You are a proud capitalist and you run a business. Let’s say you have this one job, and to complete it you need a front-end loader (a.k.a. a “bulldozer”). Do you buy one? No. You just go out and rent one, or you call a professional to come out and do the heavy lifting for you. Why buy a piece of equipment you’ll only use once? Why pay big money to own, store, and maintain something you could just rent? When you’re done you hand it back. No muss, no fuss.
It only makes sense to buy a tool if you’re going to use it on a daily basis. It’s cheaper in the long run, isn’t it? If it’s your equipment, you can perform regular maintenance and generally make sure that it survives the wear and tear. With continuous and repeated use, averaging all the costs over the life of the tool, it makes more sense to own than rent.
This applies to people too, which I suppose explains why slavery and indentured servitude was so popular with you and your ilk for so many centuries. You paid room and board and you saved money in the long run. And since your slaves reproduced and made more (unlike an impact drill or a front-end loader) you could afford to be less than perfect when it came to maintenance. In fact, as long as you didn’t allow your temper to destroy more workers than they replaced through sexual reproduction, you could get downright Dickensian.
Unfortunately for you however, there were problems. Human tools think. They revolted, tried to escape, and so forth. And there were other capitalists who, for reasons that mystified you, objected to the idea. Pesky, pie-in-the-sky moralists!
But guess what? There was an alternative, and you figured it out: wage slavery in exchange for pension plans. You realized that if you promised people you’d take care of them when they got old, they would be loyal to you for 25 years or more! You discovered that all you had to do to get your hands on the best years of their lives was to guarantee some income at the end of your human capital’s life cycle. If you did that you could get them to keep doing what they had been doing before. It was kind of like a work release program. You had them 40 hours/week for 25 years or so. The other 128 hours/week were theirs, you know, so they could sleep, shop, booze, and pretend to be “free.” Radio and TV made it easier. You permeated the airwaves with advertising only you could afford and sold them on “the American dream.”
Ever scheming, you continued to look for an even better way. So in the 1980s you stumbled upon the idea of a 401K. Thanks to a loophole in tax laws, you could sell your employees on a new kind of freedom. “Have I got a deal for you!” you said. “I’m going to give you tax deferred money. It’s yours. You can invest it, control it, spend it, whatever you want. And if you want to go work somewhere else, you can take it with you!” Your employees went for it, hook line and sinker. You no longer had to worry about paying those expensive pensions. And not only that, your pals in the stock market got a huge influx of less-than-super-educated investors with trillions of dollars they were just begging to be parted from. Cha-ching!
Do your “employees” actually have a safety net? Of course not! But that’s not your problem. You have achieved sweet success. You now have the best of all worlds: wage slaves who behave as if they have a safety net. In other words, you get to rent the tool at the lower purchase rate. And your human tools feel even more free than they did when you were paying pensions. Very few revolts these days.
Without pensions to keep them warm and fed when you’re done with them, your former workers (and quite a few of your current ones, to be honest) are increasingly reliant on public assistance. You ingeniously shifted the burden to the state. But you have a plan for that too. You and your lobbyists and pundits have invented phrases like “entitlement programs” to disparage the social safety net that you necessitated! “Why should we have to pay taxes to fund entitlement programs?” you assert. “Income redistribution! So not fair!” you cry. And since you’re always talking about freedom and such, the very people you’re exploiting actually support you.
I gotta hand it to you. You are one crafty son-of-a-bitch.