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Forum Post: wage slavery - the moral argument?

Posted 1 year ago on Sept. 22, 2012, 1:12 p.m. EST by flip (6795)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

At one time in the U.S., in the mid-19th century, working for wage labor was considered not very different from chattel slavery. That was the slogan of the Republican Party, the banner under which northern workers went to fight in the Civil War. We’re against chattel slavery and wage slavery......and furthermore ..........the debate about slavery. A lot of the debate about slavery took place, or as we reconstruct it could have taken place, on shared moral grounds. In fact, one can understand the slave owner’s arguments on our moral grounds, and one can even see that those argu­ments are not insignificant. Take one case just to illustrate. Suppose I’m a slave owner, and you’re opposed to slavery, and I give you the following argument for slavery: “Suppose you rent a car and I buy a car. Who’s going to take better care of it? Well, the answer is that I’m going to take better care of it because I have a capital investment in it. You ‘re not going to take care of it at alL If you hear a rattle, you ‘re just going to give it back to Hertz and let somebody else wor,y about it. If I hear a rattle, I’m going to take it to the garage because I don’t want to get in trouble later on. In general, I’m going to take better care of the car I own than you’re going to take of the car you rent. Suppose I own a person and you rent a person. Who’s going to take better care of that person? Well, parity of argument, I’m going to take better care of that person than you are. Consequently, it follows that slavery is much more moral than capitalism. Slavery is a system in which you own people and therefore you take care of them. Capitalism, which has a free labor market, is a system. in which you rent people. If you own capital, you rent people and then you! don ‘t care about them at all. You use them up, throw them away, get new people. So the free market in labor is totally immoral, whereas slavery is quite moral.” Now that’s a moral argument, and we can understand it. We may, decide that it’s grotesque. In fact, we will decide that it’s grotesque, but we have to ask ourselves why

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40 Comments


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[-] 2 points by notaneoliberal (2269) 1 year ago

I see capitalism as amoral, rather than immoral. Capitalism does not provide a social system. For a society to work well, a social system must be put in place.

[-] 1 points by flip (6795) 1 year ago

and what does capitalism do to that social system if it sits on top of it?

[-] 2 points by notaneoliberal (2269) 1 year ago

If allowed to sit on top of it, (which is pretty much what has been allowed) it (society) tends to degenerate to the law of the jungle. Society must keep a firm grip on a strong leash on capitalism.

[-] 0 points by flip (6795) 1 year ago

agreed but even the "left" in this country bow down to capitalism - "Far from rejecting capitalism, Obama explicitly embraces it, and for much the same reasons Otteson does:

"He [Theodore Roosevelt] believed then what we know is true today, that the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history. It’s led to a prosperity and a standard of living unmatched by the rest of the world."

[-] 2 points by notaneoliberal (2269) 1 year ago

Well, my first reaction is. What "left"? I do not believe there is a left, left. I consider Obama to be neoliberal. The idea that capitalism is a social system is where Ayn Rand ran so seriously a muck. http://open.salon.com/blog/skypixie0/2012/01/09/capitalism_is_not_a_social_system .

[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 1 year ago

But Teddy also recognized that the people (through gov regulation) had to watch/police/control big business (trusts), And Teddy felt strongly that the monied class/big business must think about more than just profit. Teddy believed business must consider & serve the community they do business in and provide adequate pay/treatment of their employees.

[-] 0 points by flip (6795) 1 year ago

once again let's not get carried away with our beloved leaders - here is noam on teddy - "Roosevelt was a shocking racist. I don't use the analogy lightly, but it's a fact that you have to go to the Nazi archive to find anything similar. So, here's a couple of his examples about our little region here. "[T]he expansion of the peoples of white, or European, blood during the past four centuries . . . has been fraught with lasting benefit to most of the peoples already dwelling in the lands over which the expansion took place." That's despite what the remnants of Native Americans or Blacks or Filipinos or others might mistakenly believe. Actually, genocide denial has been a leading and highly valued feature of the intellectual and moral culture in the United States and remains so right until the present. . . . With regard to the conquest of a half of Mexico, Roosevelt explained that it was "inevitable," and "in the highest degree desirable for the good of humanity at large, that the American people should ultimately crowd out the Mexicans." It was "out of the question to expect" Texans to "submit to the mastery of the weaker race." And, of course, stealing Panama from Colombia was also "in the highest degree desirable for the good of humanity." I won't go on with Teddy Roosevelt, whose statue graces Mount Rushmore.

