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Irregular Times Donations, April 2012: Planned Parenthood and Village Enterprise

We the writers for Irregular Times sell political shirts for three reasons:

1. To pay for the hosting and logistical costs associated with keeping Irregular Times up and running.
2. To help spread messages that we believe in.
3. To help change the world just a little bit.

#3 may seem odd to you; how does selling a shirt change the world, even just a little bit? Beyond the messages we place on the shirts themselves, we’re trying to help in a couple of ways. We’re trying to support an alternative to third-world sweatshop-based shirt production. How do you think those t-shirts made in Cambodia and sent all the way across the Pacific Ocean to your mall can be sold for just $12.99, when comparable shirts made in the United States cost $18.99? The answer is that the shirt producers in Cambodia are dancing to the tune set by their unethical American investors, paying workers meager wages in unsafe factories that are environmentally unregulated. Apparel production in the United States is regulated, audited, pays better wages and treats its workers better.

In the midst of the suffering, pollution and debt slavery that sweatshop production engenders, it accomplishes one thing: diverting money to impoverished nations. Of course, most of that money goes to enrich corrupt factory owners, but that’s better than nothing, right? What a weak argument that is. There must be a way to reward more humane apparel production while supporting third world development. Irregular Times’ approach to this is to continue to working with sweat-free American producers but to take a dollar out of the profits of every shirt we sell and send it to an overseas development charity that benefits the poor and downtrodden, not exploitative cronies.

Number of Businesses Started by the Village Enterprise Fund As we continue to sell liberal t-shirts, the time’s come around again to make that donation for overseas development. We’re avoiding Kiva, which charges usurious rates in ultimately destructive microloans. Instead, we’ve sent a donation to Village Enterprise, a non-profit organization working in East Africa. Village Enterprise finds people who are severely impoverished, who are struggling to feed themselves and their children, and gives them money outright — not willy-nilly, but to get them on their feet and start a sustainable local business. Along with the grant comes the training needed to run a business well and manage money. Thanks to Village Enterprise’s approach, 75% of the startup businesses are still in operation after 4 years and 93% of those businesses actually have accumulated savings. More importantly, 90% of the new business owners have been able to send their children to school, and 75% of their families have increased food security.

Just as we write to spread political information and ideas, we want the money we bring in from selling t-shirts to make a difference politically — so we have committed to donating another for every shirt we sell to an American political group doing work that we believe in. This past month, when Rush Limbaugh calls a woman a “slut” and a “prostitute” for testifying on Capitol Hill regarding contraceptive health care policy, we wanted to do more that offer this set of Sluts Vote t-shirts as a counterpoint. This month’s donation goes to Planned Parenthood, an organization that not only provides low-cost access to contraception, S.T.D. treatment and abortions for women, but also advocates for a vision of America in which it’s not a crime to exercise these options.

3 comments to Irregular Times Donations, April 2012: Planned Parenthood and Village Enterprise

  • bluerabbit

    Thanks, guys! Fantastic work!

  • Stephen Kent Gray

    Austrian economics emphasizes the concept of self-ownership to argue that a person is not “free” unless they can sell themselves, because if a person does not own themselves, they must therefor be owned by either another individual or a group of individuals. The ability for anyone to consent to an activity or action would then be placed in the hands of a third party. Further, the third-party’s ownership would also be in the hands of yet another individual or group. This regression of ownership would transfer ad infinitum and leave no one with the ability to coordinate their own actions or those of anyone else. The conclusion Austrians schoolers arrive at is therefore that if under wage slavery, self-ownership is not legitimate, there is no right for anyone then to claim enslavement to wages in the first place. Mankiw, N. Gregory (2002). Macroeconomics (5th ed.). Worth.

    • Stephen Kent Gray

      1. Since the chattel slave is property, his value to an owner is in some ways higher than that of a worker who may quit, be fired or replaced. The chattel slave’s owner has made a greater investment in terms of the money he paid for the slave. For this reason, in times of recession, chattel slaves could not be fired like wage laborers. A “wage slave” could also be harmed at no (or less) cost. American chattel slaves in the 19th century had improved their standard of living from the 18th century[28] and, according to historians Fogel and Engerman plantation records show that slaves worked less, were better fed and whipped only occasionally—their material conditions in the 19th century being “better than what was typically available to free urban laborers at the time”.[29] This was partially due to slave psychological strategies under an economic system different from capitalist wage slavery. According to Mark Michael Smith of the Economic History Society: “although intrusive and oppressive, paternalism, the way masters employed it, and the methods slaves used to manipulate it, rendered slaveholders’ attempts to institute capitalistic work regimens on their plantation ineffective and so allowed slaves to carve out a degree of autonomy.”[41] Similarly, various strategies and struggles adopted by wage laborers contributed to the creation of labor unions and welfare institutions, etc. that helped improve standards of living since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Nevertheless, worldwide, work-related injuries and illnesses still kill at least 2.3 million workers per year[42] with “between 184 and 208 million workers suffer[ing] from work-related diseases” and about “270 million” non-lethal injuries of varying severity “caused by preventable factors at the workplace”.[43]–a number that may or may not compare favorably with chattel slavery’s.
      2. Unlike a chattel slave, a wage laborer can (barring unemployment or lack of job offers) choose between employers, but they usually constitute a minority of owners in the population for which the wage laborer must work, while attempts to implement workers’ control on employers’ businesses may be met with violence or other unpleasant consequences. The wage laborer’s starkest choice is to work for an employer or face poverty or starvation. If a chattel slave refuses to work, a number of punishments are also available; from beatings to food deprivation—although economically rational slave owners practiced positive reinforcement to achieve best results and before losing their investment (or even friendship) by killing an expensive slave.[44][45][46]
      3. Historically, the range of occupations and status positions held by chattel slaves has been nearly as broad as that held by free persons, indicating some similarities between chattel slavery and wage slavery as well.[47]
      4. Arguably, wage slavery, like chattel slavery, does not stem from some immutable “human nature,” but represents a “specific response to material and historical conditions” that “reproduce[s] the inhabitants, the social relations… the ideas… [and] the social form of daily life.”[48]
      5. Similarities were blurred by the fact that proponents of wage labor won the American Civil War, in which they competed for legitimacy with defenders of chattel slavery. Both presented an over-positive assessment of their system, while denigrating the opponent.[31][32][49]

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