Alternative Slavery

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yelly
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Alternative Slavery

Postby yelly » Fri Jan 25, 2008 2:44 pm UTC

In the (jewish) bible and its commentaries we are given a whole bunch of rules regarding slavery. One of these rules is that if you have any slaves, you must release them all every "shnat shmita" which occurs once every seven years (this year happens to be a shnat shmita). If a slave wishes to continue being your slave, he has to nail his ear to the door (this is ti discourage slaves remaining slaves after shant shmita, obviously). Because of this, a slave's value is dependant on the time remaining until the next shnat shmita.
It is important to note that people consensually sold themselves into slavery, usually to get themselves out of debt.
Now, we all agree that slavery is bad, but would a modernisation of this system be so terrible?
Such a system would work as follows:
1. A person can sign a "slavery contract" with another person, and "sell" himself for a specific period of time.
2. This period of time would be limited by law (say, 3 years).
3. Obviously, full consent is required by both parties involved (slave and slavemaster) and both must be legally responsible adults (the same as the requirement for signing any other contract).
4. The slavemaster will be required to provide the slave with all he needs (shelter, food, medication...) and will be bound to some rights provided to the slave by law (no physical punishment, no abuse...).
5. The slavemaster can sell the slave on, but the person who buys the slave will be bound to the same contract (as in, if the slavery term is 3 years and he is sold on after 2 years, he will only serve for another year).
6. "Being a slave" means you have to do everything your master tells you to do as long as it doesn't contradict with any of your rights. The slavemaster may punish you if you do not comply with his requests (again, as long as your rights allow).
What say you? Is such a system moral and ethical? Would you allow for it in your country? Would you take advantage of it? What rules need to change for it to be OK? What rights would you give slaves?
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby ZeroSum » Fri Jan 25, 2008 2:50 pm UTC

What does this do that the normal system of servant employment is incapable of covering?

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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Gunfingers » Fri Jan 25, 2008 2:56 pm UTC

How about this idea? You'll "sell" your time to someone. Say, 8 hours a day 5 days a week. During this time you'll do their work for them, and in return they'll give you money.

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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Dream » Fri Jan 25, 2008 3:08 pm UTC

The potential for abuse of that system is even bigger than the potential for abuse of the existing employment system. Which is saying a lot, considering how much employee abuse goes on all over the world. Bad Idea.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Gunfingers » Fri Jan 25, 2008 3:15 pm UTC

I was describing the existing employment system. I guess that wasn't clear.

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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby 4=5 » Fri Jan 25, 2008 3:19 pm UTC

he wasn't replying to your post

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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Indon » Fri Jan 25, 2008 3:23 pm UTC

In America, they call those "Enlistment Contracts". :P

Edit: smileys aside, I'm serious.

To describe an enlistment contract: You enlist in an armed service for a given time. The military provides you with food, shelter, and other things. You are obliged to perform all legal orders (as in, they can't order you to break any law, including military law) given by your superiors.

If you abandon the contract (called being 'absent without leave', or AWOL), you're legally liable for your actions - the USAF will even actively hunt you down.

I imagine a commission isn't too different, for that matter.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Dream » Fri Jan 25, 2008 3:58 pm UTC

Indon wrote:I imagine a commission isn't too different, for that matter.

You can resign a commision, unless I'm mistaken.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby AKADriver » Fri Jan 25, 2008 4:44 pm UTC

Debt slavery is alive and well, much as you describe, in much of the world. The only difference is there usually isn't a time limit, making people slaves to their landlords and creditors for life in many cases. Even if you placed a time limit, this would most likely occur; at the end of the contract, the person would be no better off than they were before, and need to dive right into another such contract. Under simple employment, you can eventually learn new skills and get better jobs, earn extra money, and improve your status.

One of the goals of the "microcredit" movement is to try to eliminate this sort of thing, by letting these people get honest loans rather than sell themselves out.

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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Insignificant Deifaction » Fri Jan 25, 2008 8:16 pm UTC

Yeah, as my status would imply, I've thought about this one for a long time. I came to the conclusion that you can only have non-business slavery contracts. An economic revival of slavery would be disastrous (for the slaves, at least, not so much the economy). The problem is, as stated above, the very significant potential for abuse. Which is why I had to come up with a great number of government checks to even convince myself the non-business contracts were acceptable.

Sorry, it simply wouldn't work. :cry:
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby ekzrated » Fri Jan 25, 2008 8:51 pm UTC

So, isn't this basically what everyone earning a wage is? A slave? Sure, the definition of Slavery is very different from what earning a wage is, but up until a few years ago, torture had a completely different definition.

