International Human Trafficking and Culpability in Complicit Response Efforts

International Human Trafficking and Culpability in Complicit Response Efforts

Paul Fischer


Professor Mark Budolfson

International Human Trafficking and Culpability in Complicit Response Efforts

A broad definition of slavery confronts many contemporary understandings of the term. Today estimates of international human trafficking only demonstrate a fraction of the greater problems in global slavery as a fundamental part of industrial, manufacturing, and even employment service fraud. The costs of the epidemiology of modern slavery will be evaluated through three vectors as a function of harm to employers, to consumers, and to, the most apparent, the humanitarian dignity of slaves themselves. In order to use these costs to effectively recommend policy changes, it is necessary to point towards cogent definitions of the predicate terms to complicity and cooperation while retaining addendums for feasibility and efficacy in implementation. Macro and micro economic models both point towards a crisis in terminology to describe the potential costs of inaction to the global human subjugation that must be addressed as an industrial issue unique to the modern era of manufacturing.

In general terms, with estimates of tens of millions of slaves disproportionately distributed throughout the world, the ability of nations or international bodies to respond appropriately must be considered realistically (Ucnikova). This points towards a macro solution such as those that have been recently endorsed. Some of the greatest victories, dating to the early days of modern industrialism, such as American legislation in 1930 that prohibited all importation of products produced by slavery have actually held the slaveowners or nations with legalized or unenforced slavers individually responsible. In order to understand why this phenomenon presents a fundamental disambiguation between normative distinctions in culpability and complicity will be given.

Complicity as a Term of Moral Shame and Efficacy in Response

In a memorandum that shocked the world, the president of Harvard University at the time, Lawrence Summers, defended the acceleration of dirty industry and pollution distribution through Less Developed Countries (LDCs). In summation, he claims that such a move would minimize costs by distributing pollution and thus decreasing the odds of acute toxicity and by affecting nations with already compromised health care systems and increase productivity in developed nations by an amount unimaginable by LDC standards (Hausmann and McPherson). It should be clear that this approach focuses on the outcome from a process and not the ethical standard of the mechanisms by which the outcome occurs.

To critique this sort of bottom-line economic analysis, McPherson and Hausmann demonstrate that there is a difference between what one is willing to do and what one ought to do. This is a similar concept to the notion of conspiracy put forward in work on mass administrative murder when the crime is too great for normative judicial reactions (Osiel, 10-15). Instead, automatic insolvency of the perpetrator upon realization of the consequence determines predicate behavior such as planning or coordinations must be aggressively confronted. In the same way many police departments save money by focusing on high profile criminal cases because it can be assumed that whether confronted or not, criminals who are successful on a lower level will reoffend more seriously in a way that can be feasibly tracked, when an outcome is preventable it may be infeasible to respond to a more serious outcome.

As such the premier defense of such “mechanical solidarity” as is described in the event of mass administrative murder demonstrated in the case examples from Osiel’s work is especially apt for use in terms of modern slavery (Osiel). The two incidents share an extreme level of societal harm and are unique to modern industrial societies. The second of these two similarities will necessitate a distinct understanding and definition of the term complicity.

Culpability as Legal Term of Distributed Guilt

The responsibility for the forced and coerced labor of tens of millions of global citizens lies squarely on the capable. Genocides cannot be compared to conflicts similar per capita in ancient times, and slavery also must be viewed in absolute terms. As a response to a term that bridges the civil and political spheres, solutions to slavery must underscore cooperation in different sectors of a community. The answer is not governmental alone: “Governance emphasizes cooperation between the civil and political spheres of society, whereas government is usually thought of in terms of the formal political structure of the nation state” (Zureik, 114).

Once the crisis has been established as one of paramount importance that must be viewed in absolute terms, a definition of security is necessitated: “Human security as a complementary concept that concerns itself with human rights, protection of the environment, and guaranteeing of basic needs related to health, education, and personal needs”. This definition delineates the point at which the agency responsible for ensuring this level of safety and security for citizenry is identified: the crisis must be viewed as a military one pursuant to this new definition of security that steps outside of the bounds of personal security and was established with legislation during the war on terror. To delegate or subsume the consequences of slavery upon the population or any other form of governance violates the logical induction of security into a basic dialogue pursuant to the basic civil bonds and contract all members of a civilized society are responsible for.

