Exploitation: A Violation of Liberal Justice
One needn’t be a Marxist to recognize it, condemn it, and seek to end it.
Wage slavery is people being employed as machines — or draft animals — in some enterprise that is intended to make a profit and being compensated by their employers out of the revenue generated by the enterprise. It is slavery because they are being used as machines: in bondage slavery, that people are being used as machines is only more apparent, not more true. Being used as machines includes people employed primarily as ‘thinking machines’, making decisions for the business. It applies to everyone employed in any business.
It is important to note that being a wage slave has nothing to do with the level of compensation. It even applies to even people compensated with millions of dollars. Wage slavery per se is not exploitation — though an economy in which it is the standard means of getting money in order to obtain even the necessities of life makes exploitation or its absence central to the nature of the economy.
In every business someone decides what the distribution of remuneration in the enterprise is going to be — with the goal of minimizing the payments to some in order to pay as much as possible to others. That is exploitation. That it can be (usually is) some wage slaves exploiting others (as opposed to owners exploiting ‘their’ workers) is beside the point.
That form of exploitation is unjust in Liberal terms. John Locke, the author of Liberalism, famously began his argument concerning justice by defining injustice as people “being subject to the arbitrary will” of other people. For the compensation of employees to be arbitrarily determined by self-interested people with the express aim of minimizing the compensation of as many employees as possible in order to pay as much as possible to others is patently unjust — according to John Locke, not me (though I do agree with him on that much).
I have taken up the solution to the injustice that is exploitation elsewhere. Here, I wanted only to make the point that it is a matter of concern within the context of Liberal justice.