The problem is we are all slaves, one way or another, but we refuse to rip our ears off the doors for many reasons, not the least of which being, if we did, we'd still have to be slaves just to survive.

I'm seriously considering becoming a hermit and living off the land somewhere.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby AKADriver » Fri Jan 25, 2008 9:34 pm UTC

There's a very large difference.

Around the beginning of the twentieth century, many people did live in a form of wage slavery in the western world. People working menial jobs for the booming new industries of the era were paid very little and set up in company-owned shantytowns. There was still one critical difference - even though it would be disastrous to do so, they were still free to quit. As the economy boomed in the teens and twenties, competition from companies like Ford that paid honest wages, along with government regulation on working conditions and the spread of trade unions, effectively ended this era in the west. Today's sweatshops in the garment industry work along these principles, though.

Contrary to the graffiti on an overpass near my home ("$LAVE$"), someone making an honest living (that is, above the table) in the west has much more freedom than any slave. I'd hate to lose my job tomorrow, but not only do I have the freedom to leave it, but I have protection against my employer making unreasonable demands, too. In the end, I don't depend on them for an income; I receive an income from them, but I can get one elsewhere without fear of being whipped or killed. My job is no more slavery than self-employment would be. Even if you're a subsistence farmer, living on land you own in full, you're at the mercy of factors beyond your control just like I am. Slavery isn't defined by who signs your paychecks, it's defined by your freedom of movement. Even if I sign a contract that says I promise to work for a company for X years, I can still skip town if I want to, and the best they can do is sue me for the money they paid me... they can't brand me with hot iron and make me pick cotton.

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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby segmentation fault » Fri Jan 25, 2008 9:43 pm UTC

its not really slavery if you get something substantial in return. although i cant really say i fully understand the concept of slavery depicted in the old testament. i guess in that time, you would thank god to work your ass off for 3 meals a day.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Maurog » Fri Jan 25, 2008 10:17 pm UTC

I think electricity made slavery obsolete.

We might need to go back to slavery in case of permanent global blackout, but right now it's totally unneeded.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby DearWinifred » Fri Jan 25, 2008 11:22 pm UTC

What you're proposing is indentured servitude. See also: On the Misfortune of Indentured Servants, written in 1754 by Gottlieb Mittelberger.

It was a bad idea 300 years ago, and it's still a bad idea.

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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Narsil » Fri Jan 25, 2008 11:49 pm UTC

A reinstitution would affect social status way too much to outweigh any potential benefits. What happens when the lower class works harder, but doesn't earn any money, and the upper class owning the slaves makes money off of them? The rich get richer and the poor get looked down upon as lesser beings, because they become property. Bad. Idea.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby livelyness » Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:29 am UTC

As others have said this already happens in much of the world. The problem, without any regards to the huge moral issue is a very simple one. A slave has not had to pay for room and board for the past length of time, all of a sudden they find themselves, with no job and no roof, they quickly go into debt, and are forced into another term of slavery. Indentured may as well be permanent. You get into the moral problems quick too. The continued economic repression of a class of people for the soul benefit of another group, is in absolutely every way amoral in every modern context.

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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby ekzrated » Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:35 am UTC

livelyness wrote: The continued economic repression of a class of people for the soul benefit of another group, is in absolutely every way amoral in every modern context.


Which is business as usual in today's corporate world.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Dream » Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:54 am UTC

AKADriver wrote:Around the beginning of the twentieth century, many people did live in a form of wage slavery in the western world. People working menial jobs for the booming new industries of the era were paid very little and set up in company-owned shantytowns. There was still one critical difference - even though it would be disastrous to do so, they were still free to quit.

If you move that back to the time of abolition in the ninteenth century, that's exactly the argument that slavery advocates used in British Parliament. The loudest calls for abolition came from industrialists, who were unhappy with competing against slave worked colonial enterprises. They alleged an unfair bias as slavery had been abolished in Britain long before. These calls were criticised as being hypocritical, as the workers in most factories were indentured labour, and little better than slaves with constitutional freedoms they were unable to exercise. The "critical diffrence" was laughed off as impossible in practice.

The same situation persists today in sweat shops throughout the world, including some unfortunate situations in the developed world.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby EsotericWombat » Sat Jan 26, 2008 6:13 am UTC

Indon wrote:In America, they call those "Enlistment Contracts". :P

Edit: smileys aside, I'm serious.

To describe an enlistment contract: You enlist in an armed service for a given time. The military provides you with food, shelter, and other things. You are obliged to perform all legal orders (as in, they can't order you to break any law, including military law) given by your superiors.

