"Jobs give people respect"


Perceptions of social status have changed a lot. In the free-market bible, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776), the economy is described in terms of three groups: landlords, capitalists and workers. It's clear from Smith's language that those who work for wages are regarded as a lower class of people. He calls their employers "masters" – as in "the workers and their masters" – which makes it sound like slavery.

In fact chattel slavery co-existed with paid employment. Smith argued that employment was more economically efficient than slavery, but proponents of slavery argued that slavery was more morally justifiable than employment since slave-owners tended to look after their slaves, whereas employers weren't concerned about the welfare of their workers (the argument being that people look after their own property more than they look after rented help).

The historical lesson (which they don't teach at school) is that the Marxist term "wage slavery" (for employment) is accurate and apt. Imagine how differently things might appear if the media referred always to jobs as wage slavery, and to employees as wage slaves.