As anyone who watches television or reads the newspapers knows, the global marketplace is becoming increasingly more competitive, and American workers are getting ever more expensive to retain. The traditional reaction of most American firms to these realities has been to move their manufacturing operations to other countries, where labor costs are low and government interference a matter of minimal concern. However, this approach carries with it many well-publicized drawbacks: long lines of communication, spiraling freight charges, the regrettable instability of countries where the government is weak, and inconvenient ethnic rivalries are just a few. Here at home, the increasing numbers of American families who are too poor to buy the products thus produced, no matter how cheap they are, and poor public relations with the liberal media are also drawbacks to the traditional method.
We at the Coalition to Help Improve Labor Distribution (C.H.I.L.D.) think we have a better way, one that will keep American companies competitive and keep Americans employed. It's a simple idea, with a long history behind it. All we have to do is avail ourselves of an enormous group of potential employees, a labor pool untapped since the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution: our very own children.
Pioneering corporate projects overseas, such as well-known efforts by Nike and Wal-Mart (the stunning "Kathie Lee" line), have shown us how effective tiny hands can be in high-tech fabrication processes. But the true advantages of child labor have hitherto been masked by a misguided insistence on using foreign children, who are often weak from hunger, illiterate, inexperienced with modern technology and difficult for English-speakers to supervise due to the language barrier, as well as due to outdated notions of national sovereignty. True economies of scale can only be realized by hiring our country's own well-fed, well-educated youth as America's workers of the future.
The advantages of such a plan should be immediately obvious, but to help forestall the inevitable carping criticisms, we shall enumerate a few of them here, in no particular order:
Parents should embrace this plan as well; it removes the disincentive to breeding that has caused US-native populations to falter at this critical time, when other countries' reproductive efforts are so far outpacing ours. Our children will become assets again, instead of liabilities! Far from their current plight, in which families must bear ever-spiraling costs of professional day care, with our plan the children will be getting paid for the time they spend away from home.
The one-income family has already given way (and good riddance!) to the two-income family; imagine how many fine American products and services could be purchased by the happy, fully-employed three-, four- or even five-income family.
And since, under another plank of our legislative reform efforts, minors will be unable to own property or spend "their" money on the frivolous and shoddy goods such inexperienced consumers inevitably value over the more-sophisticated (and expensive!) tastes of the mature individual, every penny of that child's income will flow to the parents, where it belongs.
We envision a time when truly productive parents can choose to retire at age 35 or perhaps even earlier, supported in comfort by their offspring while they still have decades of youthful health to enjoy their leisure.
This plan does involve some dislocation, we admit. For one thing, if children are to be employees there must be a radical reassessment of our public schools and their role in society. After all, how can frivolous kindergarten activities like fingerpainting prepare our children for employment? Obviously, they can't. Our plan, on the other hand, provides these youngsters with valuable work experience that they can translate into a more lucrative career upon reaching their majority, while at the same time reducing the crowding in our overburdened educational system.
We see it as essential that there be a publicity campaign all ready to set in motion, to counteract the inevitable resistance to change that greets all such sweeping attempts at problem-solving. Fortunately, the seeds of such a campaign are already in place. The existence of role models such as the estimable Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a boy who helps support all four of his grandparents in a life of idle contemplation, will help immensely when the time comes to sell this idea to our offspring. It shouldn't be too difficult.
After all, it's not as if they can vote.
©1999 Alan P. Scott. All rights reserved.
This document was first posted to the Web April 1, 1999, which should be a clue. Last updated November 28, 2004.