We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

People talk and think about jobs like they are things. Like you can possess one, lose one, or like you need to go get one from someone. So they go to job boards looking for the people who are giving away jobs. They go through the societal rituals that are expected of job seekers. But they are making a fundamental mistake–because jobs are not things, they are abstractions.

Getting lost in this abstraction causes a lot of pain and confusion. Seeing past the abstraction lets you see the countless opportunities you have available to you.

A job is an abstraction to describe a relationship between one person and another individual or group of people that agree to a certain type of ongoing trade. To get a job, you don’t need someone to create it and give it to you; you simply need to convince someone that you can make them more money than you cost.

Ryan Ferguson

14 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Reminds me of something my grandmother said to me when I was kid.
    “So much free time in [this ghetto], and yet the streets are so dirty. That tells ya something, it tells ya that they are poor because they don’t care. If they don’t care enough to haul the trash from their front porch, they don’t care enough for me and my business neither.”
    Not the most politically correct grandma, but she said she played piano for Al Capone in her younger days and “got paid too, real money.”

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well, it does depend on what you mean by “job.” Plenty of jobs require just one active participant. My job at the moment is to finish my soup before it gets cold.

    One takes Mr. Ferguson’s point, one supposes, though one is not entirely sure; but the statement that “to get a job” just means that you can “convince someone that you can make them [sic] more money than you cost” unfortunately assumes a fact distinctly not in evidence. One question arises immediately: In the segment quoted, is “someone” intended to mean a specific someone, or rather just “somebody somewhere” who can be convinced, etc.? In charity one assumes the latter, but the quote really is ambiguous and the ambiguity really does have some bearing.


    Many a court case, including U.S. Supreme Court cases, have turned on the issue of whether some employee has a “property interest” in his particular job. Here, “job” means “position”: say, his job or position as floorwalker at Bloomingdale’s, if Bloomingdale’s still has floorwalkers. “Job” may be an abstraction, but the legal system recognizes (rightly or wrongly: a different issue) the reality of the abstraction in concrete cases.


    I think that actually Mr. Ferguson’s point is that most of the time a person can find a job if he’s not married to some particular occupation or wage or locale or schedule or ….

    And most people have, at least theoretically, the psychological capacity to divorce from at least one of the enshackling criteria (nice mixed metaphor there, don’t you think, but never mind). For those lucky, if unfortunate, people, the advice is to stop obsessing about what you think you have to get in the way of “help” from this or that board or” social worker,” and just go look for a job.

    But “most of the time” is not “all of the time, and “most people have” is not “everyone has.”

    Not All Blanket Rules Are.

  • There is a great truth in the OP quote struggling to get out. I don’t think the OP expresses it nearly as well as it deserves. I’m sure (typing this at 23:00), I won’t either. It’s to do with my mother often visiting the Edinburgh medical centre to see my trainee younger sister, and often sorting a few things and helping the foreign visitors, and people mentioning it, and one day someone noticing there was a budget for someone to do that and maybe they could pay her to do it regularly. It’s about how a woman I know put her hobby (knitting) on the web after a stroke temporarily ended her ability to do her day job (that she did not much like) and a few years later became UK micro business of the year. It’s about how doing computing things that interested me but were far outside my day-job led to far more interesting jobs. It’s about how much I learned when I stopped having a job at all and became a contractor for a decade (till I was offered my dream job). It’s about just doing something. It’s about taking initiative.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . you simply need to convince someone that you can make them more money than you cost.”

    Salesmen rule the world. (ETA: Think of that in the unisex mode.)

    But the ability to sell anything – whether it be widgets, or yourself – is rarer than many might think. Sometimes communication skills are lacking, sometimes confidence, sometimes just someone to sell TO. But most people don’t seem to have this ability.

    I suspect that most people reading a somewhat rarefied blog on libertarianism are going to skew upwards of the cutoff line between those with the ability and confidence and those without, but the vast majority of people are going to fall below it. To them, a job is always going to be something one fills, or does, but it will exist outside of and apart from themselves.

    And, yes, as Niall says, people can do it, and surprise themselves doing it, and people should do it, because there’s more success and satisfaction out there in that realm than most people ever imagine. But it’s a hard threshold for most people.

  • Fred the Fourth

    bobby b,
    In my experience, “selling yourself” is a necessary
    and fairly easily teachable skill. However, it is certainly not taught at any level of ordinary school I am aware of.
    I teach it for free a few times a year, to small-company founders. I hate to see potentially good businesses fail to get proper funding, merely because the founders don’t know how to sell themselves to investors.

