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Modern bondage

"Modern bondage" Continued...

Issue: "Home again," July 12, 2008

WORLD: What did you learn about 21st-century slavery in the United States?

SKINNER: There are now more slaves taken into the United States annually than were taken into colonial America. Every half hour, on average, one more person enters the United States and loses freedom. Many are held in underground brothels, illegal factories, illicit escort services, or tucked-away plantations. But some might be held in our neighborhoods. I got to know a young woman who at age 9 was trafficked from Haiti into an upscale suburban Miami home. There she was held in brutal domestic and sexual slavery for three years, until the intervention of two heroic citizens led to her rescue.

WORLD: You write, "Often the best thing that government can do is step out of the way. In South Asia, where over half the world's slaves toil, millions of desperately poor people squat on land that the state owns." What if the squatters were to receive title to that land?

SKINNER: If the Dalits were to receive title to the land upon which they have lived for generations, they would for the first time own an asset. Currently throughout South Asia the government nominally owns much rural land. But well-placed, Brahmin (upper-caste) families secure leases to manage that land through their relationships with Rajas and other hereditary rulers. Some Brahmin then compel their Dalit neighbors into debt bondage. Alternatively if the state defined the property rights of those Dalits, not only could they grow wealth, but the region as a whole would prosper.

WORLD: John Miller ran for a time the federal government's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. What success did he have, and what happened to him personally?

SKINNER: During 2003, Miller's first year in charge of the office, he had a budget of $10 million to combat traffickers and slave masters who reap some $32 billion from the flesh of their human chattel. But Miller was impassioned by meeting survivors and knowing that if he failed in his duties, slaves would die in bondage. So he used his natural political gifts to cajole recalcitrant foreign governments-among them some of our closest allies, including the Saudis-to live up to their obligations to free the slaves. In the end, the fights that wore on him the most were the internal battles within the State Department.

WORLD: You state that "the free market can be the world's most effective device for ending poverty." How?

SKINNER: The end of slavery cannot wait for the end of poverty. That said, denying the role of poverty in slavery is like denying the role of gravity in rainfall, and targeted, market-based development programs are essential to combat bondage. Once slaves learn how the market works, and learn about their rights and opportunities within that market, once they are allowed to keep the products of their labor and build wealth, they very quickly realize their own freedom. The free market, if coupled with comprehensive legal reforms, is the world's most effective device for eradicating bondage.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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