My wife, Amanda Butler, and I have moved to South Asia to work with International Justice Mission, on bonded labor. Please see the site that we have set up so that our friends and family can follow our work.
Over at our blog about our work in South Asia, I wrote about a recent case that our office handled and what it shows about migrant and trafficked labour in South Asia:
This week, our office was engaged in a rescue of eleven boys from Jharkhand who had been working selling snacks — pani puri — in Coles Park, a park in a relatively affluent neighborhood in Bangalore.
The exploitation that these children tells a broader story about an emerging pattern here:
This case is interesting because it illustrates that forced labour is not just a phenomenon of rural areas, which is often the image that many people in South Asia have. They imagine a caste-based agricultural system in which there is a paternalistic exploitation.
And while this certainly exists across South Asia, there is an urban story that is quite real, as this and other cases illustrate. With crushing poverty in rural areas — in places like Jharkhand or Odisha — people take whatever opportunity is available, even if the opportunity is an illusion and turns into a nightmare. Often that means migration to another more affluent and more booming part of the country, often the South or a city. In those places, they lose contact with family and may be isolated by language and other differences, making them vulnerable to exploitation.
Bonded labour may have been abolished in India in 1976, but the practice not only continues, experience of grass-roots workers suggests it is becoming more widespread. We might be experiencing a relative decline in the incidence of hereditary bondage, but India’s rapidly evolving economic structure and inadequate livelihood security for the most vulnerable sections of society are giving rise to newer and more complex forms of bonded labour. These may not necessarily be lifelong encumbrances, may even be voluntary at times, but are instances of bondage, nonetheless.
Migration, driven by uneven growth in different parts of the country, is one of the most important drivers of present-day bondage. Slow economic growth and a rapidly growing population mean that there are few jobs available for the burgeoning workforce in the poorer states. Take Punjab and Bihar, for example. While the ratio between relative incomes in the two states has worsened from 1.7 in 1965 to approximately four at present, the population of Bihar has grown much more rapidly. Between 2001-11, while the population of Punjab grew by roughly 14 per cent, that of Bihar grew by 25 per cent, and on a much larger base. These conditions lead to large-scale migration from states such as Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and so on towards states such as Punjab, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. While the advent of the MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) might have helped slow the flow of labour, large- scale migration of farm labour during the cropping season is still a reality across India.
But yeah. I had been interviewed on C-SPAN then… I had more hair then
I wrote a piece over at Redstate on myths related to the shutdown. The key passages:
The press has been falling over itself to attack Republicans for the shutdown and claiming that they are the source of all the irresponsibility in the process. They have conveniently forgotten several important things about how much the Democrats have broken the budget process in the last couple of years and in this year in particular. I wrote back in January about how the Senate Democrats were dismantling the budget process. While the Senate did pass a budget resolution this year, in many ways the situation has gotten much, much worse. A shutdown is, purely for procedural reasons, a natural and logical consequence of the massive failure of the Senate to do its job.
So that’s the real history, not the mythical one driven by White House talking points, of this year’s budget process. The House started to do its job. The Senate barely got off the ground, and then only operating in a fantasy-land in which the sequester never happened. Sorry for all the wonky details here, but it is really important to see just how much the President and the Senate Democrats have failed in the budget process and how much of this lays at their feet.
I did a segment on the government shutdown on Al Jazeera English. Details about the segment here.
I was quoted in a CNN piece on new GOP leaders and the Young Republicans:
A number of noted politicians, including current House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-California, and former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist, have come from its ranks. Volunteer executive director Soren Dayton estimates 70,000 people belong to YR chapters across the country.
Much of the group’s work is in civic affairs. “It’s not just social networking,” says Dayton, who works as a media and public affairs consultant. “It’s people who serve.”
I wrote,with a colleague from Prism, a piece on the role of European business in making sure that TTIP passes in the US and that the Transatlantic relations gets redefined.
There are no better spokespeople for the position that TTIP can create mutually beneficial growth and jobs than the European businesses that would invest in the U.S., and German businesses are the natural leaders of that group.
In the end, TTIP is about building our shared values and shared interests into a deeper and more beneficial partnership—one that will create much needed growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Achieving that partnership will require European business to become more comfortable with engaging in the political process on both sides of the Atlantic
Politico‘s Byron Tau had a piece about urban Republicans. I said:
“There are lessons to be learned from Republican organizations in cities like Philadelphia and New York, where Republicans fight and win city council races,” said Soren Dayton, a Republican strategist and executive director of the Young Republican National Federation. “We cannot afford to write off the most vote-rich parts of the country.”
I wrote a piece at the Daily Caller about one guy I met back in 2007 who was opposed to immigration reform and how he relates to so many of the groups involved in stopping immigration. The short form is that instinctive opponents to immigration fail to understand either Christianity or conservatism.
To the extent that my acquaintance was concerned about human dignity, he viewed an increase in the population of humans as the greatest challenge to that dignity. This is something that he shared with Margaret Sanger and the founders of Planned Parenthood. That’s why Planned Parenthood supported contraception and abortion for certain elements of society. This is the real face of so many leaders of anti-immigration organizations who, when they talk to conservatives and Christians, present themselves as conservative.
I wrote a piece on the future of GOP foreign policy for Conservative Home, the UK’s leading grassroots blog. The key part is:
In many ways, the US is building a global trading system based on our rules – and our energy. In 2012, the US produced more than 60% of its own oil domestically, a number that increases every year, while our consumption falls. Meanwhile refined and petroleum products were our #1 and #2 exports. Domestic production of natural gas has become a major enterprise as well, leading European countries like Germany (which refuse to frack or use nuclear) to choose between US coal or US natural gas. Just this week, the UK energy company Centrica signed a 20-year contract for US natural gas.
In all likelihood, Republican foreign policy will be driven by the necessity to defend this new trade pattern and the shifting interests that this entails. Whoever ends up buying energy from the Middle East may have to be more invested in its stability, a task that has been a primary U.S. focus since World War II. Another is that Russia may not have the leverage over eastern and central Europe that it has exercised in recent years.
And concludes with:
In other words, the DNA of American foreign policy has always included defending economic and security interests. The days of guns and butter may well be behind us. But, undoubtedly, the US will go out of its way to defend the butter business, wherever our customers may be found.