If you abandon the contract (called being 'absent without leave', or AWOL), you're legally liable for your actions - the USAF will even actively hunt you down.

I imagine a commission isn't too different, for that matter.


You forgot the bit about having your service commitment involuntarily extended for decades via stop-loss
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Indon » Sat Jan 26, 2008 6:59 am UTC

EsotericWombat wrote:You forgot the bit about having your service commitment involuntarily extended for decades via stop-loss


Ah, yes. The military _can_ theoretically extend your contract indefinitely (though of course, it's bad PR to do it too often).
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby mazzilliu » Sat Jan 26, 2008 7:13 am UTC

Can you really call it slavery if the person consented to a situation like that though? It is one thing for someone to enlist for some period of time, and another thing entirely when someone is born into slavery, and has no choice in the matter. Everyone does things for others in exchange for a benefit. The only thing that determines whether its slavery or just a job is the consent of the person.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby hyperion » Sat Jan 26, 2008 7:18 am UTC

What is the point? What is so different between this and any other job?
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Number 6 » Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:06 am UTC

mazzilliu wrote:Can you really call it slavery if the person consented to a situation like that though? It is one thing for someone to enlist for some period of time, and another thing entirely when someone is born into slavery, and has no choice in the matter. Everyone does things for others in exchange for a benefit. The only thing that determines whether its slavery or just a job is the consent of the person.


I disagree. In societies where slavery was normal practise, such as Greece or Rome, it was also not that rare for people to sell themselves into slavery. In Rome specificly this could even be a good career-move if you were educated. But they were still called slaves, even if some of them had more power than most non-slaves. The distinguising feature of a slave is that he is the property of someone else and thus can be sold. If you were, say, a brilliant cook, than you might be off a lot better as a slave of a wealthy man that likes good food and/or likes to impress others with good food. Your owner will probably treat you good, as you are very valuable, and you'd be master of the kitchen and live a comfortable live. It's possible that superficially, there is no difference with working for a wage. The difference lies in the fact that you'd simple be (considered) less of a human being then your master and knowing that you're his property. You can be perfectly happy this way, but it still makes all the difference in the world.

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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby mazzilliu » Sat Jan 26, 2008 11:22 am UTC

Number 6 wrote:
mazzilliu wrote:Can you really call it slavery if the person consented to a situation like that though? It is one thing for someone to enlist for some period of time, and another thing entirely when someone is born into slavery, and has no choice in the matter. Everyone does things for others in exchange for a benefit. The only thing that determines whether its slavery or just a job is the consent of the person.


I disagree. In societies where slavery was normal practise, such as Greece or Rome, it was also not that rare for people to sell themselves into slavery. In Rome specificly this could even be a good career-move if you were educated. But they were still called slaves, even if some of them had more power than most non-slaves. The distinguising feature of a slave is that he is the property of someone else and thus can be sold. If you were, say, a brilliant cook, than you might be off a lot better as a slave of a wealthy man that likes good food and/or likes to impress others with good food. Your owner will probably treat you good, as you are very valuable, and you'd be master of the kitchen and live a comfortable live. It's possible that superficially, there is no difference with working for a wage. The difference lies in the fact that you'd simple be (considered) less of a human being then your master and knowing that you're his property. You can be perfectly happy this way, but it still makes all the difference in the world.


Maybe this argument about slavery is purely semantical and in order for any arguments regarding slavery to make any sense, the term needs to be redefined using definitions with moral relevance, rather then using standards different societies applied for the same term. because we can disagree on the same word and both be right. in my opinion, slavery in a modern sense implies a lack of free will in the decision to sign that contract. At least in regular employment, you have the option of leaving, or in the least, never getting into it.(and yes, my idea of slavery is almost entirely defined by how slavery happened in america)

anyways as i see it, some societies concept of slavery was a lot more free and permissive then other societies, and some jobs are as restrictive as some societies definitions of slavery.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby yelly » Sat Jan 26, 2008 7:29 pm UTC

I think you are misunderstanding my proposed method of payment. Lets say I am a bit into debt (although not necessarily so) and I want to get out. So I sign a slavery contract with someone who provides me with everything I need for a specified period of time (and therefor i have no expenses), and I have a nice pile of money waiting for me at the end (that my master could have deposited at a regular basis during my slavery term). This can be a great way to get out of debt and ensure your future, and maybe even move between classes.
The difference between this and regular employment is basically:
1. The employer most provide you with everything you need.
2. You have to do everything (legal) your employer tells you to (no "it wasn't in the job description").
3. You can be handled like property (this basically means you can be sold and bought).
4. And most important of all, you are not a free person.
I think the whole "being looked down on" problem is purely a matter of how this slavery is marketed. If it is perceived as an honest job, then it will be fine.
I would also like to say that this is different than what happens at sweatshops because you have rights and you are paid. A minimum wage system would also make lots of sense in this situation.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby livelyness » Sat Jan 26, 2008 8:15 pm UTC

