Sunday, May 22, 2005

ONE PERSON'S FREEDOM IS ANOTHER'S SLAVERY

Some freedoms such as freedom of speech, press or assembly are universal. By voicing your opinions you not harming anyone, even if those opinions might be wrong or even vicious. By meeting in a room with like minded people, you are harming no one. So too, if you wish to engage in consensual adult sexual activity or ingest certain drugs - no one is being hurt by this. (Paradoxically, we have laws against these non-coercive activities.)

However, once you get out of this narrow band of universal freedoms, trouble begins. What may be freedom to one person may be slavery to another. This is particularly true in such areas as municipal by-laws, labor and work-place regulation, environmental and consumer-protection regulations.

For an employer, restricting the work week to 40 hours might seem an imposition. For me, being forced to work as much as the employer likes would be slavery. For department stores, street sellers are an imposition, as they cut into profits, for the sellers (and people who like to frequent them) their suppression is an authoritarian act. For real estate interests someone who builds a small inexpensive house is an imposition, as it lowers the real estate values. For the person without much money the by-law that forces them to build a bigger house than they want is extortion. To restrict the right to fire at will seems a restriction on freedom for the boss, for the employee, such a right is pure feudalism.

Freedom has a class perspective. This is unavoidable. There is a difference between absolute and relative oppression, based upon the differing economic and political situations of workers and small business people compared with powerful political and corporate interests. Indeed, it is a joke to call any slight limitation on the power and profits of a powerful and rich minority "oppression." Compare the slight, relative loss of store profits compared with the absolute, income-destroying prohibition to sell on the street. A person who can not build because of a price-jacking bylaw suffers absolutely in this regard, whereas real estate interests would suffer relatively a small loss of profits, if this law did not exist. A boss can still fire for legitimate work-related reasons, only the imposition of his political, religious or racial prejudices on his employees are effected, whereas the employee fired for supporting the "wrong party" suffers an absolute loss - a livelihood and fundamental democratic rights.

Vulgar libertarians absolutize this relative "oppression". These are the folks that get their shorts in a knot over minimum wage laws and limitation of work hours. No wonder they won't get anywhere with 90% of the population. Neocon governments love to speak of the plight of the tax-payer. You might save $100 in taxes by firing 10,000 health care workers and employing low wage "private" employees. However the former is a relative deprivation, and losing your job is an absolute deprivation. (1)

As for the rich and powerful and their "relative oppression", that's tough! These regulations are what results when a system is rigged against the "little person". You can't always have your cake and eat it too, greed creeps. When everyone has a share and a say in how things are run, we can dispense with these regulations.

1. Even this $100 saving is unlikely as privatization (actually corporatization) is a scam. Generally, there is little or no saving. Working class tax payers now give their money to multinationals rather than to other workers.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jack Munroe said...

Good to to run into you in computerland Lar'. I've seen your words in The Match! and Anytime Now! Will be looking in with interest.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Clem said...

Hey Kletus!

Very interesting article. Corporatization is the right term. And in our case, Sodexo [the cafeteria company at work], is the multinational that might just take over housekeeping(they're in that business too).

Food services. Housekeeping. It's like a mythical monster with multiple heads; you try to chop one of its heads off and three grow!

Good work, cuz!!

Clem

1:13 PM  

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