We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Admit it. You love cheap clothes. And you don’t care about child slave labour…

Admit it. You love cheap clothes. And you don’t care about child slave labour…

So sayth Gethin Chamberlain in The Observer.

Well… seeing as he puts it that way… I suppose it would be better if these Third World folks were unemployed (and thereby provide a lower carbon footprint of course, not to mention gainful employ for First World NGOs involved in the Pity & Guilt Industry) and depending for their survival on First World aid money, disbursed via their government. The important thing is that The Islington Set can feel good about increasing the price of clothes for the British lumpenproletariat… and just remember that a lot of those bastards with their false consciousness and lack of class awareness voted for Thatcher back-in-the-day!

Of course much the same was said about The Dark Satanic Mills of the industrial revolution. But just as in India, people moved into the ghastly factories of the Midlands and elsewhere because it was better than the subsistence of grinding rural poverty… and this ultimately led to the technological mass affluence of today that has taken the vast majority of humankind beyond one-failed-harvest-from-starvation.

37 comments to Admit it. You love cheap clothes. And you don’t care about child slave labour…

  • My favourite answer to this is that when I was a child in 1970, there was lots of terrible handwringing about benefiting from cheap labour in the third world, as now. The places we worried about this cheap labour: places like Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan. What do these places now have in common? They don’t have cheap labour any more because they are rich countries.

    (Plus of course, people who go and look at factories and sweatshops making cheap clothes in poor countries don’t seem to find much evidence of child labour or slave labour. Workers are generally young adults, and are free to quit and leave, too. They do the job for the money, like most people).

  • RAB

    My Grandfather was born in the Welsh speaking village of Hermon, at the foot of the Preseli mountains (where the Stonehenge Blue Stones came from) in 1882. You could call it a one horse town, except it was so poor they couldn’t afford the horse.

    He told me that he could see the stars through the roof of his bedroom which he shared with five brothers. Food consisted of a Cawl (Welsh for broth or stew) that was started on a Monday and may have had a bit of meat in it to start with, but was mainly vegetables, and was topped up for the rest of the week and bulked out with bread. He couldn’t wait to leave!

    He was apprenticed to an Ironmonger in Mountain Ash aged 14. The village had a whip round to but him a proper overcoat so he didn’t look like a complete yokel now he was going to the “Big City” (Mountain Ash???) he only had a cloak ( I kid you not) of Welsh flannel before that.

    He ended up being the Procurements Manager of Bedwas Colliery, travelling all over the country buying what was needed to keep the mine running from Pit props (he would buy a forest) to Davey lamps to half inch screws. He was intensely proud of his achievments and indeed the achievement of all late Victorians like him on the journey from rural subsistence poverty to abundance and prosperity. From being dressed in a cloak to having the finest attire that the Industrial Revolution could provide, and a roof over his head that he didn’t have to see the stars through anymore.

    My Gramp never took a handout in his life. He took his oportunities with both hands and ran with them. If we want to help the so called Third World, we will not ring fence aid that ends up mainly Dictators bank accounts, but make them rich by buying their goods through good honest trade.

    South Wales, in my Gramp’s time, went from desperate rural poverty to become a virtual Klondike and one of the riches places on the planet. It can be done everywhere if there is the will.

  • Mr Ed

    Surely the best answer to those bleating is to say ‘You go there and start a factory and poach staff from these places, and pay them what you thnink that they are worth’.

  • Eric Tavenner

    Many years back when I first visited the Phillipines, I heard that at the US Naval Station, locals got paid half the pay an American got for the same job. I thought that horribly unfair, for about a week, then I talked to one of the Filipino machinists. He told me that he got paid four times what he could have gotten on the local economy, if he was lucky enough to get work as a machinist.

  • Richard Benson

    He isn’t talking about cheap labour though. He’s talking about slave labour and child labour being used in the supply chain. Do you see the liberty to own/use slaves, or to put your children to work rather than educate it, as having more value than the lost liberty of the slave/child? Or do you deny that slavery and child labour exist?

