Otherwise

Another way the “free” market is anything but: the continuous threat of material deprivation forces compliance with the system of subsistence-wage employment.

Most people most of the time are required to work practically every hour that is not consumed by basic necessities such as rest, preparing and eating food, hygiene, home maintenance, and dependent care. We may have a few hours to spare every week that we tend to spend on distractions so we can forget for a while the drudgery of our existence.

We do not have the free time or energy necessary for the genuine callings of human being, for self-determined meaningful life activities such as education, collaboration, and art. The best that most of us can hope for is a job that provides the opportunity for such human activity, albeit on our employers’ terms and determined by the demands of the market. Even that is a privilege not available to most because of inadequate public education and narrow-minded conceptions of workplace efficiency.

Yet it need not be so. With modern technology allowing for instantaneous global communication as well as automation of production and distribution with fractional human labor input, what prevents us from distributing adequate resources to everyone? Perhaps our sense of justice: if we – as individuals or as a country – had to toil relentlessly to obtain the standard of living we have, then everyone should have to. More likely it is the allure of power. The deprivation of the many gives inordinate power to the few who have much. Those few have manifold forms of power, not only economic but political and ideological. They keep the many stultified, ignorant, divided. They do not even know they do so, for it is more comfortable for them to believe the system of which they are beneficiaries is natural and right. Who will tell them otherwise?

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