The tyranny of the employer, which at present, robs most peoples’ lives of all liberty and initiative, is unavoidable so long as the employer retains the right of dismissal with consequent loss of pay. This right is supposed to be essential if employees are to have sufficient incentive to put in a full day’s work. But as we humans grow more civilized, incentives based on hope become increasingly preferable to those that are based on fear. It would be far better if employees were rewarded for working well than being punished for working poorly. This system is already in place in the civil service where an employee is only dismissed for an exceptional reason. Sufficient pay to ensure a livelihood ought to be given to every person who is willing to work, independent of the question of whether or not the particular work at which he is skilled is wanted at the moment. If it is not wanted, some new trade which is, ought to be taught at the public’s expense.
At present, owing to the fact that all industrial changes tend to cause hardships to some section of wage earners, there is a tendency towards technological conservatism on the part of labor, a dislike of innovations, new processes, and new methods. But such changes, if they are in the permanent interest of the community, ought to be carried out at once, but in a way that does not bring unmerited loss to those sections of the community whose labor is no longer wanted in the old form. The instinctive conservatism of humanity is sure to make all processes of production change more slowly than they should, but it would be a pity to add any needless conservatism to an already difficult process of change.
The most dangerous aspect of the tyranny of the employer is the power which it gives him to interfere with an employee’s activities outside of business hours. An employee may be dismissed because the employer dislikes his religion or his politics or chooses to think his private life immoral. He may be dismissed because he tries to produce a spirit of independence among his fellow employees. He may fail completely to find employment merely on the ground that he is better educated than most, and therefore, more dangerous. Such cases actually still occur regularly despite the legal protections afforded by 20th-century labor laws. The only difference now is that such discrimination is covert and disguised with the ruse of the job seeker “not having the right qualifications.”
This evil would not be remedied but rather intensified under state socialism because where the state is the only employer, there is no refuge from its prejudices as it may now accidentally arise through the differing opinions of different citizens. The State would be able to enforce any system of beliefs it happened to have, and it is almost certain that it would do so. Freedom of thought would be penalized, and all independence of spirit would die out. Any rigid system would involve this evil. It is quite necessary that there should be diversity and lack of complete systematization.
Minority groups of all types must be able to live and develop their opinions freely. If this is not secured, the instinct of persecution and conformity will eventually force all peoples into one mold and make all vital progress impossible. For these reasons, no one ought to be allowed to suffer destitution so long as he or she is willing to work. And without exception, no kind of inquiry ought to be made into opinion or private life. It is only on this basis that it is possible to build up an economic system not founded upon tyranny and terror.
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