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Consider the following case, in a Third World country (based on real life events):

A small community of people live and work in a rural area, with no means of transporting themselves to an urban, more developed area (e.g. no one has cars as they are too expensive; public transportation does not serve this area). A company establishes a factory here and employs people for low wages (as compared to what could be earned in an urban area with the same skill level). Since there is an abundance of people available to work, since the people need to work to survive (to purchase goods/services conducive to their survival), and since this is the major source of employment for the community, the company uses these three facts to its own advantage by engaging in the following actions: requiring the workers to work 12 hours a day all week long, not giving the workers any type of basic medical care to treat work-related injuries/illnesses, and firing anyone who tries to unionize, sue, or peacefully strike for better working conditions or higher wages.

Since a person working in this factory must work to earn the money to survive, and since he has no choice but to work for this company (as he cannot find better employment opportunities due to the lack of transportation, even though he has the will to improve his skills to attain a higher paying job), isn't it true that this company is economically forcing a person to work?

asked Jul 30 '12 at 19:01

user890's gravatar image


edited Jul 30 '12 at 19:05

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Presumably people were already surviving in this locality before the factory came to town. That is, they already had some reason to be here, rather than somewhere else. They were surviving.

When the factory came to town, the people who chose to work for it, under the conditions it provides, did so because it made their life better.

It's not as if the factory made life impossible for people who do not work at the factory. It's not as if it kills or maims anyone who does not choose to work for the factory.

The factory motivates its employees by giving them money. It doesn't whip them all day and violently punish them for not being an employee. They are not slaves. They prefer working at the factory to not working at the factory.

Economic power is fundamentally incentive. Economic power is in the presentation of values which convince people to change their behavior, because they get more out of life by changing their behavior.

If the factory owners fail to recognize a valid means of increasing their productivity and profit (and if providing better working conditions is one such means), then they leave themselves open to their competition, who could also build a factory in the same locality, provide better working conditions, and lure the labor away from the first factory.

Economic power is the power to provide value. People are "stuck" at the factory only by their own choice. The only "force" going on here is the force of their own desire to live better -- and the factory makes that possible for them.

answered Jul 31 '12 at 09:20

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

Economic force is a contradiction in terms, period. If by "economic" we mean a Capitalist economy, which I assume is what the context is here. Economic or economy thus means being free to trade value for value. Thus, "economic force" translates to "free trade by force" - a clear contradiction.

One need not resort to such pragmatic attempts to distort the principle of free trade by construing bizarre examples where people's options are indeed limited and then leaping to a conclusion that some kind of force is involved. The answer to this specific situation, however, is included in the question: "since the person must work to ... survive". Who created that dictum, the factory owners, no, that is a condition of reality. Ultimately the person can choose not to work and perish and that would not be the factory owner's doing. Reality is forcing the person to work, not the economics of the situation. The factory owner has done the person a favor if this is truly the only work available in this town and there is "no way out of town" - he has provided a much needed means of survival.

As John suggests in his answer, and as Ayn Rand identified so brilliantly, economic power is not force.

answered Jul 31 '12 at 11:52

la_phil's gravatar image

la_phil ♦

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Asked: Jul 30 '12 at 19:01

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Last updated: Jul 31 '12 at 22:25