  • Julie near Chicago

    The problem is, there is the labor of actual literal slaves, and then there is so-called “slave” labor, meaning third-world-sweatshop labor of the kind that has historically propelled the labor force into the “First World” economically. (Where, by the way, is the Second World? Admittedly my socks are on–my feet are chilly–but isn’t there some number between 1 and 3?)

    It’s really not all that clear to me that The Observer distinguishes between the two. Even in the photo, it says “rescued from child traffickers” or some such thing. Well–there’s an implication that these children were kidnapped and “sold into slavery,” and maybe they were–but for all we know, that’s not accurate. I can imagine other scenarios that might, with a little stretching, be so portrayed, which from our viewpoint might be unfortunate while being fortunate indeed for the kids and their parents.

    On the other hand, what goes on in certain Chinese “industries” (prison/forced-labor camps) IS true slavery.

    RAB, that’s an interesting bit of family history in itself (and well told of course), and it makes the conditions of so recent a time and “familiar” (Britain–not someplace exotic like the Congo or something) more real to us.

    Question: You say your Gramp “was apprenticed.” How exactly did that work? Was this something arranged between his parents and the ironmonger regardless of his wishes, or was it something that he wanted to do and that they allowed? Or was their permission or consent unnecessary? Was there some kind of contract between the apprentice, or his parents, and the master? How common an arrangement was it for that time and place? And, how much personal freedom did he have under the terms of the apprenticeship? Was it for a set term of years, or what?

  • RAB

    Well gramp died aged 90 in 1972. We didn’t discuss the arrangements of his apprenticeship, but I’m sure he was more than eager to take it up. Yes it would have been contactually agreed by his parents. But he only had one. His father was killed in a mining accident when he was two. His mother only spoke Welsh, so would not have understood the intricacies of legaleze English. But I’m sure she was perfectly happy with the arrangement, her other four sons she somehow managed to put through Bangor Normal (a teacher training college) and they all became headmasters.My gramp was considered the black sheep and least academic of the family. He wanted to be a Jockey but he grew too tall. Heh! I know a jockey in a no horse town, but yes they had horses, he used to mind them for a few pennies outside the local pub. When he knew the owner would be in there for a good while, he took them for a ride. If ever there was a Horse whisperer it was my gramp.And he ended up much richer and more celebrated than his teacher brothers, being an Independent Councillor for Bedwas for 25 years. No mean feat in a solid Labour stonghold. People voted for him because they trusted him. They were right to do so. A more honest man I never met.

    Yes it was for a period of years… this all goes back to the Middle Ages, but was not seen as oppressive but inducting youngsters into a trade that would see them through the rest of their lives, giving them the skills to earn a decent living and rise up in the world.Ending up as Guildsmen.

    He had room and board provided by his employer, and when his period of apprenticeship was over was free to ply his trade independently. He did well, was offered a partnership with John Hall Tools and eventually ended up as he did. And very much loved, especially by me. I sat up all night holding his hand the night he died.

    Apprenticeships were still quite common into the early 70’s.

  • He isn’t talking about cheap labour though.

    Yeah he is.

    He’s talking about slave labour and child labour being used in the supply chain.

    He is *also* talking about that (and conflating the two). But actually I am not always automatically against ‘child labour’… spending quite some time in various parts of Africa and seeing the realities of rural life there made me realise that everyone works, and that includes children.

    Do you see the liberty to own/use slaves, or to put your children to work rather than educate it, as having more value than the lost liberty of the slave/child?

    Slavery (as with any form of forcible conscription) is an abomination wherever it exists. Child labour is often bad when coercion and abuse are involved, but that is *not* always the case, and moreover it is a very different issue.

    Or do you deny that slavery and child labour exist?

    Of course they exist… the slavery rather rarely these days (but like pederasty, bigging up its incidence is wonderful politics) but child labour is not uncommon in poorer countries. The badness of former is unambiguous but that of the later is rather context dependent.

