Sunday, February 06, 2005

The New York Times versus capitalism and immigrants

An editorial in today's New York Times contains this classic line:

The problem of worker safety is compounded by the fact that meatpackers, driven by the brutal economics of the industry, always try to hire the cheapest labor they can find.
Is it just me, or does this sound like it could come from another once-respected source of information?

The editorial is about poor working conditions at meatpacking plants, a topic about which I know nothing; the Times' underlying claims could very well be true.

But the Times' implication that something is amiss because economic pressures cause a company to try to minimize costs reveals either fundamental ignorance of our economic system or a fundamental distrust of capitalism.

The point could have been mad far more strongly had the Times instead written,
The problem of worker safety is compounded by the fact that meatpackers, driven by natural economic forces, strive to minimize labor costs.
The editorial continues by stating that the meatpackers hire immigrants (Heaven forbid!),
whose language difficulties compound the risks of the job. The result, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch, is "extraordinarily high rates of injury" in conditions that systematically violate human rights.
I can only imagine what the Times editorial would look like if the meatpacking industry gave would-be workers an English language test, effectively eliminating many immigrants from being hired: "Meatpackers engage in discriminatory practices!"

If unethical companies are providing inappropriate working conditions, let's fix the problem. But it gives the cause no help to blame capitalism and immigrants.