Is Employment Slavery? (It’s up to you)

“A man is no less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years.” Lysander Spooner

A question popped up in my mind a couple of weeks ago while job hunting. Am I just looking for a new structure to replace school? Was I looking to just replace school with some other organization who would tell me what to do and what needed to be done, and to organize my life around? And isn’t this slavery?

Slavery is bad for two main reasons. One is that there are horrid working conditions. You don’t get to decide what work you do either. But in theory, couldn’t we fix this issue? What if we established minimum slave labour laws, such that you must provide your slave with three nutritious meals a day, 8 hours of time for sleep, another 8 hours for recreation and relaxation, and only 8 hours for work. You would still be a slave though, as you are dependent on your master for the above.

The second reason for why slavery is bad is because it imprisons you to a master. You have no choice over who you serve. In Antifragile, Nassim Taleb points out that modern slaves wear business suits, have mortgages, and kids too. When you take on debts and responsibilities, you must repay them. And to repay them, you must continue working for a big firm which pays you tons. But even if you have no debt going into the situation, you can’t save up much either, for your advancement in the company requires you to maintain a certain lifestyle – nice watches, cars, suits, etc. You’re going to be in debt soon.

Under these conditions then, many people in the modern world are ‘comfortable’ slaves.

Perhaps I’m writing and reading the wrong cover letters, but from what I see, cover letters seem to ask someone to take care of them. They seem to be written from the perspective of a slave – “I have done this”, “I am known for this”, “I was taught this.”

This sucks.

What ought to exist instead is an exchange between two people equal in dignity. It follows from this that a more appropriate cover letter would indicate an exchange, like what happens between contractor. Instead of saying “I am x,y,z”, a cover letter should say “Your problems are x, y, and z. Here’s how I’d tackle these issues. Like my solution? Cool. I charge $20 an hour.”

This is completely different from acting like someone asking for a job. Here, you’re more like a contractor who is selling a service to someone else. The corollary here is that you’ve got to earn your salary. You’re not ‘owed’ one if you get a job. You’re there to provide value.

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