. The other kinds of work you mention, e.g. music lessons, music performance, circus and other performance work, all involve something thought to be potentially good for child, either in the long term (largely outside the consideration of most children) or in the short term (which children can more easily evaluate).

  • Colin S

    This post reminded me of a great Will Wikinson quote years ago:

    “I am constantly dumbstruck that so many who profess to care about “social justice” do little more than complain that desperate people have really terrible options and then work to take away the best options.”

  • lxm

    ‘Human rights organizations have documented child labor in USA. According to a 2009 petition by Human Rights Watch: “Hundreds of thousands of children are employed as farmworkers in the United States, often working 10 or more hours a day. They are often exposed to dangerous pesticides, experience high rates of injury, and suffer fatalities at five times the rate of other working youth. Their long hours contribute to alarming drop-out rates. Government statistics show that barely half ever finish high school. According to the National Safety Council, agriculture is the second most dangerous occupation in the United States. However, current US child labor laws allow child farmworkers to work longer hours, at younger ages, and under more hazardous conditions than other working youths. While children in other sectors must be 14 to be employed and cannot work more than 3 hours on a school day, in agriculture children can work at age 12 for unlimited hours before and after school.” [4] They would work two to three jobs depending on their age.’

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_labor_laws_in_the_United_States

    Exploitation is an issue, today.

    Should we allow child sex workers?

    What world do you live in anyway?

  • Tom P

    When parents can gain financially from putting their children to work, they don’t act as good agents for their children. There is a conflict of interest and the likely outcome is that children invest too little in skills.

    Child labor laws probably go too far, but there are still some good arguments for them.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    mtraven, I don’t know if your take is really all that different from Hanson’s. He’s pointing out that there’s a lot of work kids do that we’re fine with (as long as they aren’t paid), and lots of perfectly safe/comfortable work they could do that we prohibit. His perspective is that child labor legislation is not about legislation, I don’t know the extent to which you disagree. Shifting to a more safety/exploitation centric system (perhaps allowing work by default and prohibiting specific practices as they arise, which should in fairly short time grab most of the low hanging fruit) is one possibility that occurs to me, although it raises the question of why a legislature which did not use such criterion in the first place will proceed to be a reliable principal for an agent who wants such criterion.

    Hanson has before discussed one-sided skepticism of certain funding sources but not others. He’s been open before about things like his “status move checkllist”, so I second mtraven’s call for him to discuss how he perceives his or his peers funding affecting their work. Such matters may not be entirely relevant to much of the narrow-interest blog subject matter here, but it’s something people care about that he has personal insight into.

    I agree with Tom P on the principal agent problem, but my default assumption for most things is to let parents decide because while their shared genetic interests are not 100% with the child, they are certainly more than pretty much anyone else other than an identical twin. Why we should expect folks with less inherent incentive and local knowledge to make better decisions seems odd to me. In cases where we don’t trust parents, I would like some way for the child to express its own interests or delegate authority to someone to do so in its stead (with the greater experience of age).

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  • http://bendwavy.org/ Anton Sherwood

    On a tangent — aren’t you going along with a game-rigging when you call the legislators “we”?

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  • Slex

    There is a big difference in children doing household work and working for money for someone else. While a lot of parents make their children do something they don’t like, it is usually for the betterment of the children (e.g. learn French, play the piano, etc.). The fact that sometimes the parents misjudge the positive effects of the forced activities upon the children is another story. The important thing is the intention of the parents, and the stimulus of a parent to say “enough is enough” if the activity obviously is not to the child’s benefit is a lot bigger than to someone, who employs the child for money – then he/she can just push the child to the limit and eventually replace the child with another. The employer is not interested in the personal development of the child in principle, only in so far as that can bring him/her profit.

  • Tom Richards

    Hanson misses the point of child labor laws entirely. The laws are not designed to stop young people from having to do anything – to ‘work’ in that sense. Child labor laws are set up so that desperately poor families are not tempted and/or compelled to send their children to work full-time instead of going to school. If a factory has the choice between a parent for $15/hour or a child for $5/hour, most of them will hire the child, leaving the parent with no work. If child labor laws are enacted making it illegal for the child to work full-time, the factory will be forced to hire adults, even if they have to pay the higher wage. The parent will have a better chance of finding a job, and the child can be ‘forced’ to attend school so that they get an education. Even if we are being completely selfish, it is better for the rest of if the child gets an education because they will generate more wealth as an adult and raise the standard of living for our whole society.

