Lion of the Blogosphere

Work-from-home vs. libertarianism

The pandemic has shown us that the vast majority of white-collar workers are perfectly able to work from home.

A wide variety of groups ought to strongly support this. For conservatives, work-from-home means an end to the dominance of liberal “blue” cities like New York. For liberals, work-from-home means less carbon emissions from people commuting to the office. For people who actually can work-from home, it means no more time and money wasted in commuting, the freedom to live anywhere they want to.

Who is actually opposed to working from home? I guess big businesses which think that they make more money if they force everyone to go to an office, and libertarian types who say that we must let business decide what’s best. The same libertarian types predicted disaster for bars and restaurants if government banned cigarette smoking at those places. Well governments didn’t listen, smoking was banned, and bars and restaurants made even MORE money as a result because people no longer stayed away because they were repulsed by the disgusting cigarette smoke.

Just as with cigarette smoking, it’s time for government to step in and address this free-market failure, and ban companies from forcing white-collar workers to work in the office. For good, and not just until the threat of the virus is past us. The end result may even be more profit for business because they won’t have to rent expensive office space. The only real losers will be the people who own commercial real estate. And I say, screw them.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

May 6, 2020 at 11:10 AM

Posted in Libertarianism

48 Responses

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  1. I have been wfh here in California for last 6 weeks (absolutely loving it) and even our management is exploring the possibility of very slow phase in back to office even after covid is over. We even got questionaire on our preference to wfh!!

    On another front, largest IT company in India, TCS has indicated they will convert 75% of it’s workforce to wfh in 2-3 years. My brother works for a big US consulting company in India and they are also seriously looking at wfh for large numbers of employees who are not in client facing roles. It might come slowly but it’s coming. He said that some of their competition are passing on these cost savings to their clients too, about 20-30% when bidding for contract.


    May 6, 2020 at 11:40 AM

    • My company hired TCS to do done coding and their engineers had to be up pretty late for our conference calls. Better them than us though.

      But you’d think the hours’ difference would be inconvenient for US companies.

      Mrs Stitch

      May 10, 2020 at 12:52 PM

  2. Working from home (the old name “telecommuting” seems to have vanished) has been the Next New Thing for 20+ years yet until two months ago had gotten mostly nowhere. It’s destined to be no more than a fringe thing because both employers and employees often dislike or at least resist it. Managers can’t micromanage (and abuse) employees working from home, at least not as easily as if they’re in the office, and workers worry that if they’re not physically present in the office every single day they won’t be considered absolutely vital to company operations. With regard to managerial resistance, note that even if a corporation advocates the working from home option actual implementation is often left up to the discretion of individual managers.

    Just anecdotally, I’ve heard from people who still work there that the financial publishing company where I worked until 2009 has been cutting back on the working from home option even though it was one of the early adopters of the idea. Workers who’ve been doing it are being allowed to continue, but it’s gotten much harder to get approval to start working from home and for several months at least new hires haven’t had the option at all. On the other hand, I’ve also heard from a reliable source that even before the Corona virus a famous manufacturer of canned soup had been seriously considering closing its company headquarters and shifting almost 100% to a work from home model for its office workers.

    With working from home having been forced upon so many people and companies today, the question is whether it will remain popular when things calm down. I obviously have no answers but somehow I suspect the great majority of the worker will return to their offices.



    May 6, 2020 at 11:58 AM

    • ” I’ve heard from people who still work there that the financial publishing company where I worked until 2009 has been cutting back on the working from home option even though it was one of the early adopters of the idea.”

      That’s true in my company as well. My company was an earlier leader in WAH and I myself have been WAH for about 18 years. The company this year was starting to move away from it, for reasons that I’m not clear on other than the obvious issue of locations where they own the buildings they want bodies in the desks there, but they may be coronaed back into widespread support for work at home.

