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Universal Slavery

by Yank Elliott, MBA & IAHBE Staff Writer

We all come into this world with absolutely nothing. And after only a few short years, we find ourselves on our own trying to find some way to take care of our basic human needs.

In 1943, the famous psychologist Abraham Maslow defined what he called a hierarchy of five needs every individual instinctively seeks to fulfill:

1. Physiological (food, water, clothing, shelter, etc.)
2. Safety (protection from physical and emotional harm)
3. Social (affection, belonging, acceptance, friendship)
4. Esteem (also called ego)—Internally, we seek self-respect, autonomy, achievement; We also seek status, recognition, and attention externally.
5. Self-actualization

In our late teens, most of us face the necessity of providing the first two levels of needs for ourselves. As human beings, we'll do whatever has to be done to achieve these basics.

After a little success with levels one and two, we begin to seek a group to which we can belong, to enhance our self-esteem, and, if possible, to contribute something to society or the knowledge base, i.e. "self-actualization." It's at this highest level of Maslow's heirarchy that much more is required of an individual. Here is the point where family relationships begin to sour and people start to fear those who succeed.

Why? Most people in the U.S. and other industrialized nations have no problems meeting basic needs. However, assuring that this need is met for an entire lifetime of around 77 years requires significant, available cash reserves. That's because every financial asset is less secure than they were just a few years ago. The economy is becoming more volatile, unstable, and corrupt in many parts of the globe.

Certain Uncertainty

It has been said that even Saddam Hussein got little of the weaponry he ordered because of uncontrolled embezzlement among his intimate counsel and throughout the government. Many governments just can't operate efficiently and are powerless to improve the terrible poverty in which most of the world finds itself. Moreover, many seemingly wealthy monarchies around the world could become financially destitute practically overnight. There are always disenchanted rebellious groups just waiting for the appropriate moment to overthrow a regime they consider undesirable.

The Western democracies do tend to have less governmental instability than other parts of the world. Still, this stability does not ensure against severe economic loss; many factors beyond our immediate control, such as corporate corruption and global terrorism, are always at work. These are extremely disruptive economic forces and will probably be far-reaching influences for the foreseeable future. Just the possibility of a catastrophic attack or rumors of another corporate audit and investigation causes instant expenditure of enormous funds and nervousness in the stock markets; this money is simply thrown away as if flushed down the toilet. Absolutely no economic benefit results.

And all the savings and investments you've carefully accumulated over many years will always be hostage to economic shocks. This has always been true, and the result is that nearly everyone is subject to a kind of enslavement, the continuing need to survive. If they are able to be comfortable, that's a plus. However, very few people will never have to worry about having enough wealth.

Many who thought they could retire and enjoy life the way they wanted have watched their 401k plans decimated. They have sold motor homes, stopped going to ballgames, they take no more cruises, and they no longer visit Las Vegas. They now spend most of every day on the Internet or talking with a broker. They hope a miracle will happen and their assets will reappear.

In all likelihood, they won't

In The Same Boat

The PHD Information Technology Specialist is just as much a slave to economic uncertainty as is the migrant worker harvesting crops. The recent job decline and outsourcing have brought this fact home to hundreds of thousands of highly educated professionals in recent years.

Accountants, lawyers, insurance agents, and other professionals whose activities can be conducted by telephone or via Internet are vulnerable to this kind of economic slavery. Just look at your friends who are having trouble finding a job right now.

Medical professions also are at risk. Because of malpractice insurance considerations, many doctors are opting out of private practice and becoming subservient to hospitals and other medical organizations. They are enslaved just as much as those digging ditches somewhere.

Today's Slavery

My first inspiration to write about economic slavery came from Bernard Lewis's reference, in Islam in History, to several books by Adolphus Slade. Slade, a British Naval Officer who went to Turkey in 1829, discussed his ideas about the evolution of Turkey from the Ottoman Empire.

Slade made an interesting observation about slavery...and it still applies today. He stated that there was NO country or society in which slavery did not exist in some form. Examples he used were the farm laborer chained to his plow, a mechanic forced to operate his machinery in order to live, or a homeless person scavenging for recyclable materials for a few pennies—situations that are still very prevalent today.

