Busting Myths: Can Jobs Be Stolen?

When dealing with issues such as immigration or unlicensed taxi services like Uber or Lyft, it’s not at all uncommon for people with full citizenship in a given country or a license to perform a given service to complain that their job has been stolen from them by someone who undercuts them on price. Be it an immigrant worker taking a job at a rate below minimum wage, or a ridesharing service driver operating without being government approved to offer the simple service of transporting someone from point A to point B, people who lose their jobs to this competition will be frustrated and upset over their job being “stolen”. While their frustration with losing their job is understandable, their moral indignation is not. Ultimately jobs are not property, and because they are not property they cannot be stolen.

A job is simply an agreement of exchange between two or more parties. For example, party A agrees to provide party B with X amount of widget Y in exchange for Z number of hours of labor. Now, where is the property here? There is an agreement for the exchange of certain properties, such as time, labor, and goods, but there is nothing in this agreement itself which is property, and so it cannot be owned by anybody.

By the same token, nobody really “creates a job.” They simply enter into an agreement to exchange one good or service for another. This is one of the problems of those who try to stifle competition from entering into their market. The taxi company that has gone through the bureaucratic channels to provide service with government licensing claims to have “created new jobs” for people willing to drive for a living, however they have not created anything, any more than I can create a house by acquiring a license as a construction contractor.

An agreement or contract can certainly be violated, but if my employer decides to terminate their agreement with me in order to pursue one along with someone else, they have not stolen anything from me any more than I would have stolen from them if I decided to leave one job to pursue another means of employment which I felt would be more beneficial to me. Theft can only occur by the means of fraud or force, and neither of these things happen when a party to a given trade decides to move on.

Jobs are not property, and since jobs are not property, it is impossible to steal them. Jobs are not creatable, they are simply agreements between two or more parties for exchange. If this were properly understood, everyone would prosper more. Rather than wringing their hands over losing customers to ridesharing services, larger taxi companies which formerly enjoyed government granted monopolies would actually improve the quality and quantity of service which they provide to customers. Persons banking on their citizenship as an assurance of job security would realize the need to provide better service to their customers, and proper, fair market competition would reign again. As always, more fair and open competition benefits everyone involved and ultimately leads to greater prosperity in terms of real property.

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