Sunday, July 17, 2011

Employment & Philosophy

There are times when thinking deeply leaves me with a troubling question.

It is an assumed fact in America that a man, having possession of a marketable idea, creates a business in order to bring it to fruition. Employees, insofar as they are necessary for the functioning of the business, are brought in. Especially given the world as it is today, you could be an excellent employer and very respectful of them, but they may still not actually want to be there; it is another assumed fact, after all, that a man, having possession of a marketable skill, takes whatever job, out of those offered him, that he hates least, or which puts him on the road to a job he someday wishes to have.

That's a little cynical, but the basic problem worries me. I have long thought to myself that it might be nice to be of my own business, bringing my ideas to fruition, rather than being someone else's labor. However, in principle, this only puts others in the same position I would have been in; they will be hired for no other purpose than to see my dreams completed, and they are given a paycheck for no other reason.

If I could afford to pay employees enough, with a flexible enough schedule, that I was furthering their dreams, or at least keeping them fully happy, that would be one thing. But without being a highly successful business (or a billionaire, or striking oil/gold/rare earths/whatever), there is no way to provide so much extra to employees. If I did manage to be a runaway success, without question there would be competition, and how well my company functions would be a major factor in whether or not it continued to be successful. At that point, "maintaining the company" becomes the dream which I am asking others to do for me, instead of chasing their own dreams.

That's not quite correct, I'm sure, and it's a jumbled mess of thoughts in any case. The more basic question still stands--if I wanted to build a company or small business that didn't betray anyone, how could I do it? If I was hiring the business-standard way (take applications), the people who are coming to me are people who are looking for a job; they most likely didn't seek me out because they want to do what we're doing, and they almost certainly didn't seek me out to help me with what I want to do. Isn't it a bit cold to ignore that? But what other option do I have?

Even if it were some sort of communal projects company where all employees have their own babies that we help each other out with--and that's slow, risky, and for something as specialization-of-labor as software, may not be really feasible--even then they're all still restricted in what they can do by the people I'll hire, or in other ways, what assistance I render.

This all ignores, of course, the glaring fact that I have no money to invest in the first place. However, as a philosophical question, I think it's important. Since the dawn of corporations--and probably before--the soul-crushing single-mindedness that a company can impose has been felt by all sorts of people who wanted options but found few if any. Who hires me and how they work me will be a serious consideration for the rest of my life; if I have good money and free time, I may be able to make my projects myself, and go into business for myself. But if I'm only accomplishing others' goals, and if they see me as nothing more than a means to their ends, could I lose myself? Haven't so many before me?

I don't want to betray others, not if they're going to offer to help me with my dreams. What can I do? Is it just because of inexperience that I don't have an answer?

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