What if we all owned our own work?

You all already know I’m not a fan of Capitalism, or at least how it is practiced in most of the world at present. And, I’m not a fan of Communism, either. As I’ve said before, I’m basically a libertarian socialist (or a social anarchist, I’m not sure which of those two phrases I like better, even though they basically mean the same thing.)

But one thing that is very good about the current state of things is that it is easy for people to work for themselves. Of course “easy” is relative. In practical terms, if one is unemployed, especially in a field were jobs are really hard to come by, it would probably be as easy to spend all those hours figuring out how to make money on your own, than looking for a job that isn’t there. Of course, if you are already employed, then making the jump to work on your own is harder.

And working on your own is risky. There’s no weekly/monthly paycheck. No health insurance guaranteed, no nice retirement benefits automatically accruing. It can be hard imagining living that way, especially if you have kids. But you can start out slow. Start out part-time. Put your toes in the water, as it were.

Some business ideas (like massage therapy, or acupuncture) take training or degrees (and that means money.) Some business ideas take working capital (like opening a restaurant, or a store.) But many business ideas don’t need either. And I’m not taking about those manifestly exploitative “work from home” schemes you see in advertising. I’m talking about working for yourself, really for yourself.

One of my heroes is Bo, a Vermonter, who, with a clever idea and a silkscreen printer made a business for himself, and even has employees now. For every Bo, there are thousands of other people who’ve made similar ideas grow.

I’ve been working for myself for over a decade, now, doing technology work, in a varied number of configurations, but all of which have been me, and sometimes a few others, working for ourselves, owning our own work. Technology work, if you have the inclination, is actually one of the easier fields to break into as a self-educated person. And there are lots and lots of resources to get you going, and learning. (Email me if you want some tips.) And I’m not talking about high-faluting start-ups. I’m just talking about regular Janes and Joes, working at home (or in cafes or in co-working spaces,) churning out code, technical writing, or advice, and getting paid for it.

If we really want to change the world, owning our own work, and doing ethical work that people need would be a great first step, and a step that is very doable now. And, of course, the flip-side of this is that we all need to prioritize our spending on people who own their own work. Need a t-shirt? Buy one from Bo. Need soap? Buy some from the local soap-maker you know. It’s more expensive, but if everyone did it, it would make a huge difference.

If by buying small and local as much as we can, we create local markets for goods and services people provide, it makes more and more room for individuals to own their own work. The more people there are who work for themselves, and the more people buy from those people, the less hold corporations have on ourselves, and our country.