  • Will Cruz

    True slave labour can be found in Mauritania, Sudan and in some countries in the Middle East. The slave labour that he was talking about is not slavery because it is more complicated than that. Most likely, the company or companies have an arrangement with not only the state or provincial government but also the local government of these towns where the workers come from. The arrangement might have been that these non paid workers will be accepted to work in these companies where the latter will provide their food, shelter and education and in return, they will not get paid like the regulars do and they will have hours or quota to fulfill in their terms. The provincial and local governments in turn are given guarantees that their people will be taken care of as well and they will also help with the education of the local populace and help build the infrastructure of the communities involved. In foreign eyes, it might appear as slave labor, but to those involved especially to the workers and their families, it beats hunger, homelessness and grinding poverty with possibility when their terms are up, they will have good paying jobs due to the education and experience they gained from working in those companies.

    In regards to child labor, again it is complicated than that especially when the ideological and political bias of the reporter takes precedence over the economic and social reality of the community he or she was reporting to the world. I have grown up in the Philippines and I had seen first hand the grinding poverty that the poor people had to endure daily. One thing foreigners or even their own rich countrymen don’t understand is this. Education takes a back seat when you are always hungry, cold and sick. In the case of child labour, the government from National down to the lowest local government entity is intimately involved as well as the religious leadership with the local companies and the representatives of the multinationals in setting age limits, education and working conditions of children working in these factories. More often than not, families of these children are in attendance when all sides are setting policy for child workers. Believe me, all parties concerned understood the consequences politically, financially and economically when reports of child endangerment and abuses comes out and found true by an outside investigating party. That is the reason why in most cases, when the allegations of child abuse and endangerment are proven true, the government often will bring the hammer down on the company so hard and in some cases in China, the guilty parties are summarily executed and Multinational CEOs often will make an unexpected visit to the local company to not only give the facts of life to the owners but also do a very serious amount of damage control.

    To those working children and the so called slave labourers, their choices are very limited. Would you prefer them to continue being hungry, dependent on a corrupt government, under educated or perhaps you prefer them to be prostitutes or criminals preying on others to get ahead or if you boycott the Multinationals who subcontract their manufacturing to Third World countries, you consigned these poor souls to a life of real slave labor and child abuse in the false belief that you have saved their lives.

    You and I may not like the arrangements but if this would lead them to have the education and the skills to get them not only out of poverty but to live a better life than they had before, that’s a price I am willing to live with rather than accepting your premise that would lead many of them in hopeless misery.

  • Richard Benson


    I take your point but the extent of actual slavery (ie being sold to someone who makes you work without paying wages) in India is pretty well documented. The Telegraph covers it as well as The Observer!


  • Oh I don’t think anyone *here* would defend actual slavery, Richard.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Well, when we’ve wiped out human slavery, won’t we need to worry about the robots rising up and ridding themselves of the parasitic human class, and running the world for themselves?

  • Veryretired

    Two points I find interesting.

    Slavery is ubiquitous in human history, with few cultures able to resist the use of someone else’s labor as a means to accomplishing the numerous backbreaking tasks that everyday life required.

    It is worth remembering that it was the more free market states, as children of the enlightenment, which first abolished slavery, some peacefully, others, unfortunately, by the sword. It was the theory of the rights of man that led to this abolition, however imperfectly it was understood or applied, and it is in those areas controlled by ideologies and beliefs that denied those rights that slavery lingered, even to the present day.

    Secondly, it is hard for us in our reasonably comfortable modern culture to comprehend the utter desperation of ordinary people trapped in subsistence cultures, where the extra food or money brought in by young members of the family might mean the difference between serious hardship and survival—and I mean survival in the literal sense.

    Progressives at the end of the 19th century used the “crisis” of child labor and poor working conditions in general to advance their statist agenda, claiming that the state was the only means by which conditions could improve.

    In fact, they had little or nothing to do with any true improvements and advances, but did succeed in establishing several pernicious points of their ideology in the popular mind, the most damaging being the idea, utterly ahistorical as it was and is, that the private is a threat to the well-being of ordinary people, and the state is a benevolent force which can be used to protect them from the ravages of shop and factory owners offering them work and products or services.

