The debate brought about by the Occupy Wall Street movement has caused many, particularly those on the right, to espouse that free market capitalism is the perfect solution; markets unfettered regulate themselves and therefore produce the optimal result. They argue that government should do as little as possible when it comes to regulating business and their primary function, on a domestic basis, should be to support business as much as possible.

This leads me to a great recent example of what happens when businesses and the government work hand in hand. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the State Department runs a summer cultural exchange program that allows students from other countries to come to the U.S. on J-1 visas, giving them the opportunity to work and travel in the United States during summer break. The idea is to give students a chance to see the country, while at the same time earning some money.

About 400 of these students got jobs working at a packing plant for Hershey Chocolates in Palmyra, PA. According to the article, the students were required to work long hours in strenuous conditions, isolated from the rest of the workforce and without the allotted vacation to tour the country. Room and board was taken out of their meager wages, a set up reminiscent of the old mining company towns, leaving them with little extra cash to spend outside of work.

When some of the students contacted the contractor running the program for the State Department to complain about working conditions, they were met with threats to be sent back home. Eventually they organized a walk out, getting the attention of the media, and Hershey and the government started to pay some attention.

Still, it makes me wonder why Hershey chose to force foreign students to learn the magic of capitalism, when they could have just brought in more Oompa Loompas.
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Joe Payne

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