Posts Tagged ‘wage-slavery’

Map of the day

Posted: 18 October 2013 in Uncategorized
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According to the Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index [pdf], almost 30 million people across the globe are living as slaves right now.*

In 2013, modern slavery takes many forms, and is known by many names. Whether it is called human trafficking, forced labour, slavery or slavery-like practices (a category that includes debt bondage, forced or servile marriage, sale or exploitation of children including in armed conflict) victims of modern slavery have their freedom denied, and are used and controlled and exploited by another person for profit, sex, or the thrill of domination. . .

The reality of modern slavery is millions of people who cannot walk away, who are trapped and denied freedom and lives of dignity, and bound only to serve and profit the criminals that control them.

Modern slavery is a crime that is, of course, difficult to measure. As the authors of the report explain, “When a person is enslaved, they are not normally available to be found and counted, and criminals wish to keep it that way.”

It would, of course, be much easier to compile an index of all those who are trapped and denied freedom and lives of dignity, and bound only to serve and profit the employers who control them. We might call that the Global Index of Wage-Slavery.


*The Foundation’s operational definition of slavery is as follows: “Slavery is the possession and control of a person in such a way as to significantly deprive that person of his or her individual liberty, with the intent of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer or disposal. usually this exercise will be achieved through means such as violence or threats of violence, deception and/or coercion.”


It’s Sunday and therefore time to let our minds wander a bit, away from the daily lunacy of proclaiming a recovery and engineering a government shutdown in the midst of the Second Great Depression. . .

So, my question for the day: can we imagine a time in the future when we debate the historical question of the profitability of wage-slavery?

To paraphrase from the recent column by C.W. and A.J.K.D.,

Intuitively, a business that uses wage-slaves should be profitable. You pay your workers a bare minimum, and reap the benefits of their labor. And some economic historians try to show just how lucrative it was.

We might then consider, in the future, how individual businesses benefited from wage-slavery—employing wage-slaves and buying the goods and services produced by wage-slaves, not to mention financing the enterprises that are based on wage-slavery—but overall economic development was hindered and distorted by the use of wage-slavery.

It would be a debate not dissimilar to the one we’ve been having for two hundred years about the older form of slavery, which has demonstrated why the institution of slavery lasted for as long as it did, until finally its injustice and irrationality were recognized and the institution itself was eliminated.

Imagine a time in the future we might be able to write (again paraphrasing C.W. and A.J.K.D.),

Of course any account of the economic effect of wage-slavery should note the effect of treating human beings as capital equipment. The direct impact on the utility of the wage-slaves themselves of this condition represented a terrible economic cost. And there was also an opportunity cost to the broader economy, which lost out on the potential human capital and entrepreneurial contributions wage-slaves might have made as freely associated workers. Abolition of involuntary wage-servitude to say nothing of wage-slavery, was clearly a moral imperative. We can also feel pretty safe concluding that, whatever the benefit of the system to wage-slave-employers, its abolition made as much economic sense as anything can.