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Is unregulated wage slavery worse than actual slavery?

I just had a quite shocking thought: Unregulated wage slavery might actually be worse than conventional slavery! What is unregulated wage slavery? The total dependence of the worker from employees who don’t have to follow any regulations on wages, working hours or working conditions. Do we have unregulated wage slavery now? Perhaps in some countries. I’m not sure about that, but we had pretty unregulated wage slavery at the beginning of the Industrialization.

Now why would unregulated wage slavery (UWS) be even worse than conventional slavery? Because of the tragedy of the commons! In UWS the worker is basically a part of a commons: The large pool of workers. Employees only pay a modest fee (the wage) for using a worker. If these workers are easily replaceable, because they don’t really do qualified work, then they are a mere resource that is to be used, according to capitalist logic. Workers can be used up until their health is ruined at which point they are fired and replaced with a new worker from the commons pool of workers. Employees don’t have to pay for the damage they have inflicted on their own workers. They externalize that cost to the workers they have just fired, which is of course extremely unfair and damages society at large.

Historically, UWS has been stopped, because the hard working conditions that workers had to endure have made them unfit to be good soldiers. Regulations on work have mainly been introduced to increase the military strength of nations.

Now, why would conventional slavery be any better than UWS? Well, in conventional slavery, “employees” don’t only have to pay a fee for the use of the worker (they do have to pay for living expenses of the slave, or otherwise they will lose that slave very quickly), but also pay the price of the worker. So, conventional slave holders should have an incentive to treat their slaves better than wage slaves, because otherwise they would have to pay the cost of a replacement slave. Interestingly, there is some evidence that certain conventional slaves have been treated better than wage slaves. Conventional slavery avoids a tragedy of the commons problem that is present in UWS!

What to make of this observation? Perhaps it’s important to get to the sombre realization that the abolition of slavery itself hasn’t directly caused real progress in the sense of improved well-being. It was a kind of social change that just allowed capitalism to exploit workers even better than if slavery had still been the norm!

Capitalism only had to make real concessions when its natural dynamics had already caused damage to the defence potential of nation states which then had to intervene to protect their own survival! And of course, capitalism couldn’t just object to that without disappearing, because the structures of capitalism depend on the nation state for their own operation!

All of this paints a pretty dark picture of “social progress” during the (first) Industrialization. And about what may still happen in some parts of the world.

I remember a local group which spoke in a video about worse happening to employees, because if the employer can fire an employee, in times of crisis there are other potential employees looking for the same position. Effectively creating a competition among slaves for not being fired.

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Yeah, it’s disheartening to see that there is so much potential for abuse even, and especially, when classical slavery is abolished. A question that I have in this context is: If the abolition of classical slavery if more or less pointless, what is not pointless. In other words: What does actually empower people and increase their freedom?

One factor that seems to be decisive is when people cannot be easily replaced. Usually because they have certain skills that are rare and are of critical importance.

Now this insight seems to be bad news for the situation we will get into when we can upload people and copy their memories and skills easily. Then the uploads will become extremely easily replaceable again and they can be exploited to the extreme.

So, if we cannot guarantee the freedom and dignity of people on the basis of them not being easily replaceable, then we need a different strategy.

Universal sentient rights that would be taken seriously would be one approach, but the difficulty lies in establishing the situation that those rights are actually taken seriously. And we might also have to act against economic interests in this effort. Ignoring rights of certain individuals does seem economically lucrative in many cases.

Is there perhaps a third approach that neither requires people to have unique skills, nor them being granted individual rights that are universally accepted and respected in reality?

Yes, the key lies in ownership of labor’s properties.

First, think on the problem, think on who owns the product of a worker’s work. Understand that ownership in the current system the work is allocated not in the producers of the work, but in recipient individuals. Guess how this system is called.

Any solution predates individual rights when bypassing this (so called) ownership.

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You mean your approach is to outlaw the wholesale transfer of ownership rights of the products a worker creates when he is employed by a company? That’s certainly an interesting idea.

How would that work in practice? I imagine there would have to be micromarkets within companies in that approach: Workers buying the resources they need to build some product from the company (or somewhere else), then build that product, and later on sell it to the company their work in (or somewhere else).

Or did you have something entirely different in mind?

In the “Concord” approach I’ve build something for that, and is again predating any right given over resources needed for the work. Because ownership over resources are also one bureaucratic skeleton that leaks efficiency in the current system.

