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I'm having a problem, I think, in a world I've built. From previous questions I've asked here, the world is a near to mid-future dystopia of the United States in which the government has collapsed under debt and now functions primarily to transfer the country's wealth to its creditors, and one of the ways it does so is by selling criminals and debtors as slaves, many of them to the upper 0.01% (most of whom hold public office). The 99.99%, therefore, are living in abject poverty by design, as it keeps a fresh supply of criminals and bankruptees coming into the jails (and from there to the auction houses).

One of the main characters, after pleading guilty to a crime, lucks out to the equivalent of hitting the Pick 6, and finds themselves living an enslaved life that most people still living free could only dream of. The work's easy (housemaid/servant type work, with plenty of others to share the load since they're not getting paid for it), the living conditions are palatial even by today's middle-class standards, the owner is kind and caring. This is not the norm, to be sure, and the character knows that; other slaves sold alongside the character would have gone to plantations, factories, blood sport arenas, even brothels, and their life expectancy would be months if not days.

Here's the main question. Given this situation, what reason, if any, might this character have to want to regain their free status? I can't think of any good reason the character might have to want to go back to the "real world", and in fact I'm considering having this character and other slaves of the same owner fight, even violently, to keep the life they have as slaves against external forces that want to ban slavery as inherently evil, but don't have the financial power to actually improve the lives of the 99.99% beyond that.

The follow-up is obvious; is this reversal of the norm for a slave system outwardly plausible, even if I acknowledge the norm exists? This idea of the pretty-much-perfect life gained through slavery is something I can play with as an inversion of the normal 300-style "freedom is worth any price" message, but it's got to be believable, on some level, to be engaging. The challenge the story poses to the audience cannot be suspension of disbelief that a life like this is possible in a slave system, it has to be that they find themselves essentially cheering the character's efforts to stay a slave and working through that cognitive dissonance.

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  • $\begingroup$ This isn't really addressing your question, but your scenario, hence the comment: Unless your character is very lucky, they'll need to be valuable in some way in order to not get bought up by the plantation owners. This would most likely be a highly-sought after skill. Perhaps they're a doctor, and so the owner bought them because it would be cheaper than paying for medical insurance. Your character would be on call for a medical emergency at all hours, but unless actively tending someone they'd be pretty much free to do what they wanted. $\endgroup$ – Kyyshak Mar 29 '18 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ I think you need to work a little bit on your economics. Currently the US pays around 0.2 of its GDP as interest on national debt. If you escalate the debt situation it would take a much more than 0.01% of the pop to work on that, even given the high level jobs of today. And this is only to pay for interest, no payback. Anything less would result in guaranteed bankrupcy! $\endgroup$ – Daniel Mar 29 '18 at 10:24
  • $\begingroup$ I'm a little bit confused between the title and the body. Should answers describe reasons a character does want to be free even if it harms them in more quantifiable ways, or is the title rhetorical and you're asking whether it makes sense that characters don't want to be free in this situation? $\endgroup$ – Kamil Drakari Mar 29 '18 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ the real question is how have you not had a revolution, massive income equality is only stable if the majority still live comfortable lives. $\endgroup$ – John Feb 24 at 14:03

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Take a look at slavery in the Ancient Greece, and in the Roman empire, as it closely matches the scenario you're describing:

  • Some slaves had it pretty well off, even going as far as having holidays when they went off on their own, etc

  • Some slaves were treated like animals and died in misery

What is interesting in both systems - and particularly regarding the Romans, who had great power to be cruel to their slaves if they so wished - is that if a slave proved himself truly remarkable, then he may not only be set free, but raised in status within society - become a very influential citizen. They would accept this person without looking down on him for his origins as a slave.

With such an aim in sight, a slave might aspire to more in life than to be property.

However, remove that hope.

Give those about to be sentenced some truly horrific choices: if found guilty, of even a small crime, you are shipped off to a terrible penal colony. Your fate there is practically guaranteed death. Optionally, you may choose to become a slave, and take your chances.

But include a catch:

Once you become a slave, even if freed, you may never regain your full rights as a citizen. You will never be accepted back into society; never hold a job again. And as a former slave, you will be doomed to a life of poverty which would make a tramp in today's world look like a king by comparison.

