Why Slavery Will Never Be Eradicated

Shannon Dyer, Period 3, Honorbound. Slavery, although considered an archaic idea, is still largely prevalent in society today. Many countries around the world, including the United States, are attempting to combat this gross use and exploitation of humans. A significant amount of developing countries are hotspots for trafficking due to the large numbers of impoverished people living there. Despite protests and laws against modern slavery and human trafficking, the notion is attractive to some people. Karl Marx, the author of The Communist Manifesto, believes that “society is the history of class struggles;” what better signifies a class struggle than enslavement of vulnerable people [1].  On the other hand, Liberty and Property by Ludwig von Mises is considered to be the complete opposite of Karl Marx’s ideas, but surprisingly some of his arguments are in line with the pro-slavery idea. As of 2015, there are no countries in the world where Slavery is still legal; however, there are an estimated number of over thirty million men and women in slavery today [2]. So if slavery is illegal in all 167 countries, why are so many people trapped in the endless cycle? With the revenue created from the slave business, many more traffickers are encouraged to continue and increase trafficking across the world; not only does this put more people in the slave ring, but also increases the goods that are being made and sold.

In the United States, slavery of any kind was made illegal by former President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Around the world, it took much longer to rid countries of legal human trafficking with the most recent being Mauritania in 1987 [3]. However, even with the abolishment of slavery there, it still took twenty-six years for the country to criminalize slavery [3]. Human Trafficking, as defined by the Polaris Project is “a form of Modern Slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others” [4]. The Polaris Project was created in 2002 to raise awareness and combat modern day slavery around the world [4]. As of June 2014, the five countries with the highest amount of slavery were Thailand, Malaysia, Venezuela, North Korea, and Syria [5]. The United States ranks countries, including itself, on a three-level tier system with the third tier being made up of countries that have not met the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act and are not showing steps taken to eradicate the problem of slavery [6][7]. The third tier consists of twenty-three countries which make up around 14% of all the countries in the world [7].

We all know, or have at least an idea of, what Modern Slavery looks like. Many people are led to believe that Modern Slavery is just what we saw in the 2008 movie, Taken, starring Liam Neeson [8]. However, besides prostitution, another form of modern slavery is what is commonly referred to as sweatshops. Sweatshops, at their basic are, a factory like setting where employees work long hours with little pay in terrible conditions. Beginning in the late 1880’s, sweatshops became common in America after waves of immigrants came to the East Coast from all over the world [9]. People commonly found in sweatshops a majority of the time are people brought in through human trafficking who were enticed through promises. A popular promise among human traffickers is the promise of money; many in developing countries are trying to send money back to their families who live in communities which are extremely impoverished.  However, more often than most, the money is never sent. People in sweatshops produce everyday goods including clothing, shoes, rugs, toys and even food products such as chocolate, bananas, and coffee [10].

While the words Bourgeoisie and Proletariat are not commonly used words used today as when Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto, the same idea still exists of classes. It may not be the Third Estate but there is a large gap between what is considered to be the upper and lower classes. In developing countries, many people live just above the poverty line at an equivalent of two U.S. dollars per day with over half the population of developing countries earning between $2 and $13 per day. In Marx’s “modern bourgeois society” there is an established new form of oppression and new struggles to replace the old ones [1]. Now, the “new” oppression is the human trafficking brought about in impoverished countries by people willing to extort other humans by smuggling them illegally over borders to provide cheap labor.

The markets keep growing and to provide for the demand of the masses, the labor needs to be provided. During the Industrial Revolution, hand-built products were replaced by steam based machines which only needed to be manned. The “employers” of these in-demand companies pay their “employees” extremely low wages to maximize their profits. It’s one of the attractive factors of Modern Slavery, long hours for little wages, if any. With these sweatshops and modern slavery taking away men, women, and children from their family, it takes away the “sentimental veil” and replaces it to a money relationship instead of one of family bonds [1]. Even Marx says that “the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production;” During the Industrial Revolution, it was the machines, and now it is back to slave labor [1].

