Will Americans care that most of their chocolate is made by children?

Document thumbnailsDocument thumbnails[O]n Halloween much of the chocolate Americans will hand out to trick-or-treaters will be tainted by the labor of enslaved childrenAndrew Korfhage

Apparently capitalism and big business vertically integrate oppression. Korfhage writes that Congress shelved legislation that would have ostensibly kept slave child labor out of US chocolate companies but when the chocolate companies announced a voluntary plan to deal with the problem themselves, Congress backed down. As a result most Americans won’t find it easy to distinguish which chocolate was produced with slave child labor. The self-regulation plan was a ploy to keep on using child slave labor without Congressional oversight. US chocolate companies kept legislation at bay in 2005 and again in 2008 by renewing their call for self-regulation and Congress keeps buying it.

When businesses use slave child labor they have already demonstrated that they are incapable of self-regulation. I’m guessing Congress knows this but has fallen into the time-honored trap of soliciting campaign donations from the businesses they’re supposed to regulate. Any business which promises to clean things up from within should be ignored; clearly we need more punitive anti-child/slave-labor legislation. It’s unlikely that anything but disincorporation, prison time for business leaders, and heavy fines will stop businesses from being slavers.

Can you have an economic system designed to push for the lowest possible price without treating people as marketable objects? Capitalism has never demonstrated that this is possible.

With the majority of modern slaves in agriculture and mining around the world ”“ and forced labor prevalent in cotton, chocolate, steel, rubber, tin, tungsten, coltan, sugar, and seafood ”“ it is impossible to get dressed, drive to work, talk on the phone, or eat a meal without touching products tainted by forced labor. Even reputable companies can profit from abuse when they do not protect their supply chain ”“ whether at the level of raw materials, parts, or final products ”“ from modern slavery.US Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010

Relevant links

Update 2011-01-02:
I highly recommend seeing “The Dark Side of Chocolate” and continuing to only buy chocolate from the organizations the researchers, journalists, and investigators working against child slave labor have pointed to (see the aforementioned PDF for more on this).