Written on March 17, 2009. Written by .

There are basically three ways to legally make money: you can be an employee, an entrepreneur, or a freelancer. From a moral point of view, these can be seen approximately as exploitee, exploiter, and the ideal worker (here I am using “entrepreneur” to mean someone who employs others).

The concept of employment is inherently problematic. It is not necessarily immoral, but it creates a situation where one party has much more leverage than the other. The employer is interacting directly with the market. He or she can usually pull another employee from the labor pool without much difficulty. The employee on the other hand, will often have some trouble being out of work and will suffer large losses in accrued benefits and perhaps moving expenses. These losses serve as a large deterrent to leaving, even if the pay is less than fair. Since most employees are in the same position, the market rate of wages will be depressed.

Today, there are many jobs that wouldn’t work well with freelancing, but these are also the jobs that are gradually being replaced with machines. Perhaps in the future both eployees and entrepreneurs will become extinct to be replaced by freelancers. I feel that this is a more natural arrangement, and in many ways more ideal. In the past, freelancing was more prevalent than it is today. Employment has become more and more dominant due to the growth and globalization of industries. Not so long ago, each village would have its own freelance shoemaker. Now it is so easy to ship shoes around the world that only a few super-efficient manufacturers can compete. And in many industries, there are high barriers to entry that prevent potential freelancers or entrepreneurs from even trying to enter. If a small group of entrepreneurs dominate each industry, then the rest of the population has to work for them to make a living.

I see this as being unfortunate not just because of the economic exploitation, but because employment seems to have negative effects on psychology. Employees have to behave carefully and this leads to the issues mentioned in the post on Fear and Maturity. Employees need to suppress their free-thinking spirits so as not to risk termination. This makes the society as a whole less fun and interesting.

I can see great commercial products being developed by networks of contractors, working in rented offices so that they can surround themselves with like-minded workers. To make this happen, the first step would be to relieve people of the need for income. Geolibertarianism is consistent with the provision of living expenses to all citizens. If people could live without income, they would feel more comfortable quitting their jobs to work as freelancers. When this happens, a phase shift could occur as it becomes easier to find freelance work because there are fewer employees in the labor pool, so potential employers are forced to look for freelancers. I don’t see this happening anytime soon, but I think it is a possibility for the future.

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