Talk:Unfree labour

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'Unfree' serfs[edit]

The article says serfs aren't called 'unfree' labourers in Academic journals. In my experience, they frequently are. CharlieRCD (talk) 14:16, 18 January 2009 (UTC)

The point of confusion here, I think, is that this section is written primarily about Medieval Europe. But when scholars use 'unfree labor' to refer to serfdom, they more often mean the harsh, export-oriented 'second serfdom' that emerged in imperial Russia during the 17th-18th centuries. --Brian Z (talk) 17:30, 14 August 2011 (UTC)

Request (2004)[edit]

I am the original author of this page. I humbly request that you discuss any major edits here before you make them. Thanks. Grant65 (Talk) 01:32, Nov 28, 2004 (UTC)

Alleged left wing bias[edit]

The page shows a pervasive left-wing bias, although it is not very pernicious in most places. The only part that I felt needed to be edited immediately was the line "And under capitalism, workers never keep all of the wealth they create, as some of it goes to the profit of the capitalist", which states Marxist theory straightforwardly as fact. - Nat Krause 11:52, 28 Nov 2004 (UTC)
"Pervasive"? "Pernicious"? Dem's foightin' words, Nat. Be specific and/or rewrite the bits that you think need addressing. Of course, I feel very protective of this page and if I disagree, I'll make my own changes.
And before I change it, can you explain why you think it's in any way controversial to say that workers do not keep all of what they produce? I don't think even the biggest stickler for neo-classical economic theory would maintain that workers are paid the exact equivalent of what they produce.Grant65 (Talk) 13:23, Nov 28, 2004 (UTC)
In most mainstream economics, including neo-classicalism, as well as the Austrian school and several other less mainstream tendencies, production is seen as a process involving input from both labor and capital. Therefore, it's difficult to put one's finger on exactly how much workers produce as opposed to how much capital produces. However, the worker's wages will, broadly speaking, tend to approach the former. Due to the vagaries of life, the two will probably never be equal, but it is quite possible that a worker's wages would exceed his or her productivity, instead of the other way around. Only in economics based on the labor theory of value can we say for certain that the worker never receives his full value; in modern, LToV almost always means Marxism, although in the past there were other schools with similar thought. - Nat Krause 04:19, 29 Nov 2004 (UTC)
The statement: "it's difficult to put one's finger on exactly how much workers produce..." is a typical neo-classical cop-out, suggestive of the idea that NCE is concerned with price and not exchange value. And since capital is not human, I don't see how it can be said to "produce" anything.
Yes, wages do exceed productivity, approximately once in a blue moon... What capitalist would invest, if it happened frequently and/or workers were not exploited? Grant65 (Talk) 08:40, Nov 29, 2004 (UTC)
I wonder if we aren't suffering from a semantic problem about the use of the word production. It seems that one can use it in slightly different ways. For instance, supposing that I operate a machine that makes bottle caps; after using it for a while, I now have 100 bottle caps. One could say that the machine produced 100 bottle caps; one could say that I produced one 100 bottle caps; one could say that I and the machine together produced 100 bottle caps; one could say that I and the person who provided me with the machine (its owner, assuming that it is not me) together produced 100 bottle caps; or one could say that I together with the person who built the machine (assuming that it is not me) produced 100 bottle caps. If one uses any of the latter three senses (any of the "togethers"), then I don't know how one can objectively split it up and say "these X number of bottle caps were produced by me and these X by the other party".
If you use produce in the second sense, then, yes, workers will strongly tend not to be paid more than their total productivity. That is, if a business makes a gross profit of $1000 per day, it will not normally pay its employees $1100 in wages; and if it does, it will go out of business. However, if one takes the view that it is difficult to know exactly how much an individual really contributes to a firm, then it will occasionally happen that they are paid more than they are actually contributing (although most employers, of course, will go out of their way to prevent this). I'm pretty sure I've seen this phenomenon close up. Arguably, this is even more common among high-level and influential employees, such as executives in a large corporation. None of this, however, vitiates the argument that capitalists invest because of the return they expect to receive on the actual value of the capital they are supplying, which would hold even if it was routinely diluted by overpaying workers. - Nat Krause 07:09, 5 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Your example illustrates some interesting points, e.g. 1. the bottle-cap machine (capital equipment) is itself produced by workers, or by machines made and operated by workers, or by robots made and operated by workers, or... So there are ways for capitalists who are not directly involved in the production/distribution of any good to benefit (if not "profit") from the exploitation of other capitalists employees, in addition to that of their own employees. 2. Capital itself is not something completely separate from labour, it is (in Marx's words) "alienated labour". And labour power, once it has been bought/forced from a worker, becomes another form of capital. Grant65 (Talk) 12:24, Dec 5, 2004 (UTC)

Workers do not recieve 100% of profit, because some will always go to their employer and the goverment. However, a capitalistic society is should in no way be considered as unfree labour as workers are allowed to leave jobs as they choose. 05:29, Feb 17, 2005

I'm having a hard time understanding what wages have to do with the freeness of labor. If I make the choice to work for a penny an hour, a penny a day, or even a penny for a lifetime of work, what makes that unfree if I voluntarily make the choice to do the work and the employer voluntarily makes the choice to hire me? I think my argument is illustrated in the fact that according to this definition people who are working for a "minimal wage" are somehow working against their will (against will=unfree). First, minimal is a very relative term, (how could this possibly be in a definition?), second, wages are only one form of compensation. It doesn't matter how someone is compensated for work that they chose to do, so long as they voluntarily chose to do that work. The only restriction on how they must be compensated is any agreement previously made by the employer and the employee. And, if the employer and employee are exchanging labor for compensation based on an agreement, and it's an agreement that they entered into voluntarily, then what's unfree about it? Note: just because you are pressured to do something, doesn't make it involuntary. You feel a great urge to eat, and if you don't eat you will die, but in the end, only you choose to eat. No one forces you to eat, unless you're being force-fed, but... that's just weird. Johnathlon 02:26, 28 July 2005 (UTC) Further, if I am forced to accept work with unminimal compensation, how is that free? Johnathlon 02:41, 28 July 2005 (UTC)

"....just because you are pressured to do something, doesn't make it involuntary." Riiiiiight, what does it suggest then? That the individuals concerned are stupid to submit? It's quite simple: the level of wages (including their absence in some cases) is one indicator of the freedom of the labourer(s). Grant65 (Talk) 15:00, July 28, 2005 (UTC)
It appears, Grant65, that all you've been exposed to is Marxist theory. That doesn't make you wrong; it makes you ignorant. That's not a slight against you; everyone is ignorant of many, many things. But before you casually dismiss a point, you would do well to learn about it. Nat Krause is trying to explain why someone would disagree with the things that you think are fact.
I'm going to try to use some examples to show a different point of view. Let's say I and my friends put together this machine. Now, because of the climate in this society, no one will buy the machine unless it has a sticker on it explaining how to use it. (That is, it's market price is $0.) So we print up the sticker and then I go to a stranger and offer him $1 to place the sticker on the machine. Now, having the sticker, it has a market price of $1000. We sell the machine and distribute that money amongs are selves (not the dude I paid to put the sticker on). Now, before the guy put the sticker on, the machine's market price was $0. After he put the sticker on, the machine was worth $1000. I only paid him $1. Did I exploit him? Another example: say I'm wheelchair bound. After ages of research I figure out how to build a machine. So I order all the materials. Being wheelchair bound, I can't put it together, so I offer someone $500 in exchange for revealing the plans to him, and his labor in building the machine. The process is purely a matter of following directions. Once built, I can sell the machine for $2000. Did I exploit his surplus value? In both the cases, you recognize that the "exploiter" contributed some large, though not easily quantifiable amount. In both cases, the "exploited" appeared to add more to the value of the object than what he was paid. But was he paid more than the *value* of his contribution? In this case, it's pretty clear they weren't. Putting a sticker on a machine does not entitle you to the value of entire machine that you did not produce. Building a machine does not entitle you all the fruits of the labor of the person who designed it.
The Marxist analysis ignores the value added by the capitalist, who must promote the product, design the process by which the product is made, take the risk that someone won't buy it, and, most importantly, wait a long time to be paid. All of these things add value. To look at a tiny fraction of the process and suddenly conclude that the worker added all the value is just not accepted by the neoclassical and Austrian economists you so casually dismiss. Promoting your opinion over the views of many other *reasonable* people is just not in line with Wikipedia policy either. Please, take a more tolerant attitude toward those who disagree with you. 06:09, 7 August 2005 (UTC)
To the extent that unfree labourers are paid, they are exploited; otherwise they wouldn't be....unfree labourers. As for the rest, I can't be bothered discussing contrived, straw man attacks on the labour theory of value, with anonymous critics, on the unfree labour page, especially since it's marginal to the subject. Grant65 (Talk) 15:23, August 7, 2005 (UTC)
To the extent that unfree laborers are paid they're exploited? No, what determines whether a worker is unfree is whether he is free to go elsewhere, including outside the country, to offer his labor services. That's what makes the connection to the "working class" so nebulous, expecially when "communist state", examples of which don't let their people leave (thereby employing unfree labor), isn't linked. As for my examples, they are not contrived or straw men. They carry directly over to your attacks on capitalism. You are advocating, whether you know it or not, a specific formula. If the worker is paid at or above the formula, he's not being exploited; otherwise he is. I'm trying to show why the formula is invalid.
As for why you're biased against an anonymous poster, that really confuses me. I thought left-wingers were more tolerant of other than that. It's especially ironic, since you're anonymous too in that you aren't revealing your full name. (I also don't understand why you felt the need to link "straw man". It should be clear I'm smart enough to know what straw man means, and that my example was not one, else you could have easliy shown how it is.)
And yes, this is relevant to the subject. You are using (or were using) a Marxist theory as a lens to judge the labor world. We're trying to show you how it's not valid, and doesn't apply, so this discussion is relevant. Your responses to Nat Krause and someone else shows that you think it's relevant. 16:37, 7 August 2005 (UTC)