    I am sure that there are any number of offensive and abusive practices occurring in many places around the world, against both children and adults. But the idea that some thoroughly corrupt government inspector in China or Indonesia et al is going to prevent such problems better than the informed opinion of a concerned consumer market is laughable.

    Politicians of all stripes and nationalities, and tranzis most of all, will always claim they are operating from the highest motives, and for the good of everyone except the ” bad guys”, when they pass all sorts of splashy, headline grabbing legislation.

    It’s only later we find, much to everyone’s amazement, to be sure, that the new rules favored one company or group over some others, and the dividing line just happened to be that those in favor contributed more cash to the pols than those who fell out of the charmed circle.

    Progressive “crises” are, by definition, a scam. They cannot be anything else, because the progs only cause, only motivation, and only true goal is power, power, and more power.

    And anyone who joins one of their crusades is either a fool or a knave, without exception.

  • Sam Duncan

    “Where, by the way, is the Second World? Admittedly my socks are on–my feet are chilly–but isn’t there some number between 1 and 3?”

    There isn’t much of it left. The “three worlds“ idea was a product of the Cold War, and the second world encompassed the Communist countries. Strictly speaking the third one only included those states which declared themselves neutral and “non-aligned”.

    Which made for some interesting oddities: Ireland, Switzerland, and Finland, being neutral, were technically part of the third world. Most of South and Central America was third world too, with the obvious exception of second-world Cuba. On the other hand, many of the countries we think of as “third world” were actually in the second.

  • Fred Z

    Some minor blather about slaves and slavery, and yet the words “Islam” and “Muslim” do not appear.

  • Will Cruz

    I agree with your observation wholeheartedly. What most people in the US and Europe don’t understand is this, the greatest threat to minimizing the effects of poverty and alleviating the status of the poor is not a corrupt government but the existence of various transnational agencies that advises and encourages an already corrupt government to meet the former’s ideological and economic agenda by bribing them with money taken from taxpayers from First World countries.

  • mike

    “The places we worried about this cheap labour: places like Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan. What do these places now have in common? They don’t have cheap labour any more because they are rich countries.”

    They do have cheap labour, but now the people who perform such labour are imported from the Phillipines, Vietnam, and Indonesia. There’s nothing wrong with cheap labour per se, but because these people from SE Asia are poor they receive very little if any protection from the law; there have been court cases, most famously involving a Taiwanese envoy to the US and her Filipino housekeeper, wherein the SE Asian workers have their wages stolen and their passports taken away from them by their Taiwanese employers. In the U.S., this kind of outrage will be taken seriously by a judge, but in Taiwan the respect for property rights and contracts and so forth is highly “context-dependent”.

  • Julie near Chicago

    This is a most interesting discussion.

    Perry: “Conflating.” Exactly the right word.

    Sam: I knew that, at least sort of, at the time. Had completely forgotten. Thank you.

    Will Cruz, thanks for your testimony, which does not amaze me at all. Very interesting.

    As for “child labor,” when I was a kid most of the farm children, at least, were “child labor”–at least part of the time. There’s child labor and there’s child labor; we ought not to cringe at the very idea.

    VR: Very well said. I wish I could get a certain person of my acquaintance to read it without getting her back up.

    RAB: The apprenticeship deal must have been roughly as I thought, then. It seems such a good system all ways round, as long as the master isn’t downright abusive of course.

    This makes me think of all the complaints I’ve read in the last few years, some from graduate students who are given research or teaching assistantships that pay their tuition and a bit over for things like books, bresad & board–but even more from others on their behalf–that they do all this work for practically nothing, they do the grunt work, they run the discussion sections, they’re their profs’ flunkeys, and the profs work them to death.

    What can I say. It’s called “earning your spurs.” But anyway, that’s a kind of apprenticeship too, and so is the Postdoc for the new young scientists who are able to snag one.