As my research progressed, I found there are many who are coming to recognize the traditional work-for-pay situation as a form slavery. What began as a noble calling encouraged by the Reformation has become a system where workers have allowed themselves to become enslaved by some mindless bureaucracy for the very basics they need for survival.

Among those who have discussed this slavery idea are Max Weber, Frederick Hertzberg, R. Jackall, and L. Festinger. Their ideas are much too involved for this article. Suffice it to say they all recognized the element of slavery that exists in modern industrial society. An interesting discussion of these ideas may be found on this Villanova University site:

Views From The Frontline

To make the idea of slavery very personal and of current concern you, consider two articles in the April, 2004, issue of Fast Company. The personal tragedies of 40 people caught up in the ongoing saga of sending jobs overseas to cheaper labor countries are discussed in Into Thin Air and Look Into Their Eyes.

Nine of these 40 remain unemployed after a year or more, and at least two more are getting by working for very low wages or part-time. Many victims of job offshoring have lost their homes, their health insurance, and their life savings. Nineteen of the 40 who were interviewed have found other jobs, though most pay less than the ones they had. Seven more are involved in efforts to force some action by government or employers to soften the blow of offshoring. And five people started working for themselves; however, all seemed dissatisfied because of what they consider the insecurity of running their own business.

Wouldn't it have been much better if they had begun a home-based business on the side years ago? They would have been able to learn how to operate their business comfortably rather than being rudely dumped into the situation of having to do something they really don't like.

Perhaps the most unkind thing is that 12 of these interviewees were required to train their own replacements. Some did this under threat of losing benefits while others were told they were training "parallel workers." Either way, this was a horrible thing to do to anyone. One person who lost a job after training her replacement gave an interview to a local paper. The new employer threatened to fire her because of the interview. With every work review, this person now feels that this may be the time she'll get fired all over again.

In addition, five interviewees expressed frustration about finding a job in any industry where outsourcing will not be a problem. One likened the situation to a form of silent terror and another expressed doubt they would ever be able to retire.

Nearly all expressed the idea of total job insecurity.

Which leads us to the real reason we're slaves to what we do.

A Merrill Lynch survey released in May, 2004, clearly indicates why people enslave themselves for life. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed say they intend to continue working at some level after age 65 purely for financial reasons. More important is what they would live on if they were forced to retire. The horrible fact shown by the survey was that the average accumulated savings is $51,000. None of the discussion addressed the possibility of a disabling disease nor the need for the ever-increasing expense of health care.

Pretty bleak picture of the future isn't it?

Free Yourself

You can do something about it.

Find two or three businesses that fill a niche and work them as real businesses for a few years. Don't jump from ground floor to ground floor. Stay focused on building your businesses by learning all about them. Learn to do all the things you need to succeed and promote your enterprises in some way every single day.

The fact you are reading this is proof you already have every element of one successful business at your fingertips.

IAHBE is a business in itself. You already have a desirable product, a Gateway Website available to you free of charge, and free production, order fulfillment, and billing services for your business. You have access to endless training and you have an affiliate status in SFI Marketing Group that enables you to market a wide variety of desirable products all over the globe.

Start with IAHBE and look for one or two other opportunities. You can research them on Google or Amazon's or any other search engine.

If you want a business offline, these search engines can help you find one of those as well.

You've got to build your own financial network outside normal investment channels to assure flexibility when you need it. A separate income not related to your regular "slave" job will allow you to gain your freedom!


Graphic of Mazlow's Hierarchy Of Needs

A discussion of work and slavery on the Villanova University site.

Reingold, Jennifer. "Into Thin Air". Fast Company, April, 2004.

"Look Into Their Eyes", Fast Company, April, 2004.

Merrill Lynch survey about retirement released in May, 2004


Google can be used to research business opportunities. Be very selective; there are millions of them but only a few worthwhile.

Amazon's new search site,

Discussions of slavery aspects of work:

Festinger, L. A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford University Press, 1957.

Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., and Snyderman, B. B. The motivation to work. Transaction Publishers, 1959/1993.

Jackall, R. Moral mazes. Oxford University Press, 1988.

Weber, M. The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism (A. Giddens, Trans.). Routledge, 1930/1992.

©Yank Elliott. All rights reserved worldwide.

Yank is a home-based entrepreneur and freelance business writer living in Hurricane Alley, North Carolina, USA. His Website is Contact Yank at [email protected]

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