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.)