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]

Samizdata quote of the day

I spent two summers speaking about the Modern Slavery Act to female factory workers in Sri Lanka’s free trade zones, which are industrial areas with a number of garment factories that supply many foreign companies. I found there is intense pressure on local managers to clean up their assembly lines in such a way that the western companies which hire them could not be accused of modern slavery. The pressure to appear “clean” results in an unhealthy working environment.

It also limits women’s freedom in a number of ways. For instance, a number of women I spoke to engaged in part-time sex work to make extra money outside of their factory jobs. This work was of their own choosing – and very different to the sexual trafficking or exploitation that the Modern Slavery Act is also designed to stop. But local managers feared it would be seen by Western auditors as exploitation and threaten their contracts. As one factory manager told me: “If we do not fire part-time sex workers, our factories can get blacklisted, and our orders will be cancelled.”

Sandya Hewamanne

8 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Julie near Chicago

    I opened my eyes, and Lo! I saw four horsemen. And three of them appeared in raiment of gold, platinum and palladium, and bore banners emblazoned: Sable, 3 mice courant, argent, with the motto “As our good-doing takes us”; but the fourth was clad in white, and his horse was all white, and his banner bore the single Word, but only the dead could read it.


    The Professor wrote of this, as did Professor Lewis.


    (Not all of those who are motivated to do good make a holy, or you may say righteous, mess of it, of course. Only some follow the Four Horsemen. This noted so as to unhorse the worst of the natively contrarian among us before they get to lecturing.)

  • nweismuller

    Julie, is that a quote from somewhere, and if so, what’s the source?

  • This is one of the very rare cases in which I read of harm done by do-gooders and first reflect that I would genuinely rather be told that employers feel under pressure to avoid slavery than told that employers feel no such ‘social’ pressure to think beyond running their business, and only after thinking that do I note the capacity of such social pressure to have side-effects.

    Long ago, British dockers negotiated ‘honesty money’ – a pay rise in exchange for more effective prevention of cargo items being nicked by the crooks among them. I wonder how the PC at home would react if these Sri Lankan employees negotiated ‘honest-woman’ money.

    A famous libel case in Edwardian Britain between Cadbury’s and a newspaper (indirectly between the Liberal government and the Tory opposition) – one of those ‘one farthing damages’ cases – led to a clean-up of Sao Tome’s ‘indentured labourers’ slavery scam – and the spread of cocoa growing into British Empire African areas where slavery was more effectively prevented in the first place.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Weismuller, it’s stolen from the vision of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse told in Revelations (which many sects consider apocryphal and not really a legitimate part of the Bible), but illustrated in accordance with the ancestral Coat of Arms of the House of the Wimseys, of which Dorothy Sayers has apprised us in her tales of Lord Peter Wimsey’s adventures in detecting.

    It appeared to me in a Vision brought on by this SQOTD….

    Both Professors, of course, warned of out-of-control do-gooders and the evil that can result from zealously and then fanatically following what may have been originally an impulse of good intentions.

  • nweismuller

    Ahh, I was unfamiliar with Dorothy Sayers, but could see the obvious parallelism with Revelations. I’ll look into Sayers.

  • neonsnake

    Not all of those who are motivated to do good make a holy, or you may say righteous, mess of it, of course.

    Well, if we’re quoting!

    “There has been such a thing as letting mankind alone; there has never been such a thing as governing mankind. Letting alone springs from fear lest men’s natural dispositions be perverted and their virtue left aside. But if their natural dispositions be not perverted nor their virtue laid aside, what room is there left for government?” (Chuang Tzu)

    “If plucking a strand of hair from your body could help the world, would you do it?” Yang-chu said, “The world cannot be helped by a piece of my hair.”

    A strand of hair is nothing compared to a piece of flesh, and a piece of flesh is negligible compared to a limb. However, many pieces of hair make up your scalp, and many pieces of flesh make up a limb. When do you consider enough hairs a scalp and when do you consider enough pieces of flesh an arm? Every part of your body is as important as any other. Why think that some parts are dispensable?”

    If we weren’t so eager to be heroic and sacrifice ourselves “to make things better,” things could be left alone to run their course, and maybe there would be fewer problems in the world.” (Lieh Tzu)

    The link between this post and Natalie’s, above, is not only about sexual contact. It’s about people with good intentions creating unintended consequences.

    My quotes are trite and don’t strictly hold up in 2019, but serve as a starting point. Rules and regulations have consequences, and should be examined, sometimes after their enaction, to ensure that they are achieving their desired effect.

    I’ve had bewildering experiences in factories in China, when the foreman was eager to show me the birth certificates to prove that the workers were over 18, and then literally clouted a (presumably 18 year old) girl round the back of the head because she was resting while she had no work coming down the conveyor belt, and looked to me for approval.

    He did not get the approval he seeked.

  • Julie near Chicago

    “Those who think they rule over us by natural right cannot abide ridicule.”

    –Former (and much-missed) Samizdata commenter Subotai Bahadur, at


  • neonsnake

    and only after thinking that do I note the capacity of such social pressure to have side-effects.

    It’s interesting to note that the Act itself does not require any actual action, only that businesses above a certain size publish reports on what steps they have taken to avoid slavery (including “None” if that’s the case). Any consequences are reputational and market-based.

    It often occurs to me that NGOs and “Approved by” certificates could fulfil a lot of the purposes and solve a lot of problems (real or imagined) that people think the government should solve.