      Mike Street Station

      May 6, 2020 at 1:36 PM

  3. Work-from-Home is fantastic. I have saved a ton of money on gas, lunches, laundry and other office related b.s. like getting hit up for donations. I’ve spent a lot more time with my neighbors and close family. There is a huge cost in commuting back and forth to work everyday. There was a great personal finance book written called “Your Money or Your Life” that got into work related expenses and how people typically make less than half of what they think they do when the cost of work is factored in. Conservatives should absolutely champion Work-from-Home as it builds community and family formation. If both, or even one parent can work from home it makes daycare unnecessary. Living on one income becomes more doable since you don’t have to outsource as many household tasks. Sexual harassment claims go away since you don’t have to interact with young women in the office anymore (sign me up). As you pointed out, it also makes rural life more accessible and desirable. It saves families both money and time to focus on the things that truly matter. As for the libertarians, i think there is a stronger libertarian case to be made for employees choosing where they want to work than corporations making that choice. The Coronavirus will definitely accelerate this trend.


    May 6, 2020 at 12:23 PM

    • Interacting with attractive young ladies is my favorite thing about going to work. I don’t come close to sexual harassment. The interaction is mutually enjoyable.

      Jay Fink

      May 6, 2020 at 9:44 PM

  4. I suspect a lot of the reluctance on embracing WFH stemmed from the people in charge being older and too set in their ways (not to be overly critical of the elderly; everyone trends this direction over life more or less). At my own mid-size employer, we had long been looking to expand WFH options because we were losing out on young talent who were turned off by us essentially not allowing it, but our chief executive, who is the oldest person there, was the one who was firmly against it.

    Jokah Macpherson

    May 6, 2020 at 12:28 PM

  5. One other potential advantage of WFH is that previously you were expected to spend the majority of your waking hours around people who were completely off-limits as potential sex partners according to social norms (yes, we all know a few people who’ve made it work, but it’s Russian roulette); from the perspective of a single person this is a huge waste of your life. Not being so tied down to an office or a commute would allow you to structure your lifestyle to put you in environments where you could meet people.

    Jokah Macpherson

    May 6, 2020 at 12:33 PM

    • Right, people who WANT to work in an office could rent space at WeWork (which is probably going to go bankrupt because of the pandemic).

      • Let’s convert all these Manhattan office towers into residentials to thin out the density.

        On your twitter feed, you mentioned “to be or not to be” for the future of luxury housing in Manhattan, perhaps there’s an opportunity to bring in more urban strivers or wealthy parasites into the island to cool an overheated real estate market.

        Ok, what, who's this again?

        May 6, 2020 at 1:07 PM

    • As someone who mainly works from home, it is not that great. After a while you crave human interaction and you are much more likely to become isolated working from home than not. An ideal for me would be 3 days at home and 2 at some office with human interaction. Don’t underestimate also the human interaction benefit for work itself, being able to talk immediately and directly with your team is very beneficial. When we do meet I feel like a lot of issues getting resolved and everybody get some productivity boost.
      My friend who is a typical millennial just got hooked up with a girl in his office, it is still very common and only neurotic people who are afraid of their own shadow and preach to close the world because of corona, can’t figure out how to hook up with people from work.


      May 6, 2020 at 6:32 PM

  6. “For conservatives, work-from-home means an end to the dominance of liberal “blue” cities like New York.”

    Realistically a WFH regime would probably still have periodic in-person meetings, so I wouldn’t say it’s synonymous with geographic decentralization.


    May 6, 2020 at 12:35 PM

    • “periodic in-person meetings,”

      Has no one ever heard of Zoom?

      • Working from home doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. A company could have a policy in which people come into the office a day or two a week and work from home the rest of the time. While that wouldn’t enable workers to live in more remote locations it allow them to enjoy most other WFH benefits and would make traffic less busy. Managers might be more willing to accept this as compared to full WFH because they’d have more direct control over their workers.



        May 6, 2020 at 1:12 PM

      • Finished my third Zoom conference of the week this AM, right after my 6th conference call of the week. I would gladly spend two hours in rush hour traffic to avoid another one. Maybe it works for really simple stuff like calls to Grandma, but it’s a nightmare for even mildly complicated and/or technical discussion involving more than two people. Some things just need to be done in person. That said, I’ve primarily worked from home for about the last 10 years (about=evolved into WFH over time) and love it when it doesn’t require a lot of collaboration with others. I normally go into the office at least one day a week to make an appearance or if I have a meeting. You’re looking at this as a dichotomy; there’s a middle ground of going in one or two days a week instead of five. Companies could save a lot of money if they didn’t have everybody coming in every day, just from the reduction in office space. The government really needs to stay out of this one though – businesses have a much better feel for what will and won’t work. If this has resulted in significant (or potentially significant) cost savings, you’ll see more of it.

