There is this man on the other end of the road whose family has been working for the "sahu" for years by now for little to no financial rumeneration. He gets up early in the morning, works the whole day for the master for nothing other than the food and shelter he gets out there. On the other side, if he gets out of the house of the "sahu", he has no alternatives. He will basically starve to death unless he is blessed with some unforseen luck. Should he be allowed to choose whether to stay as a slave or not, or should we force him out of the bond? This is a pressing issue.
For long have I wondered in vain trying to find an answer to this simple question “Is slavery justified?” Looks simple on the surface but the question needs a careful scrutiny before one can jump into conclusions. One has to assess whether the slavery is voluntary or involuntary. Libertarian perspective is that involuntary slavery can never be justified. However, since one has the right over his body, he has the right to enter into a contract for a fixed period of time in return for the benefits agreed upon by the parties. Hence, voluntary slavery seems to be justified given the respect for property rights including the rights over the body.
This is a real hard issue and cannot be defended easily. However, I do believe that one should be free to enter into any sort of contract that he sees fit for himself as long as there is no coercion involved. The problem arises when slavery becomes a traditional phenomenon for the family of the slave. The continuation of slavery on to the family members cannot be justified and it’s against the libertarian principles which hold that private freedom be respected. By virtue of being the boss of one’s body, one should be able to control his/her own body as long as he is respecting contracts which he voluntarily agreed upon.
But, isn’t slavery in itself characterized by some sort of coercion? A question raised by many people around the world does have some weight. People do not wish to enter into contracts through which they lose control over their own body. They do not want others to control the product they produce without having been paid for the labor. However, what if some person does in fact want to enter into slavery voluntarily? There might be various reasons but I do not want to go over them right now. Should we force him to opt out of the contract he sees as beneficial? By doing this, we are limiting his right over his own body and violating the respect for property rights. So, I do not agree we should force anyone to dissolve contracts or enter into contracts.
It is obvious that involuntary slavery is not justifiable. However, with the voluntary slavery, we should let the people themselves decide upon their fate. They have the full rights over their body and they should be allowed to sell their labor the way they want whether it is for a couple of months or years or even for the whole life. However, in the process of entering into the contract, there should not be any coercion. Some of you might give economic hardship as being an indirect form of coercion. But, if someone enters into slavery contract because one is poor, one cannot term this as being some sort of coercion as he is free to decide whether he wants to enter into the contract or not.