Vaccine mandates are quickly becoming one of the most divisive and revealing political gambits in my lifetime. They are divisive because they occur entirely along the lines of political tribes on opposite sides of the friend/enemy distinction, with one side revering the jab in the same way a Christian reveres the sacraments with that same side desiring to impose it the way a Muslim might insist upon Halal food, while the other side simply wants to decide for themselves whether the risk is worth any supposed benefit.
The mandates are revealing in that they show just what state most people actually live in, which is a kind of slavery.
That term packs a punch, but bear with me. I’m certainly not the first person to point out that employees are, in essence, slaves. Nassim Nicholas Taleb has made this point numerous times, but especially in Skin in the Game. Employees are slaves, and corporations prefer slaves to free men because a slave is reliable and can be controlled, whereas a free man may choose other options at any point.
Imagine this anecdote, some variation of which you are surely familiar with:
A person works a high-demand job in a large-scale sector.
His employer or the government mandates that he must get vaccinated or be terminated from work.
He either is hesitant about the vaccine’s risks or perhaps has already had the disease.
He now has to contemplate giving up the sovereignty of his own body in order to continue working, or else lose everything he’s worked for to date: his job, his career, his pension, have to suffer a dishonorable discharge, etc.
Anonymous people tell him he can get another job. Meanwhile, he has a family, college debt, a mortgage, a car payment, kids tuition, etc., and he just can’t give up his responsibility toward those things.
Thus the modern slavery of corporate employment relies upon destroying the employee’s options to seek other work situations. “Just get another job” is significantly more difficult than it might seem, even when one is working in a high-demand sector. To “Just get another job,” you have to:
-Get letters of recommendation, which means pleasing your current employer.
-Give up some portion of your corporate or government-funded retirement, pension, etc. This cost can be massive in terms of opportunity when you are close to completing some important milestone (for example, to earn retirement in the military requires 20 years of service; resigning your commission is therefore giving up a massive financial benefit).
-Give up your “health coverage,” which often costs more than a mortgage
-Possibly relocate to a new city.
-Possibly accept lower pay or “step down” on a pay scale (such as those in union jobs).
So, for an employee at a megacorporation or government office to resist a vaccine mandate, he will have to not just give up a month of income but probably lose his “career” entirely as well as all the financial promises the employer has made to the employee in exchange for loyalty. And the longer you’ve been in it, the bigger the opportunity cost becomes. That cost is so great that most will never consider walking away, and will submit to any discomfort the employer dictates to stay on the plantation.
And that is by design. Companies (and governments) would much rather have a dependable, even slightly incompetent, slave than have a competent free man, because the free man could leave at any time, and the employer will be left in the lurch trying to find the labor to replace him. So they’ll pay a little extra for the security of owning their employee, and the employee essentially trades his freedom for security.
Knowing this, we musk ask the question: why are so many people “choosing” slavery?
Simply put, they don’t really understand their situation. We’ve all been raised to accept corporate bondage as not only the natural and appropriate state of an adult, but also a preferable one to freedom. From the age of five, we are trained to show up on time, do whatever our superior demands no matter how humiliating or incorrect, then go home and continue to work diligently to please the boss in our supposed “free time.”
The education system was never designed to educate (otherwise, it wouldn’t be so insistent that children be grouped by age) but to push human beings into the mold of industrial workers and soldiers engaged in large-scale industrial war. It’s the process of schooling that does the actual work of the Prussian model; the content is relevant only insomuch as employers need their employees to be able to read and write at a fifth-grade level and would prefer to avoid the cost of teaching employees themselves.
The higher education format is much the same, just extended in a few different directions, selecting primarily for midwits with an aptitude for navigating complex rule-burdened bureaucracies and predicting how bureaucrats want questions to be answered. The ideal college graduate can read, write, and do arithmetic at a high level without taking the time (or indulging the moral itch) to question the validity of anything he’s asked to process and synthesize.
Then, of course, there is the endless list of personal debts and monthly costs foisted on the typical American: house, college, car, etc. These make it so that even the young, those who are most capable of taking risks because they have so little to lose, are forced immediately after college to jump into a lifestyle of inputs and outputs. You have to pay your debts, rent, supermarket, and gas bills, so you have to have that amount of money “coming in” every month to cover it. That makes the employee “security” arrangement nearly unavoidable.
This conditioning is simply procedural; add to it all the endless propaganda a person is subjected to from youth regarding what he needs to do to be successful as an adult—graduate, pick a career, get a good job, buy a house, buy a car, etc.—and the great wonder is how anyone can not end up as a slave-like employee. But I suppose that is proof of the invalidity of tabula rasa, for some men are simply not made from such cloth and cannot be forced into the mold of a corporate cog.
Now, it wasn’t always this way, and, more importantly, it doesn’t have to be this way now. Less than 20 years ago, I was able to graduate college with zero debt and my health insurance cost 60 dollars a month until well into Obama’s 2nd term. In fact, it was this lack of debt (I also owned my car outright), that allowed me to take the risks I took as a young man (both good and bad) and grow into who I am. It was possible for me to work 15 hours a week doing one job, keep my costs under 1,000 dollars per month, and spend all my free time creating, building myself up, and having fun.
That option, though, has disappeared for most people younger than me, who have to service the massive debt they were conned into taking out at age 18. They need job security just to exist.
Except that the last two decades have revealed that the wagie has no security for all the trade-offs he puts up with. Corporations are quite happy to lay off their most loyal employees to boost their stock half a point, and the emergence of the gig economy has killed off the remaining hopes of finding a good job for those younger than generation Y. It has produced the first real decrease in intergenerational wealth since America’s founding.
At the same time, though, there is liberation in this. Just as I was able to be poor and free, other young people now might be able to. The longer one waits to rip off the security band-aid, the quicker a person can make their own security through hard work, careful living, and self-development. The zoomers might end up poorer, but they will also be significantly more free to say “no,” to things they don’t want in the future.
The establishment may find that their tempting offers of retirement security aren’t so tempting when the money pools dry up, the projected 7% returns only happen with 15% inflation, and cities have to default and stop paying pensions in 2030. Those who never relied on future promises in the first place will be in the best position possible.
It’s grim, but it’s good news in the long run.
I have nothing but sympathy and understanding for those who choose to get a vaccine in order to keep their job and all the benefits and promises that go with it, as so many people I know are in a situation like that. Yet, we should take this moment to reflect. Freedom and liberty exist in the real world of possibilities only to the extent that those possibilities exist. If you have no options, you don’t have liberty. If the options are, in a meaningful sense, not options (just as a man being mugged does not have death as a real option), then we can say we don’t have that liberty.
Independence without security seemingly offers less “freedom” (in that you cannot simply fulfill your desires), but in the end, you are freer when the master decides to be despotic in that you don’t suffer from walking away. And remember that real freedom is the freedom to pursue the good, not simply license to do anything, so when you don’t feel free to say “no” to something that you believe will harm you, you certainly aren’t free.
Besides writing political essays, I also write fiction and non-fiction books: