GigEconomy.Gov? – OpEd


What would happen if government took over the gig economy?” wonders Soleil Ho of the San Francisco Chronicle, concerned that, in grocery stores, “gig work has created a combative, stressful atmosphere in these places that stinks of desperation and labor exploitation.” And wouldn’t things be better “if gig work was a public utility?”

They wouldn’t, and by now that should be clear to anybody who gives the matter serious thought.

“Gig work,” is a reference to freelance workers who choose to be their own boss rather than work for another party or the government. Examples include freelance writers, editors, videographers, and so forth. They work on the basis of free exchange between parties, who remain free to choose someone else.

This arrangement offers no guarantee of security, but many choose it because of the freedom it offers. “Gig workers” are free workers, and so are independent contractors who offer transportation, freight, and many other services. Rather than work for some multinational conglomerate these workers chose to own their gear and work on a contract basis in a competitive market where consumers remain free to choose.

“Labor activists say gig work is unjust,” contends Soleil Ho, in a reference to union bosses. Ho seems unaware that unions do not represent workers. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, a full percent 90 of wage and salary workers—the vast majority —are not union members. In other words, only 10 percent of workers nationwide—a small minority—choose to join unions.

In California, 83.9. percent of wage and salary workers are not union members. According to the BLS, only 16.1 percent of workers choose to join unions. California’s ruling class is aware of that reality and has deployed Assembly Bill 55 to turn free workers and independent contractors into employees, where they are targets for union organizers.

AB 5 targeted Uber and Lyft but also limited freelance writers, photographers and videographers to 35 submissions per publication, per year. Musicians were also affected. Trumpeter Joe Mazzaferro told reporters the measure had already reduced his band’s pay.

I feel like it’s our right to work as we choose,” Mazzaferro explained. “We really need that ability to negotiate not just our time but what we’re being compensated.”

During the pandemic, health care was also affected. By prohibiting the use of independent contractor drivers, health care professionals, and workers in other critical areas, “AB 5 is doing substantial, and avoidable, harm to the very people who now have the fewest resources and the worst alternatives available to them,” the Independent Institute charged in an open letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom.The signatories, more than 150 of California’s leading economists and scholars, urged the governor to temporarily suspend the measure. The governor declined, confirming that AB 5, a virtual declaration against independence, is all about government power.

Soleil Ho, who seems unaware of these realities, is “an opinion columnist and cultural critic, focusing on gender, race, food policy and life in San Francisco.” What would happen if the government took over the “gig economy” has already been on full display.

For nearly half a century in the Soviet Bloc nations of Eastern Europe, the government ran pretty much everything. Conditions were so repressive people would flee at first opportunity, at great risk to themselves. The command economies led to shortages in everything, including food.

Soleil Ho should know that countries barren of liberties are also barren of groceries.

This article was also published in The Orange County Register

K. Lloyd Billingsley

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at The Daily Caller.

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