Author Topic: The entrepreneurial mindset vs. the wage-serf norm  (Read 726 times)

David VanDyke

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The entrepreneurial mindset vs. the wage-serf norm
« on: January 03, 2019, 08:10:31 AM »
(/mild rant alert/)

I almost said "wage slave," but I didn't want to be too harsh. However, I wanted something stronger than "wage-earner," especially when referring to those in free societies.

Now, there's nothing wrong with being a wage-earner--in fact, it's honorable, individually.

However, for a society, it can cause a pernicious warping of values and mindsets, promoting over-reliance on authority (the stick) rather than opportunity (the carrot) as a driver of the economy and society.

Wage-earning is by nature authoritarian, even in the most entrepreneurial corporations. If you get paid a wage, you are beholden to your boss. You can get fired for one mistake. You naturally look to the authority structure for your validation rather than yourself--though if the corporation is flexible, with bonuses and quick promotions, this problem can be mitigated.

If you're an entrepreneur, it's just you and those you work with and your customers. Nobody can fire you, though if you depend on just one other business (*cough Amazon) you may find yourself as a kind of voluntary wage serf after all, but that's another discussion.

The worst wage-serf societies historically have been the old communists, now mostly gone except for N. Korea and Cuba, but think of pre-1991 USSR and China, where there was almost no private business and everything was collectivized and top-down (note: not looking for a political discussion here, but rather, an economic one). But as soon as their economies were liberalized, economic activity exploded--so there are always people who are natural entrepreneurs.

But there are people who are natural wage-serfs, too, and we have to watch out for them and their insidious anti-entrepreneur viewpoint.

I write this because of a FB comment I saw recently. The representative of a local family-owned ski area was bemoaning the fact that the sheriffs' department closed the road due to heavy snow--heavy for Arizona, anyway. Northerners would laugh, of course. But the roads did need to be plowed, and near the summit, there was ice and snow on the roads. So, perfect for the ski area itself, not so good for unprepared drivers. Anyone with snow tires, 4WD and/or chains should have been fine, of course.

What's my point? One jerk called the ski rep "greedy" for hoping the road would soon be opened to those with proper tires and vehicles, and hoping that soon the roads would be completely clear and dry. Yeah, "greedy" for a family-owned business to actually, wonder of wonders, provide the service and make their money for the year, especially since the ski season at this particular place is usually only 2-3 months. This jerk complained that taxpayer money might be spent to clear the roads and enforce the "proper equipment" rule, and that some idiots might crash themselves anyway, and the emergency services would have to rescue them, and that would cost more taxpayer money, and why should people down in the desert pay for clearing the snow for people who live up on the mountain?

That set me to thinking, and I remembered other instances of calling businesses "greedy" for simply doing their jobs. I've seen indie authors called "greedy" for charging more than 2.99 for an ebook, though seldom have I seen publishers called greedy for charging 12.99. I've been the target of the ire of people who complain that I shouldn't charge at all for my books "because there's no cost to print." One benighted soul thought I should make all my books free as soon as I'd made my costs back--so apparently I should work for free and never have any aspirations of actually building a business.

I didn't reply, but I wanted to reply with "How'd you like to work for nothing but room and board?"

Note, some businesses are greedy, especially big ones with high-paid executives and no care for society. I get that. But there's still this idea out there that anyone who wants to make money and build a business is somehow "greedy." Yeesh.

 



Never listen to people with no skin in the game.

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LilyBLily

Re: The entrepreneurial mindset vs. the wage-serf norm
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2019, 11:46:10 AM »
To heck with them. They're the people who show up at the yard sale before it opens and try to buy your stuff for mere pennies. Chiselers.
 
If you want free books, go to the public library. If you want my books free, ask your library to purchase them.

 
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CoraBuhlert

Re: The entrepreneurial mindset vs. the wage-serf norm
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2019, 12:20:40 PM »
I have no problems with wage earners. It's the right choice for many people and some jobs pretty much require dependent employment. However, I've been my own boss for so long now that I no longer have a wage earner mindset. The last time I had a wage job, I left after only a few months. I enjoyed the actual work, but the whole office politics crap just annoyed me and I didn't fit into the toxic culture of that place either. Taxes and social insurance fees were also a lot higher than what I pay as a freelancer.

