The importance of earning was apparent in both American Citizenship by Judith N. Shklar and The Life of Frederick Douglass written by Frederick Douglass. In each reading, the inability to earn is compared to having a lack of freedom. Shklar compares the issue of earning to being a slave whereas Douglass’s account gives the reader concrete proof. Shklar also conceptualizes the principle of inclusion. The idea that an elite “group” who can both vote and earn and are considered true citizens. The members within this “group” continue to push back towards others trying to pervade the boundary set in place. They continue to make the “club” more elite and harder to join. This idea is extremely present in Douglass’s writing as he reflects on his time as a slave.
Douglass recalls heading to Baltimore to work strenuously all day and being forced to hand his money over to his master once he was done. His master kept Douglass from his earnings as a way to keep Douglass away from the idea of freedom. His master understood that by keeping Douglass’s profit and keeping him from earning for himself, he was keeping Douglass from being a citizen. As slaves, they were not regularly allowanced for their long, laborious days. They were not compensated and the lacked the ability to earn for themselves. They had no right to earn, thus in Shklar’s ideology, they were not true citizens for “we are citizens only if we ‘earn’” (Shklar, 67).
Another aspect of this argument is the role education plays in being a citizen. Douglass believes education is a key step to earning. He recalls his master, Mr. Auld, forbading Mrs. Auld to teach Douglass how to read and write. Mr. Auld believed that once a slave learned to read, “there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would become unmanageable, and of no value to his master” (Douglass, 338). This only made Douglass more eager to learn. It’s this action of not allowing slaves to better themselves that follows Shklar’s idea that those within the bounds of citizenship push to keep others out. Mr. Auld is keeping Douglass from permeating the boundaries of this elite “group”. He is kept in the dark of these injustices to keep him from rebelling. With education comes more desirable jobs. Why would someone labor if they are capable of doing something more?
Although slavery is no longer an issue today, the idea of citizenship as theorized by Shklar is still present. To really be a true citizen, one must be able to both vote and earn. The ability to earn gives you freedom. Whether it may be the freedom to spend your earnings how you so choose or the freedom to earn how you wish, freedom is gained through earning. Another aspect of this argument is the role of education. With education comes more desirable jobs and better ways to earn. With education, a slave can permeate the boundaries of citizenship.