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By Rob Gross
We're bombarded with the bad news daily as financial markets plunge to recent lows. The analysts tell us consumer confidence is falling while inventories are rising and everyday we learn about some technology industry giant from a year ago laying off workers by the thousands.
But a revolution is taking place before our very eyes! Believe it or not our New Economy is more resilient today than ever although it's sometimes hard to tell when we measure it with a 20th century yardstick. The New Economy is spurred on by the growth of the Internet, the best transportation infrastructure we've ever had, and, finally, by the growing numbers of work at home entrepreneurs.
It's not a matter of luck that we find ourselves in this favorable position, nor is it mere coincidence. It's a matter of good old American Capitalism mixed with appropriate government investment over most of the last century's last decade that has brought us here.
The Founding Fathers pledged political and economic freedom and it is the adherence to that promise that has allowed the citizens of the United States to lead the world for about the last 225 years in the area of entrepreneurship. In fact, the Federal government even went as far as creating a whole enterprise, the Small Business Association(SBA), in 1953 to assist American entrepreneurs to become successful businesses. It is under these circumstances that the Internet has flourished. And it has done so in America much more than anywhere else.
The Internet has made it far easier to be a successful entrepreneur than the SBA ever could have. Who could have imagined in 1953 that one day a business could reach a market of millions with the click of a mouse?
While the Internet has made it easier for businesses to sell it has also made it easier for consumers to buy. Again, American entrepreneurship stepped in with the proliferation of so many overnight delivery services. I'm sure our parents saw this sort of activity at the neighborhood science fiction picture show. With just a few clicks you've made your purchase and low and behold it's on your doorstep the next morning. Never mind what the media tells us. We've made it so easy to buy and spend that a recession is practically an impossibility. Perhaps our only fear is inflation, but not on Alan Greenspan's watch!
But again, this could not all happen without a solid infrastructure of roads, airports, railways and waterways. Investment in this area was always a priority for the Clinton Administration and much more so than the administrations of President Clinton's predecessors. This philosophy culminated in Clinton's proposed budget for 2001 where a record $54.9 billion is allocated to infrastructure. Of this $39 billion is to be spent on improving mobility and this amount represents a whopping 86% increase over the average allocations for improving mobility in the Federal budgets of 1990-1993.
So, here we are. We've got the Internet and we've got the infrastructure. And we've also got runaway healthcare costs. Perhaps future generations will look back fondly at 2001, when affordable health insurance was still a subject of science fiction. But for now, it's our dilemma. And this problem is in large part responsible for the layoffs we get to read about everyday. Employers can't afford to pay for their employees' healthcare and more and more the cry from the corporate boardrooms is "OUTSOURCE."
Enter the Freelancer. He/She has the skills. He/She has the knowledge. He/She has the desire. And with a computer, printer, scanner, phone, fax, internet connection, etc, available today for under $2000 he/she has all the necessities of work right at home. And guess what - he/she likes working at home and all the benefits that come with it. But who's going to pay for health insurance? Who cares! That's not the employer's problem anymore. And like everything else in our wonderful consumer driven economy, health insurance can be sought and bought by the individual based on his/her specific needs. And the sources of affordable health insurance for the individual are increasing at a fast pace about as fast as the freelancing population.
Today's freelancer is not alone. Freelance jobs web sites are proliferating and succeeding more than ever and are becoming more and more a viable source of workers for corporate America across a wide spectrum of occupations. One such site, Guru.com, which is generally regarded by freelancers as the leading freelance jobs site, boasts 470,000 registered users. Another one, Bullhorn.com, which was virtually non-existent just one year ago, recently celebrated the 10,000th portfolio downloaded to their site.
So don't be bothered by the recent news of economic gloom. The transition to a work at home, freelance society, is just the next step in our economic evolution. Even though the economic statisticians haven't quite figured out how to account for it yet.
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