In Julian Jonker & Grant J. Rozeboom (eds.), Working as Equals
. Oxford University Press (forthcoming
Self-employment merits protection and promotion, we often hear, because it confers independence from a boss. But what, if anything, is wrong with having a boss? On one of the two views that this chapter inspects, being under the power of a boss is objectionable as such, no matter how suitably checked this power may be, for it undermines workers’ agency. On a second view, which republican theorists favor, what is objectionable is subjection not to the power of a boss as such but to their arbitrary power. The first view is unconvincing, I argue, as it entails (implausibly) that being under the power of others in realms like the family or the state is likewise objectionable as such. And although the second view yields compelling reasons for self-employment, it only does so when employers’ power is not suitably checked. When it is, such reasons are more easily outweighed by competing considerations, like those stemming from the further forms of dependence—on suppliers and purchasers—that self-employment may prompt.