Working class linked?[edit]

Why is "Working class" linked. It's like the "proletariat" being in the "slavery" entry. I mean, come on, that sends the subtle signal that being forced to work for one person, and only that one person is equivalent to being part of the so-called "working class". A lot of victims of unfree labor would probably take issue with their casual equation. 06:12, 7 August 2005 (UTC)

Wikipedia contriburors often link articles by way of contrast, there is nothing unusual about that. In fact, we often link articles which are tangentally related. Your arguments are bizarre. Grant65 (Talk) 15:23, August 7, 2005 (UTC)
I actually have no problem with such tangentially related see also's for purposes of contrast. All I ask is that the article be equitable in its contrasts. For example, many consider socialism and communism to be inherently forms of slavery, so why don't we link those? You know, just to compare and contrast. Unless you only want the cross-references that match your worldview. 16:25, 7 August 2005 (UTC)

I meant to say, "to the extent that unfree labourers are unpaid, they are exploited." Sorry for the confusion. There are many ways to take away people's freedom and one of them is to not pay people above the level of subsistence, or barely above it. That is a normal assumption of the standard literature on unfree labour. An interesting example is one cited in this article, the work of Aborigines in the livestock-raising industry of northern Australia, between the 1850s and 1960s. At one extreme, some were not paid at all and were basically restricted in their movements to the property they worked on, in other cases some were paid well enough to leave and were allowed to do so. The fact that there are degrees (or a spectrum) of freedom/unfreedom involved, however you wish to measure that, does not means that there was no unfree labour.

No, you take people's freedom by taking their freedom. It has nothing to do with how much you pay them. You have no way to know if you're paying them the fair value of their labor unless the have the option to work for someone else. What makes labor free or not, is, surprisingly enough, whether they're free to go. All employers can do is offer an alternative to someone's current lifestyle. If the Aborigines were restricted in their movement, they were not free. If they simply couldn't convince others that their labor was worth paying a lot for, that's simply a case of unproductive labor. Will you not admit that it's possible for someone's labor not be worth purchasing (though certainly, worthy of non-wage charity)?

Workers in Stalinist states are not mentioned but neither are a lot of other intermediate forms (between free and unfree) which may cause controversy if mentioned here. For the record, I don't and have never considered all wage labour to be unfree labour. It doesn't say that in the article and I don't know where you are getting that from.

Well, if you're going to exclude all controversial links, then "working class" is out I'm afraid. The working class generally refers to free labor that is paid poorly. Why won't they get paid more? Learn economics. As long as we're going to include links to topics people consider equivalent to unfree labor, we're going to have to include "communist state" to be NPOV.

Adam Smith and David Ricardo (to name but two) used versions of the labour theory of value; were they "left wingers" or "marxists"? Who says I am a left winger and who says left wingers have to "tolerate" you? Take the simple step of registering and you will be taken a little more seriously.Grant65 (Talk) 22:56, August 7, 2005 (UTC)

Smith and Ricardo advocated heavily modified versions of the labor theory of value. I say you're a left-winger because you have a concern for negatively portraying any economic system in which there is vast inequality. Left wingers have to tolerate me because they make a point out of tolerating everyone. I would be glad to register when I'm good and ready. What I will not do is register merely to get the so-called "respect" of the self-anointed hero of the working class. If my claims make sense, they make sense. If they don't, refute them! You've shown no interest in even thinking about your views, let along tolerating a view most people hold. 00:02, 9 August 2005 (UTC)
You views don't make sense, especially in that you respond in a highly personal way to your reading of things that other people, not just me, have written. Try reading things as other people would read them, instead of reading them according to your own paranoia. I know it's difficult, but give it a go. Grant65 (Talk) 00:45, August 9, 2005 (UTC)
If my claims make sense, they make sense. If they don't, refute them! 00:54, 9 August 2005 (UTC)

They don't make sense. Am I right in thinkng that your background is in economics? It shows.

No, my background is not in economics, but in structural engineering. Economics is just a hobby, something I study a lot, as should anyone wishing to make moral judgments about political and economic systems (I can dream!). If you can't show through economics that the minimum wage will help the poor (for example), the question of whether it's the right thing to do is moot.

Freedom and the lack thereof have been defined as a lot of different things, by a lot of different philosophers, and yet you appear to believe that your (very limited) definition — which excludes consideration of how individuals may be deprived of freedom through personal economic deprivation — is the only one which applies.

Mine is the only one that really applies, but I'll tolerate diverse opinions in an encyclopedia (unlike you). The thing is though, when people talk about unfree labor, they're talking about labor not free to leave. Yes, that's often associated with low wages, but not always. You're no more a free worker confined to my basement if I pay you $1 million/day.

If you have a serious point to make about the neo-classical definition of unfree labour, as a counterpoint to the labour theory of value, feel free to make it in the article. Bear in mind that there are a lot of people who disagree with the neoclassical theory of value and that the reason why they are both theories is that there is no agreement on which is correct, and they are irreconcilable. Grant65 (Talk) 12:59, August 9, 2005 (UTC)

I will add counterpoints. I just wanted to let you know about them first and their justifications to avoid an edit war, given your statement about about how you feel "protective" about "your" (private property alert!) article, and how you can't see how any non-Marxists view could possibly be true. Below I will start a topic enumerating my changes, since in my next edit, they will be numerous. 23:29, 9 August 2005 (UTC)

Major changes, 9 Aug 2005[edit]

Here is what I am about to change. Please don't revert it wholesale. Instead, please add balance where you think there is none.
Definition: The common definition of unfree labor is labor that is not free to leave. Absolute compensation has little to do with it. Teenagers in suburbia are paid well below subsistence for their area; are they unfree laborers?
"Payment for unfree labour": Why the disparagment of payment as cancellation of debt? If someone has incurred an honest debt to someone who has use for his labor, canceling that person's debt is payment - there's no reason to mock this form of payment. I think what Grant65 is trying to refer to is people who were tricked or coerced into taking on a debt that they really didn't want. In that case, the problem is the tricking or the coercing, not the fact that they are paid through debt cancellation. Also, the reason unfree labor is found more often among migrant laborers is not because of their race or anything like that but because they won't report to the authorities.
"Unfree vs. free": remove reference to "substantial wages"; absolute wage is not the determinant of freeness. Someone can be totally unfree yet get paid a lot. Also, clarify first reference to "free laborers" to "nominally free laborers" since the passage goes on to show ways they are not free. Expand on subjective theory position that workers always receive about the value of their labor.
"Forms/Slavery": Debt slavery: same objections as above (nothing inherently wrong with paying by debt cancellation; terminology trivializes). Remove reference to aboriginals for now until sourced because it makes no since. If workers were rarely paid, why did they bother to work? Need to clarify if they were forced to do the work by "employers".
"Bonded labor": not changing for now, but will if not justified; the description of so-called bonded labor could apply to something as innocent as a professor signing a contract to visit a school to teach for a semester.
"Prison labor": just a question: is it unfree labor if the convict was given a fair process and a fair punishment, but merely offered an opportunity to reduce his sentence by working? Why or why not? If yes, then community service sentences count as unfree labor.
"serfs": I don't understand the justification for not calling them unfree. That they occurred in pre-modern times and by tradition has nothing to do with whether they are free. That passage doesn't make sense.
"Related articles": Add communism, since it's an alternative to the labor system in general, and communist state because it's a form of unfree labor. 23:54, 9 August 2005 (UTC)