My first thought was than this looked similar to some marxist ideas, but then I noticed that marxism claimed collective ownership. And by this marxism seems not very efficient when trying to allocate resources and rewards. Then I’ve considered that my approach might look like pure, classical capitalism, since seemed a meritocratic system. But then again, capitalism “claims” to be meritocratic, but that is a blatant falsehood.

The core concept I am talking about is on legacy systems (codename:Legacy Theory), in which to tie social transactions of resources to thermodynamic laws. And I remark, we are talking on resource allocation by meaning of work and energy calculation, not other bureaucratic social interactions.

This leave us with a plus which represents the surplus to deal with by social contracts. I will end here but we have to link work with direct physical work to end the “cycle of fairness”. Of course, some “mental” work is calculated here as physical for the energy spent over work.

I wouldn’t release more details because while the theory might be useful by itself, there is more on the Concord which needs social acceptance and the whole would gain impulse by releasing it altogether, and probably under a license like the GPL.

the solution is simple but nevertheless a paradigm shift. first, it has to be clear to everybody, that
people have to make a living, before they could be enabled to work in a division- of- labour- based society. not the other way round, like it is today. with that principle the most important human rights are covered. the best idea to put that into practice is the unconditional basic income.

the next thing is the answer to the question “what are we working for?” and it only begins with the consciousness, that people work for people and not for outdated constructs from our ancestors. but what comes next is a broad philosophical discussion where personal and individual memes and values are on trial. a discussion, an implemented unconditional basic income would induce, if we couldn´t manage to think about it, before.

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This reminds me of the [energy accounting system][1] that was created by the Earth Organization for Sustianability. There’s a big long document about the whole technate system designed by the EoS called “The Design”, but at the moment I seem to be unable to find it.

A core problem I have with this kind of energy accounting when it comes to human work is that is measures the worth of human work in terms of simple physical energy. That is extremely inappropriate, because the worth of human work lies not in the energy that is transformed, but rather in the psychological effort that has to be put into the work. The limiting factor is not physical energy, otherwise people could eat like 8000 kcal a day and then work 24 hours non stop at peak performance like an engine. Nope, humans don’t work that way. What defines the worth of human work is the (minimal) amount of effort that has to be invested in order to finish the work.

Also, if humans would be monetarily rewarded for the physical energy they put into their work, they would be given $0.02 per hour at best (assuming an energy price of about $0.20 per kWh and human power of 0.1 kW). Nowhere in the world would that suffice to satisfy even the barest needs for survival.

Therefore, it would make much more sense to design some kind of effort accounting system, rather than an energy accounting system when it comes to human work.

Sure, that would work, but what could make nation states adhere to the consistent and sufficient implementation of a UBI when they have problems securing even the most basic human rights?

An alternative would be to implement some voluntary universal basic income system that is carried by people and technology directly without depending on a central government.

My answer to this is exceptionally short and to the point: People (should) work to solve problems!

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Psychological effort is accounted as physical when it comes to “stress”. Perhaps should I say “it must be accounted”. The society doesn’t value the work people have to endure during personal circumstances, then each one of us have diverse difficulties that are not value on the mainstream society.
Part of this problem comes from thinking that stress has no physical effect, which is another blatant lie. One that is cured by just asking a doctor.

That is my humble opinion of what we “should” work for Zanthia.

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i really do not understand your point. a nation state is nothing less but people. they do have problems
realizing the most basic human rights, because they don´t have the unconditional basic income implemented. it sounds like a vicious circle to me, what you say… but maybe you underestimate the terms “consciousness” and “paradigm shift”, because that is something every individual has to fulfil. and then you change your personal view of all. to give an example: before the change in your mind it could be easy for a ruthless employer to enslave you to unethical work and minimal wages, because you might think, that he is right - because he has all the “right” on his side - and your fate is inevitable. after your change of mind, you begin to question your personal situation and you begin to feel the injustice in it and you start looking for alternatives. maybe you become an entrepreneur yourself, maybe you change your idea of “feeling unworthy” and you realize, that you really don´t need much money and much status to fight inferiority complexes…and so on. with a change in your mind, your freedom grows. …this is my personal experience. and if a state consists of people with a new idea about work and human rights and ethics in their mind, they could not maintain the old construct. so let´s stop doing and start talking!

great idea!

@ Maximo
i love this picture! :sun_with_face: picard is great and the message as well.

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Ok, you could do that. But how exactly? That doesn’t sound like something that is anywhere easy.

How would that economy work when it accounts for “stress”?

Well, you are right about that point. It would be logistically, bureaucratically, and legally much easier to protect human rights with an UBI in place than without. The problem that I see is that nation states aren’t really committed to protecting human rights, even if in theory states consist of “the people”. Bureaucracy and agents spreading ideological propaganda and causing corruption act against the “power of the people”. Also, roughly the same factors make a paradigm shift about as hard as a political change that actually implements a UBI.

