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8928: Corbett replies to Dorce on jobs
Kathy, while I can understand one attacking people making significant
profits on the workers of Haiti, I worry that your position is excessive
and harmful to Haitian people.
You say that it is mistaken to hold that any job is better than no job. I
am not convinced this is so in Haiti and have argued this several times on
this list. Tom Driver often responded in disagreement.
Your position seems to use two primary arguments:
1. One simply assumes there are alternatives, yet I hear no concrete ones
being given that suggest a reasonable hope of coming into being.
2. You claim (rightly) that virtually no one who in any way "advocates,"
if that's really the word, such jobs, would want or be satisfied
with such a job him or herself.
I agree with the second premise, but vehemently disagree with the first.
Often the choice for the Haitian worker and even interested bystander
(since I am often one of those) is that the REAL option faced by the
worker is this job or none. And in that case, no matter what I would like
or want, the worker almost always chooses the job. Often a way of
phrasing the same option: this job or none is to
ask: eat or not eat; live or not live. I find it cavalier for those of
us who have resources to so easily claim than no job is better than a
horrible job when the horrible job may well be the difference between life
All my life I have worked to aid the underclasses in both my city of St.
in a handful of villages of Haiti. In Haiti, with the very limited
resources I have managed to collect and have at my disposal, I have been
able to create workplaces; that is, low level work which can be on-going
over time. In St. Louis I have NEVER had such resources since it cost so
much more to create an on-going work place in the city of St. Louis. There
my work must remain at the level of charity since I cannot produce the
resources to create workplaces.
I would not want the jobs which I have been able to create in Haiti and
wouldn't be satisfied with them. Several thousands of Haitians, over the
years, have been quite happy with them, though they would always prefer
better jobs, better conditions, better salaries and so on. So would I.
That is not a realistic option for me, so I create what I can create. I
do not quit because I don't meet someone ideal conditions.
On might respond that this case is different since I make no profit. I
think the case is not different in many important regards. I have a sum
of capital and invest in the creation of jobs. I ask the people for a
return on the money I invest. WE call the investment a loan and the
payback both capital, paying back the
money I used to create the work place and some extra, the interest. In a
typical business one would take that interest, at least, and count it as
profit. In my case I choose to use that interest to add to the capital
and create OTHER jobs for OTHER people. Thus these desperately poor
Haitians are, in effect, subsidizing
jobs for others.
I could operate differently and simply use those "profits" to increase the
salary of the workers or the job conditions. I choose to operate
differently for a variety of reasons I won't rehearse here.
I am just concerned that dealing in utopian and ideal principles are lofty
things to write about here on the e-mail list, and I dream as well. But
to condemn roundly all jobs that don't meet some ideal standard you have,
I would claim is terribly excessive and, if it were advice which people
followed, would create the loss of many job places in Haiti causing great
I think there are different arguments to make to advocate better
conditions, pay and so on, when there are reasonable options. I argue
that in many cases with very low level jobs there are few reasonable
options that are at all realistic in the world in which we live. You seem
to me to blame people for living in the time, place and world in which we
live and in rejecting this ideal to take it out on those who benefit from
these miserable low-level jobs which may well be the difference between
live and death for the very poor.
To blanketly claim that "no job is better than a miserable job" is simply
an excessive and irresponsible claim that carries the severe danger of
harming workers if others follow that mandate.