    I can tell you loved your grandfather very much, and were proud of him. Thanks so much for sharing. :>)

  • veryretired

    A bit of follow-up…

    I didn’t mention islam specifically because they are an offshoot of the kind of theocratic autocracy that once ruled the world, but broke up in the west when the concept of individual rights delegitimized hereditary and theocratic aristocracies.

    In the 20th century, a new form of slavery appeared in the disguise of “scientific materialism”, whether called socialism or fascism or some other name. The end result was the same—denial of any rights to the individual, impoverishment of the common people, extreme violence against anyone who was perceived as being out of step with the collectivists’ march into a future utopia, warfare, and uncounted dead.

    To put it bluntly, islam is the minor leagues at this point.

    And Julie, if you think what I said will get your friend upset, by all means show it to her. At my age, enraging progs is one of the few pleasures left, although it is a far distant 3rd or 4th behind spending an adventure day with SWMBO, or an afternoon with one of my grandchildren.

    I believe there will come a day when the idea of owning or controlling another person, and the feeling that one may take the products of their labor and use them for one’s own purposes without their consent, however it is rationalized, will be listed in the psychiatric texts as a mental illness.

    But for that day to arrive, we must re-invent the primacy of individual rights and personal dignity, and discredit the inverted value system which allows one man to claim ownership of another, whether as property, or in the name of some nebulous “good” which trumps all other rights and liberties.

  • I was in Laos a couple of years ago, and I was wandering near some temple complex or other. A couple of small boys (probably eight years old or so) with nothing to do pestered me for money for a time – a form of the classic scam of insisting on being your “guide” and then demanding money for it. They were less annoying than in some places where adult men will do the same thing, and they wanted less money, but they were persistent and ultimately hard to get rid of.

    Then, a few minutes later, I sat in a cafe by the river in order to get a drink, as it was hot. Another child of nine years old or so – a girl this time – came up to me and very politely asked me (in sign language really, as we had no languages in common) what I wanted, and guided me to the fridge, where I got myself a beer. She kept a careful overview of me and the cafe as I was drinking it, and when it came to pay she counted my change so carefully and with such seriousness that it was obvious that she had been told that this was *very important*. This girl had clearly been told by her family to look after the cafe in the quiet period between meals when there was only the occasional customer, had been told it was important and serious, and had responded to that by being very consciencious about it. (I’d like also to think that this girl’s family reward her and thank her for doing this and tell her regularly that she’s a wonderful girl that they love very much, but I obviously don’t know this).

    We would get very concerned about this in the west: a nine year old serving in a cafe, and indeed a nine year old serving *alcoholic drinks* t customers in a cafe. On the other hand, my thought was that it was obvious which of these children was being raised properly by her family.

  • Michael Jennings (London)

    mike: Yes this is a problem. I don’t think it is the same problem, as few of these people are actually working in Taiwan etc to produce goods for export. I think the nature of the “cheap labour” has changed, though. We are talking more people working to provide services directly for the now rich people of Taiwan, Singapore etc. Even there (at least in Taiwan) the issue is likely mainly one of enforcement (or at least of access to the law) rather than one of actual law. I cannot imagine that it is legal to steal an employee’s earnings and/or take away their passport and refuse to give it back in Taiwan. (I can imagine it being legal in some places in the Middle East, though, alas).

    And yes, some of these countries have become rich, but have retained imperfect rule of law. (In general, I think there are huge issues that stem from treating non-citizens different from citizens in ways other than the basic ones of political and residence rights. I also think there are huge issues with making “doing something while an illegal immigrant” when that thing is perfectly legal if you are not an illegal immigrant. If you are going to have a punishment for being an illegal immigrant, well, okay, but that is what the punishment should be for.

    Yes, there is also forced labour and prison labour in China, but it is a relatively small portion of the economy. I am all for protesting against this, boycotting specific goods that can be identified to be the product of it etc.