First of all, a broad definition of "unfreedom", which includes plain economic deprivation is needed, because it is what is used in the standard literature, such as Brass and van Linden's book, which I have read, and I suggest that you investigate it before getting too involved in rewriting this page.
My point is just that you can't look at the economic deprivation in a vacuum - you have to look at why there is economic deprivation and if indeed it's because their movement is restricted, that is the problem, not poor compensation. Also, what if that person really is a klutz? Does everyone deserve to be paid a so-called "fair wage" for work actually performed if every employer would pay not to have that person as a worker? (Such people exist.) I'm not saying that describes all people who receive a low wage, it's just that you need to be more precise. 00:44, 11 August 2005 (UTC)
"Teenagers in suburbia are paid well below subsistence for their area; are they unfree laborers?" I presume you're referring to the teenagers of Herndon, Virginia and not the teenagers of Karachi or Lagos(?) If you are referring to them doing chores in the US, then they are paid above subsistence since they get free lodging, food, transport, computers, games, TV, books, etc for a small amount of work.
No, I'm talking about teenagers who get part time jobs. These benefits are *not* paid by their employers. 00:44, 11 August 2005 (UTC)
"Remove reference to aboriginals for now until sourced because it makes no since. If workers were rarely paid, why did they bother to work?" In most cases they were rounded up by police if they left the property on which they lived and as the property tended to be their traditional land, many had no inclination to leave anyway. Material on this is freely available on the web or in classic histories like Henry Reynolds' The Other Side of the Frontier.
I understand. I just wanted you to clarify that because it made no sense. Readers weren't learning why these Aboriginal morons were working for free. If they were coerced by police into staying on a ranch that they never agreed to say on, that's directly relevant to the topic and if you leave it out, you're giving an incomplete picture. That was my problem with the section. 00:44, 11 August 2005 (UTC)
"...they won't report to the authorities..." Or the authorities are disinterested or actually approve of unfree labour.
"bonded labor": I have modifed this slightly to address your concerns.
Prison labour: is clearly unfree labour, I think that's pretty clear in the article.
So if I offer to do community service in lieu of jail time, that's unfree labor? Okay, then that needs to be mentioned so that people get the whole picture. 00:44, 11 August 2005 (UTC)
Serfs: I have no real objection to their inclusion, it's just not a norm of the literature.

Grant65 (Talk) 00:10, August 11, 2005 (UTC)

"communist state because it's a form of unfree labor"
No go. POV and confusion of terminology. Not to say that even in worst commie states people get wages and free to quit job. mikka (t) 00:33, 11 August 2005 (UTC)
My original addition addressed the terminology. And I'm confused. Are you now saying that if you get a wage and can quit your job, you're not an unfree labourer? Quite a radical change in your position! 00:44, 11 August 2005 (UTC)
Which "my position?" I am here for the first time. Anyway, don't get nervous. It is quite natural that different people may have different opinion about the meaning "unfree" (and even "labour"), which is rather vague notion, if you start thinking about it (and please don't tell me that I am saying bullshit and "unfree" means simply "not free"). In a wikipedia article no one interested in "my" or "yours" position, see original research. What counts is that in some sources such and such labour was described as "unfree" or in a synonymic way. Therefore if you two fail to convince each other about a particular category, the only solution is to seek confirmation from a respectable source. mikka (t) 01:09, 11 August 2005 (UTC)
Finally, if you think that the possibility to freely quit job at any time does not qualify such labor as free, then you better say something very convincing, without word games and exclamation marks. 01:09, 11 August 2005 (UTC)
Sorry, I thought you were User:Grant65. I actually agree with you: being able to freely quit at any time and go somewhere else qualifies the labor as free. Also, if the employer was only able to get your services by offering an alternative to your current lifestyle, that counts as free as well. I'm familiar with the policies on original research thank you, and I understand that some of the literature refers to workers simply paid poorly as "unfree labor"; I just want to balance the Marxist analysis in the literature with the other POV without saying one is right. 02:27, 11 August 2005 (UTC)

Interesting to note that you are a racist 24.162. And please stop putting your comments in the middle of my posts on discussion pages.Grant65 (Talk) 13:22, August 11, 2005 (UTC)

Please keep in mind that putting comments inside someone's very long comments using proper indenting and signature is a normal style in wikipedia. mikka (t) 15:55, 11 August 2005 (UTC)
Thank you, mikka. 23:44, 11 August 2005 (UTC)
OK, so go back and put your signature next to each comment. It may be "normal", it also results in confusion as to who said what.Grant65 (Talk) 00:41, August 12, 2005 (UTC)
*long sigh* No, I'm not racist. If you're referring to the "Aboriginal morons" comment, you clearly, clearly missed the point of what I was saying (which says a lot about your sense of irony), and you still haven't corrected what I'm complaining about. Your portrayal of the Aboriginals doesn't draw any sympathy; it makes them look like idiots who worked for free. Only by explaining the situation they were under (the threat of being rounded up if they left) does the section make sense. It's kind of a reflection of your bias: you genuinely can't understand the difference between labor being paid poorly because it's not highly valued, and labor being paid poorly because someone is preventing it from working for the competition. In your mind, they all kinda just run together, and it's not necessary to specify which is the case in reference to the Aboriginals. 23:44, 11 August 2005 (UTC)

Minimal wages as unfree labour[edit]

24.162, ever read The Grapes of Wrath? Probably wouldn't appeal to a Randite. There is a great illustration there of how minimal (as opposed to minimum) wage systems operate to keep workers tied to one place by means of the company store, etc. Such systems are both difficult to impose and difficlt to conceive for us, in the developed world in the 21st century. Not so for indigenous people in outback Australia during 1851-1947, or in the US during the Great Depression. I'm not sure there is really any point in discussing this with you, since you insist that a minimalist definition of freedom is the only one that applies on this page.Grant65 (Talk) 04:08, August 13, 2005 (UTC)

Okay, you can stop calling me a Randite, I'm really not. Let me just say what my goal is editing this page: distinguishing poorly-paid labor from labor imposed by force. There's an impression out there that whenever someone is paid poorly (whether by low absolute wages, or in tokens, or in mere accomodation), it's the employer's fault, and he should be made to pay more. But in many cases, the employer wouldn't find it worthwhile to even make the offer unless he could bid so low. If he were forced to pay more, he wouldn't offer this alternative, and the worker would be even worse off. Portraying all employers with low-wage labor as bad guys glosses over a vital distinction: is he able to offer such a low wage because no one else wants to pay them any more, or is he able to offer such a low wage because they literally can't go anywhere else and see what the market will bear? You mentioned somewhere earlier that you were willing to make a distinction something like this, so I'm pretty sure I'm not too far in outer space here. MrVoluntarist 16:41, 13 August 2005 (UTC)

Communist states[edit]

I don't know who inserts this piece and I even agree that this is a valid viewpoint. But unless you provide a reputable source where this or similar conclusion was made, this is your original research in the very direct application of the notion. What is more: some people cal U.S. tax system extortion, robbery and other words (and for reasons), but we are not going to insert a section "United States tax" into all these articles. Finally, I strongly suspect you don't know what you are talking about: emigration was not legally forbidden in Soviet Union (I cannot speak for all commie states, may be in Albania?). mikka (t) 15:55, 11 August 2005 (UTC)

