Slavery has been a feature of society for as long as we have any kind of records. Generally the term slavery conjures up its most basic form, chattel slavery, which treats the slave as the personal property of his master. In some societies laws protected slaves from the worst kinds of treatment, but usually they could be put to death with impunity. Over the past two hundred years the world has come to a general agreement that this kind of slavery is criminal, and should be eliminated. This represents an important achievement in what we might term the betterment of mankind, but we need to examine some other, more subtle and unnoticed forms of slavery before we take too much satisfaction.
How can we define slavery? The essence of slavery is involuntary servitude. I would suggest that a person is enslaved if he or she is required to work involuntarily in order to satisfy his or her basic survival needs. So called free people in our society are not truly free: always they have the burden of the monthly nut. Somehow every month they have to earn enough to keep a roof over their head and food on the table, along with the countless other expenditures needed to live a dignified life. If they are very fortunate they work at something they enjoy, something they would choose to do even if they were in fact free to choose, but most people go to work because they have to, because the alternative is crime or destitution.
We tend to think of this situation as a force of nature. It has always been that way, it will always be that way. The rules of economics dictate it. May as well just buckle down and make the most of it. And it is a monument to the human spirit that many, perhaps most people take pride in their work and develop true loyalty to their employers (less often, sadly, is this loyalty returned.) The fact is, though, that the so called laws of economics are just a set of rules and conditions that people have made up. They are not actual physical limitations like the law of gravity or the law of conservation of energy, they are a completely artificial construct, and we are perfectly free to come up with better ones.
There is in fact an identifiable very small segment of society that effectively controls everybody else, and it is for the benefit of these people that the entire system is designed. Their ownership is passed on from generation to generation and I will demonstrate some of the methods that have been used over the past 150 years to constantly increase the proportion of the wealth of the world that ends up in their hands. I will suggest improvements designed to rectify this problem, and present an ethical justification for doing so. I will demonstrate that if you applied their own professed values (such as self sufficiency, and the notion that nobody should have money he had worked for taken and given to people who do no work) to them, they could not justify their own position.