by Max Barry

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by The Singularity of Galactic Powers. . 24 reads.

The Problems of “Wage Slavery” as a Concept

We hear a lot from socialist commentary about the existence of exploitation in the form of the wage labor system. The common belief is that, in doing work for someone else and relying on their wage for survival, you are a type of slave. I disagree with this, and id like to point out some issues I find with the concept. Barring the fact that the term is meant to shock and make people mad, which…makes me mad, huh…well that works anyway.

So I’ll bring up a common example of how communists and socialists say wage slavery works. A worker is doing their job for the sole purpose of making money, and cannot leave or they will face a decrease in living conditions. This would, key word is would, be correct in certain scenarios. But it is pitifully simplistic and fails to take into account the role of a market economy. Due to the free market and the nature of competition, workers are are provided with freedom of association and can find another job that provides them more benefits, leisure money, and other opportunities. This ensures that they can save and have more money than is needed to live, and are thus not slaves. Corporations want workers, and are incentivized to give these benefits in order to outcompete the labor market.

Leftists respond with the fact that many in poverty cannot afford this option, and that their condition is also analogous to slavery as they cannot escape it without suffering. However, first of all, better jobs are still available to them. Secondly, education and job training are more available and cheap than ever, and it is still possible to improve your class. Thirdly, social safety nets can assist there as well.

Another thing I want to mention is that wage slavery is just a buzzword being applied to the overall accepted idea that everyone should contribute to society. If you paint “wage slavery” instead as “living conditions are met in exchange for your labor,” the real situation, then you just described many types of communism as well. Being paid a living wage in exchange for your work and needing to work to live us, to me, a more favorable position to be in than being under the socialist alternative. In libertarian socialism, the hope is that everyone just works like they want to in order to further the glorious commune. But when suddenly 346 people want to be philosophers, there is no answer to this in the socialist alternative. People take and don’t contribute. Under authoritarian communism, the state decides what you do instead of the freedom of association and freedom of employment given under a well regulated market system. Even worse.

Workplace democracy (which exists under capitalism) and market socialist movements (essentially Mixed economies with nationalization) don’t solve the “problem” anyway. Under any market with free association, “wage slavery” exists. Or, more accurately, under a free market, those who work, and work well, are compensated for their effort.