Okay, first things first: you don't need to keep linking original research. I knew what it was before you linked it the first time. Now, let's keep something in mind here: this article is about "unfree labor", not "unfree labor that Marxist academics gripe about a lot". If something clearly, unambiguously meets the definition, it belongs here whether or not someone has formally built the case. Nevertheless I know of a few sources off the top of my head specifically referencing communist states as slavery. For example, Ayn Rand referred to them as "slave pens" for very specific reasons. But I know, she's biased, so let's forget about that one. Just from my reading experience, the ground-breaking work Democracy: The God That Failed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe provides a contrast between "private slavery" (chattel slavery) and "public slavery" (communism) with the social and economic implications that follow. (Here's an essay where he makes the argument again: [1]) Would that be enough? If not, please specify what you are looking for in terms of sources.
As for your analogy, the article on taxation does mention the involuntary nature of it, so I think my addition is in keeping with Wikipedia policy. Now, you're right, I don't know about the Soviet Unions emigration policies (though I'm pretty sure they weren't as liberal as you're making them sound), but I wasn't the one who put it there! In my original addition, I only referenced Cuba and North Korea, which do prohibit emigration. User:Grant65 added the Soviet Union after me, and I left it in. 00:01, 12 August 2005 (UTC)
Okay, the very first things very first: the definition. It never occurred to me to involve Marxist academics here. But your idea is correct: the definion must clearly state that it depends on the notion of "freedom" in the first place. And the definitions must be given from all notable points of view, including the communist one. At the very extreme point, all labor is basically unfree: it is God's punisment of Man for his Original sin. I am not against listing communist states here. In fact some time ago I myself added a similar, but cautiously phrased piece into "Wage slavery". But it must be stated correctly and with proper references. By the way, how exactly the laws of Cuba and North Korea forbid emigration? mikka (t) 00:27, 12 August 2005 (UTC)
By telling people they can't leave, maybe?
Alright, so I guess to make this fair, we need an elaboration on the concept of "unfree". That's fine. I'll figure out an NPOV way to add that, and then include communists states with references. 12:01, 12 August 2005 (UTC)
No way. I am not interested in what you may add. Please provide a commonly accepted definition, with reference. I am repeating for you: no original research. mikka (t) 04:42, 13 August 2005 (UTC)
Mind if I cut in? The point Mikka is trying to make, as far as I can see, is that there were never any laws in any communist states saying that people could not emigrate. Emigration simply required a number of official approvals and documents that were very difficult (but not impossible) to obtain. If emigration/immigration restrictions count towards "unfree labor", then no worker on Earth is free, because no country has absolutely open borders. -- Mihnea Tudoreanu 01:34, 13 August 2005 (UTC)
The claim is only that if emigration is prevented, it's unfree labor, because you're determining who someone's employer is. There is a clear difference between restricting emigration and restricting immigration. It's the difference between me not feeding you and me preventing anyone else from feeding you. It's the difference between me not letting you in my house, and me not letting you leave my house. And for purposes of determining if labor is free, it doesn't matter if it's "impossible" to leave vs. "really really hard" to leave. Because when you think about it, "impossible" in this case really means "really really hard". Anyone can in theory escape a communist regime, it's just a matter of difficulty. That it's theoretically possible to leave is no justification for calling labor free. 01:43, 13 August 2005 (UTC)
Stop right there, colleague. There is no clear difference. All what you are doing is a wordplay in support of your POV. Either allowed or not. Period. I may play similar games in the opposite direction. And there is no clear difference between restricting emigration and immigration. The difference is in your preferences. This is my last comment in this useless wrangle here: your theories will not be allowed. References, please. mikka (t) 04:42, 13 August 2005 (UTC)
Note: I registered, and was previously 24.162.
I don't know what's gotten into you. Right above I said I would back up what you call "my theory" with citations from sources, and for some reason you said "No way. I am not interested in what you may add. Please provide a commonly accepted definition, with reference." ... when I just said I would do exactly that.
You did not say exactly that. You said: "I'll figure out an NPOV way to add that". I would expect "Ill find who uses this kind of definition". You are still thinking in terms of original research and failing to see it. mikka (t) 23:47, 13 August 2005 (UTC)
Wow, disruptive posting. Now I'm 100% pure I'm right. Previously, I was maybe 75, 90%, but now it's obvious you're not mature enough to handle this topic. MrVoluntarist 00:16, 14 August 2005 (UTC)
If I didn't know better, I'd say you were trying to be a jerk. But luckly I assume good faith, so I'm going to pretend you're not. However, I am going to follow your practices and rub links to Wikipedia policy you're already familiar with in your face so you know what it feels like. assume good faith assume good faith assume good faith assume good faith assume good faith assume good faith. Oh, and assume good faith.
As for saying that the emigration/immigration distinction is POV, perhaps it is, but you're wrong to claim that you can "play similar games in the opposite direction". That would mean you think it's possible to claim that if your country restricts emigration, but all other countries allow free immigration, that wouldn't be unfree labor. Huh? Perhaps your irritability has blinded you to the obvious.
And in any case, it's obvious to anyone not trying to belittle a fellow Wikipedian (cough cough) that, at the very least, when you prevent at worker from shopping around, that counts as "unfree" (what is in dispute is what other situations could constitute unfree labor). Even in the absence of a source, the readers deserve to see the topic handled, because it's going to be on their minds. Something along the lines of "One may fall under the impression that states which keep workers from changing jobs or leaving are employing unfree labor. Such a characterization would match one definition of unfree labor and match practices of current users of unfree labor, although the literature does not reference it that way." would clearly be justified.
But that's okay, you just go ahead and stay off the talk page like you promised and prevent substantive discussion of the issues from occurring, because, after all, I'm too much of an idiot to follow a link the first four times. Oh well, at least you assume good faith (you might want to check that out by the way). MrVoluntarist 05:04, 13 August 2005 (UTC)
It looks like you have to follow it for the sixth time. If "the literature does not reference it that way", then what you wrote in front of this phrase is original research. The problem is not your mental abilities. The current discussion shows you are smart. But it also shows that you are stubborn and willing to push your POV at any price. Wikipedia article is not an essay. It is a description of facts. A published authoritative opinion is a fact. Your or my opinion is not, however revealing it is. mikka (t) 23:47, 13 August 2005 (UTC)
If the average reader is going to wonder why it doesn't count as unfree labor when it's a state that's imposing the condition, that needs to be explained. Such a clarification is not original research. MrVoluntarist 01:31, 14 August 2005 (UTC)
But it does count. I never said it does not. I only asked you for you know what (because of some mental block). In fact, in sections below I provided some wikipedia references that put the issue into a broader context. The terms "mandatory labor", "obligatory labor," etc. are nothing but polite synonyms for less brutal forms of "unfree labor". mikka (t) 01:49, 14 August 2005 (UTC)

Oddly enough I find myself agreeing with Mr Voluntarist on this point; in any historical context, the existence or non-existence of de jure laws about anything is neither here nor there, and is meaningless in the face of de facto rules. Grant65 (Talk) 11:08, August 13, 2005 (UTC)

It was never de facto impossible to leave a communist state - it was just very difficult (in practice as well as theory) most of the time. There were other times, however, when communist states had no more restrictions on immigration than western democracies (the family of Isaac Asimov, for example, emigrated legally from the Soviet Union in the 1920s). In any case, if restrictive emigration is what you want to talk about, then talk about restrictive emigration, not communist states. Communist states were neither the first nor the last countries to enforce restrictive emigration policies. -- Mihnea Tudoreanu 14:17, 13 August 2005 (UTC)
Well, perhaps we can agree on mentioning the effect of immigration/emigration restrictions (with an emphasis on the latter) on labor's "freeness", then list the historical restrictors of such. MrVoluntarist 16:31, 13 August 2005 (UTC)
Again, quotations, please. mikka (t) 23:47, 13 August 2005 (UTC)
Wow, you know, thanks for asking for quotations. I totally would not have thought about that without your request. Well, that and the five times you've linked original research. MrVoluntarist 00:18, 14 August 2005 (UTC)

Notion of freeness of labour in various political and moral systems[edit]

The section above suggests that this notion depends of the political POV. I am pretty sure that there are publications that describe labor in commies states as slave labor, and I am surprized that no one pointed to them yet, thus closing this silly bickering.

On the other hand, Marxism holds that capitalism enslaves labour. In fact, in 19th century there was a Marxist group (in Russia?) called Emancipation of the Labour.

Again, sources, please. MrVoluntarist 00:20, 14 August 2005 (UTC)
OK. I finally see the light. Something really happened to my brain two days ago. Certainly, in the talk page things may be discussed with much less formalism. My apologies. mikka (t) 01:25, 14 August 2005 (UTC)

Therefore the article has to have the section under this title.

For those who don't have stiff brains, I would aslo suggest to consider the comparison of mandatory military service and mandatory labor. Many religious doctrines consider labour a sacred duty of Man inposed unto him by God. Therefore criticizing the fact that commie states mandated labour should look ridiculous to, say, mormons.

