2018/09/07: As long as we depend on the arbitrary will of another for our subsistence then it is hard to claim that we are free. While some of us would be able to find alternative employment in the event of our being dismissed, or of leaving a job after being harassed or otherwise mistreated, some would struggle, and some would suffer substantial harm. We cannot know for sure in advance which category we fall into. This suggests that welfare payments or alternative forms of employment ought to be available as of right, not only for the benefit of those who find themselves without work but to protect all workers from the insults and injustices of their employers. It further suggests that workers have a right to organize to reduce their vulnerability to arbitrary power in the workplace. Indeed, a fully achieved democratic republic would want to establish workplace democracy in an economy where individuals could always secure independent access to the means of subsistence.20
This general right to be free from domination has implications for the extent and nature of state activity. Without a general right to healthcare, we are not free to decide whether to take a job or to leave it. The overwhelming need to cover existing conditions, or to secure treatment for dependents, or to hedge against future risks, will make us vulnerable to pressure from our employers that need not ever be stated to be real. Here we can see the limitations of the liberal tradition’s attempt to understand unfreedom in terms of physical interference and coercive threats.