Patrick McManus (1933-2018), author of such classics as “Never Sniff a Gift Fish,” also wrote the genre-defining work, “How I Got This Way.” Neither title was intended as a snide, side-glancing comment on the law of independent contractor relationships, but, if the shoes fit, stomp with them.
How bad is independent contractor law? How inefficient? How inscrutable? How unfair? How unwanted even by the supposed beneficiaries? You can read all about it in a new article by Tammy McCutchen and Alex McDonald, “The War on Independent Work: Why Some Regulators Want to Abolish Independent Contracting, Why They Keep Failing, & Why We Should Declare Peace,” just published in Volume 24 of the Federalist Society Review. And you should. Government at all levels, it seems, has never found a victim for whom it couldn’t make things worse.
American employers face a menagerie of over 100 laws controlling the classification of workers as “employees” or “independent contractors.” Some, even in the same jurisdiction, conflict materially. Some are internally inconsistent. Most are maddeningly ambiguous, requiring compliance-oriented employers to consult a local oracle. (What? You thought Apollo’s priestess at Delphi had a monopoly? No, no, no.)
If there were a uniform national standard—as the authors propose—we oracles would be the first and biggest losers. Let the losing begin.
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