I would also to point to the "Conscription" article for more examples of unfree labor. mikka (t) 23:47, 13 August 2005 (UTC)

Advised also is to look into google search results for the following criteria [ "mandatory labor" -"labor law" ], [ obligatory labor" ], [ obligatory labour" ]. and try to understand the difference between these terms and that of "unfree labour". mikka (t) 23:58, 13 August 2005 (UTC)

Labor Army article is instructive as well. mikka (t) 23:58, 13 August 2005 (UTC)

I think we're losing the plot here; the literature on unfree labour doesn't include community service accepted as a consequence of belonging to religious communities, or modern military conscription (which is paid, generally has a fixed term and/or is imposed as an emergency measure). But there is this matter of (e.g.) the Berlin Wall, which is a complete contradiction of pre-Soviet Marxist ideologies and slogans. Grant65 (Talk) 03:40, August 14, 2005 (UTC)

Hoppe quote on communist slavery[edit]

Here is quote from Hans-Hermann Hoppe in Democracy: The God that Failed pp. 24-25n. Let me know how much of it is relevant to this article and Wikipedia.

"The fundamental difference bteween private ownership of government (and low time preference) and public ownership of government (and high time preference) may be further illustrated by considering the institution of slavery, and contrasting the case of private slave ownership, as it existed for instance in antebellum America, with that of public slave ownership, as it existed for instance in the former Soviet Union and its Easter European empire.
"Just as privately owned slaves were threatened with punishement if they tried to escape, in all of the former Soviet empire emigration was oulawed and punished as a criminal offense, if necessary, by shooting those who tried to run away. Moreover, anti-loafing laws existed everywhere, and governments could assign any task and all rewards and punishments to any citizen. Hence the classification of the Soviet system as slavery. Unlike a private slave owner, however, Easter-European slave owners - from Lenin to Gorbachev - could not sell or rent their subjects in a labor market and privately appropriate the receipts from the sale or rental of their "human capital." Hence the system's classification as public (or socialist) slavery.
"Without markets for slaves and slave labor, matters are worse, not better for the slave ..." MrVoluntarist 21:56, 14 August 2005 (UTC)

It is a good starting point that allows you to introduce this opinion into the article. It must be clearly explained, though, that this is an extension of the traditional notion of slavery in application to modern phenomena. mikka (t) 22:50, 14 August 2005 (UTC)

I believe Lenin justified communal compulsory labour by reference to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who said that it was preferrable to taxes! Hoppe does his credibility no good by using words like "slave" and "slavery" in this context. Ordinary workers in the USSR and its satellites did not experience the devastating death rate of real slaves; in fact they had a higher life expectancy, better health care, education and other development markers than people in almost every country on earth, except perhaps the social democratic regimes of western Europe. They were hardly overworked either. In other words, they lacked just about every possible indicator of slavery, which is not just a matter of freedom of movement. Grant65 (Talk) 04:08, August 15, 2005 (UTC)
The issue is not whether they were slaves, but the opinion. Also, it seems that you have a bit wrong idea about slavery. I have read interesting memoires of a German immigrant to America South, who was a construction worker. He writes that the life of free workers was utterly miserable in comparison with slaves from cottom plantations: slaves brought money to the owners and hence were well cared, while hired workers were expense. The fundamental difference is that slaves were domestic animals, while free workers had their chance, however small. Please keep this in mind when citing health care and stuff. As for life expectancy, you really don't know what you are talking about. Soviet Union's life expectancy was on par with South America (but better than Africa). mikka (t) 21:46, 15 August 2005 (UTC)
Thank you mikka, you covered a lot of the things I was going to say. (Never thought I'd be agreeing with you!) First of all, I have no idea where you're getting that chattel slaves were killed at a much higher rate than communist subjects. Perhaps you've never been to the Museum of Communism! In America's antebellum South, it was very rare for a slaveowner to outright murder a slave. In fact, I probably should have included the rest of the quote from Hoppe:
"Without markets for slaves and slave labor, matters are worse, not better for the slave, for without prices for slaves and their labor, a slave owner can no longer rationally allocate his 'human capital.' He cannot determine the scarcity value of his various, heterogeneous pieces of human capital, and he can neither determine the opportunity-cost of using this capital in any given employment, nor compare it to the corresponding revenue. Accordingly, permanent misallocation, waste, and 'consumption' of human capital results.
"The empirical evidence indicates as much. While it occasionally happened that a private slave owner killed his slave, which is the ultimate 'consumption' of human capital, socialist slavery in Easter Europe resulted in the murder of millions of civilians. Under private slave ownership the health and life expectancy of slaves generally increased. In the Soviet Empire healthcare standards steadily deteriorated and life expectancies actually declined in recent decades. The level of practical training and educations of private slaves generally rose. That of socialist slaves fell. The rate of reproduction among privately-owned slaves was positive. Among the slave populations of Eastern Europe it was generally negative. The rates of suicide, self-incapacitation, family breakups, promiscuity, 'illegitimate' births, birth defects, venereal disease, abortion, alcoholism, and dull or brutish behavior among private slaves were high. But all such rates of 'human capital consumption' were higher still for the socialist slaves of the former Soviet Empire. Similarly, while morally senseless and violent behavior among privately owned slaves occurred after their emancipation, the brutalization of social life in the aftermath of the abolition of socialist slavery has been far worse, revealing an even greater degree of moral degeneration."
In other words, because the socialist leaders couldn't put a dollar amount on how much they were losing by killing people or letting them die, they had far fewer inhibitions to killing them. On the other hand, if killing your slave literally costs you $50,000 in today's dollars, you'll be far more reluctact to kill a slave.
Nor do I really understand your general position on slavery. If I lock you in my basement and make you build birdhouses, you are a slave
-whether or not I feed you well
-whether or not I educate you
-whether or not I let you play games
-whether or not I give you free time
-whether or not I pay you millions of dollars a year
You simply can't say "Oh, their living standard was good. When I think of 'slave', this isn't the image that comes to mind. So they're not slaves."
But anyway, I think there's a good justification for a review of movement restrictions and their relationship to unfree labor. MrVoluntarist 00:17, 16 August 2005 (UTC)

I don't have time to address the Mr Hoppe and his refreshing comedy routine more fully at the moment. I just wanted to say that I think Mikka is wrong about the statistics on life expectancy, especially when compared (e.g.) with life expectancy in Russia now, 12 years after the end of the Soviet regime. He also says "have read interesting memoires of a German immigrant to America South, who was a construction worker. He writes that the life of free workers was utterly miserable in comparison with slaves from cottom plantations." One apologist for slavery isn't enough to sweep away what we know about that system. This would be funny it it wasn't so sad. Grant65 (Talk) 00:58, August 16, 2005 (UTC)

He was not an apologist of slavery. Please don't invent more than written. He merely states that his (and his colleagues) life was extremely miserable. I suggest you to refresh American history with child labor at factories 14 hours a day. mikka (t) 03:05, 16 August 2005 (UTC)
Life expectancy. Please remember that Soviet Union existed 70+ years. Indeed, there was a period of sharp rise of life expectancy from low to moderate. I cannot vouch for exact numbers, but to my memories since 1970s there was decline of Soviet life expectancy (as opposed to the worldwide rise, by the way), and what happened in Russia today is the continuation and aggravation of the slide. But this is not the topic of the article. You may do some google search for "life expectancy"+"Soviet Union" yourself. mikka (t) 03:05, 16 August 2005 (UTC)
No one's promoting slavery of any kind. But it is important to note what kinds of slavery exist today without being recognized as such, and how they compare to "real" slavery. MrVoluntarist 02:18, 16 August 2005 (UTC)

Disputing objectivity of the article[edit]

I'm disputing the objectivity of a couple sections of this article.

First, the section on payment. Why does payment have any relevancy in terms of unfree labor? Isn't unfree labor simply forced labor, what does it matter how they are paid? I understand that perhaps it could be interesting to point out how these "unfree laborers" are usually paid, if at all, but the way you described it doesn't really make sense. Instead, it looks like a thinly-veiled attempt at making a point about a living wage, which would be POV. If it's not, please expound on what the relevancy is of payment for unfree labor and what specifically you mean by vague terms such as "not desirable" and "cannot be exchange." I simply am confused as to the point of including this section.