    None of this is really the issue, though. The situation is what Perry says. These sorts of journalists are arguing that because pay is lower and working conditions are worse than is the case in rich countries, companies that are using cheap labour in poor countries are using what is de facto slave labour. This just isn’t true. if the employee is free to get up, say “I quit” and walk out the door, that isn’t slave labour. As for child labour, large companies tend not to use it because it simply isn’t necessary – there are plenty of adults who will do the jobs. There is lots of children doing all kinds of work in countries this poor, but it is much more in local, family related businesses, and as I said in my previous comment, it isn’t necessarily all bad.

  • The problem for the rescued children of Bihar province, is Bihar province. It is well known throughout India as both corrupt and poor.

  • RAB

    Any system can be abused Julie, but yes I think apprenticeships worked pretty well.It certainly did for my Gramp. it should also be remembered that one and a half million people were employed as domestic servants in 1900 in the UK. Without them the middle and upper classes could not have functioned as they did. My house here in Bristol was built in 1890 specifically to accommodate at least two servants. I’m sure there was the occasional bit of “Oh Sir Jasper do not touch me!” going on, but that has become such a cartoon cliche of the progressives.

    Michael. When I was in University in Nottingham in 1971, the shop around the corner from my flat in the Meadows (then a white ghetto which had been a mining community) was run entirely by 12 year olds. There was an old crone knitting on a chair in the corner but she did absolutely nothing. I never saw them go to school, but boy could they add up and give the right change, and we were still using the old money then.

    And of course when you go to Turkey, take any trip you like, a boat trip, a coach trip to see Lycian ruins, but you always wind up with a visit to a Carpet factory. And beautiful they are (we bought one) especially the silk ones. You are told by the guide that only small children work on the silk ones as they are the only ones with small nimble fingers and very sharp sight that can do the work.

  • llamas

    Julie near Chicago – a brief treatise on the ‘apprenticeship’ system as it worked in the UK until the 1950s.

    Legally-recognized apprenticeships date back to the Statute of Artificers of 1526, which set up the system.

    Mostly boys, but sometimes girls, would be ‘apprenticed’ to a master in a given trade – carpenter, blacksmith, wheelwright, whatever. A child could only be apprenticed to a master who was recognized by the guild that covered his trade. Since children could not form contracts, a contract would be made for a set period (usually 7 years) between the master and the child’s parents or guardians. The contract was known as an ‘indenture’. The child was then the legal responsibility of his master, and not his parents.

    The child was contracted to work for the master for the period of the contract. In return, the master would provide ‘food and firing’ for the child and train him in his craft to the standard required by the Guild of which he was a member.

    At the satisfactory completion of the indenture, the child would be certified by the craft guild as a ‘journeyman’, a worker skilled in the craft and not tied to any master, but free to practice his craft for wages – journeyman is a corruption of the Middle French ‘journee-man’, a man who can work by the day.

    In the 19th century, with the Industrial Revolution and the decline of the craft guilds, the days of the contracted apprenticeship came to an end, in law at least. However, it persisted well into the 20th century as a customary if not a legal arrangement for training of skilled workers in some craft trades.

    Since the 1950s, the term ‘apprenticeship has morphed into a description of a given course of training in a particular skill, created and administered either by the employers or the unions prominent in that trade, which will provide a young person with a standard education. The apprenticeship is completed, not by time and the approval of a guild, but by standardized examinations. Relics of the ‘guild’ system do persist in union-sponsored apprenticeship schemes, which require completion of the union training to permit a worker to be employed on union jobs.




  • mike

    “Even there (at least in Taiwan) the issue is likely mainly one of enforcement (or at least of access to the law) rather than one of actual law. I cannot imagine that it is legal to steal an employee’s earnings and/or take away their passport and refuse to give it back in Taiwan. “

    Well an adjunctive point to bear in mind in these discussions about cheap labour is that although the people in countries like Taiwan may have made strident progress over the past 30-40 years in terms of economic production and material living standards, their progress in terms of government limitation and “rule of law” hasn’t exactly kept pace.