Your amending your original position to make it far less like slavery but it doesn't make it really any more right. The main change you've made as far as I can tell is the addition of a wage, which would be paid in full upon your exit of the term of slavery. While this may seem like a sweet deal, it is far from it. See practically everyone at one point or another has had debt, there is an economic industry surrounding it, it is that prevalent. Now for those who escape debt they take their initial incursion and learn from it. They manage their payments versus their spending, and slowly make their way into the green. In doing so they've learned how to better manage their money. The system your proposing would not at all allow for that learning. Most slaves upon exit would still immediately fall back into debt. When you consider that they don't have a marketable skill, a home, a job, or a source of food, heat, security, transport and stability, a couple thousand in the bank is going to mean squat. Then boom they are back in debt and again we have the continued repression of a class. (by the way someone mentioned how the current economic system has this same repression, and I agree, I think it is a horrible system, but there's a lot more upward mobility than this proposal allows.)

Now you may think they've been working for a term as a slave doing something so they must have a marketable skill, but the problem is, there's a population of slave laborers that can be tapped for a lot less money. So they might have a skill, but no where to use it. The whole thing is still as bad an idea as it originally was, it just tries to hide it now with a cash prize.

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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby yelly » Sat Jan 26, 2008 8:27 pm UTC

livelyness wrote:Your amending your original position

I think the term "selling yourself into slavery" implies that getting money from the deal is involved.
livelyness wrote:a couple thousand in the bank

The minimum wage for 3 years of slavery is definitely worth more than $2,000. Much more.

I think the real question I am trying to raise is "why can't a person sell his freedoms?", before the economical dis/advantages of the proposed system are discussed.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat Jan 26, 2008 8:37 pm UTC

Yeah, I think this is generally pointless now that we have legitimized systems of paying people wages.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby yelly » Sat Jan 26, 2008 8:56 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Yeah, I think this is generally pointless now that we have legitimized systems of paying people wages.

I don't see why this most be the only way to run business.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat Jan 26, 2008 9:17 pm UTC

Because asking people to trade large sums of time for large sums of money is essentially the same as asking them to come to work and get paid. Indentured servitude was more about teaching people a trade, ensuring that people did not skip out during harvest season (for which we have work contracts now, or after contract bonuses), and giving people a place to live/eat while they worked.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby livelyness » Sat Jan 26, 2008 9:44 pm UTC

yelly wrote:
livelyness wrote:Your amending your original position

I think the term "selling yourself into slavery" implies that getting money from the deal is involved.
livelyness wrote:a couple thousand in the bank

The minimum wage for 3 years of slavery is definitely worth more than $2,000. Much more.

I think the real question I am trying to raise is "why can't a person sell his freedoms?", before the economical dis/advantages of the proposed system are discussed.


1. the cost originally was cancellation of debt, which is the case with most modern systems. that was the only cost mentioned.

2. The problem is still going to exist. Ability to manage money comes from experience not the amount you have in a bank. It will still be a repetitive cycle which means that someone has sold their rights what will in more cases than not end up being nothing. However if you want to get into numbers toss one out.

3. If one person puts a price on their rights they are doing it for all people. If for some screwy reason the system were to become viable you would be forcing those who did not wish to sell their rights into the system because it is the only way they can live, since they have to compete with a free labor force. I have no intention to see my rights sold, and know that most others agree with me. Thus slavery, or the sale of ones rights, is a bad system period.

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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby trickster721 » Sun Jan 27, 2008 3:35 am UTC

There just isn't any use for servants anymore. We have major appliances and clothes that can be put on without assistance. We've gotten over the embarrassment of answering our own home telephone. Where service is still required, it's now an industry.

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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Jan 27, 2008 5:13 pm UTC

I lived in a house that survived the Chicago fire, and as such had a carriage house out back (which was of course our garage). Above it was a room that had a coal vent, so the servant(s) who lived there didn't have to go downstairs to dispose of their spent fuel.

