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May 25, 2011



Also a reason to be against the production of mined goods, toothpicks, chopsticks, car-seat covers, and surrealism, apparently:

"As well as backbreaking mining toil, [Liu] carved chopsticks and toothpicks out of planks of wood until his hands were raw and assembled car seat covers that the prison exported to South Korea and Japan.... But it was the forced online gaming that was the most surreal part of his imprisonment."


Isn't everyone against car-seat covers?


To play devils advocate for a moment. We already buy many other products from Chinese prisons without squirming (as Julian alludes to). How is buying e-gold different? Indeed, a bigger question; are American prisons any better? Anyone who's righteously thinking "shame on them" may want to read a about the impact of US prison labour for global businesses. Indeed, The American prison labour model of business has been a great influence around the world as to how prison labour is regarded. The "prison-industrial complex" and the privatization model of incarceration has american prisoners involved in the making of all kinds of products in mainland USA. Is this really so vastly different?

Also, I should add, when you read The Guardian, a UK publication known for it's left leaning political tendencies and viewpoints, that this idea of prisoners being used as a labour force (not a labor force which would certainly confuse us Brits) is a completely foreign idea to start with. We just don't have it in the UK. I'd cringe to think of how it would interact with the EU Human Rights Act and the Minimum Wage Laws we have in the UK. As a completely foreign idea then, the level of incredulity expressed in the reporter's article is rather heightened, but understandable. Quite possibly the reporter is also unaware when reporting about this "weird foreign use of prison labour", that actually since the American privatizations of the 1990's many countries around the world have used prison labour for all sorts of manufactoring.

OK. Devils advocate moment over.

I'll admit I cringed a little thinking of a prisoner in a chinese prison getting beaten for not hitting his e-gold quota. And then someone buying that e-gold without a care of where it came from.

I also remembered a great little bit of research Richard Heeks did a while ago looking at a East European gold farm.


Given that effectively unpaid prison labour can be used in China to produce e-gold, it puts the financial outcome of "Goran Podolski"'s gold farm descibed by Richard a bit more into perspective. If we remove the ethical and legal issues from the debate for a moment (like we can!) on a straight international competitiveness arguement the dumping of prison made e-gold onto the market it rather unfair (Yes, yes, I can hardly believe I just made that argument either...).

Anyway, I think Scott Jenning summed this up best on his blog today:

"There are several independent things that are very, very wrong about this."


Ever see the original bodies exhibit? Remember the whispers of where those plastic filled human remains in caricatures of human activity came from?

Given that perspective this does not surprise me at all, and seems relatively minor.

Although from a virtual world angle this is very important. It underscores the need to develop more robust systems to combat RMT trading.


Following up on David Grundy's point, here's a post by Adam Rothstein crunching the numbers on Chinese gold-farming prisoners versus U.S. farm-farming prisoners:


His take is that surplus-value-extracted dollar for surplus-value-extracted dollar, the U.S. racket is more exploitative. YMMV.

In any case, we'll want to add lettuce and such to the list of things we're against.


Know what I bet? I bet DSK is ISK-farming right now.


@David: While it's fair to draw the comparison to American prison labor, there's at least one important difference: In American prisons, there's better than even odds that the people there are actually there for a real crime. (The percentage may vary depending on your stance about things such as the actual criminality of illegal drugs, esp marijuana). Our justice system is imperfect - they all are - but for the most part it's fair and functional. Personal opinion: If you killed or stole or such, you surrender some or all of your value as a human being, and if you're caught and tried, you surrender many of your rights too. I'll allow for a right to humane treatment and due process of law, but liberty and pursuit of happiness are right out (and possibly life if the state has the death penalty).

However, in this story at least, you have a clear cut case of someone imprisoned and brutalized by a government known to be corrupt and dictitorial for exercising what here would be a First Amendment right. The fact that China does this regularly is not a secret (although the sale of other forced labor goods comming from there is rather less known.)

As a player, I've nothing personal against gold farmers if they're doing it on their own initiative for the money (though I'll report them if they spam me). But IMO this is absolutely a bullet point that developers and players against gold farming should champion: Don't buy from gold farmers because your money might be going into the hands of a corrupt government.

(For the sake of honesty, I'll say that yes, as a single person with a modest salary, my net worth includes a number of possessions with Made In China stickers and I don't know where any of it came from. I'm also not an activist of any sort and I'm lazy. But if other activists do the legwork to identify other specific products from these places and get the word out, I'm willing to listen and consider.)


A few clarifications and additions I thought of on the bus ride home:

- I'm referring primarily to the criminal justice system. I'm sure all of us here can think of areas where civil justice is lacking among the concerns of our industry alone, but the argument here is about prisons.

- Government-owned prisons use prisoner labor too. Does your car have a license plate? Ever passed a group of them doing road work? I don't know if they're paid for it or not, though I have a vague idea that the ability to work in state-owned prison and get paid for it is a privilege the prisoners have to earn. It costs money to maintain any prison, it seems perfectly fair that that people that make the cost necessary should have a role in paying for it.

- If you get the impression I don't think privatized prisons are such a bad thing, you're probably right. I do think maybe they ought to have a strong regulatory watchdog though, as a check on the power they potentially wield and the various ethics at stake. (See: Milligram experiment.)


is it against of car seat cover??????


I am not expert on criminology but I have always wondered if the best way to combat gold farming is to simply have the game maker offer their currency for trade in a similar fashion to EVE Online?

I mean, as long as one can sell virtual currency to players at a rate lower than the most powerful currency re-saler, I would think that the mathematics of it would inevitably cause those companies to seek greener pastures.

I realize I am probably over-simplfying things but I do know that labeling something as deviant creates a deviant act. The opposite should be true as well?


> is it against of car seat cover??????

Yes it is. And if it doesn't behave, it gets the hose again.


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