As a valuable slave, however, your master may reward you with precious gifts, lavish treatment, and even allow you to start a family.

That would work out more or less like what you're asking.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is, almost exactly, the system I've come up with. A felon's a felon (and bankruptcy is a felony), so even though "emancipation" is an option, a freed slave doesn't have the same rights as someone who's never committed a crime (or, at least, never been convicted of one). Suspects who plead guilty and accept slavery avoid the penal factories, where you are treated as a part in a machine, and when you break, you are replaced and discarded or sold for scrap. Given that potential future, most opt for slavery (though the owners of the penal factories are also buying slaves so it's a crap shoot) $\endgroup$ – KeithS Nov 18 '15 at 16:30
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Existential Angst

One of the needs for humans described in Maslow's Hierarchy is self-actualization.

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As a slave, this character would not be free to be whatever he feels he must be. A slave can not choose their own path in life. They're restricted to what they're told to do. In the situation you've given, this would not be a very strong compulsion because they've reached a local maximum. They have most of the things they need, but in order to get higher on the hierarchy, they'd need to give up the more important needs already being satisfied. This is likely the same reason many people today work in jobs they hate, because the alternative is (temporarily) much less appealing.


Then again, being free requires so much responsibility.

However, it takes an exceptionally enlightened individual to not fool themselves into thinking that the almost perfect situation they've got is exactly what they actually want. More likely this character would convince themselves that living a life of service is exactly what fulfills them. They would tell themselves that they'd just be spending the money they earned on exactly the things being provided to them as a slave. They'd think being a slave is more like a job that pays in the goods required for a high quality of life. That they'd never want to leave.

Once they're there for long enough they'd become institutionalized; they'd become more comfortable with being a slave than with the responsibility that comes with being free.

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    $\begingroup$ I would add that being a slave means that any of the levels of the pyramid can suddenly be in jeopardy, and the motivation to resist/fight slavery will instantly increase. If the character's love interest is sold off (love), they end up in the Arena themselves (safety) or the owner starts starving the slaves until a thief among them confesses (physiological), the contentment and support for slavery will be gone, permanently. $\endgroup$ – Cyrus Nov 18 '15 at 6:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Cyrus Agreed, for a time at least. I doubt that many human resolves would last permanently. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Nov 18 '15 at 6:13
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    $\begingroup$ But they would never feel truly safe again after being violated (and disillusioned) like that. $\endgroup$ – Cyrus Nov 18 '15 at 6:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Cyrus I just think disillusionment does not last as long as it feels like it will when it first happens. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Nov 18 '15 at 6:28
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    $\begingroup$ One more addition: The level of the pyramid that a person was focused on before being enslaved will in great part determine their reaction. One struggling to find daily food and escape random violence would welcome a safe and predictable life in slavery (until it turns bad). A proud warrior (self-actualized and high esteem) would give you a Spartacus scenario of violent struggle to be free at any cost. $\endgroup$ – Cyrus Nov 18 '15 at 10:55
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Arguably the same reason some people become entrepreneurs today: the idea (or fact) of having a boss is itself a negative quality-of-life issue.

There are, arguably, some pretty desirable workplaces out there compared to anything you can easily create as an entrepreneur (Google comes to mind, but there are certainly others); nevertheless, some people leave those workplaces to steer their own endeavors. Not nearly as many as in less-enlightened locales, but still a fair number.

In a perhaps overly literal sense, slavery is the extreme case of the "full-time job"; some people will still prefer contract work.

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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, and the proportion in populace is probably going to be quite similar. Most people tend to trade freedoms (and responsibility) for security (and carelessnes) rather easily. And I'm pretty sure that if you combined the worst of those from all the developed countries, you'd find a mix of violations most slavers would shy away from :D $\endgroup$ – Luaan Nov 18 '15 at 11:38
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To answer your first question:

The story of The Dog and the Wolf ends with the wolf telling the dog, "Better to starve free than be a fat slave." Of course, the reason the dog's slavery came up at all was the rope marks on his neck - the dog may have gotten free food, but his freedom was curtailed more than the wolf could bear. Slavery usually conjures images of chains, beatings, starvation, isolation, and the complete removal of human rights. In many cultures, slaves were not even considered human.

