Wage Slavery?

June 3, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

Is there something weak or low about a person who just wants a job?

The Free Society is about capitalism in its true spirit. This means it is about justice and peaceful exchange among people, and I will explain shortly what is meant by this. In the context of how a business operates, it means that both core parts of the internal business structure are fundamentally essential to the Free Society: laborer and manager; worker and investor; employee and entrepreneur.

The welfare and excellence of both are critical and reciprocals of each other. The laborer is not merely a less refined or inferior form of the entrepreneur, aspiring ever to escape and to transform himself or herself into something worthy. Both halves of the labor-entrepreneur relationship build their worthiness through effort and make their value self-evident through excellence in whatever task they choose to take on.

For all of us that wish to put an end to the criminal system of oligarchy, of manufactured economic depressions, of bailouts for corrupt banks, of the police state, and of perpetual war, the Free Society is the only acceptable goal. This society is truly the only one consistent with the rights of the individual, and of providing for the general welfare. We cannot forget that the vision of a more just and prosperous society includes all multitudes of people, pursuing their living in various ways. It is no “mediocre” thing to demand the end to criminally managed economies that rob people of their occupations and property, and so it is no mediocre thing to simply desire employment in some occupation. On the other side of the coin, it is no excellent thing to disparage these people, or to crow loudly at one’s own self-professed superiority.

So who am I talking to here?

There seems to be a growing number of people dedicated to the ideas of individual liberty that focus especially on entrepreneurship, or owning one’s own business, but the tactic many of them use to sell the idea is somewhat divisive. The video posted above has to do with the idea of “wage slavery“. What exactly is that defined as? It depends on who you ask.

On the one hand, freedom minded economists (nearly all of whom are what are called “Austro-Libertarians” or “Miseians” or “Austrian economists”: you can read and listen to all of their method and philosophy at Mises.org) tell us that every individual worker is a “capitalist,” in the sense that a laborer “sells” his labor to the boss or business owner in return for a wage/salary, or “capital.”

This is true.

Working for a business owner for a wage is a form of trade or exchange (and that is what “capitalism” essentially is, despite what we are often told: it is voluntary exchanges of various things between consenting people), because as we can easily see (and I have attempted to describe here), your human body is your property. The labor of your body is then also your property. If a business owner forced you to work for them, this would be slavery, not employment. Working voluntarily for someone and expecting fair compensation in return is therefore a trade: the use of your labor and time are traded for some type of payment. Since money (or “capital”) is being traded for labor, then taking part in this trade makes both you the worker, and the boss or business owner, “capitalists.”

So far, so good.

But on the other hand, many people in the Liberty Movement (i.e. the global effort by individuals to break the chains that criminal banking and governments/states have shackled us with), refer to “wage slavery” when talking about the economy. The people doing this are simultaneously speaking of the liberating principles of individual rights, private property, and Austrian Economics.

If we remain an employment based economy, we’re going to fail.

– Josh Tolley

Check out this video for a good example. Jeff Berwick, creator of the Dollar Vigilante blog, newsletter and site, interviews entrepreneur/businessman Joby Weeks about his thoughts on the U.S. economy and starting your own business.

At around 19 minutes Weeks says:

“You gotta remember…a hundred years ago 95% of the people ran their own businesses, only 5% of them were wage slaves workin’ a job. Now a hundred years later…everybody’s ‘looking for jobs’.

Why the hell would you want to look for a job in the first place? Why’d you want to be a wage slave and a debt slave and have to pay all these taxes?

Why don’t you become an entrepreneur, and create value for the marketplace? It doesn’t take a lot of money to start a business…I have no pity for people that, you know, who ‘tip-toe through life to arrive safely at death’, who find the reasons and excuses to justify their mediocrity.

I read that book Rich Dad, Poor Dad…[it talked] about the difference between profits and wages, and the cash flow quadrant, [about] why you’d want to focus on being a business owner or an investor rather than an employee or being self-employed.”

Joby Weeks

Weeks’ entire tone is basically disdainful to the audience and it is confusing as to why Weeks seems so perturbed with a “everyman” wage-slave that is not any specific individual, but some sort of phantom that he seems intent on slaying.