[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 1 year ago

Doesn't change his correct view on trusts and workers rights. I do not think any human being is always right. It ain't hard to find problems with someone born 150 years ago.

The opinions you cited were they opinions of the time. Teddy's greatness is in challenging the accepted ideas on business/workers rights at the time.

So I agree Teddy had serious problems as the whole country did but he was also great in that he moved us further along the progressive evolution that has led to a reduction of racism and oppression around the world.

[-] 2 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 1 year ago

Flip used your simplistic, one-dimensional political spectrum against you just there.

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 1 year ago

He just said "nice job". Didja see that?

In fact Flip and I had a reasonable debate and I agree with him that Teddy held some pretty fucked up ideas on race, & imperialism.

For me it does not change Teddys greatness.

Flip gave important examples that we were able to discuss in a civil and respectful way.

Just one example techie! C'mon.

[-] 1 points by flip (6795) 1 year ago

now you are thinking kid - nice job - we agree! please keep in mind that there were many people at that time that understood workers rights very well - they were mostly the workers!

[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 1 year ago

Sure. Like now nothing changes for any oppressed group until they get people in power to empathize and stand with them.

Teddy was old Dutch NYC money, the 1% without a doubt. His contemporaries hated his efforts.

His was one of very few people in power to stand up for workers rights and against big business. The 1% plutocrats of the day did everything they could to stop him but the people saw his support for them and lifted him to victory.

That was his greatness, he took the right stand against the 1% plutocrats.

Even with all his mistakes. That one effort makes Teddy great!

[-] 1 points by flip (6795) 1 year ago

not sure i want to go with great but you can - how about this - he was good on a number of issues!

[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 1 year ago

Of course I can agree with that. He was good on only a few issues.

The times I think allowed for only so much change and he pushed the envelope.

Once he was out of office change did not occur again until the next Roosevelt (more old Dutch nyc money) 20 years later, then not again for another 20 years in the '60's. (no ny'rs).

Shoulda had another dose by the '80's/'90's but got moderate Clinton, now moderate Obama.

The times are fucked up now too. Change will only come if the people protest, & pressure like they did for the 2 Roosevelts, & during the '60's.

It is up to us.

[-] 1 points by InFlorida (1) 1 year ago

Though wage slavery is a catchy phrase, I prefer “Monarch of Capitalism”, that capital is passed down thru a dynasty and is applied based on the whims of a leader insulated from the day to day existence of their peasants.

[-] 1 points by flip (6795) 1 year ago

wage slave is still the correct term for what we live with

[-] 0 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

Until you develop a society in which everyone produces and consumes only what they obtained on their own and no one ever trades any good or service for any other good or service, there will always be this thing you call wage slavery.

[-] 0 points by flip (6795) 1 year ago

really - how about worker ownership - have you ever thought about that? not sure what your point is anyway - it is probable that there will always be men molesting children - does that mean we condone it? time to think first then write - you are on ows not ben stein's website

[-] 0 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

It would seem that under your idea of slavery if anyone trades work for something else you call it slavery. Workers in a coop still get paid for their efforts, making them wage slaves. Workers in a utopian society could still be considered slaves to society, trading work for food, other necessities, or luxuries.

[-] 0 points by flip (6795) 1 year ago

can you be a slave to yourself? are you ok? were the indians slaves when they went to hunt buffalo? stacy girl - think!

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

You would be a slave to whatever the will of the majority is, so potentially 50%-1 are slaves, under your idea of slavery, in a worker run facility. Workers simply taking charge doesn't necessarily change anything but who signs the pay check.

Yes, you might consider anyone a slave that has to work for survival, depending on how you twist the meaning of the word. That could include any hunter-gathering culture. Personally I wouldn't consider anyone a slave unless they were actually owned by an individual, I don't consider employees slaves either. It may have been close to actual slavery in the 19th century when workers were forced to live in company housing and shop in company stores. Not any longer. Even then they had the freedom to move.