Consider jobs in a capitalist economy; jobs exist with great pay, great benefits, many perks and bonuses, and yet still have a high turnover. Even with the obvious positives, enough negatives exist to push people away from those jobs.

There may also be invisible negatives: for instance, a slave that ate nothing but the finest cakes, breads, and beer may be envied by many, but if that slave suffers from Celiac disease, he will be in constant torment, and would much prefer water and dried meat or basic vegetables.

To answer your follow-up question, however, in Rome slaves could own land and use it as their own (though it belonged to their master) and earn their own money. Well-regarded slaves were often freed, which meant they were allowed to vote; many freed slaves became highly regarded citizens. In fact, there is such a thing as voluntary slavery - choosing to be a slave rather than free. It may be that slavery under a good master is preferred to death from starvation with no master. On the other hand, there is always the chance that there are slavers - people actively enslaving the free. In that case, it may be better to choose a master, rather than have one chosen for you.

Further, there are workers today that may seem to be in unstable, poorly paid, or even dangerous jobs that nonetheless will staunchly defend their workplace, even working for free to help their company.

In the end, it comes down to what the slaves themselves believe; I could easily believe that one slave would take up arms to defend his master and his own slavery to keep even a somewhat comfortable lifestyle, while another slave would try daily to escape from what seems like a life of ease.

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Your protagonist wants to get married. But:

  • As a slave, your protagonist is not allowed to marry. Or,
  • As a slave, your protagonist is not allowed to marry a person of that person's class. Or,
  • Your protagonist is restricted geographically, and literally cannot be with the paramour.

Or: Your protagonist is homesick.

Or: Your protagonist is heartsick about the evils of the system, and no longer wants to be a part of it.

Heinlein's novel Farnham's Freehold deals with these themes.

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    $\begingroup$ Or, as a slave, you wife and/or children can be sold to another slaver to never be seen again. $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Nov 18 '15 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ Romance as a story driver is a distinct possibility, even a guarantee, but none of the dynamics or problems you mention are likely in my specific story. This may be helpful to someone else later, though. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Nov 18 '15 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ Does your protagonist realize that marriage is a strong form of slavery and that their statements is very illogical? $\endgroup$ – Mystra007 Nov 19 '15 at 0:07
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The situation you describe for the majority of the "free" people doesn't sound very free. The American Declaration of Independence mentions "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and then says "to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men". And yet in your story, "the government has collapsed". If that is the case, how are rights being secured? It sounds like instead they are being made slaves of a government that captures and sells them at a whim. If the choice is between being a slave to a kind trustworthy master, and being a slave to a mercurial government, then it would seem to make sense to choose the former.

However if there is true freedom to be found, then there are several reasons. First, although the master is nice now, how can the slave be sure the master won't betray him, or die and leave him as an inheritance to someone else? Freedom involves risks, but they are risks a man manages himself. As a slave the man is completely in the hands of fate and the whims of his master.

Second, there is an intrinsic value in the freedom to change your mind for any reason or no reason and all and do something just because you feel like it.

Finally, let me leave you with this:

The story needs a bit of background. During the first quarter of the fifth century b.c., the new empire of Persia was expanding aggressively under two great kings: Darius, up to 486, and then Xerxes. They wanted to conquer the young Greek city-states, and sent expeditionary forces for that purpose. During one of these forays, the city-state of Sparta had killed some Persian envoys by throwing them into a well. In the years that followed, things did not go well for Sparta, and all kinds of bad omens were observed. The Spartans eventually decided they should make some collective restitution for their crime. They therefore called for patriotic citizens willing to go to Persia and offer their own lives in payment for those of the slain ambassadors. Two well-born young Spartan men, Sperthias and Bulis, volunteered. They set out for Susa, the Persian capital.