        The libertarian argument re smoking was, as you note, that a business should have the right to decide. Customer preference for non-smoking restaurants was well established long before legal bans on smoking were enacted. I can remember restaurants banning smoking in the 80s.


        May 6, 2020 at 6:04 PM

  7. I will come out and admit that I too opposed the smoking ban at the time; my standard retort was, “Why not ban ugly people from bars, too? No one likes having to be around that, either.” But having seen the results of the smoking ban, I would switch that statement from a rebuttal to a rhetorical question (and in reality, many nightlife venues do ban ugly people, broadly defined, via ‘dress codes’ and arbitrary screening).

    Jokah Macpherson

    May 6, 2020 at 12:42 PM

    • They should have banned alcohol, tobacco and drugs decades ago. I think the liberals and hippie types wanted them legalized more than the libertarians.


      May 6, 2020 at 2:36 PM

  8. Who are these “libel-terror-plebeians”?

    It’s really proles who are itching to go back to work and their normal routine during this crisis.

    And the prole label is more poignant than any “conservative” or “libertarian” label, if we’re talking about an undesirable demographic who causes unnecessary havoc.

    Ok, what, who's this again?

    May 6, 2020 at 12:49 PM

  9. I can now say that I know someone who has died from the virus. He was a co-worker at the Major Home Improvement Retailer, where I worked until leaving six months ago for the Extremely Large Online Retailer. I’m not sure how old he was but I’d guess mid to late 60’s, quite a bit younger than the average age of people who’ve died from it, however his health wasn’t good. Although he was able to walk with some difficulty, permanent numbness in his feet from diabetes had forced him to stop driving a year or two ago, and when I left six months ago he had been out of work for a month or two recovering from a heart attack.



    May 6, 2020 at 1:04 PM

    • Straw, Meet Camel’s Back

      Iron; I think you’re falling into the same trap as the hysterics in the media.
      It’s much more likely you knew someone who died with Covid-19 than from it.

      Judging from your description of this person’s health conditions, a light breeze might
      have been enough to carry him away.

      He had Diabetes. Likely PAD – Peripheral Artery Disease [ Numbness].
      Coronary Disease – [Heart Attack] And who knows what else?
      Covid-19 might have been the proverbial straw, but it was no more than that.
      This fellow likely wouldn’t have made it for very long, Covid-19 or not.

      BTW Lion – Glad to have you and the usual commenters back.
      I greatly missed your blog and all the great commenters.
      Best Regards to All,

      Nedd Ludd

      May 6, 2020 at 2:53 PM

      • That sounds likely. PAD in particular is no joking matter. Back when I was selling life insurance PAD was one of the relatively few conditions that was an automatic no-exceptions disqualifier for all coverage. People with histories of heart attacks or cancer sometimes could get life insurance,, but not PAD.



        May 6, 2020 at 6:00 PM

      • Indeed, a woman who works at the MHIR texted me and said that XXX had died, I texted back right away and said he had been a good person, and a couple of minutes after that she replied and said he had died of the virus. His health status was so poor that in the couple of minutes before she replied it didn’t even occur to me that he had been a virus case.



        May 7, 2020 at 1:10 PM

  10. The real reason it hasn’t caught on is that working from home is a threat to the C-Level & administrative jobs that are revealed to be mostly superfluous and waste the time of employees who actually do work.

    From a purely pragmatic standpoint WFH is great until companies try to shuffle off all their employees to WFH in India or elsewhere.

    Panther of the Blogocube

    May 6, 2020 at 1:28 PM

    • If C-level support work-at-office even though it’s bad for society, then that’s why the govt needs to step in and mandate it.