Now Germany is not a particularly friendly place for self-employed people. There's still a persistent mindset that everybody should have permanent full-time employment with all social benefits and that if some people don't have such jobs, this is a horrible social ill that must be corrected rather than a personal choice, because no one can possibly choose to be self-employed or work limited term contracts or work part time. And the attempts to fix this perceived social ill usually make the situation worse for everybody.  :HB

There's also the belief that freelancers and entrepreneurs are all wealthy (some are, many aren't) and the fact that health insurance companies always seem to assume that freelancers are lying about their income, when the most rampant health and social insurance fraud doesn't happen with freelancers, but with small businesses like restaurants, etc....  :HB

I know the phenomenon that David describes, too, but that's not only a entrepreneur versus wage earner thing, but a general case of "Why do my taxes pay for something I don't personally use?", which always tells me that those folks have no idea how taxes even work (or pensions or health insurance or anything really).  :HB

Anyway, everybody should have the choice to work in the way that suits them best. Many people prefer the security of full-time employment and that's perfectly fine. Just let the rest of us work in the way we prefer.

 

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David VanDyke

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Re: The entrepreneurial mindset vs. the wage-serf norm
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2019, 04:36:40 AM »
Bumping to unlock.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.

I'm a lucky guy. I find the harder I work, the luckier I am.
 

Matthew

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Re: The entrepreneurial mindset vs. the wage-serf norm
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2019, 05:10:16 AM »
Conversations covering this topic tend to devolve quickly, you were right not to respond. It generally centers and heavy anti-capitalism to which I have two thoughts:

First, human psychology is weird and it's my personal belief from most economic systems that have been tried, capitalism (not left unchecked) is the best. Socialism is often what people who make these sorts of arguments are also keen on -- but the reality is humans are too fickle and opinionated to accept any sort of utopia where everything is equal. It seems to me there's a fundamental human need to compete, and money is a good motivator as hard work can lead to great success. This is a complicated topic, and there's no perfect solution as far as I'm concerned. Let's not turn this thread into a warzone, but healthy discussion drives society forward.

Second: Even if a person doesn't want / like / support capitalism, it's what many countries are doing. You can work for change to your own ideologies while still using the current capitalistic system.
 

Dennis Chekalov

Re: The entrepreneurial mindset vs. the wage-serf norm
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2019, 05:32:04 AM »
Quote
The worst wage-serf societies historically have been the old communists,
think of pre-1991 USSR

Actually, it was just the opposite. In the USSR, no one could fire you. That's was the problem. You are drinking hard the whole time? Nobody can fire you. You are producing crap? Nobody can fire you. You are doing nothing? Nobody can fire you. You literary couldn't lose your job in the USSR. Obviously, this led to many problems.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2019, 05:35:12 AM by Dennis Chekalov »
 

David VanDyke

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Re: The entrepreneurial mindset vs. the wage-serf norm
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2019, 07:52:34 AM »
Quote
The worst wage-serf societies historically have been the old communists,
think of pre-1991 USSR

Actually, it was just the opposite. In the USSR, no one could fire you. That's was the problem. You are drinking hard the whole time? Nobody can fire you. You are producing crap? Nobody can fire you. You are doing nothing? Nobody can fire you. You literary couldn't lose your job in the USSR. Obviously, this led to many problems.

Good point--but there were things that could be done short of firing to make you miserable, and there was no way to quit or get away from your boss, or from the State. A two-way street, but one where the worker's lane was extremely narrow.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.

I'm a lucky guy. I find the harder I work, the luckier I am.
 

CoraBuhlert

Re: The entrepreneurial mindset vs. the wage-serf norm
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2019, 12:24:20 PM »
Quote
The worst wage-serf societies historically have been the old communists,
think of pre-1991 USSR

Actually, it was just the opposite. In the USSR, no one could fire you. That's was the problem. You are drinking hard the whole time? Nobody can fire you. You are producing crap? Nobody can fire you. You are doing nothing? Nobody can fire you. You literary couldn't lose your job in the USSR. Obviously, this led to many problems.