  • JadedLibertarian

    As always a quote from the Duke seems apposite

    “Devlin Warren: About that job Mr. McLintock.
    George Washington McLintock: Look son, I told ya, I got no need for farmers. Or use for them either.
    Devlin Warren: Just one minute, Mr. McLintock. My father died last month, how come we don’t have a homestead. I’ve got a mother, a little sister to feed. I need that job badly.
    George Washington McLintock: What’s your name?
    Devlin Warren: Devlin Warren.
    George Washington McLintock: Well, you’ve got a job. Go see my home ranch forman. He’s over by the corral.
    Devlin Warren: Step down off that carriage, mister!
    George Washington McLintock: [Swings and McLintock and gets thrown to the ground] Hold that hog leg! I’ve been punched many a time in my life but never for hirin’ anyone.
    Devlin Warren: I don’t know what to say. Never begged before. Turned my stomach. I suppose I should have been grateful that you gave me the job.
    George Washington McLintock: Gave? Boy, you’ve got it all wrong. I don’t give jobs I hire men.
    Drago: You intend to give this man a full day’s work, don’tcha boy?
    Devlin Warren: You mean you’re still hirin’ me? Well, yes, sir, I certainly deliver a fair day’s work.
    George Washington McLintock: And for that I’ll pay you a fair day’s wage. You won’t give me anything and I won’t give you anything. We both hold up our heads. Is that your plug?
    Devlin Warren: Yes sir.
    George Washington McLintock: Well, hop on him and we’ll go get your gear.”

  • staghounds

    Quibble all you want,that last sentence ought to be driven into the daily consciousness of everyone who seeks to earn a living by his efforts-

    To get a job, you don’t need someone to create it and give it to you; you simply need to convince someone that you can make them more money than you cost.

    It may not be perfect, but it is close enough.

  • CaptDMO

    “…convince someone that you can make them more money than you cost.”
    Stupidest thing I’ve heard in an arena where Political Science often finds refuge under the cover of “economics”.
    “If you DON’T “hire” a licensed, union, female, negro, homosexual, institutionally credentialed, or otherwise preferred person, like ME (or those I “represent”), then there MIGHT be even MORE expensive law suits, protests, sabotage, or boycotts for you down the road!!!!”
    Let’s not forget that parasites, and rent-seekers, and thugs, have been part of “economics” since the invention of- “…it’s for the children, and for your safety”- bribes and extortion.
    “Oh, but “we” don’t count THAT!!!!!”
    Really? Your services as an “award winning economist” are no longer required.

  • Fraser Orr

    > “…convince someone that you can make them more money than you cost.”

    Which is to say that the original proposal should be expanded to:

    “…convince someone that you can make them more money than you charge or you can cost them more money that you charge.”

    It used to be called “blackmail”, now it is called “employment law.”

  • Rich Rostrom

    Contrariwise: a lot of employment is participation in an enterprise which the individual employees could never have established. A hotel, for instance. It’s one thing to work as a porter in a hotel; it would be quite another to wander the streets, looking for people who happen to need luggage carried.

    The entrepreneur who conceives the need, raises the capital, and builds and operates the hotel has indeed created the jobs of the people employed there.

  • Julie near Chicago

    bobby, December 11, 2017 at 11:40 pm:

    You said it (“salesmen”) right. Don’t switch, Fight! like the Marlboro Man — no matter how much crying, raging, throwing of crockery and chimp ships, or suing this elicits from those who think languages have or should have no rules, except the ones they make up themselves.

    This only panders to the faux sensibilities and furthers the agenda of those who would, in fact, shackle us to what they claim to think is their vastly improved rules of usage. Remember, the idea is to convince everyone that there are no differences between men and women except that men have all the power and that therefore women have all the shrieking rights. Sometimes this requires pretending that “he” and “Man” (also, “man”) always and everywhere can refer only to the human male. (Well, I mean of course you might call a male dog or cat “he,” as these species are fully our superiors morally and probably intellectually as well.) DOWN with the Patriarchy!


    I have had the really disheartening experience of seeing a former libertarian whom I respected bemoaning in a web posting the fact that he has been “forced” [his word!] by the so-called “gay” community to say “gay” instead of “homosexual.”

    Nobody forced him to do any such thing. I can’t imagine why he follows the edict, given his stated disapproval of it. It’s not as if somebody were going to ice him over it. I doubt that anyone would even try to shut down his website.

  • Thailover

    “you don’t need someone to create it and give it to you; you simply need to convince someone that you can make them more money than you cost.”

    That’s key, and what’s even better is that value, material value or otherwise, is a matter of context. Your labor + capital, i.e. infrastructure and capital equipment and trade agreements is worth more to your employer than your labor in and of itself is worth to you. This is why the employer is willing to trade x-compensation to you for your labor and you are willing to sell your labor for the same x-compensation and it’s a win-win for both parties.

    So much for the theories of that dumbass Marx. (The funniest Marx brother of them all).

    P.S. ‘Reminds me of a cartoon I once saw where Marx’s wife was half naked and disgruntled, and he was saying ‘what do you mean the sex was bad? We’ve been at it for hours’. The caption below the panel said, Karl Marx explains the Labor Theory of Value to his wife. LOL.

  • Thailover

    Julie near Chicago said,

    “Sometimes this requires pretending that “he” and “Man” (also, “man”) always and everywhere can refer only to the human male.”

    Realize that modern education is abominable, and that most people are probably genuinely unaware of your point above. Even among the educated, people are often confused. To the point that so-called academics have accused Ayn Rand of being misogynist for using “Man” so often instead of saying mankind. What they don’t seem to understand is that “Man” used in a plural sense (instead of “men”) usually means mankind. She had an additional point though. (She always had an additional point). She said Man plural meaning to refer to groups of individualists rather than a self-identified collective.

  • Thailover

    Stagehounds, what do you mean? We obviously need US Presidents to create jobs, just like we need more laws to make criminals cut-it-out. (Sarcasm alert). 😛