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Self-employed update: Do we really need saving from ourselves?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

At ICA, we come across all sort of weird attacks on the self-employed. But one of the strangest is that we ‘screw over ourselves’. That was the argument mounted in California’s self-described ‘premier monthly business publication’, Comstock.

The ‘save us from ourselves’ argument was essentially the justification for Australia’s recent (fortunately failed) attempt to destroy the businesses of 35,000 owner-drivers. Lawyers are preparing the case for the class action to recover losses. Info here.

The ‘battle’ is global. In the USA the New York Times reports that the rise in the self-employed over the last decade accounts for all of the growth in employment and that this trend is the ‘great fear of labour activists’. This is exactly the same trend seen in the UK.

But the aggressive, destructive action by ‘labour activists’ is being directed heavily toward the ‘gig’ economy. Iain Murray describes the attempts in Washington to restrict airbnb. This sort of campaign is being encouraged by the likes of high profile Senator Elizabeth Warren. Broadly, they want to force people who are independent contractors into being de facto employees. It’s a ‘kill by stealth’ tactic, as we saw with Australian owner-drivers.

Much of the process involves disempowerment of self-employed people and replacing that with consolidation of union power. The US Department of Labor is in on the process, pushing new ‘misclassification’ interpretations. But others accept that the sharing economy is outpacing regulators who need to respond positively. The US Tax code is one being challenged. What regulators don’t understand is that the ‘new’ workers hold different values.

ICA's UK sister organization, IPSE, recently held a wide-ranging discussion on a number of these issues. And the most recent IPro Index gives important profile understandings.


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