Economic slavery, or wage slavery, refers to one’s total and immediate dependence on wages to survive. Although people throughout history have had to work to get by, we now live in a culture where we are led to believe we have economic freedom, when unbeknownst to most citizens, we are in fact bound in servitude. We automatically accept a 40-hour workweek with meager hourly pay as normal, even though many work overtime and still struggle to survive. There are also those who make enough to live comfortably but are unable to request less hours—you either work 40 hours a week, or you don’t get to work at all. We submit when told what to wear, when we have to arrive and depart, when we’re allowed to eat, and even when we’re allowed to use the restroom. How is it we have come to allow this?
The 40-hour-work week came about during the Industrial Revolution in Britain when at one point workers were putting in 10 to 16 hour days and began to protest. Working situations for Americans began to worsen as well, and by 1836, labor movement publications were also calling for a 40-hour workweek. Citizens in both situations were so overworked, an eight-hour day was easily accepted. This system is unnecessary now, if it ever was, but we still accept it due to the effects of our capitalist society.
There are many contributing factors that have led to our current economic system and continued acceptance of the 40-hour workweek, three major factors being consumerism, inflation, and debt. First, it’s important to understand exactly what inflation is, how it works, and how it leads to debt.
To put inflation simply, let’s say the U.S. government needs money for whatever war they’ve decided to wage this year. They ask the Federal Reserve for a loan, and the Fed agrees to buy bonds (sort of like IOU’s) from the government in the amount of the requested loan. The U.S. government then prints up a bunch of pieces of paper that say “Treasury Bond” while at the same time, the Federal Reserve prints up a bunch of little pieces of paper that we know as money. A trade is made between the government and the Federal Reserve—the bonds for the money—and the U.S. government directly deposits this newly printed money in a different bank, which in turn, takes its cut in fees and interest. Voilà, money has been created out of thin air.