A lot of people have read my previous philosophies about the responsibilities of a society and wanted more, so I will go into some detail and explore a modern relationship between society, businesses, and the individual that I refer to as neofeudalism.
In the modern era, we are exceptionally efficient at producing, moreso than ever before, and it has created a new form of monopoly that is potentially more dangerous than any we have previously seen: the monopoly on work.
Previously I have talked about the loosening and severance of the correlation between work ethic and standard of living, how one can be the most hard-working person in the world, digging massive holes in the ground from dawn to dusk yet gaining zero utility from it if no one ordered holes to be dug.
To expand on this, the problem continues even into demanded work. We know that in the world, there is a huge demand for running shoes. People are spending boatloads of money on them. One day I was thinking and asked myself “can an individual private citizen start using labor to satisfy a part of this demand and create utility for their self?”
The more I thought about it, the more signs pointed me towards “no.” Even writing this, without looking it up, I am not even sure what exact materials a running shoe is made of; some sort of foam, rubber, cloth or nylon like material? Could one buy these materials in a condition that they are ready to be cut, shaped, and assembled into a shoe? Could one learn the process once they have the materials? What is the time and money cost after making the shoe to get it to an actual state where an end consumer can purchase it?
It is hard to imagine that after the labor and expense of starting up and figuring out how to actually make and sell a shoe, plus the price of materials per shoe after that, an individual could even sell shoes at a price such that they are making a profit. Per shoe sold, the individual would likely actually be losing money. The implications of this are that for an individual, starting from scratch, it actually costs more to work than to sit there and do nothing.
I wonder if there are any products, middle or end, that an individual can make profit on; that people would actually buy instead of a cheaper, better-produced corporate version. It is hard to imagine- possibly digital content, if anything.
What this means is that instead of a monopoly on a specific product (which we are too close to or already meeting anyway), corporations have a monopoly on work itself. 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 for work. Ironically, because everything is abundantly available to everyone, no one is actually necessary, and no one is valued.
The monopoly on work, causing corporations to decide the rules that an individual lives by, leads to the modern day return of the 12+ hour workday. Wages have been so stagnant for so long that many people cannot afford to live in the same city that they work, or even the closest couple of cities. In the media people that live this far from where they work are “super commuters.”
If the widespread ability did not exist to commute from other cities, then each job in a city would have to pay a wage at least equivalent of the cost to live in that city X. In this hypothetical, if an individual worker chose to live in a city that was cheaper than the one their work was located, the cost to them would be the commute time, and the utility gained would be the difference in cost between the city that the work is located and the cheaper one, a value Y.
In the case where a worker is only paid enough that they are forced to live in a cheaper city, that saved value Y still exists, the only difference is that it is going to the company instead of the worker. The worker is paying the time/labor cost of the commute, and the company is pocketing the value produced by it. The worker is, for all purposes but legal ones, on the clock during this commute time producing value for the company. However, because it is not legally considered working hours, it is unpaid.
On paper, a forced-commuting worker that can only afford to live 2 hours away is working 8 hours a day at ( [hourly rate * 8] / 8) dollars per hour.
In reality, that worker is working 12 hours a day at ( [hourly rate * 8] / 12 ) dollars per hour.
Say two neighbors leave to and return from work at the same time. One gets paid $15/hr and commutes 2 hours each way. The other works across the street and has no commute, but earns $10/hr. If they’re each away for 12 hours, then they come home at the end of the day having earned the same amount. If you factor in overtime, the $10/hr local working neighbor actually earns more.
Effectively, when you live in a city with lower cost of living than where you work, you are not being paid the full amount J that you earn on paper. You are being paid in “poor city dollars,” which are worth less per unit in the rich city.
With your wage J, you can buy 1 unit of widget A in rich city, or 2 units of widget A in poor city.
The same wage J is worth M worth of products if given in poor city, and ½ M worth if given in rich city.
If M worth of product cost is the amount it takes to live a standard life, then essentially the job that pays J is paying in real terms half the cost of a standard life, and the rest is paid by the value created during the unpaid forced commute.
It is essentially a new form of corporate welfare, sneakier than Walmart having their employees rely on government handouts. The difference between the two is that instead of coming out of taxes, this form is paid by the worker in the form of unpaid working time.
Another dystopian result of the monopoly on work is what I call the “existence fee.” The type of work that actually exists and can actually provide an existence that is anything more than empty survival exclusively 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 any and all of its young citizens in any field. The problem is that neither the society that raises a citizen nor the business that demands the degree holder will pay the cost of living/education for the individuals that are required to have the degrees.
As I mentioned in a previous post, when designing a fair D&D campaign, it should be winnable even to a character who rolled the lowest stats possible if they try hard enough. When designing the function of a society, the ability to succeed should be attainable by an arbitrary citizen who had the theoretically 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 qualify no scholarships. They are paying with loans both their tuition and their cost of living during their education. In this case what are student loans really?
At one point they might have been an investment in one’s self; Money that one borrows from their future self in order to increase their earning potential and therefore standard of living.
In the current age, they are no longer that, but a default. A degree is the minimum prerequisite (not even a guarantee) for a basic standard of living. It is mandatory, taken as a requirement expected by society (read: businesses with a monopoly on work – the opportunity to be useful) to give one the chance to qualify for the human experience.
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 K years’ worth of wages that one labors for and does not get to have.
A birth debt paid for by 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! But don’t worry, you can buy your freedom from me after K years!”
As a society we like to pretend it is not slavery because we seemingly have other options: rolling over and dying, simply existing on government handouts, or being the next Bill Gates and inventing something crazy. Are they really options though? Can we ethically expect the average citizen to be a genius inventor and tell them that slavery is their own fault if they can’t cut it?
The way the relationship between the individual, businesses, and society is set up in the modern day means that, for all but a lucky few, we are born with a debt that we must work off via years’ worth of unpaid labor. We do not belong to ourselves but to the land we were born on and whichever kings and lords (politicians and CEOs) own it: neofeudalism.