On Sunday, Rep. Ro Khanna (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Big Tech) made an unsurprising confession: Democrats would rather businesses go under than allow them to pay less than $15 an hour to unskilled workers. This comes after the CBO projects that raising the minimum wage to that level will cost 1.4 Million jobs.
As politically stupid as that is to say out loud, it’s what the likes of Amazon and others have been pushing for since before the pandemic made them “indispensable.” What better way to crush the last vestiges of competition than by getting the government to do your dirty work for you?
But the real threat Khanna poses to America was his supporting argument: “If workers were actually getting paid for the value they were creating it [the minimum wage] would be up to $23.” (Emphasis mine). On its face, this is just typical lefty claptrap. But it’s more sinister than that, and we should pay attention.
But first, a bit of history.
“Man is born free, yet everywhere he is in chains,” declares Rousseau in the opening of The Social Contract. It was, in the best French tradition, a pithy encapsulation of Enlightenment political thought — the same thought that guided our founders. Rousseau makes the argument the only reason man gives up his essentially free (and facially neutral) nature is because the law treats all citizens equally. At least in an ideal world. This argument is a direct refutation of Thomas Hobbes’ belief that man is violent and should be fearful of others — making a strong, unaccountable ruler necessary, and indeed a Good Thing.
Rousseau’s philosophy permeates our system. How many times have we heard about defending the rule of law from every corner of the political spectrum? Our founders wedded Rousseau’s concept of an impartial rule of law to the natural rights doctrine of John Locke when crafting the Declaration of independence and our Constitutions. Locke believed that nature itself was suffused with a law, which he summed up as “no one ought to harm another in his life, liberty, and or property.”
Creating a government that would best conform to this law of nature was the primary preoccupation of the men who made this country free. It’s one of the most delicate governmental balancing acts put into practice. Liberty is the inherent mode of our very beings and government must not only protect it, but promote it. The outcomes are imperfect, but ours is still the greatest experiment in ordered liberty in history.
Ro Khanna fundamentally disagrees with this philosophy.
Karl Marx in his 1844 Manuscripts outlines what is called social alienation. Put simply, Marx believes that man’s freedom is immaterial, shared with others, and contingent. There is no freedom in nature. Rather, man’s essence and indeed his value as a being is subsumed into his labor, which is quantified (unfairly) by his economic output. He is alienated from his essence when the capitalist abuses this nature by directing the labor and not allowing it to flourish naturally for the collective benefit.
While Marx goes much deeper into human nature, Ro Khanna has taken from his philosophy the most facile interpretation: it’s an obscenity to allow a business to exist that “abuses” workers in this way. For Khanna, the loss of a few million jobs is worthwhile because the moral health of a society is imperiled by the existence of “capitalist exploitation.” Workers are actively harmed by having market wages, which is why “we don’t want low-wage businesses” to exist at all. Man’s essential nature isn’t freedom, or liberty, or even neutral: it’s as a material thing that labors.
This is a sinister, dehumanizing philosophy tarted up as concern for the poor. Khanna and his communist allies know the misery millions will face if they achieve their preferred policy, but that’s a feature, not a bug. After all, if man isn’t born free, who cares if he’s in the chains of poverty?