That’s something that works for people who actually have the necessary skill sets to look for good working conditions, or become freelancers, or entrepreneurs. For those with minimal education and no special skills, there’s only the choice between the best of the worst slave masters. Unless they find something like a working anarchist cooperative. There are such things, but they are really rare.

&Picard is right :smiley:

so…what is the problem? bureaucracy, agents, ideological propaganda or corruption?

i know this is a really tough one, but i don´t believe this. i never did. everybody with a mind could
change his ideas and values. and i forgot a very important part of the new consciousness: every human being has a longing to do productive work. “laziness” is not part of the human nature. every human being wants to be useful for others and wants to experience the satisfaction to create something. this could be
observed even with little children. and therefore - because it´s human nature - everybody is eager for learning more, if there are teachers for them available who treat them with dignity and respect.
in addition to that, most of the people do have skills ( that could be observed when it comes to “hobbies” in which people invest time, money and energy), even though the employment market might not be able to ask for those skills.
the unconditional basic income is a new image of humanity.

That’s an interrelated network of problems. Probably needs some kind of applied complexity theory to find out the most effective intervention. There’s a German article about how complexity theory has helped to make the world a little bit more peaceful.

Well, yes, but that change doesn’t personally help those who have to sell their work for the least price. What’s the value of that paradigm shift for them? It’s just an additional burden, because they realize they are unjustly exploited. They may want to rebel, but for that they would have to reach a critical number. But hey, there is something that such a paradigm shift can provide: Hope for a better future in which a UBI is in place.

So, is your point that of spreading hope? If yes, then it might be good to focus on that and mention it explicitly.

it is an interesting approach and i hope that they find the core with that method. “Dabei zeigte sich deutlich, wie nationale Rebellenorganisationen die lokalen Gruppen manipulierten, weil ein Andauern des Konflikts ihnen den Zugang zu wertvollen Mineralien sicherte.” —> although a part of the core seems to be very obvious: distribution of resources.

it is much more than this. imagine today a european government would want to adopt a new law, that allows to burn witches like in old times. the consciousness of the people would not allow that anymore, most of the people in the government itself wouldn´t – who ever got such an idea, no one would take him serious! in a way no rebellion is needed when conscious values, based on a development of insights in the past, became part of the common sense and worldview of today.

yes, many people would put it that way, but not all. you said: “Bureaucracy and agents spreading ideological propaganda.” but people with new insights and new values spreading their messages, too. the UBI-philosophers i listened to on you tube experienced that more and more people understand the logic and the truth about that concept, especially younger people have no counterarguments anymore. because the usual counterarguments against basic income based on an outdated image of humanity, where people believed that all the others are lazy parasites – except themselves – that have to be coerced to work and that they only deserve to live if they are obedient to the old idea of usefulness and let themselves enslave for the capitalistic employment market.

but the new ideas arrived now in many minds: - everybody has a right to live and that right has to be ensured without coercion, otherwise it would be blackmail with the fear of death. humans are no lazy parasites – especially not the poor – with the exception of the real rich people, who live a parasitical life but they also have the longing to contribute to the world, because it´s human nature.

you can test your people in your surroundings with confronting them with the idea of the unconditional basic income and you will find out, if their consciousness based on the old idea of human beings or the new. and you will find out that the centre of all arguments will be the image of humanity.
and now, what is one alone? a container of ideas. you could experience that as a burden, yes. but the alternative is, to let yourself push around and let others decide what to do with your lifetime. in a way that might feel easier, than to reflect and to question what is proposed to you, but the price is high for that kind of dubious convenience: you would give up to look for alternatives for your life that suit you better than mere obedience to the old. and if they come serendipitously, you could not recognize them as alternatives and you won´t grab them.

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Nice. All of this makes me think that the introduction of a UBI would be more important and have a much bigger positive impact than the abolition of slavery! And the good thing is that it looks much more realistic to introduce a UBI than the abolition of slavery ever has.

We are living in interesting times, indeed! :smile:

And yes, the development of consciousness seems to be the most important factor for social progress!

In fact, slavery hasn’t been abolished. Leaving aside places where it’s practised openly, even in the USA slavery is still legal: among the prison population. Surprise, those with the least power over their own lives are the ones being subjected to literal forced labour. This is informative.

