Monday, March 21, 2005

The Stages of Economic Freedom

by Skald

Considering my own situation: I think this path towards economic freedom has stages. The first stage is wage slavery. This is classic employment.... the unfortunate state of most human beings in our society. A wage slave is totally dependent on jobs. S/he lives paycheck to paycheck and is often deeply in debt. Wage slaves may grumble about their state but essentially they are obedient servants. They do what they are told. They obey the company rules and respect the boss (to their face at least). They cant imagine another state of affairs. They value job security above all else.

A wage slave has no leverage.... no power... no independence. Wage slaves are deathly afraid of being fired, laid off, let go, downsized (take your choice of euphemism). They are terrified of unemployment. They are obsessed with benefits but limit this obsession to things like health coverage, life insurance, etc. A wage slave is an economic child. An indentured servant. A pitiful human being. Most of my adult life, I have been a wage slave... albeit a grumpy one.

The next stage is what I call free agency. Its a state akin to being a professional athlete. Free agents are still employed... but there are critical differences. For one, a free agent is in demand. Free agents always keep their options open... they are always job searching and they always have an exit strategy. Free agents typically have fewer debts, more savings, and, in general, more financial flexibility. They are not as obedient. They do not fear bouts of unemployment... in fact, they often choose unemployment in order to travel, rest, rejuvenate, and follow their bliss. Free agents are bolder... they are capable of defiance and autonomy-- but still in the context of a job. Free agents are economic teenagers... defiant, rebellious, and moving towards full independence. Currently I am a free agent.

The final stage is what I call freelancing. In other words, doing your own work on your own terms. At this stage, you quit jobs altogether. You do only the work that is yours and you do it how and when you want. Freelancing has many forms.... from big-budget entrepreneurs to micro-freelancing. A guy with his own handyman business is a freelancer. An English teacher who lives off private lessons is a freelancer. Full time autonomous writers are freelancers. Freelancers are permanently unemployed and work hard to stay that way. Freelancers dissolve the contrived barriers between art, work, and play. Their play is their work and their work is their art. They no longer need to be rebellious because they have nothing and no one to rebel against. Freelancers are true economic adults-- independent and self reliant. Freelancing is my ultimate economic goal.

Some bold folks are able to make the leap from wage slave to freelancer instantaneously. But most, like me, do so gradually. Its good to realize that this is possible... that there can be a progression. The uplifting thing about this realization is that each stage is freer, more joyful, and more rewarding than the previous. Being a free agent is far more fun than being a wage slave. Yes you are still workin for the man... but hes got less of a hold on you. You can search out the best possible situations for the most pay.... and tell em to fuck off anytime you like.

My impression is that many Hobopoet readers fall into the free agent category. Id qualify Matt as a free agent... and myself. And Sky. And Gypsychick. Sunwalker will soon jump full-on into freelancing... or beyond (the total elimination of work for money-- rock on!).

Wherever we are on the spectrum, its helpful to know that we can improve our situation. The important thing is the direction you are moving... keep pushing towards more freedom. If you are mired in wage slavery-- seek less restrictive jobs, simplify your life.... do what you can to move towards free agency. And if you are a free agent, like me, turn your energies towards leaving the nest for good.

With patience and persistence we can all make that penultimate act:

Fire The Boss for good.

No comments: