Friday, 18 June 2010

On Foxconn


What will soon be required of Taiwanese students and teachers is the patience to clearly, publicly and repeatedly separate the mixed premises from which the indoctrinated political palette of incoming Chinese students has been formed. To do this, one must fish out hidden premises.

Yet such fishing applies with equal pertinence to the murky waters of Marxist editorial pieces by Taiwanese academics! An excellent example was published in Thursday's Taipei Times Lee Fa-hsien framed Foxconn and other companies as working in tangent with the government in Beijing to exploit "their" labour "resources" via neglected enforcement of labour contract law. The finished picture was tagged as the Chinese government having "a vested interest in the capitalist mode of production." Lee Fa-hsien's unstated premise is that government is entitled to run everybody's affairs all the time. Such nonsense is as outrageous as it is prosaic.

As Frederic Bastiat observed, government is in essence nothing but the conceit by which everybody tries to live at the expense of everybody else; it is neither a practical possibility nor a moral one.

First, "worker's rights" are an abomination. They are part of a socialist dream which, as dawn approaches, quickly turns into nightmare. Labour laws distort both the supply and demand for labour by purportedly raising the economic incentives for one party to agree to a contract, while raising the costs of the other party. The inevitable result is the bureaucratic ingestion and expulsion of unemployed people.

Second, the people who freely contract to work at Foxconn are not "resources" and are in no sense "owned" by Foxconn. To suggest otherwise is nothing less than a charge of actual, non-metaphorical slavery for which its' author ought to be held to account. The charge itself is of course demonstrably false in that Foxconn employees can quit and leave if they so wish. Can they similarly divest themselves of those obligations imposed upon them from birth to the government in Beijing?

Third, the tremendous productive achievements in factories all over China and Taiwan for the past three decades are the result of the extent to which principles of economic exchange have been permitted to operate. The integrity with which these principles - private property, freedom of exchange and freedom of expression - operate is an essential requirement for human minds to apply themselves fearlessly to the problem of surviving and flourishing in a world of scarce resources. The operation of these principles in China is quickly being erased by political interference into that distinctive, people-stained blur of fascism.

Sirs, the Chinese workers in Foxconn, and the poor people in China more generally, suffer not because of capitalist production per se but because of the increasing usurpation of capitalist production by government. Foxconn is not to blame for their suffering, rather it is the government in Beijing, which enslaves the very people whose interests it lyingly purports to both know and to serve.

Yours freely,
Michael Fagan.

(Sent: Friday 18th June 2010. Unpublished by the Taipei Times)

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