Monday, November 26, 2007

Modern Slavery

We watched "Amazing Grace" over the holiday weekend. Even Emma paid attention through (most of) it. It was an inspirational story, and well acted, if somewhat cloyingly written. (I mean, the stuff about losing his singing voice and then finding it again? Come on.)

That film got me thinking about something I'd heard on Air America the previous week. Thom Hartmann was expounding on one of his heroes, Thomas Jefferson, and his ambiguous record on the issue of abolition of slavery. Hartmann's point was that the record was nowhere near as ambiguous as Jefferson's critics would maintain. However, none of that is what caught my attention; I'd heard most of it before. What captured my imagination was Hartmann's statement, at the end of his defense of Jefferson, that instead of ending slavery in this country, we've merely outsourced it -- and the free trade agreements of the last decade or so have made the situation worse.

There have been examples aplenty of U.S.-based corporations getting rich off of third-world sweatshop labor. This came to mind again this morning when I saw this New York Times story, linked via Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo; I'd never thought about government entities doing the same thing.