Are You A Slave?
Suppose a slave is forced to work for the enrichment of a master against his will, beaten, completely unpaid, not allowed to switch masters at will, and is not allowed free travel.
Now suppose he is not beaten, but the rest remains true…is he still a slave? Clearly, yes. A nicer master isn’t the absence of a master. So, treatment is rather irrelevant to the condition of slavery.
Now suppose he is also allowed to switch masters at will…is he still a slave? Clearly, yes. The ability to choose your masters isn’t the absence of a master. So, the ability to choose for whom you work against your will is rather irrelevant to the condition of slavery.
Now suppose he is also allowed to travel freely when not laboring, as long as he finds someone else to labor for against his will, or returns to his previous master…is he still a slave? Clearly, yes. The ability to move about between masters is not the absence of a master. So, the ability to free movement (within a certain area anyways) is rather irrelevant to the condition of slavery.
Now suppose he is also allowed to keep 1% of the fruits of his labor, with 99% going to his master (against the worker’s will)…is he still a slave? Clearly, yes. The exact percentage taken by force is just a matter of degree, not a matter of principle. Any forced labor is slavery, no matter if done by percentage or by direct forced labor at whip’s end. The ability to keep anything less than 100% of the fruits of your labor is irrelevant to the condition of slavery.
So, how do we then define a “slave”? It isn’t about how good or bad you’re treated, it isn’t about the ability to choose your masters, it isn’t about the ability to move freely from master to master (to live where you wish, within a certain area at least), and it isn’t about what percentage of the fruits of your labors are taken from you by force (or on the threat of force)…so what then defines the word “slave”?
What defines a slave is ANYTIME you labor for others against your will. In Ancient Egypt slavery was a condition of most any taxpayer that couldn’t pay his tax bill, which threw that person into slavery for 3-4 months a year. That meant Egyptians had to work for the enrichment of the state to the tune of 25%-33% of their yearly incomes, whether paid in some form of money, crops, etc., or paid directly in labor. This was and is universally accepted as a form of slavery. In fact “labour in ancient Egyptian is a synonym for taxes” (see footnote 1).
Sound familiar? Don’t taxpayers today pay the equivalent of 25%-33% (or far more) of their total incomes to the state on the threat of rape cages (prison) and justly held property (or “justly held possessions capable of being traded”, if you prefer) being seized? Sure, modern slave masters figured out a much more sly way of doing it – by percentage as opposed to all at once in an obvious forced labor situation…but is that really a substantial or substantive difference? Clearly, no.
For those thinking “but I don’t mind paying taxes”…that doesn’t really matter, because you weren’t given a choice. It’s analogous to saying a man who breaks in a woman’s house at night to rape her isn’t a rapist because she happened to be horny and decided to have sex with him willingly. Who cares?! That isn’t relevant to the fact she wasn’t offered a choice, which still makes the man an attempted rapist (likely to try to rape someone else later). You being willing to pay taxes doesn’t mean you have a choice in the matter, and if you tried to stop paying you’d figure that out very quickly (and violently). YOU HAVE NO CHOICE, you are forced to labor against your will.
One form of slavery IS forced labor:
“Forced labor occurs when an individual is forced to work against his or her will, under threat of violence or other punishment, with restrictions on their freedom” (see footnote 2).
And so, logically, you are a slave (assuming you pay any taxes, including sales taxes, property tax, licensing costs, etc.) in the most modern manifestation of the condition. The fact they LET YOU keep some of your own fruits of your labors is just so the slaves don’t rebel; so they don’t notice their slavery. They gave the plantation a flag, a song, a pledge, and a mythos by which children are implicitly and repeatedly told “you are free and this isn’t brainwashing”. It’s all just a cult built up around the masters. You are not free and all that you have been taught via nationalism is brainwashing. No person who labors for another, directly or indirectly, against their will (whether they like it or not), on the threat of violence (like prison and seizure of justly held alienable possessions) is free.
See, donations are voluntary and therefore a choice, as are payments for consensual service, whereas tax is not a choice and is involuntary. If you really want to give money to the state, then go to the Treasury Department’s website and donate. Forcing your neighbors to pay just because you WANT to pay is not ethical…it’s being an accessory to extortion and is a conspiracy to extort (racketeering). If I changed the name of the entity you paid from “government” to “mafia”, would you still feel the same? I really hope not. And changing the words that describe a thing does not change the thing described…as Shakespeare put it “a rose by any other name…” is still a rose. And if your excuse (bad rationalization or faux justification) is majority rule or tradition, please consider these are informal logical fallacies (argumentum ad populum and ad antiquitatem, respectively) – majority opinion has been on the side of both tyranny and liberty, and tradition has been used to sustain oppression and liberation; neither matters to the ethics of a matter.
Besides, if everyone agreed funding the government was a good thing, then why do you require a law to make people pay? Clearly, people won’t pay if not forced…which suggests the “mass agreement” on the necessity of funding the state is nonexistent. The same hypocrites and liars who say they’d pay, even if there was no law to force them, would quickly stop paying when they A) can’t force their neighbors to subsidize their favorite pet projects and instead have to pay the full cost themselves for what they SAY they want government to do, and B) realize there is no law to force them to pay and they realize how much richer they’d be in their own lives if they didn’t pay at all. And anything the market (all the voluntary trades between individuals or groups in a society) wants will be supplied by the market. It’s just supply and demand, rational incentives, etc. So, why do we need the state to supply inefficiently (and funded by force) that which can logically be more efficiently and ethically provided by alternative private for-profit, non-profit, cooperative, or completely charitable institutions? Even if you’re against profit, per se, couldn’t the rest of the institutions mentioned handle it?
