Attitudes toward self employment

You may already use Google Alerts. This is a free service where you tell Google that you’d like to be notified of any new search results that match keywords you enter. I have alerts set for a number of subjects, and one of them is “self employment”.

Alerts on that subject arrive almost every day, and are usually announcements of government programs encouraging or helping people to start small businesses. These come from all over the world, but I’ve noticed that very, very few come from the United States.

That seems odd to me. Small businesses are the very life blood of the U.S. economy. I was listening to a recent radio show about the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, and the strongest current throughout was the lack of small businesses. The mega-corps can of course roll back into New Orleans whenever they wish, but the Mom and Pop stores and services have a much harder time recovering from disasters like this. But it is these small businesses that are what is important, not the large corporations.

Our Congress is frantic over the idea that the large auto makers might fail, but really it’s the small business that matter. Of course it’s true that failure of the big auto firms would affect some small businesses too, but I don’t believe for a minute that Congress really cares about that. They may give that idea lip service, but I think that’s all it is.

The smallest of the small is the self-employed, and that group, although it is a large number of people and growing, is nearly invisible to Government.

I say there a negative attitude toward self employment in the U.S. Does the rarity of Google alerts referencing U.S. news on self employment show that?

This might just be a matter of terminology: reports of similar programs in the U.S. may use terms like “small business” rather than “self employment”, but even if that is the main reason, I think it points out an attitude that is pro-business but not favorable to self employment. The U.S. seems to be strongly in favor of “business” and “employees”, but has negative attitudes toward “self employed”.

Government programs to help the unemployed are common in the U.S. and most countries, but the U.S. seems to steer people toward looking for a job rather than looking for income. This report about
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors’ Attitudes Toward Self-Employment suggests:

In vocational rehabilitation, for example, even though self-employment is a legitimate option, supervisors may convey or staff may develop the attitude that competitive employment in existing jobs is preferred or that the use of self-employment as an option is discouraged.

On the other hand, the European Commission’s Directorate General Enterprise and Industry conducts a regular survey examining attitudes toward self employment. The results seem to indicate that Europeans are more likely to be afraid of self employment, while Americans have more positive attitudes.

Those are contradictory indications. It may be that the programs of other countries exist and are reported more because those countries realize they need to encourage small business and self employment: perhaps the U.S. has less governmental support because Americans don’t need much encouragement to be self employed?

I think there is evidence of both: American government may have bias toward larger corporations, but American workers are less enamored of that environment. The situation seems to be the opposite in the rest of the world, perhaps because U.S. politicians are less aware of how important small independent businesses are.

If this is true, I have to wonder why.  It seems that European politics is just as dirty and corrupt as it is here so the idea that Congress loves Big Business because that’s where contributions come from doesn’t seem to wash.


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