Persia was a sprawling despotic empire of the pre-modern type. An infallible god-king effected his will through a huge bureaucratic apparatus, the whole thing financed by crushing taxation. ... On their way to Susa the two Spartans — whose selfless mission was well-known, and widely admired — were given hospitality by a high Persian official named Hydarnes. Impressed by these two brave young men, Hydarnes attempted to recruit them into the king's service. "For," he said:

"When ye regard me and mine affairs, ye see that the king knoweth how to honour valiant men. Ye also likewise, if ye would give yourselves unto the king, because ye are esteemed of him to be valiant men, might each of you rule over land in Greece, which the king should give you." Then they answered him thus: "Hydarnes, thy counsel as touching us is not evenly weighed. For, of the one thing thou hast made trial, but of the other thou art without experience: what it is to be a bondservant thou knowest full well, but of freedom thou hast never yet made trial, to know whether it be a sweet thing or not. For if ever thou hadst experience thereof, thou wouldest counsel us to fight for it not with spears only but with axes." Thus they answered Hydarnes.

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    $\begingroup$ "First, although the master is nice now, how can the slave be sure the master won't betray him, or die and leave him as an inheritance to someone else? . . . As a slave the man is completely in the hands of fate and the whims of his master." This is the key. Many historical accounts by slaves say that the insecurity was worse even than the work and the whips. Things might be OK now, but any moment you could be taken away from your home and family forever. $\endgroup$ – Lostinfrance Nov 18 '15 at 7:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Lostinfrance - This is a common theme among answers, and one I discovered independently as well. It's definitely worthy of consideration; no matter what promises the owner makes, and keeps, he can still die, pulling the rug out from the whole thing. As Samuel said, however, the characters are at a "local maximum" on their level of needs over time, and would be just as likely to fight to keep what they have as to fight for the possibility to further improve it, knowing that any change in the status quo, from them or others, will take away everything they have. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Nov 18 '15 at 17:51
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From a philosophical point of view, it is always bad to be a slave, and the institution of slavery is always evil.

From a practical point of view, given the society being described (or historical societies which practiced slavery), being free but being locked out of the sorts of remunerative occupations that would allow you to survive, you are being asked to trade the philosophical ideal for the reality of either starving to death or being captured by slavers and potentially being sold into a much worse situation.

Given the nature of the society you are describing, the only two historical solutions which would seem to have any hope of success would be to raise a slave rebellion (see Spartacus for the Roman example), or to hope an avenging army comes to liberate you (the Boetians liberating the Helots from the Spartans, or the Union armies fighting the Confederacy during the American Civil War). Long range social changes can also take place, where the institution of slavery becomes uneconomical or ethics and morals change again to make the institution of slavery abhorrent to the population (including the elites), but in practical terms, this does not help your character.

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There's always an uncertainty. Once you become someone's possession you could be sold off at any given time. Today you're living the life, tomorrow you could be in the pits.

This risk would normally be perceived as small in the world you describe, because most people don't have the time to worry about the long term. However, if something were to happen to the health or (financial) status of your protagonist's owner/benefactor, the problem would suddenly become more pressing.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was going to post this answer but you beat me to it. Even if you accept the question's premise (slaves have better living conditions than the poor free people - which is almost never the case in reality), that can change at the whim of the owner. Or the owner could sell you to a bad master. Or the owner could die, etc. The slave has no control over his living conditions and can't leave if the situation gets too bad. Raising a family would mean you could be separated at any time too. $\endgroup$ – Jim2B Nov 21 '15 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ You can heighten that uncertainty by having other slaves around the protagonist face that fate (or worse), especially ones the protagonist has grown close to. Have them relax in luxury for a while until they come to realize the precarious uncertainty of the situation. $\endgroup$ – BradC Apr 14 '17 at 16:55
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A while back I had to read Uncle Tom's Cabin in school. I'd actually really recommend it, because it's a great book, and a really interesting insight into the mentality of Americans before the Civil War. But if you don't want to read it, I've spoiled some of the main points below that you may find useful.

What I understood as the central message of the novel is not so much that slavery is bad, or that we should stop having slaves, but instead that humans make for the worst slave owners, and the only good slave owner is God. This message is delivered primarily through the life of the titular Tom. He starts out in Kentucky, which by most accounts seemed to be a nice place for slaves. They were treated nicely, and got along well with their owners. Unfortunately, Tom's owner accumulated some debt, so rather than losing his house he elected to sell Tom and some other slave's infant child. He didn't want to, but he had to, or at least that's how he saw it.

