This term should be offensive to actual slaves. What do you think a real slave would say if he saw a free worker (who could at any moment quit, go to another employer, start a business, move to another country, go on holiday, join the army, become a priest, or just sit there slacking off safe in the knowledge that the worst thing that can happen is getting fired) complaining that he was a slave too?
I think slaves have bigger concerns in their lives than being offended to semantic technicalities. That aside, I think you sort of hit the point that even though we DO rely on our wage to survive, it's our choice and we have other options, which is what makes us different than the sweatshot workers.
Right. All they have to do is sell their kids so that they need less space (cheaper housing) and don't need to spend money on education, and then "wing it" with regard to health insurance. "Just don't get sick" is great advice that I'd give to anyone in this country; I mean, can you believe that people in the US think they have the right to get cancer? The fucking nerve of some people.
[Follow-up: On a serious note, I know that's an obnoxious reply, but I'm sick of conservatives who somehow believe the problem is that people are spending too much on unnecessary things. There is some of that, but most bankruptcies come from the big-ticket items-- housing, healthcare, and education-- which ought to be affordable.]
I think you make a useful point. At a high level of abstraction "real slavery" and "wage slavery" seem very similar but for the people who were / are really affected it's a world of difference. It puts things in perspective.
There should be a word for this kind of thing: where you argue something moderately is bad by labelling it as a form of something universally acknowledged to be really bad. Terms like "wage slavery", "cultural genocide" or "raping the natural environment" fall into this category, and they all annoy me.
Perhaps this abuse of the language should be called "verbal bestiality".
The intersection of programmers and people-who-feel-sorry-for-themselves consists of a bunch of people who will abstract away from reality until they've convinced themselves that they are somehow a victim.
Depends on the kind of slavery. Slavery has been a fixture of most economies, with the degree of force and inflexibility variable across societies. In one phase of the Ottoman Empire, slaves could own land and armies... but were still slaves. Likewise, dalits and buraku can become very wealthy because they're doing work that no one wants to do, but their status as low-class individuals persists. Some variants of slavery (such as modern sex slavery and early American racial/hereditary slavery) are brutal and horrible; others have been more benign.
The state of the American proletariat is not quite slavery, but it's getting there. It's a state of diminishing leverage that, uncorrected, will lead to a slave economy. In first-world countries like the EU and Canada, it's unimaginable that someone would lose everything because of a health problem. Now, if you want to avoid (err, make less probable) this fate, you have to get a job that provides health insurance. (Don't even get me started on the terrorist attack we call the individual health insurance market.)