Wage Slavery

I pride myself on the fact that those who self-identify as leftists accused me of being a rightist and those who self-identify as rightists accuse me of being a leftist. Failing to fit into the preconceived notions of others is a good indicator that you are on the right track.

As an advocate of non-aggression and truly free markets I believe my philosophy fits under the libertarian umbrella. But, for reasons I’ve describe previously, I believe that my philosophy is leftist in nature. This not only means a tendency towards radicalism but also a willingness to question ideas that have traditionally been thought of as libertarian.

Today I want to spend some time discussing a term often used by socialists and communists. That term is wage slavery.

Traditional libertarian thinking opposes the concept of wage slavery. The reason for this is that employer-employee relationships are seen as voluntary arrangements, which I agree with. Socialists counter this statement by noting that employees are reliant on their employers for their very survival so the relationship isn’t really voluntary, which I also agree with. Thus I come to my favorite point regarding wage slavery. Both sides have valid points.

For a relationship to be voluntary one must be free to termination that relationship at will. A person’s relationship with the state isn’t voluntary because attempting to break off that relationship tends to end with the person being kidnapped and caged by agents of the state (or outright murdered). But a person can leave their job at will — unless they can’t. Something libertarians often forget to consider is how dependent an employee generally is on their employer.

Why do people work for an employer? Because they need money to buy goods and services. Everything from food to water to healthcare are reliant on acquiring money. Here in the United States an individuals healthcare accessibility is also dependent on their employer’s provided health insurance policy. In other words there are sizable barriers preventing an employee from simply up and leaving his or her job.

Now that I’ve covered why I think wage slavery is a valid condition I think it’s time to address solutions to it. Socialists tend to favor ideas such as a universal basic income (UBI). The idea behind a UBI is that each person receives an income necessary for survival regardless of employment status. While the idea sounds good on paper any descent economists will rightly point out that such a program is necessarily inflationary and libertarians will point out that such a program requires the use of force to implement.

No, a UBI isn’t a working solution in my opinion. Instead I find the solution to wage slavery to be similar to solutions for most relationship-based problems. You don’t need a job, you need a business. This is a common saying amongst Minnesota’s agorist community and it rings true. So long as you’re dependent on an employer you’re not really free. If your survival is made possible by your work alone then you are much freer. Granted, you are still dependent on your customers but at some point anybody unwilling to subsistence farm is dependent on other human beings. With that in mind I still believe starting a business is the best option for achieving as much independence as possible.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be an employee. Many agorists work for an employer and operate a side business. If they lose their main employment they are able to fall back on their side business to make ends meet, at least until they find employment again. Sometimes a side business becomes successful enough to become an agorists primary source of income. It also doesn’t mean that you have to start a business. Many people are content working for an employer and they should be free to continue doing so if that is what they want. All that I’m saying is that having your own businesses makes you more independent and therefore freer.

So I believe wage slavery is a valid condition, which makes me a dirty leftists, but I also believe a libertarian solution exists, which makes me a dirty rightist (by United States standards anyways). Wage slavery is something that both sides of the aisle could find common ground with. Sadly the self-proclaimed leftists seem unwilling to accept a libertarian solution and the self-proclaimed rightists seem unwilling to acknowledge wage slavery as a legitimate condition. Thus two radical philosophies will continue to find themselves locked in an eternal death spiral while the statists continue to rule over everybody.

One thought on “Wage Slavery”

  1. Wage slavery, such as it exists, is a result of the state. Why do you need money to buy food, pay for shelter, etc.? Because you ARE NOT ALLOWED to homestead some land, build a residence yourself, live off the land by hunting or growing food, and so forth. The state does not allow you doing all this with “its” land – the land that, particularly in the Western US, is “off limits” to anyone and everyone.

    That said, I don’t think dependence presents you with a right to anything. Wage dependence is not wage slavery – slaves had their very liberty removed, where working for a wage is simply one option (perhaps the only viable one due to current situations re: the state’s monopolistic greed and force) to meet NATURE’S demands upon the individual for basic survival.

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