Guest Column by Darkness
In the modern era, we are exceptionally efficient at producing. This has created a monopoly potentially more dangerous than any other. This is Neo-feudalism, also known as the monopoly on work.
Neo-Feudalism: A theorized contemporary rebirth of policies of governance, economy and public life reminiscent of those present in many feudal societies.
In my previous writings, I talked about the loosening and severance of the correlation between work ethic and standard of living. This is how one can work hard digging massive holes in the ground from dawn to dusk yet gaining zero utility from the endeavor if no one ordered holes in the first place.
To expand on this, we must examine the idea of “demanded work.” We know that there is a huge demand for running shoes. People spend boatloads of money to buy them. One day, I asked myself “can an one private citizen satisfy a part of this demand and create utility for themselves?”
The more I considered this, the more I saw the answer was “no.” I am not even sure what materials are required to make a running shoe, but I suppose it is some sort of foam, rubber, cloth or nylon. Could one buy these materials in a condition that are ready to be cut, shaped, and assembled into a shoe? Could one learn the process once they obtained the materials? What is the time and cost to create such a product the end consumer can purchase?
It is hard to imagine the ability to turn a profit after start up costs, and figuring out how to actually make and sell a shoe, plus all the expenditures on materials. The individual would likely lose money on such an endeavor.
This means that starting from scratch, it actually costs more to work than to sit there and do nothing.
I wonder if there are any products an individual can produce and make profit that people would want instead of a cheaper, mass=produced corporate version? I had a hard time coming up with any, but digital content might qualify.
The Corporate Monopoly on Work
In order to have a life that consists of anything other than simply existing via government handouts, one is forced to play by the rules of corporations to access work. Under this system, because everything is abundantly and readily available, no one is necessary. No one is valued.
If people are restricted to earning money mostly through jobs, this means instead of a monopoly on a specific goods, corporations have a monopoly on work itself.
The monopoly on work allows corporations to determine the rules. This has spawned the return of the 12+ hour workday.
Wages have been stagnant for so long that many people cannot afford to live in the same city where they work, or even in nearby communities. These are “super commuters,” people who live far from where they work.
If the ability ability to commute did not exist, then each job would have to pay a wage equivalent to the cost to live in that same city.
In this example, if an individual chooses to live in a city because it was cheaper than the one their work was located, the cost to them would include the commute time. The utility gained would be the difference in cost between the city that the work is located and the cheaper one.
In the cases where a worker is paid so little they are forced to live in a cheaper city, the saved value still exists. The difference is the utility gained is going to the employer instead of the worker.
The employee is paying the time/labor cost of the commute, but the company is pocketing the value produced by it. During this commute time, the worker is not producing value for himself, but for the company because they were able to pay them less due to the lower cost of living. However, because it is not legally considered working hours, the commute time is unpaid.
In other words, by living in a cheaper city, the savings realized go to the employer, not the worker.
Here’s the math:
A forced-commuting employee who lives 2 hours away is working 8 hours a day. This works out to an ( [hourly rate * 8] / 8) dollars per hour. In reality, that same employee is working 12 hours a day at ( [hourly rate * 8] / 12 ) dollars per hour. So by forcing them to commute, a $10 an hour employee is only earning $6.66 per hour, a $20 an hour works out to $13.33 an hour by factoring in the unpaid commute time.
Because the employer did not have to pay the prevailing wage for a worker to be able to afford to live in their community, it is the company that pockets the money. In the example above, the employer paying $20 an hour gains almost $14,000 a year per employee — plus the additional savings on taxes.
Another way to look at it is to compare two neighbors who leave and return from work at the same time every day. One gets paid $15 an hour and commutes 2 hours each way for a higher paying job. One works across the street and earns much less at $10 and hour. If both are gone for 12 hours, they earn the same amount of money. By factoring in the four hours of overtime each day, the $10 an hour neighbor earns more.
Effectively, when your pay is such that you are forced to live in a city with lower cost of living, you are not being paid the full amount. You are being paid in “poor city dollars,” which are worth less per unit in the rich city.
A New Form of Corporate Welfare
This new form of corporate welfare is far more insidious than Walmart having their employees rely on government handouts. The difference between the two is that instead of coming out of taxes, this form of corporate welfare is financed by the worker as unpaid hours.
Another dystopian result of the monopoly on work is what I call the “existence fee.”
Most work provides an existence but is nothing more than empty survival and yet requires specialized skills, likely ones obtained from a degree.
A requirement like this is not a problem for a society. It has the capacity to educate and train its young citizens in any field. The problem is that neither the society nor the business will pay the cost of having the degrees.
When designing a fair competition in a game such as Dungeons & Dragons, it should be winnable even when a character rolls the lowest stats possible — assuming they try hard enough. When designing the function of a society, the ability to succeed should be within the grasp of every citizen — especially those who had the worst start in life.
In terms of education, a hypothetical worst-starting-case individual will have no rich parents paying for their education and will not qualify for scholarships. They are financing both their tuition and cost of living with loans during their education.
In this case, what are student loans?
At one point, they might have been deemed an investment in one’s self. Money is borrowed from their future self in order to increase their earning potential and later higher standard of living.
In the current age, loans are no longer merely an option, but a default. A college degree is the minimum prerequisite (not even a guarantee) for a basic standard of living and not an improved one. Employers have made this mandatory, taken as a requirement expected by society to give one the opportunity for work, to qualify for the human experience. Again, corporations are setting the rules.
Due to this, student loans are not an investment, but a fee one pays for existing, like an original sin one is guilty of by being born.
Where does the money to pay for this existence fee come from? From some future years’ worth of wages that one labors for and does not get to have.
A debt owed from birth that is required to be paid by one’s free labor is literal re-skinned slavery. It is no different than a plantation owner saying, “you were born on my property, so I own you.” Student loans are the equivalent of predatory credit at 30% interest at the Company Store of the mines of yesteryear. It is indentured servitude to those who make the rules.
As a society we like to pretend it is not slavery because we are deluded that we have other options. We can roll over an die, exist on government handouts, or become the next Bill Gates. Are these really viable options? Can we ethically expect the average citizen to be a genius inventor and tell them slavery is their own fault if they can’t cut it?
The relationship between the individual, businesses, and society is set up to be unfair. For all but a lucky few — those born into wealth and privilege — we are saddled with a debt that we must work off via years’ worth of unpaid labor.
We do not belong to ourselves. We are modern-day serfs born into slavery to labor on the estates of the lords of this New World, the corporations which rule our government.
This is Neo-feudalism.