  11. Working from home sounds good in theory. But in practice, I still need to communicate with my coworkers, and nothing works as well as a face-to-face conversation. Zoom meetings always have issues. Also, I’m getting quite tired of being around my wife 24/7, trying to get her to leave me alone and not talk to me while I’m “at work”, even if I’m not always 100% busy.


    May 6, 2020 at 1:38 PM

    • I don’t like your wife either.


      May 6, 2020 at 2:22 PM

  12. I watched my old company waffle on work-from-home policies for at least a decade. The policies were never entirely clear and they differed by department. Whenever the policy loosened up and some employees started working remotely, those employees were almost always the first to go in the next round of layoffs. I think it’s just easier to axe someone who you haven’t seen in person for a long time.

    I also suspect that managers compete with other managers by visible headcount of staff. Obviously, that’s tougher to to do when your staff isn’t corralled in one place. I also think managers drink the kool aid on the importance of “building teams” and “company culture” by arranging things like team lunches, outings and so forth. Those events are often painful for everyone involved, but they give managers the chance to identify employees who aren’t “fitting in.” The social misfits are typically high on the list when layoffs come.

    It would be really nice to do away with all that crap and just let people do their computer-based jobs without having to live in a fish bowl for 8+ hours a day. That said, full-time WFH policies would probably result in middle managers having a lot less to do, which would threaten their job security.

    Now that the pandemic is proving out that WFH works just fine and could save a lot of money, it seems that there should be no stopping it from becoming widely adopted. But we’ll see.

    Drone Alone

    May 6, 2020 at 2:18 PM

  13. Working from home requires different management skills than those who want everyone in a single physical location. Many firms have been doing the work from home since it makes businesses cheaper to start up. It seems the VC world wants to see an open office full of younger workers.


    May 6, 2020 at 2:24 PM

  14. I feel like an authority on the subject of working from home. It’s a net positive but there are certain drawbacks and the setup is not for everyone. You absolutely have to be disciplined and it takes mental fortitude to keep your marbles at times. It’s not that stupid banter with co-workers is crucial. It’s that you spend hours living in your own head.

    And you can absolutely be micro-managed as a remote employee. Email can be a very awkward medium for communication. And in some ways, you take yourself off of the career track as a remote employee (although that may change. This crisis has normalized the work from home worker and removed almost all stigma). As much as I hate retarded Zoom meetings, I’ve noticed better overall communication with the “team” compared to phone conferences.

    For most people, the positives outweigh any negatives. I recently interviewed for a new job, which I was somewhat relieved not to get because of the the horrific commute. I would have been getting up at an ungodly hour just to drive to a weird office park in a far off burb. Then a huge drive back in bumper to bumper traffice. The pay raise would have been eaten up by gas, office clothes, and lunches. How much is your free time worth? If a potential job pays an extra 50k is it worth it? 100k? 200k?

    I have many “self-actualizing” activities so my free time is worth a lot to me. Once you make a certain salary, your free time is worth just as much, if not more. I have friends who earn a lot more than me, with a more prestigious title. But I make a good salary and have lots of free time. Who wins?

    I do think this crisis is an opportunity to encourage companies to allow work from home. If they ***really care about climate and the environment, it should be a no-brainer!


    May 6, 2020 at 2:53 PM

    • Pretty much any non-essential, fake make “white collar” office work has been deemed “non-sequitur” in the Age of Coronavirus.

      When people say a certain line of work is BS, they’re saying it’s non-essential. How many employees do we need to staff MSM outlets that spit the same info and dis-info?

      Ok, what, who's this again?

      May 6, 2020 at 3:34 PM

    • I have to deal with the “living in your head” issue when working at the Extremely Large Online Retailer. There’s no causal chit-chat like in an office because people at are dispersed workstations and the background machinery noise makes it hard to communication without shouting. What happens is that I often let thoughts fester in my head, especially obsessing about all the people who didn’t like me years and years ago.



      May 7, 2020 at 1:16 PM

  15. There are problems with WFH. Some managers just do not feel comfortable with it. If they cannot see the employee in the office working, they cannot be sure how hard he is working. The problem is mostly with non-technical managers who have no idea how to judge the work product produced by an employees working from home.