First of all, Weeks’ idea about “95% of people ran their own businesses” a hundred odd years ago is misleading. For sure, in the past most people in the U.S. and around the world were employed in agriculture or domestication of animals. The owners of agricultural lands did not work for an employer in most cases: they were self-employed as farmers or tended to livestock of some kind. In the sense that a family owned their own farm or ranch, then took their crop or stock to market and sold it, you could say that they were “business owners.” But this is using the term very loosely.

For the vast majority of humans living this way, farming or ranching was done at a basic level just to provide for existence, not to reap profits, and in many cases, families had to pay rents to absentee landlords as “tenant farmers“. This type of existence was not really anything like that of managing a business or being an investor. It was more like a craft, one that was typically inherited by the new generation from their parents.

Joby Weeks seems to ignore the obvious fact that many farms were not run solely by the “owners,” but needed hired laborers to sow and reap the crop, care for the animals, repair fences, clear land, quarry rocks for walls, etc. People who specialized in certain skills were hired to keep the farms, ranches and plantations running: farriers, wheel wrights, cooks, blacksmiths, masons, carpenters, overseers, cowboys, drovers and others. On the larger farms and plantations, there could be servants, accountants, surveyors, engineers, estate managers, and more. These people were obviously not business owners: they were employees (and in some countries, serfs or slaves), either living on the land itself, or hired on seasonal or contract basis.

All of these people were “workin’ a job” as Weeks puts it. And why is that a bad thing?

Of course, being a serf or a slave on a plantation was not ideal, and people righteously fought to eradicate serfdom and slavery. Likewise, being forced to participate in a system of coercive taxation is not ideal, and we should seek to eradicate it for the anachronistic and depraved institution that it is. But were the lumber jacks who cleared the land “wage slaves”? The blacksmiths? Was the owner of the farm, ranch or plantation the only “real” individual doing something worthwhile that they found personal fulfillment in?

This is the main issue I have with what Weeks has to say: his idea of “mediocrity.” The idea that being employed, or seeking employment, in one of the capacities I listed is somehow proof that a person is a mediocre individual is totally off base. It is equally off base to ask people why they ‘don’t create some value for the marketplace,’ as if only by being an entrepreneur, can one bring value to the economy.

The fact is that the farms and ranches of the past simply could not have functioned without all of these workers, from the laborer using a shovel to the highly trained surveyor. Many trades were highly skilled and the people performing them were valued by society. One cannot simply read a book about metal smithing, animal husbandry, mining, carpentry or any other form of innumerable trades and go out and do it in an excellent way. It takes time, practice and guidance from masters who know the art of the particular craft.

Today, things are no different. I cannot become a structural engineer overnight , or go to a website about animals today and open up a veterinary clinic next week. I have to work at those things to learn how to do them well, and this means I have to accept the fact that there are other things that I then cannot put my time into doing. If I am going to spend years learning how to be a master cement mason, I cannot also spend all of my time traveling around to conferences and working as a real estate agent, for example.

“There’s never been a movement of freedom, in the history of the world, that didn’t have free enterprise fueling it. So when we look at this idea [of] ‘oh yeah the government is so oppressive’, [I] absolutely agree: we have one of two choices. We’re either going to continue being employees, or we’re going to become entrepreneurs.

– Josh Tolley

Specialization and skill building means I have to be “workin’ a job.” Specialization of labor is fundamental to a complex economy. Without specialization, there is only a society where everyone does exactly the same thing as everyone else, has the same skills as everyone else, or in other words, a return to primitive society.

This probably sounds like common sense to most of us, but it strangely enough seems to be lost on many entrepreneur-minded people in the climax of their passionate speeches.

Tolley definitely believes in skill building. Much of his discussion with Berwick is a hard-sell for one of his own businesses, which consists in teaching people how to start a business: he makes the point several times that if you don’t pay for a seat in one of his seminars, your entrepreneurial venture will probably fail because you won’t know what you are doing. Interesting.

It is all well and good to be a business owner, but the term itself reminds us that it is in fact  the business itself that is the main thing.

Unless a business person is a “sole proprietor” (where the business is made up of just one individual, which would fall under Weeks’ “self-employed” type of person, a position he sees as undesirable compared to the “investor” or “owner”), he or she is going to be managing other people: employees, workers, subordinates, etc.

Even the term “entrepreneur,” which everyone loves to throw around, comes from French words, basically meaning “to undertake,” or “to take hold of things.” It doesn’t mean “the guy who does any and every task related to the operation of the business.” The entrepreneur takes risks onto himself by investing capital to purchase the things needed to get a business going, and hires the appropriate people. He then manages the business to make sure it stays productive (although he may not have to do this, if he is purely an investor). That’s it. This is not to say that much hard work and long hours are not involved, but it is simple fact that the entrepreneur cannot perform every task necessary to the business on his own.

