Recently, a friend alerted me and some others to a conversation on social media. An avowed communist—not someone whose politics lean left, either. I mean someone who will flat out tell you that not only that they’re a communist but what flavor of commie they are—used the term “wage slavery” in a derogatory manner.
See, what they imagine being perfect is a world where people just don’t have to work except pursuing their passions. If you want to paint, you paint. If you want to write, you write. If you want to sit on your sofa naked and juggle shaved coconuts all day, have at it.
My friend, Sarah Hoyt, also was privy to this and went on a beautiful rant yesterday about it. You can read it here, and you should.
However, this particular brand of stupidity needs to be shut down more often than just once.
First, let’s understand the term “wage slavery” or “wage slave.”
See, socialists and communists tend to use this word to attack the institutions of capitalism. In their view, the fact that you have to work for a living is somehow inherently wrong and is akin to actual slavery. After all, you’re “forced” to work in exchange for money, which is exactly like being forced to work at the end of a whip or something.
Yes, it’s absolutely ridiculous, yet here we are.
Frankly, though, I don’t want people to stop using the term. I’m actually appreciative of anyone who uses it. Why? Because it tells me they’re not serious people who deserve to be treated as if they are.
Some day long in the future, we may live in the kind of society where people can live comfortably while picking what they will pursue as a career, if anything. There will be more than enough food for everyone and no one will need to exchange money for that food because there’s no cost in producing it.
I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.
After all, someone is risking something and will expect to be compensated for it. People who own the land will expect at least some revenue from the crops grown on it, even if robots do all the work. Even then, someone has to build the robots, and so on.
The only way people can be provided with all their needs and be able to simply pursue whatever they want is if food can somehow be magically created out of nothing. The same with all other goods someone may want or need.
In a free-market society, we use money to handle manage the scarcity of resources. As resources become more scarce, the cost goes up. When scarcity drops, so does the price. (Assuming, of course, demand remains constant. Demand does play a factor and all that, but that’s a different tangent.)
Now, in addition to resources, there are tasks needing to be done. Some of those are skills that require a lot of training. Others require very little. Some are desirable positions to get and others aren’t.
Wages for these jobs are adjusted based on how easy it is to get qualified applicants. Physicians, for example, get paid a lot because there are only so many people who can qualify for those jobs. Meanwhile, fast-food workers are the proverbial dime a dozen.
These people get paid a wage that reflects the scarcity of their skillset in relation to the number of people you can get to do the job. While people who climb into septic tanks aren’t going to pull down doctor money, they’re going to make a lot more than a burger flipper. After all, how many people would really do that job for long?
If you take away wages, though, who does those jobs? Yeah, someone might opt to be a doctor because they want to help people, but who goes into the septic tanks? Who flips the burgers?
“But they’re not wage-slaves anymore,” these people would explain.
Well, maybe not. But what happens when a government that is providing all your needs decides someone has to climb into those septic tanks?
With waged work, if you don’t like climbing into septic tanks—or any other task, really—you are free to seek other employment. Maybe flipping burgers for minimum wage is preferable to the nasty work you had elsewhere. Maybe not. Either way, you have a choice of whether you want to stay there or not.
Hell, you may recognize you can suffer through it for a few years, but not indefinitely, so you get training for some other profession. That’s also your choice.
Yet if a government assigns you to a task, can you really say no? In the Soviet Union, for example, if you weren’t working, you could be required to accept any position offered. That may be fine if you end up with something you enjoy, but I suspect those who were forced to take work weren’t being offered up prime opportunities.
Please, tell me how that “freedom” is somehow preferable.
In 1984, George Orwell used a lot of phrases to denote the gaslighting the government did to the people. “Freedom is slavery,” is a prime example, yet the idea of “wage slavery” is just that, communist gaslighting.
Yes, you have to work, but I’d much rather be a so-called wage slave than a literal slave.
Do you know what you get when people don’t have to work for a living? Famine. Farm work is dangerous. People get seriously injured or killed on farms all the time. If people didn’t have to work, they wouldn’t spend a lot of time on the farms. Yet, without people working on farms, where do you think the food comes from?
See, the problem with talk of “wage slavery” is that it’s all fantasy. Elves and fairies are more realistic than a workable communist/socialist society. It’s why every communist society ends up collapsing in on itself at some point.
“But real communism has never been tried,” someone says. The problem is, that’s because real communism isn’t possible to be achieved.
“Wage slavery,” though, isn’t real. To equate it to actual slavery isn’t championing the working classes, either. It’s an attempt to leverage the understandable hatred for actual slavery and use it to justify one’s own ambitions for uselessness.
It’s time for them to stop bitching about the evils of capitalism, get off their mom’s couch, and get their own job. If it sucks, then good. It’ll motivate them to earn their way to something better through hard work and determination, not a government patting you on the head and pretending you matter to them while the kleptocrats in charge live the life of luxury you’ve been taught was inherently evil.
As for me, I’ll take wage slavery over actual slavery any day of the week.
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