Waiting for the “Invisible Hand” as a Determinant Factor in Assigning Culpability

It is be necessary to look at unsuccessful efforts to reform labor standards in nations that have long since banned slavery, but have attempted to revolutionize against industry standards that may be treated as such in today’s world. Mexican solutions to corporate exploitation have given rise to “corporatism” and seen an ideological solidarity with the worker that was unique to this country at the time. Even in comparison to Russia, where an agricultural revolution would transform the nation in coming decades, at the time of World War One, the revolutionary Mexican government was unique in the industrial focus of their constitution. Labor rights would set standards for limits on not just workplace exploitation, but also for environmental exploitation and the natural rights of citizens in that country (MacDonald, 139).

Understanding how and why the goal of protecting labor rights were compromised in the legislation also implies a subtle mechanical understanding of the tri-party political system in Mexico. Unlike the United States, with a two-party system of majority rules (gerrymandering cheating aside) and a three-way system of checks and balances, it must be argued that the Mexican constitutional protection of the worker was compromised by an inverse system. In this case, a number of policies held by the governing party, or perhaps even all of them, may not reflect the will of the majority. That guarantees an invitation for corruption and corporate influence on an executory level of the political system.

What resulted was a junta system of arbitration, termed the Juntas de Conciliation y Arbitraje intended to reflect the distinct features of Mexican politics that made recognition of the rights of the worker difficult. A logical procedure of the demonstration of rights as a forceful blow against the corporate interests bent on destroying those rights was established, but never ultimately fulfilled in practice as the revolutionaries had been promised in words. As the terminology of the legislation was lax, a loophole allowed the measure to fall behind standards of success generally warranted in such a matter of human security; rather than articulating an ultimatum as the climax of individual and collective rights, the legislation became the mechanism of mass administrative slavery as federations of ghost unions became the norm and forced an automated suppression of autonomous cultural expression in conflict with the natural solidarity originally espoused in the constitution of 1917.

Some of these unions continue to take bribes of up to a million dollars a day in a pre-negotiated contract with local law enforcement as part of an effort to circumvent the law of the land. In doing so, by implication many of the rights guaranteed in amendments to Article 123 are nullified or directly eliminated, “the official labour movement was therefore able to save the institutional bases of its power while bargaining away workers’ individual rights and traditional workplace norms” (MacDonald, 142). Obviously this includes the individual rights to associate and due to obstruction of the collective rights to bargain, strike, represent employees on behalf of unions, international treaties have been cast aside.

This is exemplified well by the violation of the 40-hour work week. Empty board rooms locked during time set aside for union meetings in these organizations obsolete the right to collect dues or to participate in boards. The outcome of judicial action is guaranteed by the contract: because there is already a “ghost” union in effect, there can be no calling of the tripartite junta conciliation and arbitrage action.

The problems described here are not unique to Mexico, and in fact there has been an international resolve to institutionalize the reality of global slavery in a fashion never before faced by the forces of good in mankind. In order for the system described above to succeed, monetary interests are critical. Realization of institutional evil was made possible by a loophole in American statutes, another democracy with a complicated and somewhat delinquent history of slavery and union movements.

The tariff act of 1930, introduced by a Republican, was intended to end American involvement in the slave trade. It had become apparent by that point that in fact following the Civil War, due to a combination of changing international politics and persistent expansion of raw and finished product importation pursuant to the “miracle” of modern industrialization, that both the economics and reality of American slavery had actually grown in a frighteningly global sense. Unfortunately, a loophole in that legislation still limited legal enforcement to the United States and this was not effectively closed or confronted through other means until 2016 when President Obama signed legislation introduced by Democrats to officially end all American involvement and profit in and from the slave trade.