At the end of the day, the people he hires are what actually make the business work, because they have the skills, talents and experience necessary. The collective amount of all these skills, talents and experiences are going to be infinitely more than what any single investor/entrepreneur can bring to the table.

Now, before I get too far ahead of myself, I feel that it is worth saying again that people such as Weeks are correct in that we shouldn’t want to be paying half (or more) of our earnings to oligarchs and criminals in the form of taxes. But, this doesn’t mean that working a trade in itself is the problem. To go back to the past: serfdom and slavery were immoral and backwards, but just because most serfs were farmers and many slaves were miners or laborers doesn’t mean that farming, mining or laboring are themselves immoral or backwards.

Berwick responds to Weeks’ view:

“There’s nothing wrong with a job, if you have no money and you have no skills, that’s a great way to learn some skills, to go work for somebody, and that’s fine.”

Jeff Berwick

So apparently only unskilled people that are broke seek employment from others?

No. This is not the reality.

The entrepreneur, in actuality, needs skilled people to work for him. Ideally, he wants the most skilled people with the most experience, and experience only comes from “workin’ a job” for an extended time, most likely for multiple employers.

Berwick goes on to discuss public education (or more correctly, indoctrination) and the rut all too many people find themselves in where they are losing more to taxes and living expenses than they can make in earnings. Josh Tolley highlights the same thing in his interview when he talks about the “wage slavery system” that he sees as having come into existence in the United States in 1913 (for the significance of the year 1913, we recall the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank). Of course there is much truth to these insights. But again, we must mark the distinction between the effects of the criminal manipulation of the larger economy by the state system and the oligarchs, and the simple means by which people are trying to make a living.

Condemning the current system of wage-slavery is entirely reasonable, so far as we are clear about what the “slavery” portion consists of, and then keep it in mind. But disparaging the “wage earning” portion in itself is off base.

Entrepreneurship and self-employment are great options for people, no doubt. I myself wish to continue in developing my business as a “sole proprietor.” But I have also worked trades and labored in both skilled and unskilled jobs. I know many, many people who absolutely love what they do in these jobs, whether it be forestry, driving a bulldozer, hauling cargo long distances by truck, building houses, growing flowers or welding metal. These people have found a job that they find exciting, challenging or maybe even relaxing and therapeutic, and can get paid to do it.

Is it wrong for them to desire nothing more? Is it “mediocre” of them, in this time of economic depression (or “recession,” to use the politically correct term ordained by our self-professed masters) to lament that their previous jobs that they enjoyed have been terminated?

At one point in the same interview, Berwick and Weeks agree that people who are having trouble finding employment need to admit that they are responsible for their own predicament.

This may be true for some people when it comes to having say, not invested any effort in learning skills. And it is generally true in the sense that all of us as individuals can choose the course we wish to take in life, and may alter this course. But the fact remains that for many people, the profession they have talent for, or have invested years of their life into, is not much of an option for them anymore because of economic factors beyond their control.

A boom-bust economy, or more specifically the after effects, deliberately manufactured by financial and corporate oligarchs, cannot be blamed on the very victims it hurts most: the average working person. It is both insulting and ridiculous to go to the victims of this criminality, and to say to them, “You are the problem, because you just want to ‘work a job.’ Become a business owner you bum.”

At the very least, there is a serious practical problem with approaching the issue from Weeks’ and Tolley’s point of view. And it is summed up with an old saying: “you can’t have all Chiefs and no Indians.”

The solution to unemployment: everyone become an entrepreneur!

“I don’t always work…but when I do, I prefer to use a keyboard.” – Jack

In reality, not everyone can be an investor. Not everyone can be the business owner. Someone has to actually work for the businesses that are created. There actually have to be people for the managers to manage: the idea of an economy of nothing but investors and owners is comically stupid. Someone actually has to work, earn a wage, and then buy goods and services from others earning a wage in order to generate the flow of capital through an economy that gives the entrepreneur something to manage to begin with.

I totally disagree with this notion that the people who are laboring and working at trades, who are creating the products, moving the products and providing the sheer sweat driving the economy are doing so only because they are too “mediocre” or lazy to be the managers of others.

