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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Oppression

This morning I heard audio clips from a political conference. Several speakers were talking about oppression.

What is "oppression?"

Where can we find it?

Comments:
Oppression means different things to different people, for me it is the use of political power and domination having officials control all wealth and goods and dole them out in strict equality to maintain an unjust system, which is for the benefit of the rulers, at the expense of the ruled. Such oppression may exist at the level of the state. Poverty as oppression in America is a direct result of the economic mandates and tendencies of capitalism. A capitalistic economy is inherently impersonal and concerned exclusively with profit. In the ever-present drive for profit, oppression becomes the relationship between workers and employers as employers try to maximize profits by minimizing wages. Thus the primary cause for poverty amidst the working class is oppression. Not only does capitalism require a marginal labor force of the unemployed to depress wages, but recently it has shown its need to eliminate employees and produce internationally to reduce costs. Thus the working class finds itself in periodic poverty due to oppression for three main reasons: unemployment, layoffs, and subcontracting.
 
It seems to me oppression is something like a person or group of people exercising unauthorized power over another individual in such a way as to restrict that individual from making autonomous choices.

I think this is found where slavery or socialism exists, not capitalism. In capitalist societies individuals are free to make voluntary exchanges. This doesn't sound like oppression.

I can find an instance of oppression experienced by those often living in poverty in the US, and it’s not because of capitalism. It’s minimum wage laws, they’re the product of government legislation, and they’re oppressive. Such laws restrict individuals (often living in poverty) from working at a wage below a set minimum. Many living in poverty would be willing to work below that minimum, as that is better than not working at all. Similarly, there are many employers willing to employ more people, if they weren’t required to pay them a minimum wage. So, if the worker’s willing to work for the lower pay and the employer’s willing to pay it, why can’t the worker choose to work? Don’t know. But it sounds like oppressive government action to me.
 
My employer has to effectively bid for qualified workers. If the pay is too low, people start to leave. Good workers are hard to find and train. If the company gets a reputation for treating workers poorly, it becomes harder. It is therefore in the interst of the company to treat employees well.

If people were not free to leave when they became dissatisfied, or if they were not free to enter into an agreement to work, then that would be some degree of opression.

If you really want to see impersonal treatment, I recommend giving socialized medicine a try.

Regarding outsourcing or subcontracting - are we so special that we have more of a right to work that others willing to do the same work?
 
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