Tom's next owner was a very laid-back individual who let his slaves do the same things he did, mostly involving lounging around the house not doing work. This again was a good owner, and he saw his slaves as no different than himself, but the fact remained that he owned them. When he died, Tom was again sold away, this time all the way down the Mississippi to the worst of the South.

Tom's third owner wanted him to beat other slaves, and when he refused he himself was beaten to death.

What I think Harriet Beecher Stowe was trying to do is make good slaveowners feel bad for owning slaves. She realized she could never get through to the racist, inhuman sadists that treated slaves like animals, but by making good slaveowners realize that they could be damning their own beloved slaves in the event of bankruptcy or death, Stowe was probably able to get some slaves freed. Since it was illegal for slaves to learn to read, I don't know if any of them got to read her book, but I'm sure they, too, realized that no matter how good their lives were, they had absolutely no guarantee it would stay that way. Nothing a slave does can secure lasting happiness except freedom.

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  • $\begingroup$ The owner in question here tells his slaves that his will frees them (with an exception if his death is an intentional act by a slave, so they don't get any ideas), and without going into too much detail he's in zero danger of going bankrupt given the status quo (providing some dissonance; the slaves of this owner have it really good, and if anything's done to improve the lives of the masses, it will ultimately hurt them). $\endgroup$ – KeithS Nov 18 '15 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithS I guess the general form of Stowe's argument as I understand it is that humans are bad slaveowners because they aren't perfect. Similarly, characters are usually more interesting and well-rounded if they have some big human imperfection. So either this guy has a flaw that could prove dangerous/inconvenient to his slaves, or he's perfect and might as well be God, in which case slavery really turns out to be the same thing as freedom. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Nov 18 '15 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ Good point. I don't want to create "simple good" any more than "simple evil"; the owner has his flaws, and the character realizes this life is not utopia. But, I don't want the status quo to be shattered by or because of the owner. That's too simple; the world comes crashing down around the slaves' ears, the owner's to blame for paradise lost, the character realizes there's really no such thing as "good slavery" and fights for change. I want a story that forces the character (and reader) to make a truly difficult choice between fighting to change the system and fighting to keep their life. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Nov 18 '15 at 18:12
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Ignoring issues of personal autarchy, I suspect the reason you're having problems is that your situation doesn't seem to make much sense. If the protagonist "finds themselves living an enslaved life that most people still living free could only dream of.", the question is - why is slavery necessary to fill the jobs? If the conditions are so great, why can't the employer find regular employees? Traditionally, slavery has meant that the slaves don't get paid well and have a noticeably lower standard of living than non-slaves. Either that, or the condition of slavery brings non-economic costs to the slaves: chattel slavery works on the principle that slaves are things, like farm animals, and can be abused or killed with impunity as long as the master's property rights are respected. This generally extends to sexual control as well. Some societies (such as the Romans) have practiced what you might call a restricted form of slavery, and cultural norms may modify the practice of slavery, so you'll have to give some thought to just how slavery works in your society.

If conditions in the job are so great, what does the owner get from owning slaves rather than paying less money for the same labor from freemen? That would seem to be the heart of the problem.