The slave labor exists in all countries around the world, even in the United States. The United States has an estimated 14, 500 to 17,500 slaves being trafficked into the United States each year, with 80-90,000 people trafficked internationally on an annual basis [11]. There is a “need [for] a constantly expanding market” that must be everywhere; it must “nestle…settle… and establish connections” all around the world. [1]. No country is immune from slavery even if it as anti-slavery as America. Despite efforts and laws to prohibit sweatshops in America, there are still many sweatshops around the country [9]. In order to have class oppression, as Marx mentions, there needs to be certain conditions that separate it from the free upper class and “slavish existence” people are forced to work in. These sweatshops, in some countries, have strict rules where people will often work from eight in the morning one day and keep working until two a.m. the next day, with limited food and bathroom breaks [10]. Especially in developing countries where sweatshops are often places that have the “best working conditions” because their only other job opportunity, especially for women, would be prostitution [9]. The governments of these countries say that for right now, the sweatshops are a way to bring in capital to their countries, because they attract companies looking for cheap labor, and it provides a source of income for many people in their respective countries [9].

In Ludwig von Mises’ Liberty and Property, ideas are approached from a capitalistic view rather than Marx’ communist belief system. Although von Mises’ beliefs are completely opposite than those of Marx, he still poses some ideas that are in line with why modern slavery will not be eradicated. Von Mises begins his argument with the notion that freedom is only for a minority of the people [12]. There needs to be people in poverty because freedom cannot be achieved by everyone. In history, people have been able to overthrow their rulers, but did everyone get complete freedom after that? No, the elite and upper class gained more freedom while the lower class and impoverished citizens remained slaves to their masters. When capitalism came around, it did nothing to help combat slavery; if anything it gave it more of an incentive to use modern slavery because capitalism is “mass production to satisfy the needs of the masses” [12].  Products are mass produced in sweatshops to satisfy the unquenchable need that is encompasses modern day society. Society is, after all, “the mutual exchange of services” and so in modern slavery, the people work to produce products for a small wage while others enjoy the goods.

Despite the efforts being made, slavery will not be eradicated in the near future, if at all. There are too many attractive qualities to those in the business to give it up so easily. Slavery has been around for centuries with sweatshops becoming more recognized in the world today. While the United States frowns upon sweatshops and any form of slavery, other countries see it as a way to slowly get their people out of an impoverished state and hopefully build their economy. Programs have been put in place and laws enacted, but hey, rules were made to be broken, right?

  1. Marx, Karl. Manifesto of the Communist Party. Bernado Aparicio, 2015.
  2. Alexander E.M. Hess and Thomas C. Frohlich, “Countries with the Most Enslaved People.” USA Today. November 23, 2014. Accessed May 2, 2015, http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2014/11/23/247-wall-st-countries-most-slaves/70033422/.
  3. Mark, Monica. “Slavery still Shackles Mauritania, 31 Years after its Abolition” The Guardian, August 14, 2012. Accessed May 2, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/aug/14/slavery-still-shackles-mauritania.
  4. “Human Trafficking.” The Polaris Project. Accessed May 3, 2015. http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/overview.
  5. Brunnstrom, David. “The 5 Worst Countries for Human Trafficking” Business Insider, June 20, 2014. Accessed May 1, 2015. http://www.businessinsider.com/r-us-says-thailand-malaysia-venezuela-among-worst-human-trafficking-centers-2014-20.
  6. Coorlim, Leif. “U.S. Human Trafficking Report Drops Four Nations” Cable News Network, June 20, 2014. Accessed May 3, 2015. http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/20/us/human-trafficking-report/.
  7. “Tier Placements.” U.S. Department of State. Accessed May 3, 2015. http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2014/226649.htm.
  8. “Taken.” Internet Movie Database. Accessed May 3, 2015. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0936501/.
  9. “Sweatshops.” Encyclopedia of Management. 2009. Encyclopedia.com. Accessed May 3, 2015. http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3273100289.html.
  10. Embar, Wanda. “Sweatshops and Child Labor” VeganPeace.com. Accessed May 3 2015. http://www.veganpeace.com/sweatshops/sweatshops_and_child_labor.htm.
  11. “Human Trafficking Program.” WTLC.org. Accessed May 3, 2015. http://www.wtlc.org/humanTrafficking.html
  12. Von Mises, Ludwig. Liberty and Property. Bernardo Aparicio, 2015.

Image: http://www.abolitionseminar.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/o-HUMAN-TRAFFICKING-facebook.jpg

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