    If you are single and living alone, then working from home can be more productive and less distracting than working in an open office or in cubicles. On the other hand if you are married or living with a partner that is home all day, you have to convince your partner to leave you alone and let you concentrate on work. Depending on the partner, this may or may not be a problem. If you have kids, it can be challenging to get them to leave you alone to work.

    I could see a company going to some kind of an open office system where employees mostly worked from home, but there were a few desks in an open office that whoever physically showed up at work could use on a first come basis. A company I worked at 20 years ago had small satellite offices in some remote parts of the bay area. Employees living in those remote areas could go and work in the satellite office instead of the long commute to the main office, although I think they still had cubicles in the main office and would come in sometimes.


    May 6, 2020 at 4:47 PM

  16. Work-from-hospital:

    MEH 0910

    May 6, 2020 at 5:42 PM

  17. lion – good to have you back and with comments.

    i think lots of people will be opposed to working from home. once C-level executives realize they don’t need their key employees to be physically in the office, then the question becomes do they even need them in the same city, state or country. Next thing you know you have outsourced telework to India. no, there’s not a cute scenario where this is not the case – this is exactly how it would go.

    i don’t think being experienced and good at your job is a protection against offshoring either. there are shocking numbers of senior executives that simply do not understand how their businesses operate. this is particularly true of non technical managers in technology heavy fields. they can mandate you train your replacements too.

    I think there a variety of competitive dynamics, not the least of which labor competition for wages within their firms, based on their status, that compel people to be in the same location. you can say it’s pointless, but it’s also human nature. most jobs have a large portion of useless activity, question is how valuable the useful part is.


    May 6, 2020 at 5:45 PM

  18. On the one hand wfh might help reduce immigration, but only because there is no reason for educated immigrants to move here. Wfh actually makes offshoring even easier. We are using an analyst sitting in Brazil at the moment who joins us on Microsoft Teams. There is no difference between working with him or our boy in Chicago. Normally the “Brazilian” would be sitting in NY, but he got stuck in the old country visiting his parents. But realistically, one has to wonder why we use Americans for all sorts of consulting and finance jobs when we could use Brazilians, Philipinos, Poles, etc. at a far lower salary.

    Peter Akuleyev

    May 6, 2020 at 6:19 PM

    • At my company, we have a lot of contractors from India, but when India enacted it’s shut down, we lost them temporarily because they didn’t have a work at home infrastructure. You can’t count on internet service in the third world.

      Mike Street Station

      May 9, 2020 at 9:12 AM

    • And honestly lots of educated immigrants are coming to USA for “freedom” but for a better paycheck. I think they’d be happier if they got to stay in their countries under WFH arrangements.


      May 9, 2020 at 7:50 PM

  19. 100% right. Told this exact thing to a libertarian about a week ago (maybe two). Pointed out how the private sector would be screwing the white collar workers if not for enough government intervention to make the right thing happen. Also pointed out how other related libertarian assertions didn’t work in the real world.


    May 6, 2020 at 7:21 PM

  20. One interesting thing about a world in which everyone worked from home would be that promotions within the firm would be based entirely on merit: there’s no opportunity for people to charm the boss or suck up to him/her if you’re working from home.

    On the other hand, maybe teleworking would have to be struck down because of disparate impact. If only the most productive workers got raises, bonuses and promotions, maybe black affirmative action employees would come off worse? Of course, you can often still tell a person’s ethnic and racial background from their name. But the ‘out of sight out of mind’ factor might mean that it’s a lot easier to ignore blacks when you don’t have to see them at work, and they can’t intimidate or grievance-monger to a captive, workplace audience.

    PS please stop fucking about with your comments section.

    prolier than thou

    May 7, 2020 at 7:31 AM

    • “But the ‘out of sight out of mind’ factor might mean that it’s a lot easier to ignore blacks when you don’t have to see them at work, and they can’t intimidate or grievance-monger to a captive, workplace audience.”

      Do you even know what a tumblrina is? Of course someone can make problems without being there in person.


