Decentralizing work

Why do most of us travel to work every day? Why do we work in large boxes removed from nature and family life? Why do we continue to propagate this system?

This all goes back to the Jefferson vs. Hamilton debate. Will humans be independent producers, masters of their own fate, creating an economy from many solid individual units? Or will we be grouped together into firms backed by capital, more efficiently producing in population centers and dependent upon banks and industrialists to provide for our jobs and life?

Hamilton won. And it made sense - there are costs to having a society of freelancers (read up on Coase if interested). Reputation is hard to assess if every work transaction is with someone new. Far easier if you are both employees of the same firm, etc.

But Jefferson’s world is superior, more in keeping with our natural state as humans. So while we may be limited to Hamilton’s world for the time being, we should be working for the world Jefferson envisioned. Technology can solve many of the problems that make firms more efficient, and enable us to shift back to a true capitalist society, where every single transaction, even at the level of individual daily production (even of knowledge work), occurs in a truly free market. Individuals only work if they so desire on a given day, and get paid effective market rates. Everyone would know and choose their contribution.

In this world, we wouldn’t need firms, or to live in population centers that strip us of our happiness and humanity. We could live in smaller rural communities. We could spread our efforts out between desk jobs and gardens, between the world of economics and production and the world of families and education and church. Behavioral studies find people are happier in smaller communities where they know one another. Why not shift away from urbanisation back towards communal groups that feed our souls?

Most importantly, we could all know how we fit, do what we were lead to do, and understand how the market rewarded it. The responsibility for taking care of ourselves (and of our local communities) would be more clear. I think we would all be happier and more confident in this world. I would, at any rate ;-)

I want to work to help this world materialize. Technologies that obviate the need for workers to be in the same place excite me. Hence doodleboard. Technologies that allow participants to trade knowledge work in a free market are exciting (Elance, oDesk, Etsy, and others).

I believe this world will come. If people didn’t have to work in cities, would they choose to? Where would you live if you could work from anywhere? I think about this all the time! So please – if you have thoughts on this, share them. Criticize, critique, or agree, I want to hear it.

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  • http://abe.rocketmonkeys.com Abe Murray

    Update – I wrote this initially as an email to my family dated March 27th 2008 – a few days later there was an excellent blog post on A VC about The Declining Power Of The Firm referencing an HBS blog post referencing Coase. I wanted to build this out on my blog, so polished & posted my take on it.

  • http://abe.rocketmonkeys.com abe

    Update – I wrote this initially as an email to my family dated March 27th 2008 – a few days later there was an excellent blog post on A VC about The Declining Power Of The Firm referencing an HBS blog post referencing Coase. I wanted to build this out on my blog, so polished & posted my take on it.

  • http://abe.rocketmonkeys.com Abe Murray

    Update – I wrote this initially as an email to my family dated March 27th 2008 – a few days later there was an excellent blog post on A VC about The Declining Power Of The Firm referencing an HBS blog post referencing Coase. I wanted to build this out on my blog, so polished & posted my take on it.

  • http://www.hiddenevidence.com/2008/04/decentralizing-work/ Hidden Evidence » Blog Archive » Decentralizing work

    [...] put a post up on my personal site about decentralizing work – if you didn’t have to work in a city, would you live in one?  Would you commute to work if [...]

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