Second, the section on the "truck system." I already had to clean up a lot of excess POV from the stub on it. First of all, exploitation is not a word that should be used in articles of this sort. You can say that some people claim that the system exploits workers, and list who says that. But to simply assert is unacceptable. Second, you declare the goods they are given as unexchangeable. How can you suggest that without backing it up? Anything is exchangeable if it has value to people. Explain this further.

Just trying to help. Aplomado 21:49, 16 January 2006 (UTC)

Yes, we know. I was trying to explain this to "Grant65" and "Nikodemos" like six months ago, and they can't even fathom how anyone might disagree with the underlying assumptions. They'll just revert any attempt at balancing the article, or any implication that something other than "wage slavery" might be unfree labor. But good luck. You're not the first person to try to remove a socialist POV from an article. MrVoluntarist 00:45, 17 January 2006 (UTC)

This is like arguing with people who object to snowmen being defined as white.

Let's see. It wouldn't be a truck system if workers weren't paid in unwanted and/or unexchangeable goods, so....if they are, it is a truck system, if they aren't, it isn't a truck system.

It's POV to say that some people are paid less than a living wage? That's an interesting idea.

Regarding exploitation through wage levels. For the umpteenth time, it is my considered opinion and those of many scholars that absolute levels of wages, relative to the particular historical circumstances in which a worker or workers exist/s, are a form of corecion, if the levels of those wages (e.g. they are below the level of subsistence) impinge on the normal freedom of movement, speech or action (relative to the civil rights of the time and place).

Obviously not much of the above applies to those of us in present day/first world/developed countries, but we are a very small proportion of the total number of wage earners who have ever existed. Grant65 | Talk 08:18, 17 January 2006 (UTC)

Grant, you aren't getting the point. For you, the relevancy of a living wage to unfree labor is obvious. To others, such as free market capitalists and libertarians, it's irrelevant. If you want to bring up the point, fine. But back it up and include both sides.
In terms of unexchangeable goods, explain what you mean by that. That seems almost like a contradiction in terms. Anything that people value can be exchanged. If it's not valued by the people the company is giving it to, why do they bother giving it to them? All I ask is that you expound upon this.
As for exploitation, I don't care what your opinion is or the scholars. It's still an opinion so it's still POV. Include both sides of any opinion if you believe it is relevant. Free market advocates DO NOT view truck systems as exploitative. You can argue all you want, but the undeniable fact is that this is a point of contention between two very distinct worldviews, and you are choosing to represent one side. For example, see: Price V. Fishback, "Operations of Unfettered Labor Markets," Journal of Economic Literature (June 1998): 722-65. Richard Vedder and Lowell Gallaway, Out of Work (New York: Holmes and Meir, 1993).
This article will remain disputed until you can demonstrate that you can make a good-faith effort to write a balanced article. Aplomado 17:57, 17 January 2006 (UTC)
It's not my job to explain, in chapter and verse, historical phenomena which are well-documented in the literature on unfree labour and make perfect sense in their proper context. Go and look at the historical literature instead of some piece of abstract, present-oriented economic theory, such as the one you cited, which is related to the historical period in question in the same way as horse manure is related to grass. Go and read it and then tell me the article is inherently wrong. Brass and Van Linden's book is very good and includes chapters by historians from the same kind of philosophical/ideological bent as you and Mr V.
"For you, the relevancy of a living wage to unfree labor is obvious. To others, such as free market capitalists and libertarians, it's irrelevant." Well that is a....errrm...refreshing point of view and I welcome your contribution on that score within the article. I'll be interested to see your account of how liberating starvation is. The ultimate freedom from hunger I guess. But don't expect me to write this for you.
Unexchangeable goods would be goods for which there is little demand due (for example) to a glut of supply and the vendor having no access to markets which are not glutted. An example, off the top of my head, was an itinerant farm worker in the early 19th century who was engaged by a farmer for one specific task only, was paid in eggs, was intimidated into accepting this by the farmer's firearm and dogs, and attempted to sell the eggs door to door in the nearest town, with limited success. Not a great example but I can find better ones if need be.
"As for exploitation, I don't care what your opinion is or the scholars. It's still an opinion so it's still POV." As I have said to you elsewhere you clearly don't know what a truck system is. It isn't truck wages, which is another name for payment in goods/services; a truck system is a specific form of truck wages which is exploitative. That is terminologically stupid, I agree, but it is a normal assumption of the literature. Read it and you will see what I mean.
"Free market advocates DO NOT view truck systems as exploitative". That is simply incorrect. They argue about the extent and limitations of such systems, but I have yet to come across a labour historian of any philosophical/ideological persuausion who rejects the notion of truck systems as inherently exploitative. Grant65 | Talk 20:20, 17 January 2006 (UTC)
I do apologize for confusing truck systems with truck wages. However, here are my problems/confusions: "or they are paid in unexchangeable goods and/or services." Again, an unexchangeable good seems like a contradiction in terms. Explain this better.
Also: "An example, off the top of my head, was an itinerant farm worker in the early 19th century who was engaged by a farmer for one specific task only, was paid in eggs, was intimidated into accepting this by the farmer's firearm and dogs, and attempted to sell the eggs door to door in the nearest town, with limited success." Is coercion inherent in truck systems? Aplomado 20:33, 17 January 2006 (UTC)
Hehe, Grant65 is kind of funny like that. Look at his example -- the problem is that someone is forced to work, not that he's paid in eggs, but Grant65 focuses on the eggs as the problem. Go fig. I almost think that if someone murdered his family and left behind a dollar bill his first response would be "how dare you pay these low wages!" MrVoluntarist 02:04, 23 January 2006 (UTC)
Who said he was forced to work? He was only forced to accept his wages in that particular form. Or is that not "unfree" enough for you? You seem to think that there only these stark, clear conditions called freedom and slavery, when in fact there are (or used to be) a lot of intermediate conditions. Grant65 | Talk 03:44, 23 January 2006 (UTC)
Your example specifically said he was threatened with dogs. If the coercion were of the nebulous "systematic" type that you love to invoke, he wouldn't have needed to use dogs. MrVoluntarist 04:00, 23 January 2006 (UTC)
If a particular form of coercion in the workplace (violence/threats/verbal abuse/harrassment/etc) is a part of the culture, time-honoured, lawful and used selectively, then dogs and guns are rarely required. But your seeming innocence in regard to early modern labour relations being what it is, I'm not surprised that you have trouble with the "nebulous" [sic] aspects of unfree labour systems. Grant65 | Talk 12:00, 25 January 2006 (UTC)
Please see Wikipedia:No personal attacks. Oh, and avoid pigeon-holing people as substitute for addressing their claims. Thanks. Back to the topic, you're making my exact point -- if there were a "systematic" coercion going on, no one would use dogs. So the fact that he used dogs is evidence the coercion stems from him, not from "society" or "the system". Every time you bring up an example of "unfree labor", you mention a specific act of coercion on the part of the "employer" and then blame the "wages" as causing the "unfreeness". There's nothing wrong with being ignorant of economics, but you should probably try not to be before asserting exploitation theories as fact. MrVoluntarist 00:09, 26 January 2006 (UTC)


Isn't conscription a form of unfree labor? The workers do not have the freedom to quit and the wages are less than what would be required to entice people of their own free will. —Dgiest c 01:49, 30 December 2006 (UTC)

Since this talk page seems pretty infrequently used I just added a short section. —Dgiest c 02:30, 30 December 2006 (UTC)

Laogai-Comtemporary Example[edit]

I am aware that there is already a page allocated for Laogai, but I felt it would be benefical for the reader to have a contemporary example; therefore I have added the the following sentence at the end of the "Labor Camps" paragraph, along with a link to the Laogai Research Foundation at the bottom of this page.

"China's labour reform system called the Laogai is a current example running today."