[-] 1 points by flip (6795) 1 year ago

you need a dictionary - if you sign the pay check you are not a slave! i work for myself - that is not considered wage slavery! got it? i may work very hard, i may be a slave to the system with taxes to pay etc but i am not a wage slave - girl come on - you must have something better to do! thinking is not your strong suit seems to me.

[-] 0 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

Workers exchange their labor for pay. It doesn't matter if that pay comes from an individual employer, many stockholders, or if it is the divided up profits from a coop. The individual works, he or she gets paid. If it's slavery to work for wages from the shareholders, it's just as much slavery to take that paycheck from the majority in a worker run facility. The simple fact that the workers share ownership, doesn't necessarily mean that the individual worker's life is any different under one form or the other.

You compare hiring a worker to renting and claim it's less moral that actual servitude. Employment is a trade freely entered into, it isn't a form of slavery unless you remove all choice from the matter. If your "rental" arrangement isn't to the worker's liking he is free to get another job. Difficult to do for many but the freedom to do so is there. As long as there is that freedom it isn't slavery.

[-] 1 points by flip (6795) 1 year ago

little girl you have not thought this through - too bad

[-] 2 points by Mooks (1985) 1 year ago

Wow, even if you were 100% correct it would be hard for anyone to take you seriously when you carry yourself like an 8 year old.

[-] 1 points by flip (6795) 1 year ago

i am 10

[-] 2 points by Mooks (1985) 1 year ago

Still pretty immature for your age I would say.

[-] 1 points by flip (6795) 1 year ago

well that's ok - i happen to be 100% correct and get prissy when people say stupid things! do you have anything to say about the subject or are you just chastizing people for improper attitude today

[-] 1 points by Mooks (1985) 1 year ago

Mainly the later today, the football games are on and I'm trying to hit a parlay.

[-] 2 points by flip (6795) 1 year ago

very mature viewing - no wonder you are such an asset to the cause

[-] 1 points by Mooks (1985) 1 year ago

Haha I guess you could just call me a member of the 99%.

[-] 0 points by yobstreet (-575) 1 year ago

I'm not certain that slavery is immoral; can you explain to me why it should be? And if not, under what conditions can it be expected that slavery might be viewed as a moral good?

There is some truth to your argument - the highly valued African slave was far better cared for than his white counterpart, who was purchased so cheaply as to be virtually worthless.

Banners... very few northerners went off to war attracted by a banner - each locale was given a quota to fill - those that volunteered did so so their neighbors would not have to. It had very little to do with slavery or even northern economics... it was duty, and in the South, "honor" ... one cannot fight war, or invite war's death, for any other reason.

[-] 0 points by flip (6795) 1 year ago

well why don't you let me know where you live - i might send a few ex seals over to kidnap you - bring you to my house and enslave you. i have lots of shit work that needs to be done. maybe then you would figure it out

[-] 1 points by yobstreet (-575) 1 year ago

Bring it on dude... America is waiting for you to do just that.

And by the way, as any seal would tell you, if you can't do it on your own it ain't worth doing.

[-] -1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 1 year ago

So you don't think whipping people, raping their wives, stealing/selling their children is immoral?

Are you a racist?

[-] 1 points by yobstreet (-575) 1 year ago

I didn't say that... I said I'm not certain slavery is immoral. And I am a racist, yes; isn't everyone?

[-] -1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 1 year ago

no everyone doesn't judge people by race. And your uncertainty on whether slavery is immoral neglects the brutal elements I mentioned.

But you are a racist as you said. So I understand.

Good luck in all your good efforts. You don't have to respond. Please don't.

[-] 1 points by yobstreet (-575) 1 year ago

I don't judge people by race; I judge them according to individual behavior. But this does not change the fact that we are all possessed of a definite xenophobia... or that we typically prefer our own kind.

[-] -2 points by VQkag2 (16478) 1 year ago

Racist piece of shit.! Stop replying please!

[-] 0 points by yobstreet (-575) 1 year ago

You asked... why I have no idea, but you did.