An excerpt from my new VDARE.com column "The Axis of Amnesty’s Ideology of Cheap Labor:"
Senator Kennedy is echoing, oddly enough, the fatalistic conventional wisdom of Dickensian England—the doctrinaire assumption that cheap labor is essential, and that the inexorable grinding of the dismal laws of economic science determine wages as immutably as the orbit of Mercury is fixed by Newton's Law of Gravity.
The main difference: while Sen. Kennedy assumes the need for unskilled immigrant workers, the early Victorians were convinced of the necessity of uneducated child laborers.
We don't think of the British as being terribly ideological. But during the second quarter of the 19th Century, their justifiable national pride in developing economics for once overwhelmed the vaunted British common sense. A dogma based on a crude interpretation of the works of Malthus and Ricardo presumed that low wages were crucial to profits, much like the sophomoric economics of today's open borders crowd.
Back then, the ruling class didn't fulminate over plucking chickens but over sweeping chimneys.
Consider the fates of the little boys, from age four on up, who were widely employed by master chimney sweeps to clamber up inside long flues and knock down the soot, at horrific cost to their health. Paul Johnson writes in A History of the English People (p.285), "often they were forced up by the use of long pricks, and by applying wisps of flaming straw to their feet. They suffered from a variety of occupational diseases and many died from suffocation."
The ruling ideology of the age assumed that, as regrettable as this might be, the laws of economics required it.
After all, how else would chimneys ever get swept?
The first bill banning the employment of children under eight from chimney sweeping passed Parliament in 1788. But, like many immigration laws in America today, it was ignored. So was the 1834 act.
Then, the greatest reformer of the Victorian Era, Anthony Ashley Cooper, the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, began his almost endless crusade to abolish child labor inside chimneys. Like William Wilberforce, the victor over the slave trade, Shaftesbury was a Tory, an evangelical Anglican, and a relentless parliamentarian.
In 1840, Shaftesbury carried a bill to regulate child chimney sweeps over “ resistance that can only be called fanatical", in Johnson's words.
It also was not enforced.
Three more of Shaftesbury's bills failed in Parliament in the 1850s. He succeeded in 1864, but the legislation proved ineffective "due to a general conspiracy of local authorities, magistrates, police, judges, juries, and the public to frustrate the law. Boys continued to die…" including a seven-year-old who suffocated in a flue in 1873.
Shaftesbury finally succeeded in passing effective legislation in 1875.
And, of course, that winter everyone in
Oh, wait … sorry, that was in Bizarro
In the real