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    $\begingroup$ You raise excellent points which I address in the actual story. The first and foremost reason the owning character chooses slaves is because he's a man, all his slaves are women, and that's for a very easy-to-guess reason. This is a fact I omitted from my question to try to make it more general and SFW, but you hinted at it in your answer. Thus the first reason is very simple; a slave has no standing to sue, including for divorce, taking half his net worth and a big chunk of future income. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Nov 18 '15 at 23:07
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    $\begingroup$ He could theoretically still use paid "help" for this same purpose, but those people could get fed up and walk out and he'd need to find someone else. The basic idea of a slave is convenient to avoid this. But, the owner toes the line; especially in a situation like this, morale works better than threats as a motivator. So, the life is good, the slaves get some say in how they "play the game", and the owner, much like a Roman consul, has plenty of money coming in from the real world to keep this mini-utopia running at least for the present. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Nov 18 '15 at 23:20
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithS - "but those people could get fed up and walk out " does not conform well to the OP "living an enslaved life that most people still living free could only dream of." $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Nov 18 '15 at 23:38
  • $\begingroup$ @KiethS - Rich men have had the ability to get women of lower social standing into bed without enslaving them at the same time throughout history. Again, why bother with the added burden of enslaving them and having to care for them after you are tired of them? $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Nov 18 '15 at 23:51
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    $\begingroup$ @KeithS: it sounds like you're describing a situation where the slave-owner thinks that the conditions are superior to the conditions under which free people live, but in point of fact they are not (at least not for everyone), as proved by the fact that free people in the same gig get up and walk out. One might think sexual service a small price to pay for a soft life, but the people on the other end of the bargain think otherwise. Slavery as a convenience to avoid hiring into vacancies only make sense if you enjoy interviewing less than you enjoy those slaves who'd prefer to leave. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Nov 19 '15 at 12:23
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It is interesting in the Old Testament that the ancient Hebrews (after they themselves as a nation had been slaves in Egypt) owned slaves after the Exodus, but if a Hebrew due to debt sold himself into servitude, it was in the form of an endenture so that there was always hope of freedom. A foreign slave could be held for 7 years, but then had to be freed; but it he or she liked the family, there was a ceremony (piercing the ear with an awl on a door-jamb--there was some cultural reason for this, but I forget what) that enabled them to by choice to remain a slave for life. Apparently this was not uncommon! The Jewish religion had strict rules for slave-owners, including giving slaves the sabbath to rest; and being kind to them --this was enlightened for the ancient world.

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Is this reversal of the norm for a slave system outwardly plausible, even if I acknowledge the norm exists?

It's plausible, but it relies on the unnecessary generosity of the slave owner.

Imagine a coffee shop that pays its staff double what any other coffee shop does. It's completely plausible that this will happen, since coffee shop owners are free to pay their staff what they choose and you are entitled to write whimsical or otherwise abnormal characters. However, this coffee shop needs to compete with other coffee shops, and the owner has to overcome the temptation to hire staff for half as much. Unless there's some tangible benefit in "over-paying" the staff (which this shop discovers and in the long run probably drives up coffee shop wages by discovering it), the market is going to punish the decision somehow. But of course free markets are rife with failed or failing experiments!

Your slave's owner is in a similar position: they have to somehow fund their generosity, and they have to be truly committed to it to avoid their standards slipping. Every time they disagree with a slave over something, or they need a bit more space for their books, or have a lot of work that needs doing, what stops them using the whip or making the slaves' quarters less spacious, or increasing their workload? Only their personal belief that they should put their slaves' needs ahead of their own to a certain point.

They also need a reason why they're using slaves for this job, instead of getting free people to do it in return for bed and board. Since the slave's situation is preferable to freedom, surely a deal could be done to make the same role attractive to free people but without involving slavery. And if the goal is philanthropy, the slave-owner needs a reason why they're giving a small number of people a large advantage over then norm, in preference to some other arrangement in which they give a larger number of people a smaller advantage over the norm (for example, they could shelter and care for more poor unfortunates by providing slightly less palatial living standards, or they could free their slaves but offer them the choice to stay and work). I'm not saying they should choose differently in order to be plausible, just that the reader needs some idea what their thinking is.

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I've read a few books that have pretty much this exact situation, and they tend to fall into three categories:

  1. The slave is the protagonist. Their reasons for wanting to be free are never explicitly stated - they are just assumed, and since no-one in the world of the book ever brings it up or questions it, the reader doesn't either. This is part of suspension of disbelief - sometimes, to get the plot rolling, a character has to do something "just because".

  2. The slave is a schemer. They have some sort of plan going on, and are acting politically - for instance, maybe they have been bribed my their masters enemy to escape, so as to embarrass him. Or maybe they just want to make a political point about the ethics of slavery, running away so that the media can print a "slaves are never happy" story. In any case, they want something, and "escaping" is part of getting it.

  3. The slave is a supporting character - sidekick or love interest. In this case, they want to be free because they have a connection to the main character, and they value being with them more than their comfortable lifestyle.

