Monday, April 14, 2008


The first thought that comes to mind when we discover that our hot chocolate comes directly from slave labor suggests that we boycott Ivory Coast cocoa. But this decision would not help free thousands of young slaves like Drissa. On the contrary, it could make their lives much worse and harm honest farmers as well.
--- Loretta Napoleoni, in her new book "Rogue Economics"


If I had to say something to them, it would not be nice words. ... They are eating my flesh.
--- Freed slave from an Ivorian plantation, quoted here


So, what are the moral obligations of Westerners who just don't like chocolate? If none of us did, one might argue that the commerce would dry up, and fewer plantation owners would be around to pay traffickers for kidnapped kids from Mali --- a possibility that Napoleoni doesn't seem to want to address. But granting her point, for the sake of argument, she still doesn't go as far as suggesting that people who just don't like chocolate are somehow obliged to keep buying Ivorian-sourced stuff (and if you have to ask, it's probably Ivorian) just to keep the slave labor plantations in business, cramped quarters, overseers, back-breaking labor, whips, beatings, and their various other accoutrements familiar from accounts of the antebellum south. We can make our choices on other grounds. The fair-trade certified stuff I buy in my local chi-chi boutique doesn't taste better than Hershey's because there's less flesh and blood in it. It's just better chocolate.

Of course, there's no shortage of muddled thinking in defense of the status quo --- like this guy, who somehow misses the seemingly elementary point that high "fair trade premium" prices are only available to farmers who agree to the code of conduct. (To further clarify for the somewhat irony-challenged "Sophomorik", that means an explicit ban on the sort of abusive labor practicies --- kidnapping, whippings, enslavement, and so forth --- that are the primary subject of this blog post; it's not just about higher prices.)


Anonymous Sophomorik said...

I must have been unclear before. I wrote up a clarification here ( if you're interested.

9:08 PM  
Blogger charles said...

See further addendum to the post; it's not just about the price.

10:26 AM  

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