First, my apologies for reposting this previously blog-linked article in the daily articles section; many readers suggested that it needs a permanent home at Mises.org, so here it is (with the benefit of improvements suggested by commentators).
Productive work imparts glorious lessons in life. What lesson do we impart with child-labor laws? We establish early on who is in charge: not individuals, not parents, but the state. We tell the youth that they are better off being mall rats than fruitful workers. We tell them that they have nothing to offer society until they are 18 or so. We convey the impression that work is a form of exploitation from which they must be protected. We drive a huge social wedge between parents and children and lead kids to believe that they have nothing to learn from their parents’ experience. We rob them of what might otherwise be the most valuable early experiences of their young adulthood.
In the end, the most compelling case for getting rid of child-labor laws comes down to one central issue: the freedom to make a choice. FULL ARTICLE