It should be clear now through the logical expansion of this argument of containment and intent that the extent to which legislation has been effected is not always as directly apparent as it may seem. In fact, there are frequently trade-offs present between the stated goals and objectives of legislation and the enforceable reality of the work implicit in the work. Understanding the necessity to gain political support for a measure in addition to popular support, even in democracies, is a tricky concept it will be necessary to master in order to effectively instigate a regime of change in regards to global human slavery. These tradeoffs should be considered fundamental to the discussion rather than tangential qualifications as they occur pre-enforcement rather than post-dedication of qualified resources.

Inadequate Action is Culpability

This is a historical case, in which the outcome is apparent. Effective because of the close ties to factory environmental regulations, the detraction from initial attempts to regulate slavery and improper work conditions relies on minutiae in terminology. Reality of bribable juntas intended to protect workers today is more clear than any hypothetical analysis about actions to fight slavery.

The most apparent reality that comes to mind in the evaluation of these labor standards surfaces through analysis of the initial goals of the article, “Article 123 of the 1917 Constitution established the most progressive labor code of its time… workers rights were conceived of paternalistically and defended through a nationalist and even racial rationale” (MacDonald, 142). Opposition to these goals would have been infeasible at the time, and only “Anarchosyndicalist organizations rejected state intervention” on the topic (MacDonald, 143). They would later be joined by dark and powerful corporate interests.

It is not enough to simply embrace ideals through legislation and to cast them aside in actuality. “This coincidence of interest between capital, the state and official labour has proven decisive in safeguarding the legal latticework of corporatism well into the neoliberal era”, establishing what seems to be an appropriate delineation between the demands of workers and the exploiters (MacDonald, 156). Yet still the bribes indicate a failure of the system, the question that should be taken from this example and this section is that culpability necessitates the monetary flow normal in corruption, and regulatory action must use bureaus independent of financial, or immune to the influence of potential corruption.

Estes’ 7 fundamental Concepts:

As an act of violence currently unenforced and even supported in recent legislative actions by the GOP, a currently major political force in the USA, a review of the 7 fundamental Concepts civilization must embrace will prove useful (Ledwith):

Unity of humanity and life on Earth

Minimisation of violence

Maintenance of environmental quality

The satisfaction of minimal world welfare

Primacy of human dignity

Retention of diversity and pluralism

Universal participation

Qualifications in Action

Emancipatory Action Research – “ideological hypocrisy for community developers to resort to research methods that are based on inequality, culturally invasive relationships, while claiming an emancipatory approach… studying the way people behave without relating it to the whole person, let alone their social and political context is a dehumanising act” (Ledwith, 149). The topic must be approached with solidarity and in earnest. It can be easy to detract from the original goal with sardonic failures to identify problems. A failure in contemporary efforts to end slavery lends to a slippery slope that is as dangerous as inaction, it could be argued.

Culpability in Regulation

Actions could be effective, but taken too far could create a level of harm that outweighs the crimes currently perpetrated. Such a phenomena has been noted historically as, “A panic campaign is orchestrated by state agents of social control, supported by a media-simulated depiction of the enemy as a shadowy, external ‘other’” (Zureik, 115). This seems unlikely, but should be evaluated using an economic evaluation of the freedom indices in nations, or at least point to such an evaluation as improbable to support the objection, and indeed would probably strengthen the thesis of the paper.

Such a concern is easily addressed in the terms of slavery. The state of involuntary coercion to engage in labor is one that transgresses political rights. Instead of being viewed as a checklist of states that must all be present in order to qualify as a slave, any one of the economic, political, or social deprivations natural to the state must be viewed as qualifiable and action-worthy.

Complicity in Regulation

In noting that American and Canadian anti terrorism legislations extend beyond immediate, temporal concerns to deal with immigration and other issues of personal and public nature, we end up with ‘governance through security’” and detract from the original goals and objectives or even exacerbate targeted regions. Original goals are obscured by failures in implementation or enforcement. This is the outcome in which objectives are achieved or at least negative outcomes avoided, but the goal is overshadowed by a non-related, positive or not, change politically or otherwise that is not intended.