2share 06:56, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

III Reich and Soviet Union[edit]

The article reduces the problem to camps. In reality both systems used to use many forms of unfree labor. Kolkhos workers didn't have passports, so they weren't able to travel or move, which was classical serfdom. Forced workers in Germany frequently lived outside camps. Xx236 11:10, 8 August 2007 (UTC)

Millions of Black Slaves To Europe - Untrue[edit]

The articles states "Perhaps the most prominent example of chattel slavery was the enslavement of many millions of black people in Africa, as well as their enforced transplantation to the Americas, Asia or Europe where their status as slaves was usually inherited by their descendants." - this wording is very unlucky as it brings up the idea that the transportation like that of the transantlantic slave trade had parallel occurrences of transport to Europe. However in fact the slavery in medieval Europe had ended in the 15. century already. This had practical reasons and not so much legal status - just note how many European peasants left to oversea colonies in the 15. to 19. century - bringing Black slaves to Europe was simply not needed. Many European emperors did ban slave trade in their mainlands even though they were accepting it in the oversea colonies - again, for practical reasons to exploit the new territories. So, while one can not deny the mere existance, the numbers were extremely low - leaving the wording of "millions of black... transplation to... Europe" to be untrue. Guidod 15:05, 4 November 2007 (UTC)

It doesn't mean or say " Europe". It says "millions ... to the Americas, Asia or Europe". It is a misunderstanding of the text to say that it implies millions were sent to Europe, although it could probably be worded better. Grant | Talk 06:37, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
IMO, it does need better wording. "The most prominent example" is the atlantic slave trade anyway - other articles like slavery have more space to sort things out. I don't see a reason to misnomer here however partial that is. Guidod 21:07, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
Don't forget the slavery in the Ottoman Empire, which was very in Europe, too. The Muslims even had millions of European (Christian) slaves (not all at once). Lastdingo (talk) 13:27, 28 July 2009 (UTC)

Conceptual context of "unfree labor" ?[edit]

A lot of the issues people raise above about this article having a "leftist" bias, and the comments about "the literature on unfree labour" all point to what I think it most missing from this article. The term "unfree labor" is basically one of Marxist political economy, is it not? If I'm right about that, a bit like the article on involuntary servitude, this article ought to make it clear that it is about a technical concept used in a limited context. It should say who coined the term as it is used here (if this is known) and maybe add a section about critiques of the concept (the only one I know of is that of Banajee, but given all the objections people raise here, I'm sure he's not the only one). I don't know enough to write such a section myself yet, that's actually the whole reason I came to this article in the first place. --Brian Z (talk) 06:05, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for the message Brian. I'm a little pressed for time right now. Briefly:
  • the question of where the term comes from is a good one and one which we should try to answer.
  • there are scholars with neoliberal/neoclassical theoretical positions, who use the term "unfree labour" in an uncritical sense. They nevertheless tend to question the extent to which it it exists in a particular historical situation, as well than its entire existence.
  • IMO, Brass & Van Der Linden (eds.), Free and Unfree Labour: The Debate Continues (1997) and Brass's Towards a Comparative Political Economy of Unfree Labour: Case Studies and Debates (1999), in particular, may be useful reading for you, in terms of overviews. (Brass has also more recently critiqued Banaji.)
Cheers, Grant | Talk —Preceding comment was added at 13:14, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
Agree with the broader context added by Grant65; "unfree labor" is not exclusively a term of Marxian political economy. One example is that Thomas Sowell, who I believe most would label a conservative, or classical liberal, or free market economist, wrote an entire chapter in his 2004 book, Applied Economics, entitled "Free and Unfree Labor." (chapter 2, pp 31-68, ISBN=0-465-08143-6). Cheers, N2e (talk) 04:00, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

Industrial conscription[edit]

Should industrial conscription be included in this article, or a new article? An example of industrial conscription is the British and Australian governments directing civilians to work in specified industries during World War II. The workers were paid the going wage for their labour and were treated like all other employees, but were not free to chose the industry they worked in. --Nick Dowling (talk) 01:40, 22 March 2008 (UTC)

Payment for unfree labour.......needs to be upfrount about what it is saying and who is saying it.[edit]


This section is based on a misrepresentation of both the content and place within economic theory of the Labour theory of value. What this paragraph is replicating is the Marxist view that because wages do not represent the value of what is produced this is an exploitation (i know it's more complicated than that, but that is the gist). Fair enough. Cite Marx. It makes sense. However, it is not the view of anyone whose work would be taught as "Economics" today. Adam Smith, rejected the Labour theory of value in any capitalist economy as does pretty much every recognised economist who has come after. Language like "capitalists" makes it clear to the astute reader that this is a socialist/communist point of view and should very much be labelled as such. This implication is a claim made by some, but certainly does not represent a consensus society view (or even more than a fringe minority view).

The sentance about Subjective theory of value doesn't make sense where it is. Is it a rebuttle of the first sentance? Then the sentece "supporters of certain theories of distributive justice that any occasion on which a worker is able to turn down employment and look elsewhere is "free labour" marginalises what is the dominant view of economists, western law and probably most people in western society as "supporters of certain theories of distributive justice. Many people would argue that the right to work for whoever will take them for whatever they can get is the most important freedom in Democracy (particularly Americans....they love that stuff....just listen to the US Presidential candidates).

Unfortunately (as you may have guessed from my POV) I'm not very well read in socialist/marxist/communist theory and don't have the citations to really fix this section. If anyone still keeps up on this article's talk page it would be awesome to see if we can reach a more informative (and better cited) consensus for this article. Jabberwalkee (talk) 05:22, 29 October 2008 (UTC)

Discussing major edits[edit]

Hello, Grant65. There seem to have been a lot of dust-ups on this Talk page in the past regarding this article's leaning on the labor theory of economics. I don't mean to pick a fight, but are you aware of the guidelines set out for ideas departing significantly from the prevailing view in their field of study in Wikipedia:Fringe_theories? In a nutshell, the guideline states that the article should be primarily dedicated to the mainstream point of view, with a definite but lesser amount of emphasis on the non-mainstream theory. As things are, the article seems to treat neoclassical and labor models of economics as roughly equal at best, probably tipping toward the labor model.

Quite apart from the correctness or incorrectness of either model, the guidelines of this encyclopedia hold- quite sensibly, in my opinion- that the mainstream opinion of the field of economics is to be given primacy over the minority opinion of the labor theory in this article. That in mind, do you have any remaining objections to a re-write of this page to that effect? -Toptomcat (talk) 07:53, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

I think the major problem is the positioning of information regarding "payment of unfree labour." It is trying to make a marxist economic point, which is f"ine, but it probably doesn't belong before descriptions of slavery and other forms of labour which pretty much everyone would agree are "unfree." Also, as I have mentioned above, such ideas should be expressed noting that they are not the views of mainstream economics. --Jabberwalkee (talk) 01:43, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