We don’t need it. The state just makes it illegal to compete with them. They SAY it’s because no other institution can do what they do, as well as they do it…but how can that be proven without allowing competition? It can’t. It’s just a perpetuated myth of which all of us are convinced, since childhood. It’s no more logical or rational or evidence-based than the Tooth Fairy (belated spoiler alert: the Tooth Fairy isn’t real).
Slavery is alive and well. And you can see it where the slaves turn against each other; house slave and field slave mentality. House slaves cheer for the punishment of field slaves who refuse to comply. They call them “tax cheats” (which is absurd, considering you CANNOT cheat on extortion – there is NO FAIR SHARE of extortion that anyone needs to pay). The field slaves hate the house slaves because of their cultish beliefs in the master’s necessity and beneficence (or at least the master’s benignity). Divide and conquer on the plantation: alive and well. They even take some of the slaves and hand them whips to punish the field slaves who dare to step out of line (the police who enforce these unethical laws).
But “we’re free”? Only if you’re delusional and playing on relativism. Sure, we (Americans) MAY be the freest nation-state on Earth…but that’s like being the prettiest ugly girl at the prom – you’re still an ugly girl and won’t get introduced to his friends or his parents even if he has sex with you after the dance. Relative freedom is a nonsense measure, because if the whole world were fascist and we were just slightly less than fascist, that would be “freest” still, but certainly wouldn’t be FREE in any objective sense of the word. We have to quit confusing objective criteria for relative criteria, and principles for matters of degree. It leads to disgusting complacency and incremental loss of even more liberty.
We’re all slaves, like it or not, accept it or not, and resist it or not. You can make no logical, rational, or evidence-based argument to the contrary. I know this all too well, because I tried to lie to myself about it for years. It was painful to face the Truth, as it sometimes is, but now that I’ve gotten past that period in my life and am able to look back at it, it was the best thing I could have ever done for my personal dignity as a human being; to recognize the condition in which I live without bias of a brainwashed childhood. It feels empowering, believe me, to know you ACTUALLY don’t give a damn what others think about it (or you), since it isn’t simply an opinion – it’s a provable fact (via evidence, logic, and reason). Now I always question my own opinions anytime they match tradition or popular opinion. More often than not, I find those opinions to be bad and without merit.
The idea with the least merit is taking that which is illegal for the slaves (extortion, for one example) and making it legal and revered when the masters do it. There is no legitimacy in such ideas.
“Slavery is a legal or economic system in which…humans [are] classified as property,” (see footnote 3).
If you don’t own all the fruits of your labors, then you don’t completely own yourself (if “own yourself” is an objectionable phrase, then replace it with the equivalent of “have individual autonomy”)…and if you don’t completely own yourself/have individual autonomy (putting aside the determinism/free will debate for now), then logically someone else owns you (in total, or in part). That IS, undeniably, treating people as property. It is taxation and similar coercive acts of the state that makes you a slave (and if you think corporations aren’t manifestations of purely state-granted protectionism, then read a little history on the subject or my future essays on the topic).
People think I’m crazy to be an anarchist and to say these things, but in fact, anarchists were among the first (and most vocal) abolitionists (of chattel slavery). Apparently, we’re also the LAST abolitionists too. One more form of slavery is left to abolish: the state (and with it, corporate economic domination). When the house slaves figure out we field slaves aren’t the problem, and that the master is, we’ll get there. It’s just a much tougher sell today because in chattel slavery the house slaves were the minority of slaves, whereas today they are the vast majority of them, and their relative good treatment keeps them from recognizing both the chains around their wrists and ankles and the locks fastened to their children’s necks.
“George Mason University professor Thomas Rustici uses two hypothetical anecdotes to illustrate this point. In the first, Sam Slime mugs a person for £50. In the second, Sam Slime votes for a politician who taxes a person in order to redistribute £50 to the “disadvantaged” Slime. Both examples involve the use of force. However, the second scenario is arguably worse, since through the state, Slime is now empowered to repeatedly take others’ money, thus putting them in a condition of slavery. Leo Tolstoy argued that taxation of labor is one of three stages of slavery (the other two being land slavery and personal slavery)” (see footnote 4).
“Gail Buckley also notes, ‘In British eyes, the American colonies existed only for the benefit of the mother country, but Americans saw any form of taxation as slavery’ ” (see footnote 5).
What the hell happened to us? When did we become such unthinking, whipped dogs? When did we come to accept, and even embrace, our slavery? The answer is a sad one: almost from the beginning. The new government soon placed on the people a tax, after the veterans of the revolution, at least in part, fought to abolish the requirement of such a payment…and some of those same veterans had their lands seized by banks because the new state they fought to establish never compensated them with their promised back pay from the war. That, my friends, was the first bank bailout in American history – right after the revolution ended.
So, consider it’s not what the hell happened to us back then that matters (as nostalgia, even if true to life, cannot aid us now), but what the hell needs to happen to us from here forward. And what the hell needs to happen is more people accepting the Truth of our slavery.
And why is that?
Because you can’t begin to solve a problem until you admit you have it.
1. “A World History of Tax Rebellions”, pp. vi-viii
2. “Slavery in the 21st century”, New Internationalist Magazine Issue 337
3. “The Politics of Property: Labour, Freedom and Belonging”, p.162
4. “The Slavery of Our Times”, Leo Tolstoy, ch. 8-12
5. “American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military From the Revolution to Desert Storm”, Gail Buckley, p. 3
By Tony Palmentera, who is an anarchist without adjectives, an essayist, an ethical theorist, a poker player, and contributor to the Skatopia community.