Full Employment and Freedom

Last night I watched a retrospective on Alistair Cooke, the classic presenter on PBS (Mystery etc) and one of the signs on a civil rights era protests caught my eye, I remember only the end of it “.. + full employment = freedom”.


Looking at history, the truth of this becomes obvious. The end of the Serf system in Europe did not happen by a peasant revolt, but due to the Black Death. It resulted in a labor shortage so serfs could exit their positions and earn income from a land owner whose own serfs were decimated.  High unemployment have been a constant motivation for many revolutions. One of the pro-forma argument in the Communist versus US brand of Freedom days was:


“In the Soviet Union we have freedom from hunger, lack of medical care, homelessness, etc. In the US you have freedom to exploit your neighbor, freedom from social contracts between employer and employee, etc.”

So the question becomes, if you are destitute and unemployed with 30% unemployment, with loved ones needing medical care .. are you truly free?  Somewhere in the last 50 years, we may have lost the older understanding of freedom and replaced it with a concept of freedom that may actually be more suitable to medieval Europe.


A landed noble of that time would likely argue that there is freedom. If a serf does not wish to work for him, they are free to leave his land with the cloths on their back (all of their animals, tools, etc are owned by the Lord). He does not pay taxes (usually) unless there is a national crisis or a bad king. The question of democratic representation is very amusing: “Look, my lands and title is a closely-held private corporation. Even people in the USA in 2011, agrees that workers do not have the right  to elect board members for a closely-held private corporation. The question of democratic elections makes no sense!”


It is interesting to note that no American Citizen may be landed nobles – at the time of the American Revolution the only thing equivalent to a modern multi-national corporation was these closely-held private corporations known then as Noble Families. The founding fathers despise them because they disempowered the person. (Un?)fortunately, in the 1820’s the US introduced corporations (as we now know them) to the world – just like a millennium before, common folks with the needed skills (fighting) rose to position of entitlement (Knighthoods and above). In this case, spare cash invested in shares were the skills that resulted in entitlement.


Today, we see across the Arab world protests and revolts – one of the key items has been unemployment. The cry for freedom has gone up with the cry for jobs! Perhaps it is time to redefine a natural right as being the right to influence and have a say in anything that impacts them – which traditionally includes taxes, schools etc. The question that remains unclear is whether it should include their source of employment?


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