    I grew up under ‘child labor laws.’ They did not prevent me from selling lemonade on the neighborhood golf course, from pulling weeds for my grandmother for money, from selling greeting cards door-to-door, from setting fence posts for my mother, or from taking a part-time job stocking shelves at a hardware store while I was in high school. I was reimbursed for the school work that I did with a diploma and entrance to a university, rather than with money. I also did fund-raising for my Boy Scout troop, and I was ‘paid’ with free camping trips using equipment bought with the money I helped raise. There was nothing hypocritical behind the fact that at the age of 12, my parents weren’t being tempted to pull me out of school by the offer of a 12-hour/day low wage factory job, and nothing hypocritical about the fact that factory owners were being forced against their will to pay much higher wages to hire adults.

    • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

      I think you are right. The fallacy that Robin is working on is that “work” accomplishes something “productive”, so if there is more “work”, then there will be more production and everyone is better off because there is more production that needs to be consumed.

      Employers don’t hire workers to be productive, they hire them to make profit. The only reason employers would hire children is because children would be cheaper than adults.

      Some activities don’t accomplish something productive, they just transfer cost from one individual to another, but at some cost. For example health insurance companies spend their high administrative costs trying to figure out which of their customers will cost them money and then dump them. Nothing productive has been accomplished, health care still costs the same, just that now some people don’t have any.

      Health insurance companies may make a lot of profit, but they are not producing anything of value.

    • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

      I think you make a very good point about the desire that children attend school, but that would seem to be covered by the mandatory nature of education in the U.S. It is admittedly the case that once they turn 16 they can drop out, but that’s also when the law allows them take some jobs. They also don’t treat school-hours any differently, or make exceptions for the summer.

      daedalus2u, I’m a bit confused by your comment. Do you think the laws are intended to prevent children from becoming health insurance actuaries or something? The jobs which inspired child-labor legislation in the past were undeniably productive work in any sense I’m aware of.

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        I think the purpose of the child labor laws is to prevent the exploitation of families. I left a comment with some links on the follow on thread. The links were about the practice of debt bondage where children’s labor is used to settle debts. The net effect was to make the families worse off. What paid child labor does is reduce the subsistence wage of the family.

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        Let me add to my explanation. I think that Robin assumes that the economy is in some sort of Pareto optimum such that to improve things there needs to be more labor added to the economy and not just redistribution. Under that scenario, adding the labor of children would provide a net benefit to the economy.

        The example I used of health insurance companies demonstrates that the economy is not in any sort of Pareto optimum. Adding administrative workers to the health insurance company increases their ability to dump clients who will cost them profit. There is no net gain of welfare in the economy, there is a net loss. Health insurance premiums are used for administration to increase health insurance industry profits, not to provide health care. The cost of health care of the people who are dumped is either paid by someone else, or by the person with lower health.

        Much of the current problem with the economy is in the inefficiency of labor utilization. Many people are underemployed. There are the unemployed, but there are also those who are working at jobs that they are overqualified for, they could be doing something that is more difficult that would provide a greater benefit, but they can’t because of inefficiencies in labor utilization. There are also those who are overemployed, those doing things for which they are not qualified and which they screw up and cause damage and net loss to the economy. The people buying and selling CDSs who tanked the economy come to mind.

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  • http://www.aSwedeInGermany.de Michael Eriksson

    As time has gone by and as I have reviewed my life in light of later experiences, I have grown increasingly sceptical to school (not learning, mind you, but specifically school). Among the observations I have made:

    o School carries an immense opportunity cost for both the individual students and society as a whole. Indeed, in my own case, I would even have learned more (nevermind had more fun or more time for other interests) without school, because school took time away from my private reading and thinking.

    o Most time spent in school is eventually wasted, due to reasons like inefficient teaching methods, attempted one-size-fits-everyone teaching, and a misfocus on data over knowledge and knowledge over understanding. (I stress that I mean true understanding, not the kind of hogwash “understanding” I have seen in some examples of e.g. modern math education.)

    o A very sizeable portion of the population is over-schooled compared to what they need later in life, themselves want, and (sometimes) are able to at all handle. Notably, the idea that more schooling automatically makes someone a correspondingly better thinker, better able to handle his life, whatnot, appears to be a great misconception, with inborn intelligence having a far greater impact (including indirect roads like ability and interest in learning).

    o School is in many ways a protected environment that delays the students maturity (in at least some areas) by not exposing them to many “real-life” experiences. I am currently leaning towards the idea that earlier actual working experiences would be beneficial to most children. (I stress that I am not talking about 8 y.o. chimney sweapers, but teenagers doing ordinary work on an entry-level.)

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