    Presently, the country (or at least a section of its educated young, middle-class) is in uproar at the recent theft (legal jargon: “expropriation”) of houses by a local county commissioner; the commissioner slapped his victims with a NT$242,000 cheque in compensation (data: houses in that area go for tens of millions of NT$) and then slapped them again with a demolition bill of… NT$242,000. There have already been several mass protests in Taipei and the damage this is doing to the ruling party’s image is obvious and yet the President has not intervened – indeed, has remained strangely silent on the controversy, even whilst apologizing over other matters. The inference being drawn by some is that the county commissioner has some sort of dirt on the President, who fears suffering the same fate as his predecessor who is currently languishing in jail on various convictions for corruption.

  • An example of modern apprenticeship: I hired an independent contractor fellow to repair my roof when raccoons took residence in my attic. It was a multiple day job; this guy showed up with his daughter’s 13-year old son who acted as an assistant, fetching supplies, holding boards in place, hauling away debris, etc. At every point, the contractor explained everything to the boy like he was an employee, from the technical to the business side of things, and had him perform some labor as well.

    I did not object. This is the best sort of education that can be had.

  • Julie near Chicago

    RAB and llamas, thanks to both of you for replying to my questions. Do either of you know whether the apprentices had much freedom when they weren’t working, or if indeed they had any “spare” time to speak of?

    Darryl, never mind the roofer & his grandson–what happened to the raccoons? I’ve been infested by them since 1995. By law they must be trapped, and that by a Licensed Trapper. The charge is $95 to rent the trap (which the trappers place) plus $85/raccoon. They put a temporary patch on the roof as part of the service when the latest wave has been caught and banished, and then one has the virtuous feeling of knowing one has seen that the local roofer’s family will not starve for the next several months. Raccoons are cute. I hate them. :>))

    Back on-topic, I agree with you 100%. But if the Neighborhood Narc (a.k.a. the “lady” next door) found out a 13-year-old was doing such work, there would be the devil to pay!

  • Midwesterner


    When my parents sold their suburban Chicagoland house in the early ’80s, about a year later the new owners reported that raccoons had torn a hole where an eave met a lower roof and moved into the attic. IIRC, the raccoons destroyed the repairs to get back in. Then (they were a humorous and creative couple) the wife heard something about, er, marking territory. She convinced her husband to urinate into a spray bottle and “scent mark” the attic and raccoon approach routes. The raccoons abandoned the house immediately and the homeowners wondered where they had gone. Then one day their daughter comes home from school with a story about raccoons in a neighbor’s attic.

    FWIW. :-]

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mid–that is (a) hilarious and (b), more to the point, informative! I wonder if you have to be male. Maybe my son-in-law….

    Thanks for the grins — and the idea!

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, very interesting also about the German system. Thanks for the link. :>)

  • Julie, I picked it up from someone in one of the past threads here on SI – but alas forget now who it was…In any case, I was also very impressed with the German system, at least as it is described in that article.

  • Julie near Chicago


  • Midwesterner


    I have no idea if it is necessary to be male. I kind of wondered if the reason might have been as simple as the targeting geometry for filling the spray bottle. 8-|


    Many years ago I talked to a hitchhiker who rode a thousand miles or so with me when he was “seeing America” before starting the final phase of his education. We talked a lot about the differences between (West) Germany and the US. The thing that struck me was the lack of flexibility. There is apparently not an easy way to have second thoughts and change career paths/choices without badly damaging your reputation and chances. I don’t know if that has changed but it still sounds quite inflexible.

  • Well, I guess no one would be surprised by seeing the words ‘German’ and ‘inflexible’ in the same sentence:-) The point was about apprenticeship, which I doubt is inevitably inflexible – after all, it did exist in England and other cultures. Still, I guess that the fact that it still persists in Germany to some degree does speak to German inflexibility…

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mid — Leaving structural differences out of the discussion *g*, I was actually thinking in purely clinical terms about the odors associated with the different sexes of various mammals. Somehow I missed class the day when the detailed pheromonic differences between urine of the male and female raccoon and the male and female human, and the effects of those differences upon raccoon behavior, were discussed.