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The New Indentured Servitude

This one might ruffle some feathers, so I’d like to put a disclaimer. It would be best if you read a little bit to understand my thoughts on the topic. This is something I’ve been pondering lately as I’ve thought about life on the other side of fossil fuels. So keep an open mind and understand this is a philosophical question.

While I was in Afghanistan from 2013 to 2014 as an intelligence analyst, I developed an affinity for understanding people and cultures. This led me to complete a bachelor's in sociology and anthropology. I like to understand what makes people tick and what makes people not function. My main focus of study is on deviant behavior. This insight gives me the ability to step away from ethnocentrism and try to see from the other side's perspective.

What happens to the people in the future who refuse to or cannot work? What about the people who don’t have any equitable skills? In a post-industrialized world, we aren't going to have a screaming need for airline pilots, truck drivers, and computer programmers. Their trade will become obsolete—so what are they able to do to earn currency to buy food?

There are multiple schools of thought, but I'll mention a few I've thought of:

  1. These people could find each other and create a divergent society based on a system of their creation. This wouldn't be the most fantastic scenario. When people become desperate, they lose their humanity at a rapid pace.

  2. Some might be willing to learn a new vocation but will likely not have enough time to be anything more than a novice in their new trade.

  3. Some will neither have skills nor the ability to create new ones. As a result, they will be left destitute and might find themselves in dangerous positions.

Okay, how do we handle this situation so that all parties are fed, secure, and with their dignity intact? One possible solution is a neo-indentured servitude type system. In this scenario, you have landowners with resources, and then you have people with little skills but a willingness to learn. Match the two up to have a mutually beneficial relationship.

One potential downside is a corrupt landowner. If you have someone who wants to use this system to exploit, the system will collapse as many have before. Something like a work-study program sounds like a good idea.

We have 11 acres which might sound small, but it’s a lot of land to manage with only two people. We could have room for 3-5 more tiny houses on the property. We’ve been exploring the opportunity of allowing others to stay on the property with rent paid in sweat equity. You’d be expected to contribute a certain amount of time (say 10 hours a week) to chores and development around the property. The rest of the time is yours. Also, you would be entitled to a portion of the harvest when harvest time comes.

When winter approaches, they’d have the option of staying and helping with winter chores or moving on to their next adventure. There would be a simple code of conduct to follow. Something to the effect of:

  • No stealing

  • No problem is too small to ask for help

  • No drug abuse (excluding cannabis)

  • Contribution of work hours is mandatory to offset rent

  • Physical violence of any kind will result in immediate expulsion

I don’t think any of those rules are unreasonable, but I have a bias. What do you think of this type of system? Where could it go wrong? What could be ironed out more? How would you change the system?

A note on slavery: I foresee a specific segment of our society that will turn their attention toward reviving old “traditions“ of slavery. This practice is repugnant and contrary to all my core beliefs. In no way would I advocate for a system that allows or even considers the use of slavery as a method of production. We have plenty of land and plenty of people who can work together to create abundance in an era of uncertainty.

Some reading this might question why I've brought up such a controversial topic, and the answer is simple—we have to ask these questions now so that when it comes time for implementation, we already have the answer. It's uncomfortable to talk about slavery and servitude, but we must if we are to avoid repeating history's mistakes. The low-input, high-output of human labor isn't something that can be ignored. We have a lot of mouths to feed, and it will be a team effort to make it in a world of limited resources.

Are you ready?


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