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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Sunday March 19 2006

Deprived of my proper www connection, I have been out and about during the week, meeting people.  It’s been quite interesting.

On Thursday I visited my mother.  Very nice.  My eldest brother, who lives near, also dropped by.  Talking with him re-provoked thoughts about something I have been meaning to write about for some while, namely the principles of how to function in a totally voluntary work environment.  I am thinking of groups like (of course) the Libertarian Alliance, and the University drama society that was my first taste of getting anything worthwhile done in the world (and of enjoying life), and of the UK Independence Party branch that Brother Toby and his buddies are now grafting away for (and for that matter of UKIP as a whole), and of little voluntary sports clubs and social operations of this or that sort.

The point about these groups of people is that nobody gets paid, much or usually at all, and anyone who wants to can just leave if they aren’t enjoying themselves.  And they can’t be made to do anything they don’t want to do.  Oh, sure, you can twist their arms a few times, but if the whole deal doesn’t satisfy them, they’ll be off.

How to achieve things happily and effectively in such circumstances is a subject well worth pinning down, for two reasons.

First, lots of people now do this kind of thing, and would perhaps benefit from suggestions about how to do it better.

But second, the world of paid work is, I surmise, beginning to partake more and more of the voluntary principle.  Not many of us can afford to just stop working for money and simply follow our blisses.  But many of us can just about afford to stick two fingers in the faces of any particular bosses we happen to have taken an extreme dislike to, and then to seek, in a more or less leisurely fashion, alternative income.  Many of us, that is to say, have - or can lay our hands on - sufficient fuck you money to say that every now and again, to any boss who offends us too deeply.

Which puts the bosses of such people in an interesting position.  They find themselves in the position that Brother Toby is in, namely trying to do the best with and get the best out of people who are no more controllable by him than are Brother Toby’s various volunteer UKIP helpers and pals.

Also, the world of the entrepreneurial start-up is decidedly voluntary.  People in start-ups, especially the ones in charge, are often living on promises of glory, rather than tangible glory they can take to the bank.  Part of what keeps them going is that eventually money may materialise, in amounts sufficient to justify the wait.  But a lot of what makes start-ups start up is simply that they can be, if done right, such damn good fun.  That’s the impression I get from afar, anyway.  (I caught two of my own friends at it, only last week.  No money.  Lots of work.  Lots of satisfaction.)

I don’t want to exaggerate the voluntariness of paid work.  I quite realise that the majority of people in this toiling world still have jobs which they will incur considerable grief to keep.  And those that do seek alternative employment mostly do it while trying not to offend existing bosses, if only to get something pretty or at least plausibly civil on their CVs.  True, all true.  But, the voluntary principle may still be applicable, in a diluted and partial form, to work places where the ruling assumption has tended to be and still by default tends now to be, that orders are given and obeyed, rather than offered and acted upon only if the actors feel inclined.  More and more, I suggest, people can work by (a) doing only enough to avoid being fired with ignominy, or, alternatively, and entirely differently, (b) getting all excited and doing outstanding stuff, and basically for not that much more money, at any rate in the short run.  Turning your organisation from an (a) organisation to a (b) organisation is, I propose, not so very different from getting the Libertarian Alliance or a UKIP branch or a little country sports club to fire on all cylinders. 

I “propose” and “surmise” and “suggest” because, although I have done my (less than fair) share of (a) work, to pay the rent, I have yet to do much (b) work, that is to say the stuff where I hurled myself into it body and soul, loved it, and got paid.  But, the truly voluntary sector I do know about.  I have watched it work well, and have helped to make it work well.  And, I have watched it fall flat on its face, sometimes with me watching it smugly as it did so, saying I told you so.  And, I am a thoughtful person, which is where quite a lot of the “I told you so” stuff came from.  So, I am a good person to write about this.

But let that be in future postings.  This is blogging.  One thing, or if you can’t help yourself, just a few things, at a time.

But, I promise nothing.  (By the way, this “I promise nothing” rigmarole of mine demonstrates one of the principles of voluntariness in action.  Only promise things when it is absolutely necessary, and when you really are, definitely, going to do them.  Otherwise, don’t.)