If you take on slaves now, are you proposing we start building homes with 'servants' quarters again? Because as an architectural paradigm it was neat, but still, pretty silly.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Plague » Sun Jan 27, 2008 6:35 pm UTC

Consider the ramifications of having such a system alongside the current housing lending crisis in the US. For those of you who aren't aware, here is a short summary. For the past few years, banks in America have been writing sub-prime mortgages for large sums of money to people with sub-standard credit. The mortgages usually include an adjustable interest rate to compensate. The result is that many people who only have the financial means to own a $125,000 home are able to purchase $500,000 homes. Their monthly payments often only cover the interest accrued each month, and eventually someone comes around to collect on the principal. We now have a very large number of foreclosures on houses in our nation because of this unscrupulous lending practice.

Now, consider if all those people who had the opportunity to foreclose on their house had another way out. Instead of declaring Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, obliterating their credit for a full seven years, they could opt to sell themselves to their lender for a total of three years in order to work off their debt. The result is a much smaller amount of time in bondage, and may very well appeal to some people in the situation above.

But money lenders are often entrepreneurs, so they would think of ways to make money off of their newly acquired assets. I'd imagine that they would quickly form a slave trading market, whereby slaves would be sold to the highest bidder. Bidders would likely include factories and refineries looking for cheap labor. Construction companies would jump at the chance to save a buck on a three-year laborer for a one time payment, especially if the person in question doesn't get to complain about working conditions or pay.

One big issue would be individual rights. No matter how many laws are put into place protecting the rights of the slave, the point of having slaves is that you have a laborer that is considered less than the others. Even if the employer is restrained by the law, these laborers would certainly be abused by their peers. They would likely attempt to hand the less desirable work down to the slave, rightly so, since that's what he's there for. But once they run out of undesirable work, they'll quickly find some work thats less desirable, and give that to the slave. What happens once the undesirable work picks up again? Do you think that the "superior" workers are going to willingly go back and perform the less desirable labor? I doubt it, I would think that the slave would simply be expected to take care of both jobs, even if it goes beyond his abilities. If this were allowed to continue, you would soon find that all the work in question was "undesirable", leaving the "superior" workers to either sit on their asses, or make sure that the slaves were doing their jobs properly. Such a situation would only merit more slaves, and eventually we would have another class struggle on our hands.

I can easily see employers attempting to find a way around the three-year rule. Regardless, how would such a term look on a resume? Seven years as a mid-level manager at a major corporation, then three years as an indentured servant in a construction yard... There's a deal breaker if I ever saw one.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby ekzrated » Wed Jan 30, 2008 4:30 pm UTC

Am I really the only one who sees the similarities between what used to be slavery vs. today's workforce conditions?

The only difference is the average person can choose to leave a crappy job just to find another equally low-paying crappy job.

There is something inherently wrong with capitalism. Objectivism does not take into account those harmed by the inherit selfishness with this ideology.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jan 30, 2008 4:33 pm UTC

You do realize that a slave owner who sells his crop in a market place is still a capitalist. And that capitalism has nothing to do with slavery. And that slavery has nothing to do with the modern day work force, except maybe requiring people to do boring things. Putting in double shifts in a car production line factory? Thats rough. But it isn't slavery.

Also, show me a better system of market and I'll support it. Sure capitalism has its flaws, namely selfish corner cutters, but its better then every alternative.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby ekzrated » Wed Jan 30, 2008 5:03 pm UTC

The problems with the capitalistic system go beyond the mistreatment of it's workforce. Depletion of natural resources, environmental impacts, and ecological imblances are quickly catching up. This marketing system cannot continue as it is, whether convenient or not. All I'm saying is capitalism, with profit being the bottom line ignores the ill effects too often. There needs to be a limit to how much whealth can be accumulated by one entity, be it a single person, group, etc. I mean, really... It becomes too easy to ignore consequenses of your actions when you're filthy rich.
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Jan 30, 2008 5:27 pm UTC

And you suppose a socialist government is going to be more responsible with its industry decisions?
I feel more comfortable leaving economic decisions to the people then to the government.

For example (and yes, this is really the shining example, but there are others): Michael W. Crooke, EDIT: and Yvon Chouinard

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patagonia_%28clothing%29
and
http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/for ... index.html

The concept of inhibiting the amount of wealth one person can accumulate is abhorrent to me. Do you know how much Bill Gates gives to charity? Do you think if you distributed his wealth to 1000 other, less-wealth-but-still-pretty-wealthy people they would give as much as he does? How do you propose limiting wealth? Hell, WHY do you propose limiting wealth?
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Re: Alternative Slavery

Postby ekzrated » Wed Jan 30, 2008 5:42 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Hell, WHY do you propose limiting wealth?


Because, there are families that accumulated more whealth than entire countries.

First of all, that's one of the worst reasons I've seen for that question. Second, OT. Please move this discussion to an appropriate thread.
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