Sorry for the delay in replying; I went on holiday and forgot to put up an "away" message.
The presumption that the labour theory of value (LTV) is a "fringe theory" is not correct. In the first place, it would be more accurate to say that the relationship between labour and value is now a fringe subject, at least to neoclassical economists, rather than a fringe theory. LTV is not a fringe theory any more than classical economics is a fringe framework. It was the view held by the founders of modern economics, including Adam Smith. Second, I would argue that value is defined differently by classical economics and neo-classical economics i.e. value and price are quite separate in LTV (classical economics), whereas neo-classical economics does not uphold a concept of innate value and is therefore concerned with price (market value). So the difference between LTV and marginal utility is central to this subject.
Doesn't "unfree labour" necessarily mean either the non-payment of wages, or inadequate wages? I think that is a truism and it does not preclude arguments about whether such conditions are met in particular cases. Grant | Talk 09:12, 19 November 2008 (UTC)
The guideline is called 'Fringe theories', certainly, but its application goes a little further than that. To quote: "We use the term fringe theory in a very broad sense to describe ideas that depart significantly from the prevailing or mainstream view in its particular field of study." In this sense, the labor theory of value is a fringe theory as outlined by the guideline- even if you do not consider it to be a fringe theory in any more general sense of the term. Whether or not the labor theory of value had support historically- even among those whose work is considered to have considerably informed the present mainstream view- is less relevant than whether it is considered to be a mainstream way of accounting for value now, which is certainly not the case.
Your second paragraph about the definition of unfree labor contains a number of unstated assumptions from the LTV, so I would prefer to address the question of the LTV being a mainstream view before tackling it. -Toptomcat (talk) 12:14, 20 November 2008 (UTC)
That is a circular argument: you consider that LTV is a fringe theory — something which has not been demonstrated — and therefore anyone who argues for its inclusion is also "fringe". Grant | Talk 04:34, 21 November 2008 (UTC)
Not at all. The word's use is not intended as an attack on your person or the labor theory's veracity itself: rather, it is being used as a technical term relating to one of Wikipedia's policies. "Fringe", as defined by the Fringe Theories guideline: "We use the term fringe theory in a very broad sense to describe ideas that depart significantly from the prevailing or mainstream view in its particular field of study." In other words, the Fringe Theories guideline uses "fringe" in an unusually broad and nonstandard sense not to mean merely theories forwarded by kooks with their metaphorical underwear on their head. Instead, a "fringe theory", as defined by the guideline, is merely one which is non-mainstream in its field of study. The last few sentences of the opening of our article on the labor theory of value read "Different labor theories of value prevailed amongst classical economists through to the mid-19th century. It is especially associated with Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Since that time, it is most often associated with Marxian economics; while modern mainstream economics replaces it by the marginal utility approach." (Emphasis added.) Therefore, the labor theory of value qualifies as a fringe theory in the technical sense used by the guideline, even if it does not match the usual sense of the term. No slight on the labor theory itself, your arguments for its inclusion, or your person are intended. My apologies if I caused any offense. --Toptomcat (talk) 06:22, 21 November 2008 (UTC)
None taken. I understand the WP definition of fringe, but point out two major objections: (1) it requires a judgment call about a deep-rooted controversy and so I don't accept that LTV meets the WP definition. Under your (very broad) interpretation, for example, global warming would have been regarded as a fringe theory until a few years ago. (2) Because it relates to labour, LTV is far more significant to this subject than it is to "mainstream economics" (whatever that is considered to be) in general. IMO, although there are notable scholars (generally neoliberals or postmodernists) of unfree labour who utilize subjective theories of value, a significant proportion, possibly most of them, utilize LTV. It does not matter that this is because the field is dominated by Marxists, neo-Smithians, neo-Ricardians or whatever; as Wikipedians we are not here to take sides in controversies/schisms that are fundamental characteristics of the subject in question.
By the way, I wasn't aware of the statement in the LTV article that "modern mainstream economics replaces it by [sic] the marginal utility approach..." but I find it ungrammatical and tendentious. Grant | Talk 12:55, 22 November 2008 (UTC)
A judgment call would be required if we were attempting to decide which theory is correct. We are not- we are attempting to decide which of the two theories is mainstream. Most present advocates of Marxist economics in general, and the labor theory of value in particular, would readily admit that their economic worldview is not shared by the majority of those in the field of economics. The comparison to global warming is apt: global warming *is* presented as a highly controversial and altogether uncertain theory in the 2004 version of the article, when the consensus among climatologists for or against global warming was far less clear than the present consensus among economists against the labor theory of value. As for your second objection...while the topic of astral projection may be covered most thoroughly by Eliphas Levi, the Theosophists and the Order of the Golden Dawn, but we don't write the article for that topic from their point of view. Their views are discussed and given ample explanation, but they are clearly labeled as such and are by no means the POV from which the article is written.-Toptomcat (talk) 20:31, 23 November 2008 (UTC)
I can only concur with the last sentence and point out that — since neither theory of value is truly dominant in the literature on unfree labour — the same should apply to marginal utility.
IMO one effect of the scholars of unfree labour frequently being labour historians or other social scientists, is that marginal utility is rarely even mentioned in the literature. However, I will gladly defer to anyone who can show otherwise. Grant | Talk 07:44, 26 November 2008 (UTC)


This article is missing a section on, or a mention of Corvée.--İnfoCan (talk) 02:59, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Agreed. There is an entire article on corvee as well. There should be a clearer relationship between the two articles I think. --Bruce Hall (talk) 12:02, 27 September 2011 (UTC)

Angaria (Roman law)[edit]

This article is missing a section on, or a mention of Angaria (Roman law). --İnfoCan (talk) 20:39, 13 December 2010 (UTC)

Enslaved Grandmother Syndrome?[edit]

I'm not so sure this belongs here. It sounds more like a stereotype or folk myth than a real syndrome. Supposedly Spanish-speaking grandmothers are dying off because no-one appreciates their work . . . meanwhile all treatments are useless. Apparently this syndrome only effects you if you speak Spanish, have great virtue, and get all your happiness from serving your family and your beautiful grandchildren.

Somebody really needs to pay some attention to this article. Or delete it. As it stands its pretty unencyclopedic. (talk) 08:08, 28 January 2009 (UTC)

And by the way, regarding the discussion/war I just read through up top . . . we're all slaves of one thing : our egos. (talk) 08:33, 28 January 2009 (UTC)\


I was always under the impression that indenture wasn't considered unfree since it was entered into willingly as a contract: e.g. "you take me to America and I'll work for you for seven years." Surely it isn't 'unfree' just because the person can't back out partway through, any more than any other contract is coercive?

I understand that it was often abusive and even slavery-like *in practice*, but surely the *concept* is fundamentally different? Vultur (talk) 03:04, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

I know what you are saying. The concept of indenture is that one's freedom is severely limited during the period concerned.
For what it's worth, all of the above attempts to say that the term is "unencyclopedic" or whatever, ignore the fact that it is now a widely used term in academic circles (whatever one thinks of it). It is a popular subjective category, not an empirical/precise objective term. Grant | Talk 07:35, 25 April 2009 (UTC)
OK, sure, if the term is generally used in serious sources to describe indenture, then that's how it should appear in the article. It just seems qualitatively different from most of the other things listed, since most of them people are either born into (serfdom, slavery, etc.) or captured into (some forms of slavery) rather than willingly entering into. Vultur (talk) 22:14, 25 April 2009 (UTC)
There is of course an historical connection between indentured servitude and forced labor. The first blacks sold in the U.S. were not sold as slaves but as indentured servants. Further, not all indentured servants, regardless of race, entered into servitude voluntarily. Some were sentenced to it. Lastly, an indentured servant could be bought and sold. Indeed most who came to the US were. The "sold" themselves into indentured servitude to perhaps the captain of the ship. In many ways, this is similar to many who are trafficked today who sell themselves to smugglers not being sure what they are really getting into. A mention of this, if even if it is to provide a link to a more suitable article, is clearly appropriate. --Bruce Hall (talk) 12:29, 27 September 2011 (UTC)


Isn't workfare a (rather insidious) form of unfree labour? For instance a British woman, Cat Reilley is going to court over being forced to work at a "thrift shop" in return for benefits which are far lower than the UK minimum wage and under threat of destitution. Seems like it fits the bill for unfree labour to me, unless of course you're of the persuasion that oppression isn't oppression when it happens in the West. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:04, 13 March 2012 (UTC)

Does ample payment change the situation?[edit]

The "Payment for unfree labour" section seems inconsistent with the definitions given in the preceding (introductory) section.

It appears to imply that, somehow, forced labour is not "unfree" if the payment is sufficient.

But the distinction between "free" and "unfree" turns on choice, not payment.

If a person is well-paid, yet forced to perform work on pain of physical punishment, and physically confined such that she is unable to leave or "quit", I don't see how the payment, whatever the amount, turns "unfree" into "free" labor. It is the restriction of choice that makes the labour unfree, regardless of payment.

Surely a slave paid USD 1000 daily - or USD 1M - is still a slave if he is forced to work against his will.

I think the "payment" section needs revision so as to avoid implying otherwise. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:28, 5 December 2013 (UTC)

New York Times article on continued practice of "volunteer" labor in Uzbekistan[edit]

Apparently, according to this article in today's New York Times, more than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union (but with Islam Karimov's autocratic rule unchanged) Uzbeks must still provide "volunteer" labor, picking the cotton the government has a monopoly on (or, rather, in domestic terms, a monopsony since it's grown by private farmers). Stalinism lives! It even has a picture that so looks like the women in it are posing for a Soviet propaganda poster that I half expect to see "CЛABA TPУДУ!" in big red letters near the top.

Anyway, all amazement aside, something about this should be in the article, at least. And in Agriculture in Uzbekistan, perhaps, as well. Or maybe even a separate article? I doubt the Times is the only reliable source to have covered this. Daniel Case (talk) 19:35, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

Actually, it seems, we have a good section here. Daniel Case (talk) 19:41, 18 December 2013 (UTC)

Compulsory Education[edit]

Should compulsory education be considered unfree labour ? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Iliketoeatbeansalot (talkcontribs) 16:30, 8 January 2014 (UTC)

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Conscript civil mobilization[edit]

Conscript labor redirects here, but it might better redirect to civil mobilization. In any case the article seems to be a kind of smorgasboard of ideas under the banner of unfree labor, but unfree as is required, and unfree as in required and not compensated, are very different things. Being forced to work and being forced to work for no pay, in simpler terms, are different and categorically different as to make it the main distinction to make in this article. -Inowen (talk) 07:42, 14 March 2018 (UTC)