If, as many conservatives believe, we as Americans have a responsibility to have a job in order to feed, clothe, house, and provide the other necessities of lives for ourselves and our families, then logically employment--at least in the most general sense--is a right, not a privilege.
I would agree that we do not have the right to a specific job. Even a specific vocation is often a question of nature, talent and geography: you can't be a lumberjack in Death Valley, or a concert violinist if you are tone deaf. However, the Second Economic Bill of Rights of which President Franklin Roosevelt spoke on January 11, 1944, is still the minimum that every American should expect:
useful and remunerative employment, together with the potential to find an avocation and not simply a job;
wages that provide adequate food, clothing, opportunity for recreation, and decent shelter for themselves and their families;
adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
protection from unfair competition and monopolistic practices at home and abroad, for every business in America, large and small;
the ability of farmers and ranchers to raise and sell the the bounty of their lands at a return which will give themselves and their families a decent living;
protections from the fears attendant to old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;- Advertisement -
a good, quality education, sufficient for the needs of our modern society; an education that is ongoing if needed or desired.
No person should have to work two or more jobs in order to see any of these seven points achieved for themselves and their families. To require such, to limit other human being's lives to unceasing work, without hope for advancement, time with their families, or real stability; where a human being is required to live to work if they are to survive, is a form of slavery. To quote Georg F.W. Hegel (again from his Philosophy of Right , p. 42), "The slave knows not his essence, his infinitude, his freedom; he does not know himself in his essence, and not to know himself is not to think himself. The self-consciousness, which by thought apprehends that itself is essence, and thus puts away from itself the accidental and untrue, constitutes the principle of right, morality, and all forms of ethical observance. They who, in speaking philosophically of right, morality, and ethical observance, would exclude thought and turn to feeling, the heart, the breast, and inspiration, express the deepest contempt for thought and science." In other words, when a human being has no time to think, only to feel, and to react to base emotion, without consideration of consequences, he has been reduced to the status of slave.
This is one of the lessons that we see in the two Starz Original Series, "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena," and "Spartacus: Blood and Sand." The slaves have all been stripped of any ability to act except at a purely emotional level. And although the Romans would never admit it, their actions in the final analysis are also purely emotional. Their "rationality" is animal cunning, not critical thought, and by Hegel's statement above, this makes them every bit as much slaves as the gladiators and other servants beneath them.
And in this, they mirror modern American society to a very frightening degree.
Batiatus (played with cunning cruelty by John Hanna) and his wife Lucretia (played with venomous vigor by Lucy Lawless), would like to be the Macbeth and Lady Macbeth of the Late Roman Republic: rising past their current station to real political power and prominence. They are not above using murder, blackmail, kidnapping, and turning their lanista into a very discrete brothel for the Roman upper classes to achieve their ends. They first use their slaves, then their friends, and finally those they were initially trying to impress, in an attempt to achieve their goals. Batiatus and his wife repay every slight, real or imagined, in blood or blackmail. Every seeming favor has a secret intent behind it: in the form of an expected many-fold repayment, or the favor of the House of Batiatus being taken away at the last second, through no (apparent) fault of this conniving pair.- Advertisement -
Never has the banality of evil been so wonderfully represented.
My fascination with the Roman Republic has always been as the warning it presented to America, a lesson to be learned, never as an example to be emulated. With rare exceptions of individuals such as Tiberius and Gaius Sempronius Gracchus, or Gaius Licinius Macer, there is no good role model among the Romans that presents themselves out of the history from that time. These men demonstrated a very rare personal courage when opposing the machinations of Rome's optimate (One Percent) oligarchs, and all of them died opposing the destruction of Roman citizens' rights.
Rome was an oligarchic republic. I have had people--primarily libertarians--write me to say that an oligarchy cannot be a republic. And yet, when you look at most republics in history, they are oligarchies. A republic is a nation which, through its constitution, establishes a set of rights for the citizens of that nation. John Locke, in his Second Treatise on Government, stated that those rights were life, liberty and property. And if John Adams had his way, those words, rather than "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness," would have been the statement of unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence, and America would be an oligarchic republic, not a democratic one.