Modern slavery

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Thinking out loud…

Friends are taking part in a writing challenge, where they write 500 words a day, without editing, backspacing or planning. Simply, you write completely off the cuff about your thoughts de jour and once a week they ‘mark’ or read one another’s ramblings. They invited me, I like to keep my level of ‘joining’ at the RNA level, so I’ve decided to go it alone.

I’ve been reading about domestic slavery in Korea. Of course. And I’ve noticed it’s become popular to compare participation in the modern workforce as slavery. Roughly the logic goes something like this;

We do not own our own labour, we sell it, and this is a form of expropriation. Of course, I would argue you can’t sell what you don’t own, but there are interesting connections with the Marxist definition of surplus value and fetishism. I think the key idea is that the modern labour market is no longer something we can longer refuse to participate in – that is, we are under extreme duress to participate in it. And when we do, it is under conditions which are not of our choosing (to greater or lesser degrees). We don’t generally own the means of production, and we can’t afford to buy the products of our labour (made in China).

I’ve also noticed the increasing focus on the Universal Basic Income as something that recognises the real economic benefits that flow from not participating in the traditional labour market. Usually, this attracts ‘social justice’ media attention – that is, recognising the contribution made by those not actively engaged in the capitalist economy. However, I’m more interested in its macro implications. My first guess would be that it might kind of evens things out, in a Keynesian sense, instead of concentrating ‘wealth’ amongst those who earn money versus those who don’t, providing a kind of economic stimulus that is more productive (i.e. – concentrated in the lower earning segments of the domestic economy). Obviously transaction costs are germane to this discussion but Australia’s economy is so heavily buggered around with that I can’t see the impost being much greater than it already is.

The implications for GDP are so wooly it’s difficult to make sensible predictions (which is why this kind of soothsaying lies in the domain of economists).

See, this is what happens when you think on a keyboard. No conclusions. Just thinking.

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