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Unincorporated Man

I just ordered The Unincorporated Man.  The blurb suggests the story is one in which “every individual is incorporated at birth, and spends many years trying to attain control over his or her own life by getting a majority of his or her own shares.”  The subject matter is provocative with compelling arguments for and against the idea.  I am optimistic that the authors do it justice.

The discussion that led me to order the book leapt fairly quickly from “what’s the price you are willing to accept to give up a freedom” to “if it was allowed, we would descend in to slavery to corporations”.  However, the premise of the book isn’t as far fetched and in diluted versions, such arrangements are common today.  Not only are there are companies like Lumninet that offer loans to students to in exchange for a portion of their future earnings, many government scholarships offered by countries like Australia, New Zealand and UK are bonded scholarships - students receive the scholarship in exchange for a promise to work in the country for a fixed period of time.  If I must belabor the analogy, its a large entity with access to resources that grants money to a person who needs it in exchange for the person giving up their choice to pursue a potentially larger income elsewhere.  The government benefits by retaining is skilled labor and the person benefits by having access to money to finish their studies that they otherwise would not have had access to.  Even golden handcuffs are a form of payment in exchange for relinquishing a choice.  A golden handcuff is a financial incentive that a company offers to its employees to discourage them from leaving the company, for example, stocks which vest in the future.  They are payments by a company in exchange for an employee giving up their choice to leave for another.

Of course there are critical differences between these examples and the choice offered in the book - one is the length of time - a fixed term vs a lifetime; another is the age of individual at which he or she makes this choice - as a child or as an adult.  But if they are important then they should feature in the argument.