Woolfe wrote:One key difference.
1) A "Wage Slave" doesn't have to be. They can go, "screw this I am out of here". And their employer cannot stop them. Their employer cannot have them beaten as a result, their employer cannot have them killed. This is the difference.
2) If I quit my job, I can get another one. I may be a slave to money, but it is my choice to be. If I didn't want it, I could give it up and go.
3) That is the difference, and no matter the fine words and fancy morality arguments. A wage slave has choices many of them. A real slave has 2. Do it or die.
4) This is why I despise slavery. The fact that we are even discussing this sort of thing shows how powerful it could be as a storytelling device. I actually want to have slavers in the game. So I can go in and seriously fuck their shit up.
Ouch. You certainly like your assumptions!
1) Given the conditions around the same time as there is/would be Slavery, there would most likely be an institution called "the Company Store". Yes, workers are paid, but not quite enough to make ends meet. Charges for work attire (quite legal nearly everywhere, even today), for tools, for breakage, fines for work violations, all add up until the worker's account is in arrears -- at which point, quitting isn't an option. If you try to leave, you can be arrested for "defrauding a merchant" and an array of other charges. What's that? "Then don't be so stupid as to start working for that Company"? That takes us to #2
2) This is your biggest false assumption: that there is _always_ someone interested in hiring you. And willing to pay you a decent wage as well. Pretty much depends on who you are and what skills you bring with you. If all you know is mining, and ALL of the Mining Companies pay is minimal wages, where are you going to get that other job? Especially when the Company you left passes around the word that you are a troublemaker. Move to another town and look for work? Already poor AND unemployed, you pack up and move, with NO known prospects waiting for you. That's called "betting the farm" If you get there, and there aren't any jobs there either (not the good-paying jobs your thinking of anyway), how do you feed your family? (Crime comes to mind, but --hey! at least you're free! Until you get caught, anyway.) So, as bad as it is in that crappy job, at least your family IS being fed. That's what makes it "wage slavery": limited viable options that don't end in starvation.
3) "Do it or die!" is soooo melodramatic. You missed the middle ground of being punished until you yield. But the assumption that you are making here is that the slave will ALWAYS want to not do it. That is probably the case when the slave owners are abusive -- but not ALL of them were. Many were even reasonable humane -- significantly more humane than most of the mining and industry owners of the same era were. Enough to eat, solid roof over his head, adequate clothing, free Medical when he or his family got sick, and the cost is working the fields for 12 hours. In contrast, _paid_ mine workers earned just enough to live in a slum, wear filthy clothes, pray no one gets sick, but would be required to work a 16-hour day. Which had it worse? The slave or the "free" worker?
4) Not all slave-owners were quite so kind; not all industrialists were quite so callous. (ALL of the mine owners though, ALL of them, definitely.) A significant number of slaves never left the plantations after Emancipation. Many chose to stay on with or without pay, rather than leave what was for the time not such a harsh life for an unskilled poor person. Many felt so appreciative of the lifestyle their masters provided them that they served with their masters in the Confederate Army.
People are people; some Good, some Bad. If you would hunt down EVERY Slaver you came across, then you should be morally impelled to likewise hunt down those industrialists that pay their employees squat, make them work excessive hours in poor, unsafe working conditions, and are in general just simply heartless bastards getting filthy rich off of their employees' misery. Because in the end, _THAT_ is what you are avenging: the misery that Bad men sow.