Sweatshops and Child Labor: In Defense of the Kardashians

Erika Johnsen

12/21/2011 3:58:00 PM - Erika Johnsen

This is another example of the type of headline that I never in a million years would have imagined myself writing, but yes, it's true--I unexpectedly find myself jumping to the defense of the Kardashian family, of Kim Kardashian-fame. I don't know much about them, I've never watched their (wildly popular) reality show, but I hear that they're usually kept occupied with the latest sordid imbroglio du jour. The liberal media, of course, has never taken umbrage with debauchery or poor judgment; in fact, they glorify it and bring it to the masses, because hey, it sells! But the liberal media do find themselves egregiously, outrageously, morally offended when they perceive that an ostensible slight to their bleeding-heart code of ethics, including the supposed exploitations and injuries caused by free enterprise, has occured in their out-of-touch, uneducated community of ignorant idealogues.

The Kardashians could be facing a dreary holiday season with the latest charge against the reality show family. A new report claims the E! stars have been endorsing and selling clothing allegedly manufactured in foreign sweatshops, where the workers–some just teenagers–are “abused and virtually imprisoned.”

“The Kardashians are in bed with some pretty bad people,” Charles Kernaghan, the executive director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, told Star Magazine, via RadarOnline.com. “Not only are celebrities like the Kardashians taking advantage of these workers, they are holding hands with a government that spits on democracy and women’s rights.”

The brands being investigated include the upscale K-Dash by Kardashian, QVC’s Kris Jenner Kollection and ShoeDazzle. According to Star, all are “manufactured in areas of China where government regulations are often ignored and workers are subject to inhumane conditions.”

“People like the Kardashians are producing their products in China because they will get more profit, since the labor cost is so low compared to the United States and other countries,” Li Qiang, the executive director of China Labor Watch, told Star.

…Kernaghan thinks Kim and the luxury-loving Kardashians–who earned $65 million last year–should take a stand. “Kim, for example, could say, ‘It ain’t going to be all about me, me and me.’ She could do something and not leave behind a broken mess of women and children. If she took a stand and said, ‘I want to manufacture my products in Chicago or Los Angeles, where I can ensure people humane conditions,’ she would be taking the right stand.”

Bleeding hearts are all well and good, but the all-heart, no-head approach to problem-solving almost unfailingly causes more pain than it does gain. Working long hours in hot, smelly, boring sweatshops for a very small wage does sound extremely horrible, especially in a deplorable communist nation fraught with government-sponsored human-rights abuses like China. But here's the question that the inane faux-crusaders currently boycotting the Kardashians' clothing lines are utterly failing to ask: for the laborers working in the factories in these Third World countries, what are their alternatives? Are you offering to bring them to the excellent, prosperous, free enterprise-induced U.S. of A and set them up with white-collar jobs? No. The alternatives to sweatshop labor in these usually socialist/dictator-controlled, poverty-stricken countries often amount to child prostitution, sexual slavery, the drug market, getting malaria while breaking your back in a rice paddy, or just living in squalor and starving to death.

These laborers choose to work in these sweatshops because they present the best out of their few, terrible options. Producing goods more expensively in the United States for the sake of humane conditions does not grow our own economy, and such compassion sans forethought does not help to lift Third World workers out of poverty.