This matches what I've seen in Communist East Germany pre-1989. East Germany actually had a "right to work" enshrined in its constitution, so even the sort of people who weren't really employable had "make work" jobs like five or six people needlessly sweeping floors in an East Berlin railway station at 10 PM, a job that one person could have done, or parking lot attendants overseeing half empty parking lots (they really loved Western cars, though, and always gave them a particularly good spot).

On the flip side, not working, refusing to work or rejecting the jobs the government assigned you (because they would do that, if you didn't find work on your own) would quickly get you in trouble and branded as "lazy" or "anti-social". And if you pissed off the government in some way, e.g. by applying to emigrate to West Germany, they'd promptly reassign you to the worst jobs they could find, e.g. a teachers were demoted to toilet cleaners and the like.

After unification, unemployment exploded in former East Germany, because companies fired a lot of excess workers (and not just the completely useless ones either), while others closed down altogether. West German companies bought up East German rivals, stripped them off assets and fired half the work force. There also was at least one case, a West German shipyard was sacrificed and lots of people lost their jobs, because the German government preferred to save an East German shipyard instead. This happened after approximately fifteen years of the West German government steadfastly refusing to support our shipyards, while happily propping up coal mines, steelworks and the like, because North West Germn jobs apparently don't matter.     

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Dennis Chekalov

Re: The entrepreneurial mindset vs. the wage-serf norm
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2019, 04:22:09 PM »
there were things that could be done short of firing to make you miserable,

What things?

Quote
there was no way to quit or get away from your boss,

Quitting was never a problem. You could quit your job anytime and find another one.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2019, 04:25:27 PM by Dennis Chekalov »
 

David VanDyke

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Re: The entrepreneurial mindset vs. the wage-serf norm
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2019, 04:39:20 AM »
there were things that could be done short of firing to make you miserable,

What things?

Quote
there was no way to quit or get away from your boss,

Quitting was never a problem. You could quit your job anytime and find another one.

In the USSR or pre-capitalist China? Do you really think you could simply quit without consequences? And many jobs in anything defense or security or intelligence related--a big sector back then, even bigger than today, you certainly couldn't quit, whereas in free societies you can always quit, even if it takes a while such as if you're under military enlistment.

As for what things they could do to you, see Cora's comments above. Every authoritarian system will find ways to punish those who do not conform, even if there is no actual legal violation.

But returning to the OP idea, it's the collectivist mindset creeping in that always concerns me. I tend to be more concerned about systemic issues than individual issues. Individuals will always cause problems, even in spite of a good system. That's human nature.

But a bad system, absorbed into the culture, causes a multiplication of individual issues. You can see it in Amazon with KU, you can see it in our politics since the Citizens United decision, you can see it in our society as more and more people are beholden to big corporations for their livelihood and (they believe) their personal fulfillment.

Most organizations don't scale beneficially. Government and corporations are two examples. They start by being beneficial when small, and as they scale up, they become less and less beneficial for their members and customers--except for those at the top of the organization as more and more power and benefits gathers at the top.

One of the ways this is perpetuated is convincing the little people that it's in their best interest to go along with it, and that can manifest as attacking anyone who goes their own way and tries to make it outside "the system." Just look at how the tradpub system has impugned indies over the last ten years. SSDD. Fortunately, we're winning that struggle, but there are many areas where people in similar positions (small businesses, entrepreneurs) are not prospering.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2019, 04:41:32 AM by David VanDyke »
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.

I'm a lucky guy. I find the harder I work, the luckier I am.
 

Dennis Chekalov

Re: The entrepreneurial mindset vs. the wage-serf norm
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2019, 06:15:02 AM »
Quote
Do you really think you could

Ahem... I lived in the USSR. I saw everything.
Anyway, I totally agree with your main point.
 
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LilyBLily

Re: The entrepreneurial mindset vs. the wage-serf norm
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2019, 06:16:46 AM »
Wait a minute. Quit the CIA and you have a hunting or boating accident. Or, for a change of pace, a small plane crash.

If you knew anything, that is.
 

Eric Thomson

Re: The entrepreneurial mindset vs. the wage-serf norm
« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2019, 09:25:06 AM »
Wait a minute. Quit the CIA and you have a hunting or boating accident. Or, for a change of pace, a small plane crash.

If you knew anything, that is.

Yeah.  You'd get a burn notice  grint