Not everyone wants to be an investor, business owner or entrepreneur. Many people simply want to earn a living doing something that they love to do, or have invested years of training learning to do. And no one should disparage them. No one has basis to disparage them: they are the foundation of the entire system to which the entrepreneur or investor wishes to plug himself into.

I’m sure Weeks would agree with me to a point. I’m certain that he, Berwick, Tolley and others would tell me: “You misunderstood, we are not saying everyone needs to become an entrepreneur, we are saying that for certain people, like the people who tune into Anarchast, people who read and listen to financial and economic forecasting and listen to seminars on wealth creation, they need to seize the day and become entrepreneurs!”

Is the entrepreneur a slave?

With that being what it is, it still leaves the question open about what everyone as a whole is supposed to do. And what are we supposed to do long term.

If indeed, people who work for wages are slaves because of the taxing schema, then why would anyone aware of this fact work for your company, when they are going to be involved in that schema? Unless Weeks has ensured that his businesses are circumventing U.S. tax requirements, then how hypocritical is it to speak of “wage slavery” when you have wage slaves a floor below your office going about their tasks, making your business run? The fact is that entrepreneurs pay taxes too: the more successful they become, the more extortion money the state system demands, which hurts both the entrepreneur and his workers.

But there’s the rub. In this sense, is not the entrepreneur also a slave? Simply having more money in the bank than the “wage slaves” working for the entrepreneur does not change the fact that large extortion payouts are still demanded of the entrepreneur. He is integrally involved in the same system.

This may be countered with the response: “Yeah but, the successful entrepreneur can take his large amount of savings, and do things with it like incorporate offshore and preserve his wealth and escape the slavery! YEAH!!”

To which I say: Ok, so you make your pile, pack up, leave and wave goodbye to the “wage slaves” who worked for you saying, “heh, you guys should’ve been an entrepreneur like me…BIATCH!!!

This doesn’t seem like a very effective way to inflame people’s passions and make them yearn for the Free Society.

Again, what is the long term solution? Weeks and Tolley are coming at the problem in the short term, for a select number of people. Obviously, if you become an entrepreneur and move your earnings offshore, away from criminal confiscation, you can use your earnings to establish a nice life for yourself and your family. You can choose to live in a relatively more free area of the world. And that’s great. But it is ridiculous to present this tactic as a long term strategy or “solution” to liberating society from property confiscation and erosion of individual freedom.

It is a short term, ‘”get what you can while the gettins’ good” mentality. The idea of the Free Society is to attack the institution and mechanism by which individuals find themselves enslaved to begin with, not to free a few individuals here and there so that they may run off to some far corner of the earth and wait out the storm. Because eventually the storm will move on, even to the far corners. And then what?

People cannot have it both ways…

People cannot have it both ways. You cannot start a business that makes widgets, and preach to others the merits of capitalism (in its true sense, as I discussed earlier), while simultaneously saying that anyone who simply wishes to find a job is mediocre or does not understand capitalism.

Well, you can make both statements at the same time, but what does this accomplish? The guy who just wants a job, and gets it either making your widget, crating it up, or driving your delivery truck is going to be wondering how it can be true that it is a good thing your business is providing these job opportunities to him …and yet it is also true that he needs to get out of his “mediocre” mindset of being content to make widgets, crate widgets, or drive a truck full of widgets.

If the widget maker, crater and driver all at the same time accept the gospel, as you have presented it, and they all drop what they are doing and go off to be entrepreneurs (maybe even pooling their savings together, lets say) where does that leave you, the widget company entrepreneur? Making your own widgets, crating your own widgets, and driving your truck to the market.

And if the truck breaks down, you might not have a clue about how to get the engine running again because you spent years going to entrepreneurship seminars and hanging out at hotel lounges for happy hour with investors, and never picked up a wrench or got grease on your hands once in your life.

The message from some people is essentially: “Hey stop being a wage slave and be an entrepreneur! By the way…I just got a new venture up and running…anyone want to be a wage slave and come work for me?”

This is speaking out both sides of one’s mouth. And that is never good in terms of growing any social movement, especially a liberation movement.

 – Please share your thoughts!  Comment below –

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Category: Philosophy, the Free Society

About the Author ()

Jack has been a Liberty activist since 2007. His life experiences have convinced him that establishing a Free Society, based on Private Law, is a necessity for humanity's survival and progression.

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