Martian Renegade, August 23rd, 10 AF
Autonomist-Sanctioned Slavery? More Likely Than You Think
Forgive me for the provocative title, but this is an important issue which bears repeating. The Voluntary Labor Resolution, a proposed joint resolution backed by Titanian and Anarchist interests in the Autonomist Alliance, was recently defeated by a narrow margin. It’s no secret that the primary opposition came from Extropian business leaders and media outlets friendly to their interests. The Extropians earn much criticism for their ties to the Consortium, yet as long as the exchanges are voluntary and do not infringe upon people’s rights, most Autonomists do not act against them. The Non-Aggression Principle is a popular code of conduct among the Libertarian-minded habitat, and is intended to prevent the worst exercises of tyrannical force.
But there is a large, systemic problem within Extropian society. The laws and culture are contract-based: legal codes and articles bind both parties to a set of rules, provided that the two agree upon the points set forth in a contract. A typical one is a labyrinthine series of legalese, covering all manner of circumstances regarding methods of termination and enforcement, which are based upon even more circumstances and scenarios.
Many newcomers to Extropia, especially non-Capitalist Autonomists, trust upon the Reputation System and public support of the Non-Aggression Principle to protect them. Swayed by sweetheart deals, individuals in dire need of assistance often sign away on contracts without even bothering to read them. Only later do they discover, to their horror, that they’ve signed away their individual autonomy. It is perfectly legal in Extropia for one party to grant use of their Ego (whether backups, forks, or otherwise) to another party for a certain length of time or until a debt is paid off. There is a large and thriving industry of “Worker Snatchers” on Extropia, who prey upon the gullible and trusting. Equipped with the best social-enhancing implants and skillware corporations have to offer, they actively seek out desperate and down-trodden people in the habitat. Favored targets include those ill-versed in the law and unused to the often confusing nature of legalistic language. The memetic campaigns and AI spammers responsible for the defeat of the resolution were created by the very same legal firms which profit off of these disenfranchised people.
Unlike the Inner System Hypercorps, the employer cannot alter the contract on a whim without being subjected to humongous legal fees and Reputation loss; but if an indentured Ego objects to their treatment, they can rarely break free of the contract without spending tons of money and calling in lots of favors. Given the economic and Reputation inequalities between the indentured and the legal firms, courts rule in favor of the latter 99% of the time.
This is clearly an unequal form of justice, with a small few in privilege profiting off of the backs of unwilling workers. I fled my Martian homeland for challenging the Hypercorps’ practice of indentured servitude, as I nearly got killed for this perceived insolence. When I came to the Outer System, I saw a much happier and freer populace: worker’s managed their affairs through democratic councils instead of being directed by an overseer. Access to a physical morph is trivial to obtain, and does not require decades of harsh labor, nor are they keyed to break down after a certain period of time to enforce dependency to the manufacturers. The defeat of this resolution may seem small at first, but it could be the first crack in the solid foundations of our liberty. We should strive to depart from the hypercapitalist model instead of aping its traditions in the name of the “free market.”
"Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it."
~George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950