Debt seems to be one of the major form of slavery in the west at the moment. Once you are in debt you *must* keep your job to make sure you can keep making payments on your debt. Whether it's college loans, credit cards or mortgage... having a job is key to maintaining your life.
But what I really want to write about is deregulating the labour market as encouraged by the IMF and the world bank. Often libertarians think the idea of getting rid of the minimum wage is key to getting rid of the problem of unemployment.
Sure, getting rid of the minimum wage will get rid of unemployment, I can employ N times as many people for the same cost as employing one person. The people I am employing may not be able to support themselves and their family or their debt with what I am prepared to pay them though. Is there anything wrong with this picture?
I've heard people say, well the people don't have to work there. Sure this is true, but where are they going to go instead? At the moment plenty of people are leaving the labour market but no one knows how they are supporting themselves.
Anyway lets look at some assumptions about human nature and the human experience.
Assumption 1: it is in everyone's best interests to take care of themselves and their family first.
Squirrels squirrel away nuts. Its a common phenomena in the animal kingdom, even our body stores fat for lean times. Similarly we make investments, store extra money, buy extra cans of food at the supermarket for lean times.
We are tribal in nature.We store extra not only for ourselves, but for our family. We don't want to see our kids, spouse, and loved ones hungry or going without.
Assumption 2: to be able to store extra we must seek advantage.
There are all kinds of ways to gain access to more 'whatever' we need to survive which will allow us to survive over other individuals and as a result there are all kinds of ways to seek advantage. More people to gather nuts and berries, being closer to trees that produce more, learning techniques to make our plants more productive, being close to more game so we can eat more meat, having more sons to hunt more meat, not feeding the elderly as much so we can feed the optimal members of the group better... being able to defend our territory, making agreements with other tribes... trading what we have much of for what they have much of... bending agreements to our advantage, bending rules, cheating, whatever it takes to get advantage, because who knows when times will be lean again.
Assumption 3: history repeats itself.
Living in the tree tops is no different to living in skyscrapers. The survival of our tribe, family, those we love is no different to the survival of our business or corporation.
Times will be plentiful and then they'll be lean and then they'll be plentiful, all that matters is we survive the next lean time.
Let's say you own an orchard and you bring some people into pick the fruit, you live a long way out so its difficult to leave once you arrive. You tell a bunch of people: hey I'll pay you to pick my fruit, feed you and give you a roof over your heads while you're working for me.
So they are picking the fruit and ask when they're getting paid. You say when the job is finished, meanwhile your fruit is being picked and sold while the workers are being fed and housed. Some are complaining about not being paid - you keep stringing them along for the harvest. Finally you put them on trucks and say when you arrive you'll pay them by check. You arrive and give them worthless checks.
When the workers become irate you use guys with guns to shoot them or call the police and have them arrested. After all, by now you'll have found out the price of everyone who matters in the community. Next year you'll get workers from a different village. Perhaps you'll pay some of them in advance so you'll be able to continue getting workers.
Not everyone will act like that but a deregulated labour market means there's nothing to stop it. And once one guy gets away with it, no doubt others will try to get away with it too. This is just one scenario as to why its slavery. Perhaps the guy would argue that food and lodging was enough pay. But then slaves have always been fed and lodged.
Another way around paying the workers is by claiming they damaged too much fruit and you subtracted the price of the damaged fruit out of their salary. If you don't want to pay someone, you'll find away around it, as is the case with assumption 1 and 2. It is much easier to get out of paying someone if you want than to get the money someone owes you.
And its because of assumption 1, 2 and 3 that there will never be a free market because people will ALWAYS seek advantage. Always. Its in our DNA and we all do it, even saints and Buddhas.