      May 7, 2020 at 10:22 AM

  21. Would be very interested to read a discussion about the dynamic between wfh and outsourcing. I wonder if people really want to *see a bunch of Indians working for them in Zoom meetings. Maybe the top brass won’t care, but your average American girl employee will not like it.

    I feel bad for my company’s IT department. It used to be vast, with a very responsive help line. Then they outsourced much of it to another American company off-site and you get these well meaning, almost useless IT people in Houston or wherever who advise you to “reboot”.

    The guys who are left are overworked into a state of psychosis.


    May 7, 2020 at 10:20 AM

  22. Who would be opposed? Me for example. I’ve worked hard to achieve the type of flexible career that allows me to work whenever I want and live wherever I want. The last thing I want is for all the human trash from crowded cities to spill out into the few pristine areas left in the world and spoil those as well.

    Wang Hu

    May 7, 2020 at 9:38 PM

  23. As a leftist, I want more moderates/liberals/left-wingers living in rural environments. Their votes will count for more when it comes to the presidency and senate.

    I agree with those arguing for a combination of telecommuting and working in-person. It’s probably more efficient than pure telecommuting, and makes it slightly more difficult to justify outsourcing. However, I can see people slacking on their home days and trying to make it up in the office. I can see more e-mail nagging about TPS reports.

    Meetings are already generally terrible, and Zoom only makes them more terrible. Humans are a social species. Millions of people attend sporting events in spite of $20 parking, $12 beers, crap seats, and traffic congestion out-the-ass.


    May 8, 2020 at 1:39 AM

    • You make spectator sports sound very stupid.

      As far as partial WFH, if only 15% of the office is in the office on any day, it’s sort of useless because 85% of the people you might want to talk to in person still aren’t there.

      Everyone WFH with once-a-year meetings in Las Vegas that people fly to would make more sense.

  24. It’s ridiculous. You will never have generalized wfh. Why? Women. Women consider working to be a valuable and indispensable part of their social lives. She gets up in the morning. Dolls herself up. Talking in the elevator. Gossiping by the water cooler. Taking meetings. Doing lunch. More meetings. Not to mention, meeting successful men and getting all kinds of attention and drama. No less than the former female CEO of Yahoo!, upon one of her first acts as “leader,” was to end wfh.

    How does a women get any of that on remote access? Consider something trivial: most people don’t look good in the cameras used in Zoom and Team meetings. Overall, the video is very unflattering. Do you think women want their only presence in a company to be their sketchy image on remote access? Hardly. Women will never allow a technology to break up an integrated office. Never. What would HR have to do?

    I find it hilarious how people think that wfh exposes the unnecessary, clueless executives that all need to get out of the way of the working drones. Executives are how a company reproduces its corporate culture. They are everywhere and always the last to be made redundant Oh…and a lot executives put their wives in HR, so you know that remote working is dead.

    On a more practical note, there is a reason why industries concentrate in certain areas: social media in Silicon Valley; Finance in New York; Energy in Houston. It is the hazing ritual of moving to a particular area to participate economically, the ritual practice of doing something wrenching and inconvenient that binds you to an organization. Furthermore, there is security. Face-to-face communications is private and it keeps business information closely held, as opposed to working from home which requires you putting all of your business data in the hands of Microsoft or Google.

    No, the idea is dead on arrival.


    May 8, 2020 at 1:18 PM

  25. As a person who has had to fire a fair number of people in my career: it is much easier to do to people you don’t know or barely know.

    Managers who have to fire or lay-off people are people too. When you know about a person’s disabled child, or you like talking to them around the proverbial water-cooler, it becomes a nightmare to have to terminate them. (I’m sure there are some sadists who don’t mind, but most managers aren’t sadists.)

    I think that anybody who works at home is at much greater risk of losing their job in any type of cut-back scenario.

    I do think long commutes are a nightmare. Rather than working from home, I’d recommend that people find a job where you drive a short distance to a suburban office park with plenty of parking.

    Amused Observer

    May 8, 2020 at 8:48 PM

  26. FYI, John Derbyshire mentioned this thread in his latest podcast. Go to the 28:49 mark.


    May 10, 2020 at 6:33 PM

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