Anti-Gig-Work “Progressives” Are Not Gig Workers’ Friends

Photo by Chris Yarzab. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Photo by Chris Yarzab. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

“A new national survey of gig workers in the United States,” Alex N. Press complains at Jacobin, “finds that around one in seven make less than the federal minimum wage.  … On a range of measures, gig workers report greater economic hardship than W-2 employees in low-wage retail and food-service work.”

Why? Well, the reasons should be obvious, right? The gig workers, Press notes, are “[d]eprived of labor standards that come with employee status, such as wage and hour protections, antidiscrimination laws, workers’ compensation, health and safety protections, unemployment benefits, and the right to organize and collectively bargain.”

But is that really the problem?

In fact, is there really a “problem” at all?

I can think of two reasons why gig workers might earn less than “employees” that don’t have anything to do with insufficient government intervention on their behalves.

The first reason is, in a word, choice.

Gig workers decide when they work and who they work with. They’re not required to punch a 40-hour clock, put in overtime if they’re tired or have a date, deal on a minute-by-minute basis with management, etc.

In an economy with rock-bottom unemployment, with employers almost literally begging on street corners for people to take those “low-wage retail and food-service” jobs that Press characterizes as better, gig workers CHOOSE to control the means of production themselves instead of knuckling under to wage slavery (I’m  sure I’ve heard those phrases associated with Jacobin‘s preferred approach to political economy). They’d rather have more personal freedom of choice than make more money.

The second reason is opportunity differentials.

While it’s not true of all gig workers, it’s probably true of some: Even in the current low-unemployment environment, those “low-wage retail and food-service” jobs are unavailable or unattractive to them for some reason — they just can’t do the job in the way demanded, or perhaps they face prospective wage garnishment (for child support, court judgments, tax claims, etc.) that would eat up most of their earnings.

If I can’t flip burgers but can deliver them on my bicycle, I’ll do the latter rather than the former.

If I can earn $5 an hour as a gig worker (perhaps completely “under the table” — there are ways), or $7.25 in a “low-wage retail and food-service” job, but some creditor can, and surely will, seize $4 an hour of those latter wages, guess which way I’m going to go?

In attacking the gig economy, “progressives” aren’t supporting workers and trying to protect them from exploitation. They’re attacking workers and trying to force those workers back onto what amounts to an exploitative, state-operated plantation where they’ll do as they’re told and gratefully accept whatever crumbs their “progressive” masters deign to graciously feed them.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Voting: Don’t Buy the Guilt Trips

Photo by Jami430. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Photo by Jami430. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

“Elections have consequences,” then-president Barack Obama reminded House Minority Whip Eric Cantor in 2009. Obama was correct. Elections do have consequences.

On the other hand, those consequences aren’t necessarily predictable.  As an old saw concerning the 1964 presidential election went, “I was told that if I voted for Goldwater we’d end up in a war in Vietnam. And I did vote for Goldwater. And we did end up in a war in Vietnam.”

As the 2022 midterm campaigns heat up, we’ll no doubt find ourselves subjected to the usual “MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION IN HISTORY! GET OUT AND VOTE!” campaigns. Not to mention the “dirty hands” counter-argument from some radicals that voting is immoral because it props up a bad system: If you vote you have no grounds for complaint; since you willingly participated in that system, the outcomes are on you, not on non-voters.

Yes, elections have consequences. Your vote, on the other hand, mostly doesn’t.

First of all, the chance that your vote will materially affect the outcome of any election of significant size — for example, that your vote will be the one vote that puts your presidential candidate over the top in Florida, or that Florida will then cast the decisive electoral votes, let alone both —  is almost nil. You’re more likely to buy the single winning Powerball ticket for a record-high jackpot.

Secondly, even were that to happen, it’s unlikely that you’d get the results you expected from the victory of the candidate you chose.

Voting is a weird variant of the “Trolley Problem,” an ethical thought experiment: An evildoer has tied three people to one set of trolley tracks, and one person to another set. You’re at the lever controlling which set of tracks the trolley goes down. If you throw the lever, the trolley kills the one person. If you don’t, it kills the three people.

In the voting version of the “Trolley Problem,” your options are:

To throw the lever to the left (vote Democratic).

To throw the lever to the right (vote Republican).

To put a sticky note on the lever (bearing the name of a third party or independent candidate).

Or to do nothing.

As to outcomes, you have no idea how many people are tied to which set of tracks, or how many of them will be killed or injured, or in what ways.

And you also know that there are millions of other voters/levers and that what you do with YOUR lever is unlikely to have any real effect on the outcome.

There’s no particularly compelling argument for or against voting. We should just treat voting as what it actually is.

So, what is voting?

Voting is speech.

It’s a statement of your beliefs.

Ditto non-voting, if done with intent to express unwillingness to affirm the system’s legitimacy.

Voting is neither a moral duty nor a moral crime.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you must, or mustn’t, vote. That decision is, and should be recognized as, a matter of personal preference.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


January 6th Hearing: Don’t Let Motives Obscure Facts

US Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) addresses the January 6 committee's first prime-time hearing. Public domain.
US Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) addresses the January 6 committee’s first prime-time hearing. Public domain.

The boilerplate Republican response to last Thursday’s prime-time, televised hearing  of the US House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol runs something like this:

It wasn’t really a “hearing.” It was a campaign infomercial for the Democratic Party and the anti-Trump wing of the GOP. Its goal was partially to save the Democrats’ bacon in the November midterms, and partially to protect the two Republican members of the committee from pro-Trump primary challengers, by leaning into the narrative of, essentially, an attempted coup d’etat by the disgraced former president.

I’m inclined to agree with that assessment. If truth in advertising laws applied to Congress, the committee’s name would use the word “exploit” rather than “investigate.” Politics being politics, it’s always safest to assume ulterior motives.

An intention to exploit the facts, however, does not change those facts. And the facts are these:

Donald Trump attempted to, and conspired with others to, overthrow the government of the United States.

Trump lost the 2020 presidential election.

Trump knew he lost the presidential election. His attorney general told him, in no uncertain terms, that claims to the contrary were “bullshit.” His legal proxies withdrew every court challenge in which they were accorded standing and invited to present evidence, because they knew they had no such evidence. Not a single investigation or audit — not even fake stunt “audits” such as the one in Arizona — produced any evidence of fraud sufficient to have changed the results.

And yet Trump both privately and publicly asked figures ranging from Georgia’s secretary of state to his own vice-president to steal the election for him.

Trump’s campaign recruited fake electors and urged them to “complete secrecy” pending attempts to fraudulently replace the real electors so that he could steal the election.

Trump publicly addressed a mob he had scammed into believing he won the election, inciting them to march on the Capitol to help him steal the election.

One need not like the uses those facts are being put to as a condition of acknowledging that they are, in fact, facts.

Who’s to blame for those facts being put to these uses?

Donald Trump.

Nobody forced him to lie about the election’s outcome.

Nobody forced him to conspire with others to steal the election.

Nobody forced him to whip a mob into a frenzy.

His choices produced predictable consequences.

If Trump had any desire to honestly address the committee’s exploitation of his actions, he could just quote  Richard Nixon’s 1977 characterization of Watergate:  “I gave them a sword and they stuck it in and they twisted it with relish. And I guess if I’d been in their position I’d have done the same thing.”

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.