Does this sub sympathize with workers and their frustrations with the current system?
Over the past two years, I’ve become a lot more sympathetic to working-class people than I ever was before. I grew up in a pretty sheltered upper-middle-class environment where I never wanted for anything, so it’s really disheartening to hear how workers suffer on a daily basis. Issues like excessive working hours for very little pay, bad benefits, union-busting, poor treatment, being forced to work while a tornado destroys your warehouse and kills the workers, pissing in bottles, and other stories have made me kind of angry and a lot more sympathetic to poor workers.
When you guys hear about workers’ struggles, do you…feel for them? Like, at all? Do you agree that poor working conditions, excessive hours, and poverty wages are issues that need to be fixed? Your solutions may be different than the centre-left solutions of labour regulations and welfare, but do you believe that America’s work culture and treatment of lower-level employees is flawed right now?
I’ve always had this conception of libertarians as a bunch of sheltered and inconsiderate rich people and business owners who don’t really care about the suffering of workers or poor people and just want to create an environment that favours the profits of the wealthy and big business over the dignity and well-being of the working masses.
Personally, I completely understand why people are angry. Many workers can’t afford food, shelter and medicine due to a lack of livable wages. People are being crushed by student loan debt and medical debt. Some people have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet. During the pandemic, some 11 million Americans were behind on their rent and faced eviction, and it’s literally impossible for anyone working a minimum wage job to afford rent anywhere in the United States. Some of the most important and essential workers, like janitors, waitresses, labourers, and others are paid really sickeningly low wages. People are fed up, and I don’t find it hard to sympathize with them. There is a reason why huge swaths of people are becoming attracted to democratic socialism and anti-capitalism in the United States. When a system fails to provide for people or allow for them to provide for themselves and lead happy and dignified lives, they’re going to become dissatisfied with the system.
This stuff makes me mad. Hearing about people suffering makes me mad. Hearing about full-time workers not making enough to live, let alone afford things like health insurance or a college degree, makes me mad. I want to live in a society that prioritizes well-being.
For me, the ultimate measure of a society’s success and the success of it’s policies is human well-being. The more people with stable housing, living wages, healthcare, enough food, and the ability to go to college without going bankrupt, the better society will be.
I’m not saying that we should start a socialist revolution and collectivize all of our workplaces, but I really do get pissed off when I hear about the struggles of workers and I understand why people are unhappy. I get pissed off when I learn that people work hard yet are still in poverty in the richest country in the world.
I’ve heard from a lot of libertarians that the workers being paid poverty wages are being paid what they deserve and that it’s on them to “just get a better job”. But the world doesn’t work that way. It’s not as simple as “just leave”. Generally, when people are working shitty jobs with poverty pay and bad working conditions, they would leave if they had another option. Do you seriously think that people would work such jobs if “just leaving” was that simple? Of course not! People stay in shitty jobs because they feel trapped in them. First of all, poor people can’t just quit and spend months browsing Indeed for another job. They will starve or get evicted.
Also, I don’t believe that wages depend on the value produced by the worker and that said value is objective. Basically, libertarians tell people who work 70 hours a week for 7 bucks an hour that their wage is exactly equivalent to how much they produce, so it’s what they deserve. I don’t get this at all. Wages are just the exchange rate of a service. It depends on what the employer is willing to pay you. They are not objective, they are subjective. For example, McDonalds workers in Denmark get paid more than 20 dollars per hour due to a system of bargaining between unions and employers, and McDonald’s prices in Denmark are not inflated. This makes me question the notion that poverty-paid workers are just less deserving of a living wage because they’re not valuable enough to warrant that living wage. Are Danish McDonald’s workers 2.8x more valuable and productive than American fast food workers? If they’re both as valuable and as productive, then why is there such a massive pay difference? Workers know the value of their labour and know what they require, so in a fair system, they get to freely negotiate the alienation rate with their employer.
I’ve also heard it argued that minimum wage jobs were never “meant ” to be breadwinner jobs and that they’re for high school and college students working part time. First of all, per the data I cited earlier, single people can’t even survive on their own working these jobs. This is also a red herring, since many underpaid jobs are not typical minimum wage jobs (construction, janitor, etc.). Second, the on-the-ground economic realities of the working class have nothing to do with your idealized principles of what certain jobs are “meant” for. The economy has played out such that many people do rely on jobs that you consider too menial to deserve a wage that pays for rent, groceries and healthcare. Also, what do you think happens when high school students and college students are at school or studying? In no way are these jobs exclusively for part-time high school and college students. These jobs are essential and commonplae, so these companies are absolutely propped up by full-time workers in these positions.
The other thing that I find frustrating about libertarians is their attitude towards college and equality of opportunity. It goes like this:
Worker: I’m poor and work two jobs and can barely make rent each month
Libertarian: Maybe you should have gotten a better job
Worker: This is the only work I could get
Libertarian: Maybe you should have gone to college and gotten skills that worth a middle class salary
Worker: I was born into a poor family, and we couldn’t afford to send me to college. I’m barely making any money, so I can’t afford it anyway.
Libertarian: Be born rich next time.
It honestly seems like the United States is just becoming a place where being born rich is the ticket to prosperity, and where being born poor is a curse. It’s not a meritocratic society where everyone has equal opportunities to succeed. Not even close.
Sorry for the rant, but I just want to know whether libertarians sympathize with working-class problems like inequality of opportunity, poverty wages, and worker abuse.
Article from r/Libertarian: For a Free Society