Pro tempore there are no grounds to assume that this would be the case, and in order to show that, legislation from 2016 that prohibited slavery by closing a loophole allowing importation of forced labor products into the USA should be cited as evidence that workable solutions can be implemented.  A potent critique or accolade of how effective such legislative measures will prove lies in the future. The question of whether a governing body who ineffectively regulates a product or more problematically actually does regulate the product but does something else as well (such as an effective policeman who only arrests people with red hats who voted for a local politician he does not like) becomes culpable or complicit in nature needs further research and theoretical expansion.

Complicity in Consumption

Consumers must be emphasized to include companies purchasing inputs from slave-owners as well as individuals who import their goods from a slave-owned factory. In turning a blind eye to slavery, consumers are becoming complicit in numerous harms. Showing that the consumer can prevent slavery expands the defacto complict behavior into culpable behavior, though with ignorance. A marginal response by consumers can be guaranteed to have efficacy in instances of corporate greed, because the corporate greed is dependent on the multitude by definition. Without a multitude being exploited, the nature of the crime would change, and an individual response can be guaranteed to be magnified by the number impacted.

Successful Solutions in Action

One effective method companies with moral considerations towards the idea that the global market has ensured that investments or products they make may contribute to slavery is to offset the negative impact they endorse or create by investing in potential solutions. In order to ensure avoidance of hypocrisy in legislative actions, immediate action on international slavery is by definition pertinent as, “Cultural diversity [and social justice] thus becomes essential for biological diversity, and histories based on local economic development offer alternatives for the future that reflect values other than consumer lifestyles: a harmonious co-existence between social justice and environmental justice” (Ledwith, 149). The top three contributing foundations or companies represent a massive share of the overall funding for those efforts that fight global slavery. One massive company, Google, has donated over 11 million dollars to fight slavery with the Google Innovation Award (Ucnikova). Currently only about 1% of the over ten billion dollars needed to eradicate global slavery is actually budgeted towards that endeavor. So rather than being just a drop in the bucket, as a company that sees nearly 5% of the nation’s GDP pass through its revenue stream, this award actually signifies a proportional contribution to fight human trafficking and slavery.

“The death of nature was fundamental to the rise of patriarchy” and it follows that the success of feminism is dependent on resurrection of environmental goals (Ledwith, 150). There should be a general understanding implicit in this definition that the protection of social justice is fundamental to protection of the environment. Sufficient evidence has been shown that this is a snowball or critical mass that are being enacted to enforce liberal ideals and that a trade-off is not the reality of the political arena in question.

There is a responsibility for more than remaining competitive in company efforts to purge associations with slavers and slaveholders. Unlike the discussion in culpability and complicity that demonstrated the legal distinction between cooperation in commercial wrongdoing and complicity, in this case the law prohibits the item being manufactured from its genesis. As a prohibited item, one might have no level of complicity or even knowledge the item is counterfeit and still be legally responsible for engaging in reckless commercial behaviors that resulted in the distribution of such a “hot” item. This terminology is used because at the root of it, slavery is stealing, a view that perhaps demonstrates under what circumstances ancient Hammurabi dictated the removal of a hand for robbery.


Hausman, D. M. and M. S. McPherson. Economic Analysis and Moral Philosophy. Cambridge University Press (1996).

Ledwith, Margaret. Community development: A critical approach. Policy Press, 2011.

MacDonald, Ian Thomas. “Negotiating Mexico’s Labour Law Reform: Corporatism, Neoliberalism and Democratic Opening.” Studies in Political Economy 73, no. 1 (2004): 139-158.

Osiel, M.J. Ever again: Legal remembrance of administrative massacre. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 144(2), (1995). 463-704.

Ucnikova, Martina. “OECD and Modern Slavery: How much aid money is spent to tackle the issue?.” Anti-Trafficking Review 3 (2014).

Zureik, Elia, and Karen Hindle. “Governance, security and technology: the case of biometrics.” Studies in Political Economy 73, no. 1 (2004): 113-137.

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