To understand why our system produces these outcomes, it’s necessary to provide an account of how decisions are made. I’m not going to go into detail today, but the short answer is that decisions are made by a tiny elite for their own benefit. Modern businesses are, in Chomsky’s terms, ‘private tyrannies’. Any and all proposals to implement a new system, at odds with the interests of the power elite, requires a proposal for ending their power monopoly.

As a result, as Maximo_Ramallo says, the obvious solutions all sound like marxism. I share your reservations about collective ownership’s inefficiency, and believe it comes about because of an inadequate signalling system between producers and consumers. Markets have many flaws, but they are nonetheless able to coordinate masses of information and activity.

Our ownership model holds that capital holders employ workers through wages, and own their output. So, in trying to internalise benefits and externalise costs, the travail of wage slavery comes about. My proposed solution is worker control of workplaces - not state control, because 100% centralised power is even worse than the mostly centralised power we have today. This is a revolutionary proposal (in the sense that I am proposing a revolution, not in the sense that this is a new idea; it’s actually just straightforward marxism without the leninism), but it can actually be implemented business-by-business in contemporary capitalism. Instead of capital holders employing workers, workers can employ capital holders. It’s called borrowing (or investment), and the fee is interest. Workers in a co-op own their own output. Obviously this doesn’t solve all capitalism’s problems but it does solve the problem of workers being coerced under duress of poverty.

I think that rather than propose detailed mathematical models seeking to account for all necessary variables, we should rather create the conditions for those closest to the issues, to make decisions for themselves. Our ‘back-end’ should be primarily creating the organisations and tools to radically empower and inform the whole population. People are experts in their own lives and they are best placed to set goals, priorities, and values. Technicians have a role to play in evaluating ways of achieving those goals, but must be under the direction of the populace themselves.

Our mathematical models also have a role to play in signalling between firms. I’d love it if all decisions could be made by informed participants, but I think we need to abstract out supply and demand into some sort of voucher system that I’ll just go ahead and call ‘money’ for now.

You’ve raised some interesting points about effort and pleasantness of labour; I’m reminded of some points from participatory economics (parecon). Parecon holds that everyone should have a ‘balanced job complex’, that is, a mixture of tasks providing the same enjoyment, stress, empowerment, creativity, and drudgery, as everyone else. Then, not only can everyone be paid roughly the same amount, but they actually deserve it, even under today’s outdated and superstitious concept of deserving. Also, people who devote more time to unpleasant labour get paid more; people who work less get paid less. As it should be; leisure is a form of payment and so a simple ‘to each according to need’ actually means some people get more than others.


Sorry for answering so late, I have been quite busy the last days.

Yes, very informative. Thank you very much for reminding me of this fact! Law enforcement is a very convenient excuse for ignoring basic human rights.

Yes, it seems to be the case that this is true. However, it may be possible to convert a part of the power elite to a new, less harmful system. They would be powerful allies, if they fight for the right side. Of course, converting them will be extremely hard, but if they see how they could profit from the new system, and feel that the old system has little chances for survival, they may be convinced.

That is an interesting hypothesis. It reminds me of some ideas about more interactive markets I have entertained a few years earlier on the Doctrine Zero / Zero State mailing list. In interactive markets, consumers and producers would develop a product design collaboratively. And consumers might then pre-order those products, so that the consumers have some minimum guarantee for selling some of their new items. These interactive markets could also be called markets 2.0. Markets 1.0 do have an important signalling function, but it’s far from ideal. The internet can enable much better signalling solutions.

What kind of revolution do you propose then? A non-violent revolution in which more and more co-ops emerge and displace the old centralized corporations? What would drive this transformation? Or do you think the people or the government need to intervene via (changing) the political system somehow?

I might be interested in actually doing this. I need to develop a reputation economy. :smiley:

I wonder why the co-op model is not more popular. What do you think are the reasons for that?

This is completely in line with the ideas in the milestone book Reinventing Organizations. See

Humans may not be good enough at dealing with too complex / too much information. But with AI support they just might make really good decisions. Of course, this AI support would need to be really good. Something like this may be helpful:

While this is an interesting and intuitively appealing idea, I think it would have suboptimal results. There seems to be the implicit assumption that humans should do some form of unpleasant labour. I don’t buy that! My hope is that for each kind of work, there are a few people who really enjoy doing that. Maybe there are some things that nearly everyone hates, but those tasks should be really automated in that case. Why should you do some work you don’t like, when there’s someone else who would like to do that job? It’s just a coordination problem! People usually do a much better job when they actually enjoy their work. Forcing people to do tasks that are unpleasant for them creates economic inefficiencies, apart from the unnecessary psychological suffering.

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