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Enough people have focused on the first question. I will apply myself to the second. Yes, it's plausible to have people that prefer slavery to freedom, for a number of reasons.

  • Some people are honestly wired that way. There are people who just want to belong and be told what to do, and, yes, even to be the at-least-somewhat valued possession of a good owner (with somewhat personalized definitions of "good"). I've met some of them. (note: This is not apologetics for slavery. So far as I'm aware, the vast majority of actual slaves were not like this. I'm just saying that it's a thing that does happen with some people.)

  • Even for those who don't go that far, there's a strong resonance in loyalty. If the slaves feel that their master actually cares about them and cares for them, then that's the sort of thing that will tend to garner loyalty in return. Having a leader who values you, provides for you, is shielding you from the horrors of the outside world, and just asks reasonable tasks in return? That has some deep resonance in the human animal, at a level that doesn't care all that much about legalistic details.

  • Even without the above, Stockholm syndrome is a thing.

A lot of it depends on treatment - specifically, how the slaves feel the master feels about them, and how much they respect and/or value the master in return. Again, our animals bits don't inherently care about legalities, but they do care about human relationships. A life where you are putting total control in the hands of someone who sees you as a disposable thing to be used until it has no further value and then discarded feels very different from one where that same control is put in the hands of someone you can trust to expend effort on your behalf if need be.

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It's quite possible that they would not want to become free again. As Samuel pointed out:

However, it takes an exceptionally enlightened individual to not fool themselves into thinking that the almost perfect situation they've got is exactly what they actually want. More likely this character would convince themselves that living a life of service is exactly what fulfills them.

Also, they could realize that they would quite possibly end up a slave again anyway - and in a much different household! - and wisely (?) decide to stay 'enslaved'.

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Suppose your protagonist is a rascal. He likes to gamble (that might be why he fell into slavery in the first place), he likes to experience new things, he is charming and unpredictable. He might get the master's daughter (or wife!) pregnant. He's willing to experience the cushy life for a while, but then he gets bored and wants to move on to a new experience. Imagine Jack Dawson (of the Titanic movie) in this situation… what would he do?

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I read the posts before and now. I know I don't have any right to write this but I'd like to tell you some things which may tell you why some slaves or servants want to be free and why some don't want to be free (Warning I'm not shaming the Catholic or Christian religion, I am merely speaking the truth):

Perhaps the reason why some slaves want to be free is because they are actually intelligent people and knew staying as slaves would decrease their chances of work or education outside their owner's home.

While some owners may use corporal punishments or whips to punish their slaves, if they misbehave. Other owners who are kind wouldn't do it, they don't have the heart to harm another human with less rights. Try to think of it if you were in the slave's position and ended up with an abusive master won't you first feel afraid and attempt to run the first chance you got? To return to your actual home where it is safe and your family is present to take care of you? Unless the owner is actually kind and does not abuse nor misuse his own power over the slave itself. Rather let the slave decide whether he/she would want to continue living in servitute to the master's family.

To most people slavery is wrong, but if one were to look at it in a Christian perspective it actually makes a lot of sense. The more you fight for 'freedom' the more the slave or servant rather ends up being hurt, In a worldly manner. However if the servant or slave obeys its Master's bidding then there won't be any problem at all. I should know given that I come from a Catholic family. I won't lie but there were times when my own paternal relatives would abuse their power over me, I tried to fight it but then it got worse and I would probably become bitter, prideful, rebellious and uncaring had I not learned forgiveness, obedience and to be submissive. Even it came with the feeling of fear in my heart not for my own self but for my sibling back then.

There's actually freedom in being a servant as long as the person knows who he or she is serving and as long as the master is not abusive. A slave would rather choose that sort of life rather than trying to be independent and able to provide its own needs.

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    $\begingroup$ This sounds more like an apologetic attempt than an answer attempt. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Mar 29 '18 at 10:03
  • $\begingroup$ There is freedom in slavery. Must be the first time I've seen this. Is English your native language? $\endgroup$ – Vincent Mar 29 '18 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Vincent "freedom from responsibility for making your -- probably poor -- own decisions" is probably what he's referring to. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 29 '18 at 16:44

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