Test your moral intuitions, Kunming edition

This was a truly strange article, not only for its content but also for its odd shifts in tone.  It seems that in China there is a theme park of dwarfs who perform for tourists; this reader felt he had stepped into a Brian Barry article.  Here is one sample of what goes on:

And there is the Swan Lake parody, a crowd pleaser in which male dwarfs dress up in pink tights and tutus and wiggle their derrières.

“The first time I wore that, I felt really awkward,” said Chen Ruan, 20, who used to collect refuse with his parents. “But then I got up on stage and people liked it. People were applauding and I felt proud.”

So is this morally OK?  Among other things, the article suggests that this theme park is raising the status of dwarfs, and the disabled, in China, at least relative to how things had been.  You'll note that Chen Ruan, cited above, used to pick up refuse. 

Is it better or worse that some of the dwarfs seem to enjoy the work?  In this kind of "few other good employment options, culture of face-saving and honor, don't insult the boss to prestigious foreigners" setting, are there any employee reports that a reporter actually could trust and pass along at face value?  What is the proper moral stance of a journalist toward a story like this one?

By the way, the piece claims that the park is not (yet?) profitable.


As long as the questioned transaction is consensual and generates no third party effects (or if does, as long as the transaction generates more social benefits than costs), why should anyone object to the theme park

moral intuition is simply a pure substitute for reason

The moral intuition is from the expected externality that if people treat paid dwarfs as unequal freaks, then they'll treat unpaid dwarfs as unequal freaks. The question is whether treating even the unpaid dwarfs as unequal freaks is better than what they are experiencing now.

Dwarf cows


Why is this not a "markets in everything" post?

Is the WWF moral? If so, then I don't really see the difference.

Should we ban showings of "The Wizard of Oz"?

The film and television industry in Hollywood employs little people qua little people. When I was a kid, I saw an all-Dwarf softball league game at Van Nuys Park, with most of the players being on the fringes of the entertainment industry.

Oh dear. Such squares, such illiterates.



Freak Show:


As with all things Residents related, there is much more to it.

Do note these quite mature examples are all genuine USA.

There's also a problem of applying a moral standard that has been reached in the west to China.

Dwarf tossing used to be popular past-time in Europe. It revolts us now, but by increasing the income, and hopefully therefore the education and self-esteem of disabled people it was a step along the path to greater inclusion.

I must say I didn't notice the changes in tone in the article, it used the standard journalistic practise of quoting differing opinions. Two Chinese names are cited as having "contributed research", perhaps they interviewed the Chinese people quoted.

The tone of this post (and many of the comments) seems to suggest that this phenomenon is specific to developing countries. In fact, the moral question was a salient one in the West in very recent times; arguably it still is.

In France, a 1991 order prohibited dwarf tossing (or, more precisely, allowed local jurisdictions to prohibit dwarf tossing) on the grounds that it violates human dignity. An anonymous dwarf appealed to the UN Committee on Human Rights, arguing that dignity consists of having a job and there are no other jobs for a dwarf. The UN rejected his complaint in 2002.

See: http://justeurope.unblog.fr/lancer-de-nain/

(One of many interesting things I learned from Al Roth)

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