Like most of you reading this, I’ve done my share of years in the conventional business world. I’ve worked inside a cubicle, in my own office, driven from client to client all day, and attended the company Christmas party. (Are they still allowed to say Christmas party? Or is it the Year-End Festive Social Event now?)
In all of those circumstances, I had a boss. And he had a boss. In that arrangement, there’s always a system of conformity. There are specified hours of work, specified time limits to get assignments done, specified dress codes, specified pay brackets, specified codes of conduct, and of course, TPS reports – with the new cover page. It’s not that any of these specifications are intrinsically evil, or even negative, but they are by definition, constraints. And bosses enforce these constraints. That’s a big part of their job.
As an employee, you can’t decide to switch Thursdays for Sundays, or start work at 6pm and stop at 4am, or drink a gin and tonic while you work on what you’re writing. Or all three at the same time. Because the boss will fire you and your income will drop to zero overnight.
I haven’t had a boss in over twenty years and I don’t miss that life whatsoever.
The Only Thing Better
I’ve also been a boss inside a large company, and I’ve owned my own company. And there is one thing better than not having a boss — it’s not having employees. Having employees is getting more and more like having children because, as a business owner, you are responsible for them day and night for decades.
If an employee can’t work for any of a dozen reasons you still have to pay him. If he has a substance abuse problem, or an anger problem, or a cultural insensitivity problem, those are all your financial responsibility to correct. If your employee upsets or insults anyone in the workplace it’s your financial responsibility to compensate for the mental anguish caused.
And whatever authority granted permission for you to have a business is a not-so-silent partner demanding 20-30% of whatever annual pay you provide to each employee. In places like Italy and Brazil, you might be forced to pay 50% or more of whatever you pay your employees. You get nothing for this extra expense, and the employees get increasingly little, what with ‘austerity’ being the new global watchword.
And nothing beats Europe for how far the entitlement mentality can go among employees. When France asked the CEO of US tire manufacturer Titan if he wanted to take over a French plant operated by Goodyear, the CEO famously replied, “How stupid do you think we are? I have visited that factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three hours. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!”
A year later the employees of the same French tire factory took senior managers hostage (!) and made demands of either a new owner or a plant closing that included “A departure plan for everyone with an enormous amount of money.” And they got it. The average severance was $170,000 per worker.
The New Option
The twenty-first century is offering a far better option for those of us with the right sensibilities. While some people neither want nor could adapt to these new circumstances, for those of us who can it’s a solution almost too good to believe.
It’s now possible to make a very lucrative and rewarding income without having a boss and without having employees.
It’s now possible to live in any corner of the world and operate a business without the permission of any government or central authority.
It’s now possible to protect that business and its revenue from theft, fraud, and confiscation by distributing elements of it globally.
Rather than having employees, every aspect of labor can be contracted to other willing people somewhere in the world under mutually agreeable and desirable terms and conditions.
Rather than being under the jurisdiction of a local political authority; incorporation, income, expenses, investing and other aspects of normal business operations can be divided among many legal jurisdictions.
Rather than being an employee held captive in one politically defined location, a person can legally reside in one country, work for his own company in another country, bank in a third country, and travel at will for pleasure and personal enrichment.
This is no hypothetical pipe dream. There are many thousands of people doing it right now. Perhaps there are millions. Nobody knows for sure because there is no central authority keeping tabs on them. Think about that for a moment. There could be millions of people living and working on their own terms and they don’t report to any single overseer.
I know I’m one of these people and have been for over fifteen years, but I don’t know if the person reading this is one. You might be a boss. Or you might be an employee. If you are, I hope it’s exactly what you want and what you always dreamed of.
But if it isn’t, just remember there is a new option these days.