For Whom Is Free Labour “There”?

I believe that conventional economics teaches that free labour is more profitable than slave, as the labour has to find its own food and you can charge it rent for the housing what you previously had to provide. The question is then whether conventional economics paid enough attention to what happened when the free labour refused to work for you. No doubt a strike was preferable to a slave revolt ending in rape and butchery, but as the memory of such things was (in Europe) lost, the mere downing of tools came to seem more apocalyptic.

The point is that we cannot tolerate interruptions to our luxuries. There is a line running from Philippe de Beaumanoir around 1280, saying that “The common interest cannot suffer that work should stop” (implying that the common interest was something separate from the interests of the people who did the work) through the late 14th century, when labourers left their service “out of great malice” (what other reason could there be?) to Mrs. Thatcher in the Eighties saying that strikers were “there” in order to “serve the public” (as opposed to being “there” to feed their families).

It is worth remembering that etymologically, the “services” that are supposed to take over from manufacturing (which is now to be done by brown people a long way away), like “servant”, derive from Latin servus, a slave. Emancipation never means that the very concept of service withers away, except perhaps in kibbutzim. Indeed, domestic service, via impersonal manpower agencies rather than in the more face-to-face mode, is making a comeback.

Fifties science fiction envisaged free and equal citizens living on food pills, but this is not really what humanity ever wanted. In most of the world even today, either you have servants or you are a servant, and what the servant wants is to get on top and be served himself. For this reason the challenge is combining the economic benefits of free labour with the prime directive, the emotional satisfaction of human ownership. At the very least, the labour must not withdraw!

Just as two individuals can be thieves until they incorporate, when they become a third and putatively innocent entity, so too are greedy citizens not individually entitled to have others work for them free or cheap, until they conglomerate in that strange entity called “the public”, whereupon other individuals are told that they are “there” to serve them. Every time we hear “the public” demanding “service”, we need to mentally transpose the situation to one man demanding that another serve him, and then ask why on earth he should. And ask ourselves, for whom are we “there” so as to trump our own interests and even survival?

Posted on May 25, 2012 at 13:14 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE ENSLAVING MAMMAL, From Free To Unfree Labour

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