Minimum Wage, Minimum Cage

Voltairine de Cleyre:


“Laborers are free to compete among themselves, and so are capitalists to a certain extent. But between laborers and capitalists there is no competition whatever, because through governmental privilege granted to capital, …, the owners of it are enabled to keep the laborers dependent on them for employment, so making the condition of wage-subjection perpetual. So long as one man, or class of men, are able to prevent others from working for themselves because they cannot obtain the means of production or capitalize their own products, so long those others are not free to compete freely with those to whom privilege gives the means.”

Those arguing for a minimum wage increase, or a minimum wage at all, are missing the point, and fighting the wrong battle.

Fighting for a minimum wage, or a wage at all, is to fight to stay in a cage created by capitalist paymasters. The only way to break free is to demand the abolition of the prison, and a place at the table of free enterprise and “democracy,” not wage slavery. Instead of fighting for “full product” and a place at the table, ultimately the abolition of human rentals, minimum wage activists are fighting to remain in a cage, albeit a cage with a few more amenities or cubic feet of space, but still a cage.

The fight should be to smash the cage of wages, minimum or other. The fight should be to demand liberty, a voice, and partnership in a firm, not servitude. This means when times are good everyone wins, and when times are bad everyone suffers…not just the “owners;” in other words everyone who works is a owner, not owned- incomes fluctuate. Minimum wage battles keep the cages erect and legitimize imprisonment, rather than direct attention to where it should be shifted, a paradigm shift to abolish rental contracts.

David Ellerman: It is important to note that both the alienation of governing control at work and the transfer of responsibility cannot in fact take place. A person can not alienate their authority to a state or firm without a say in the governance, at least if one believes in inalienable rights and democratic theory. [source ]


“capitalist production, i.e. production based on the employment contract denies workers the right to the (positive and negative) fruit of their labour. Yet people’s right to the fruits of their labour has always been the natural basis for private property appropriation. Thus capitalist production, far from being founded on private property, in fact denies the natural basis for private property appropriation.” [The Democratic worker-owned firm, p. 59]

The minimum wage activist is promoting the same lie and living the employer has promoted (or perhaps it’s a paradigm the employer is also caged within). Capitalism is the theft of surplus value, a denial or alienation of labor from its whole product. Capitalists sit outside the cage, feed a wage through the bars, and usurp the surplus, but in reality this theft is illegal as the fruits of labor are inalienable from it’s producer(s). Also illegal is the alienation of a producer in a say or place at the table. Without democracy in the workplace, a worker is a deaf, blind, and dumb slave in a monarchy or oligarchy. As a wage laborer food comes in the cage, but the worker does not define the terms or know if there is any surplus. In reality they should not define the terms of their capture, they should not be caged to begin with- liberty and justice for all…

Kevin Carson: The value of labor power is less than the embedded labor-value in the product of labor precisely because artificial property rights and artificial scarcity cause the worker to sell her labor-power for a price less than the value of her product. The capitalist is able to sit in the position of a monopsonist, targeting the price of labor-power to the minimum value the worker is willing to accept rather than the free market value of her labor, for the same reason that a monopolist is able to target price to the consumer’s ability to pay rather than cost of production….The concrete values which the capitalist must pay for labor-power, versus what he can receive for the worker’s labor product, are not constants. They are heavily influenced by the structure of privilege. The capitalist’s power of exploitation is conditioned by the question of whether or not he has to compete with the possibility of self-employment. And the more artificially scarce and expensive the means of production, the less competition the capitalist faces from self-employment.


Proudhon: “Whoever labours becomes a proprietor — this is an inevitable deduction from the principles of political economy and jurisprudence. And when I say proprietor, I do not mean simply (as do our hypocritical economists) proprietor of his allowance, his salary, his wages, — I mean proprietor of the value his creates, and by which the master alone profits . . . The labourer retains, even after he has received his wages, a natural right in the thing he was produced.” [What is Property?, pp. 123-4]

Free yourself from (minimum) slavery, none but ourselves can free us from the cage of a wage.

PDF of Ellerman mods



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