From the Ludwig Von Mises Institute: Employment Is Nothing Like Slavery. Frankly, to yr. obdt. that rates a huge “no shit,” but apparently some people need reminding. Excerpt:
What is necessary to take away a man’s freedom? For many progressives, nothing more then a bad workplace. Amazon takes ongoing heat for its work environment, with opponents like Business Insider calling it a “slave camp.”
But this comparison mistakes the fundamental nature of coercion.
Many leftists, such as left-libertarian Susan Webber at Naked Capitalism, argue that we must work in order to live, and that therefore work is coercive. If you must do X to live, then surely whoever controls your ability to do X is coercing you.
The problem with this argument is that the state of nature is not a Rousseauian paradise, but a brutal place where most die. The state of nature involves poverty and endless drudgery to catch, kill, and cook whatever food one can to stay alive. The workday is every waking moment, and the pay is little more than an occasional meal.
There’s nothing stopping people from living this way in the modern world — say, off the grid — but the beauty of capitalism is that it offers us a way out of this wretched existence. When a company offers a man a job, they are not saying, “work or die!” the way a slaver does; they are promising him that, if he helps them to succeed, they will give him money to improve his life.
In other words, the employment relationship is like any other market transaction: A voluntary exchange, in which both parties receive a gain in value. The employer hires because the employee’s efforts are provide more value than his/her cost of employment. The employee accepts employment because the pay and benefits are worth more than any other use to which the employee could put his/her effort.
The comparison to slavery is pernicious twaddle; corral litter of the first order. A slave is never free to leave his/her master; the employee in a free employment market is always free to leave their employment.
The real irony here is that this phony comparison is generally made by advocates of socialism, a system that necessarily involves coercion by government – enforced by men with guns. In fact, you can argue that increasing trends towards socialism is actually enforcing a form of slavery: The forceful removal of the fruits of one’s labor, involuntarily, to the gain of others who did nothing to earn it.
That’s what redistributive social policies do. The productive are required, with the implied threat of force, to surrender a portion of their earned wealth to the unearned enrichment of others. That may not be slavery – but it is theft.
All too true; employers can hire and fire, and expect performance in return for recompense. But they can’t coerce. An employee is always free to seek other opportunities. Only government can coerce.
That’s a key distinction; one that those on the political Left all too often miss.