The Rise of the Servant Class


I think we’re about to see the creation of a servant class in the United States.

With increasing incoming inequality, and a decreasing number of jobs to be had (that can’t be done by computers or robots), there will be a massive pool of people at the bottom that have little to offer the market.

Except helping those who are successful.

We already have a services sector. Many make their living cooking, and cleaning, and cutting grass, and doing maintenance work. That will continue, but more of it will be done by non-humans as time goes on.

The bigger change will come in the form of the middle class (which will then be people making more than like 100K between two adults) will realize they can pay someone who has no job, and no prospects, a small amount of money to do all sorts of things for them.

Cooking, cleaning, taking care of kids, making appointments, organizing the calendar, keeping the house in shape, etc. These will be things that the new rich (previously middle class) will be able to outsource easily to this growing group of people.

And for those doing the jobs, it can be relatively easy work, and at the very least is better than having no work at all.

There will be tiers as well. Some will be more like domestic personal assistants, able to do more business-oriented work in addition to the home stuff. Many will actually live with their employer. Others will only be able to do the most physical of tasks, e.g., laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc.

There is reason for caution. This type of arrangement is not without precedent. House servants are found everywhere in India. They’re also common in Mexico. In rich homes. I think you’re getting the idea.

Wherever you have massive inequality, and clear delineations by class (and often race/ethnicity), you will see this behavior. It hasn’t become big in the United States yet because much of our culture still has the decency to not want to see an entire underclass subjugated in this way.

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We have our history with slavery.

And while this is nowhere near that, or at least it won’t be in our country, it could be something equally sinister: The creation of a caste system within a formerly meritocratic society. A caste system inside the United States.

Few things would signal the failure of the American model more than that, but I predict it’s precisely where we’re heading.

It will start with immigrants—especially those from the poorest countries. Mostly Mexico. But given the trend towards inequality in the United States, the acceptance of this work as a “career” will soon spread to most every group that can’t find work, whether they’re born and raised here, just got here, white, black, hispanic, etc.

Some will call this a good thing. And maybe some work for more people is good by some measure. But I cannot help but see it as one thousand steps backwards. As a sign that we’ve devolved into a more primitive society that allows one group to be clearly superior to another.

It seems clear that those in this underclass will start believing that they cannot climb out of it. That it’s what they are, and what they will always be. And relying on their “rich” bosses for everything will create destructive tendencies and behaviors that will further soil the situation.

In short, it’ll be un-American.

But hey, if we get a few GDP points out of it because the people at the top have more time to provide value, and “unemployment” goes down, I guess it’ll be fine.

As long as the economy keeps growing. That’s all that matters.

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