This simple fact eludes the more vocal proponents of liberty. They may rail about taxes and “the government”, but they grow very silent about the tyranny in employment. This inconsistency is why their libertarian appeals strike most of us as hollow and, when coming from our bosses, blatantly hypocritical. We mutter under our breath: “Liberty for you, boss, but slavery for us.” Then we toe the company-mandated line.
This is not to say that the bosses are also not free. In the larger firms, the bosses have bosses of their own, who can fire them. Under that threat, as under our own, the bosses can be compelled to work late at night, to lose the rest and relaxation of the weekends, or to come back from a family vacation. To that subservience is added the task of firing employees, even friends, that their bosses do not want to fire in person. To complete the degradation, a boss can be ordered to come back from a family vacation to terminate the consultants working under him. On the Ides of March. I know because I witnessed it; as an employee, rather than a contractor in that case, I was briefly spared until my new boss fired me.
The uber-bosses also have a valid complaint, but it is because the various governments which they coalesce into “the government” are among their bosses, telling them how to run their businesses. These are also the bosses of the independent and solitary shopkeeper or artisan. Yet there are other bosses of business owners: the prospective and actual customers, their landlords, and their investors or bankers. All these are telling them what to do and when to do it, with the same loss of weekends, holidays, and family vacations which afflict the mere worker. To this lack of liberty, my fellow entrepreneurs can attest.
Nor does the dominion over the bosses end there. There are laws telling us how to conduct our lives, and societies bossing us around. Man-made morality declares some of us to be good and the rest evil, and these declarations are viciously imposed by societies. The same edicts are the very basis of democracy, determining who are in the “people” category — therefore ruler-material — and who are in the “not-people” category — hence ruled-material. Democracy creates formal laws to that end, creating crimes out of whole-cloth. Society and democracy are also our bosses.
What, then, do we do to ensure liberty? Do we eliminate the bosses? That could get very bloody and the generals in such a battle would become the new bosses.
The answer is rather to liberate ourselves so that we are not in a position of having bosses. For what are bosses in the conventional sense but our employers, the people through whom we get wages for our labor. The way the bosses get their power over us is our dependence on wages for our survival income. If our survival income, the provision of the necessities, came from a source other than employment, bosses in the conventional sense would have no power. Indeed, if the provision of the necessities was unconditional, subject to nobody’s authority or approval, then there would be no bosses, conventional or otherwise. Instead, the act of laboring in concert would be collegial, only doing what the workers mutually agree to do.
There would also be no need of morality, nor of society, nor of democracy, for all of those are institutions of slavery and rule, the very antithesis of liberty. In their place, there would be love, communism, and republican stewardship. If this is unbelievable to you, there is in your beliefs too much of an assumption of slavery, preventing your acceptance of freedom.
[See my book, “Popular Capitalism”, for an exposition of this theme in a reformulation of political economy.]