Quick Thoughts on Anderson

In the struggle between individualism and collectivism regarding the mode of production, collectivism has the last laugh. Pushing past the economics of Ronald Coase, Armen Alchian, and Harold Demsetz, American philosopher Elizabeth Anderson reveals a striking American contradiction: that modern workplaces are “private governments,” or, more specifically, communist dictatorships that can order you around and sanction you for non-compliance. Rule-making is not up for deliberation. Whereas enlightenment philosophers since Locke have rejected kingship and absolute monarchies, no one has yet questioned the sector wielded by CEOs over low-ranking employees.

Adam Smith believed that markets would be devices in the service of emancipation. He wanted to empower ordinary people because he trusted the rationality of their judgment. The neoliberalism that stems from his thought attempted to reimagine the firm as a nexus of contracts—an arrangement of individuals organizing themselves according to their desires in a free market where workers enter voluntarily and are free to exit as they please. Analogously, a boss’s orders are akin to a price for a good, which a customer is free to refuse. Yet, the new kinds of institutions that arose from the onset of the industrial revolution due to economies of scale and increasing returns to scale (firms/corporations) betrayed motivations behind markets: they have organized hierarchically.

At present, as a consequence of the employment-at-will rule, executives may fire workers for their sexual activities, partner choice, religion, Twitter posts, gender identity, etc., unless the state has an explicit law banning discrimination on such grounds. Clearly, workplace authoritarianism is still lurking beneath a facade of democracy. Though Anderson cannot reconcile a justifiable view of entrepreneurship and free enterprise with Republican liberty, I argue that blockchain technology absolves this antinomy: Web3 democratizes these regimes and restores agency to workers who now have the positive liberty to do more than establish or join another dictatorship or escape into the jungle while protecting private property rights and ownership over the means of production.

Dictatorial regimes are unimaginable in the crypto world of sovereign individuals. By allowing people to freely monetize and tokenize their creative faculties, the Web3 creator economy empowers self-employment, liberating workers from such veiled forms of iron-fist authoritarianism (everyone can be their own boss). Working in Web3 means democratizing information and reducing friction in the labor market. It means more than a right to complain without getting fired; it symbolizes flipping the entire hierarchy. Chris Dixon said it best: “Web3 combines the decentralized, community-governed ethos of Web1 with the advanced, modern functionality of Web2. Web3 is the internet owned by the builders and users, orchestrated with tokens.” Ultimately, the gradual development of DAOs and decentralized governance will allow for the formation of environments in which workers have a nonadversarial voice in workplace governance without raising concerns about monopolization. As more and more laborers catch on to what we are building, we can (alas) make Karl happy.

Subscribe to 0xBobatea
Receive the latest updates directly to your inbox.
This entry has been permanently stored onchain and signed by its creator.