Left-Wing Logic: Economic Freedom for Me, but Not for Thee

January 27, 2019

by Rob Roper

The left-wing blog Daily Kos ran a funny/not funny article on California’s new law, AB5, passed to ostensibly “protect” people from the opportunity make money as a freelance worker or independent contractor. AB5 mandates that companies like Uber, Lyft and others treat freelance workers as if they were direct employees. Vermont has strict laws along these lines as well.

The government does not like this kind of free economic activity because it makes it difficult to enforce unfunded mandates — really hidden taxes. It’s politically popular, for example, for a politician to stick your boss with the cost of your worker’s compensation, but not so much to mandate that you, as an independent contractor, buy the insurance yourself.

Left-wingers love this government command-and-control approach to labor policy because the average worker is clearly too stupid not to be exploited by a system in which they make their own decisions about how, with, for whom, and for how much they want to work. Left-wingers think it is compassionate for the police state to step in and force the employer and employee into a relationship that neither may want to be in – except when the object of this government compassion is themselves! Then it sucks.

You see, AB5 capped the number of articles a freelance writer can submit to a single publication at 35 before that writer had to be treated as an actual employee of the publication, which, according to the article would mean roughly a 30% increase in labor costs. And oh, how Daily Kos did howl! “It means that we at Daily Kos had to make drastic changes to our own ways of featuring a wide range of voices, because it’s both economically unfeasible and operationally nonsensical to have occasional weekly voices as employees. It literally limits the voices that can be featured in the media landscape…. Not everyone wants or needs to be protected.”

Yeah. So misguided unfair! Imagine the nerve of bureaucrats who have no understanding of how your business works coming in telling you how to run it and putting “economically unfeasible and operationally nonsensical” requirements on how you do so.

Kos further laments, “That arbitrary number [35], pulled out of nowhere, means death to the California newsweekly, the weekly columnist, cartoonists who aren’t part of a syndicate, anything of that sort. It means newspapers can’t have a weekly movie critic, or stringers that cover underserved communities, city council meetings, niche topics, and the like.” But, by left-wing logic, so what? If your business model can’t afford these mandates, you’re just evil and exploiting people so it doesn’t deserve to survive. Good riddance.

The folks at Kos don’t care that if Uber is forced to treat all of its contract drivers as employees they might be forced to “make drastic changes to” their “own ways of featuring a wide range of” options and opportunities to affordably get customers from point A to point B. Which, practically speaking, is more important to society than having access to the occasional opinions of a freelance movie critic.

Yeah, if the entire ride-share industry business model collapses that’s justice, but if internet surfers are deprived of someone-you-never-heard-of’s whining about what the talking heads said on the Sunday shows…. The horror. The horror.

You see, by Kos’ logic, it’s okay to have a business model that relies on freelance contractor work if you’re a left-wing opinion blog. You’re not exploiting those writers at all by denying them healthcare coverage, workers compensation, etc. because your freelancers, being left wing intellectuals, have the capacity to determine for themselves “that they do not want or need to be protected.” But if you’re a carpenter who makes extra money driving for Uber in the off season, well, you’re just stupid and are being exploited whether you know it or not.

I’ve had some fun with Daily Kos here, but they are exactly right to be complaining, and they sum things up as well as anyone when they conclude:

It’s a boon when people either engage in those gigs as side hustles—earning a little extra side money during their free time—or when life circumstances prevent them from having a full-time job with the attendant full-time hours, such as certain medical conditions or disabilities. For example, my partner suffers from chronic migraines and can’t work in an office environment, but she has built herself a comfortable living through freelancing, working when she’s able to, on her own schedule. Many stay-at-home parents freelance, able to set their own hours around their parenting duties. There are even people who prefer the freedom that freelancing provides, the ability to set their own hours, work wherever they want, and take time off when warranted. Daily Kos, 1/10/20

Yes, Daily Kos. You just need to apply this level of understanding to everybody everywhere, and not just the people inside your bubble. They say a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged. Well, now that Daily Kos has been mugged by the government, maybe their experience will inspire some empathy with other employers and employees victimized by “arbitrary,” “unfeasible,” “nonsensical” laws coming out of governments ostensibly to protect us from ourselves.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

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