IT Employment

What independence means to consultants

Chip Camden explores the question of whether independent consultants are truly free and, if so, to what degree.

I've been reading Xenophon's collected works on Socrates lately. In numerous places he makes a point of telling us that Socrates never accepted any payment for his services, so that he could remain free to do what he wanted rather than being a slave to his clients. For example, in Memoirs of Socrates I.6, he has Socrates state:

... those who accept payment are bound to do the work for which they've been paid, whereas I, since I don't accept it, am not compelled to converse with a person if I don't want to

Later in the same chapter Socrates uses an even stronger image:

A man who sells his favours for a price to anyone who wants them is called a catamite; but if anyone forms a love-attachment with someone whom he knows to be truly good, we regard him as perfectly respectable. In just the same way, those who sell wisdom at a price are called sophists; but if anyone, by imparting any edifying knowledge that he possesses, makes a friend of one whom he knows to be naturally gifted, we consider that he is behaving as a truly good citizen should behave.

Imagine the furrows in my brow as I attempted to apply this analogy to the occupation of consulting. I think of myself as being one of the more independent people I know, yet here Socrates tells me that because I charge a fee and am beholden to the whims of my clients, I'm no more in charge of myself than is a prostitute! The accusation has some teeth, because early in my career I even said as much to myself: whatever the client wants, no matter how strange, I the software prostitute will deliver.

In recent years I have been providing more free advice and software to the community of developers. I've become involved in the Copyfree Initiative, which seeks to benefit all developers by freely sharing our respective insights and discoveries. That seems in line with Socrates' description of the behavior of a good citizen above. He's also right about being free to choose one's projects. When I work on Copyfree software, I find each project intensely interesting, because if it wasn't I wouldn't choose to work on it. In an ideal world, I'd work on only such exciting projects.

But everyone has to eat and pay the bills, and I'm not ready to adopt a life of poverty (as Socrates did) merely for the sake of the independence it supposedly provides. Besides, even work on free software requires a certain amount of money for hardware, internet connection, and other expenses. In the business of software development, someone has to fund your activities. The question then becomes: what arrangement for patronage provides you the income you need while preserving the greatest independence?

At first glance, the answer seems obvious: running your own business must provide greater independence, because you can determine your own hours and decide what work you will accept or reject. In practice, however, it might not turn out to be so clear-cut.

First of all, some employers these days (perhaps following Google's lead) provide more latitude to their employees about what projects they'll work on. Employee status also comes with paid vacations, and personal and sick leave. Some even get paid sabbaticals.

Consultants, rather than being their own boss, can suddenly find themselves having the same number of bosses as they have clients, each with potentially conflicting schedules. They may also have to defer a vacation until they can afford to go without revenue. An extended leave of absence could result in a loss of most of their clientele. Consultants must also spend time looking for new business.

In either case, though, the degree of true independence comes down to how much of your work is doing what you want to do versus doing what you're told to do. This depends more on the relationship you have with your clients (or employer) than it does on how you're compensated. If you're a creative person, you should look first for work that allows you to exercise that creativity, then build the contractual relationship around that understanding.

I've been fortunate to acquire and maintain clients who have allowed me to work on interesting projects, often just as fascinating as the free software projects I work on in my spare time. But I've earned part of my good fortune by learning the hard way that some clients just are not worth the trouble. If you allow yourself to get sucked into a slave-like relationship with a client for whatever reason -- you think you need the money, you don't think you'll find other work, you just can't say no -- then you become like the sophists Socrates described. It takes a good deal of work to maintain a relationship in which you can retain your independent decision-making even when you're paid for your work. You have to convince your client that this is in their best interests, too. After all, even Socrates accepted invitations to dinner.

The quotations from Xenophon are from Robin Waterfield's translation in Xenophon, Conversations of Socrates, Penguin Classics, 1990.

About

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

35 comments
rader
rader

is never having to work on Vista again!

CesarFStoll
CesarFStoll

Being independent means working to perform the job, a job, to accomplish the mandate that requires your expertise and contribution, it means therefore freedom from politics, even though politics sometimes is in the way to properly fulfill the obligations of the job. Independent consulting/contracting is the natural state of labour as it establishes the true relationship that any project requires for its successful completion and even existence. Independent consulting/contracting, is not against or in position to the so called "permanent employment" which corporations are more bound to be tied onto as a consequence of what politics dictates, that coming form local, provincial or state, or national or federal levels; all trying to show a face of having positively intervened in the job statistics. Of course, these same politicians will never be there when the so called "permanent" thing is not there any more due to natural attrition, lay offs, justified or not, and else. They are only for the statistics. It does not mean that regular employment has no place in any business, but it does mean that the relationship between business and consultant/contractor is different and perhaps more genuine than the other one, just because it is limited by the specific requirement of the job, while the other is not so much because politically, the relationship is fallaciously "permanent", sometimes even destroying the regular involvement.

sheldon.shulman
sheldon.shulman

While some might believe that providing free software frees you up and gives you the mirage of independence Socrates was talking about, in truth, I feel, that open source was one of the worst ideas to hit IT in a long time. Because what it did was cheapen what we were all doing. We were charging for a service which now became free to some extent. If potatos were being handed out for free on street corners, the price at the super market would drop precipitously. Free services is a bad idea for that reason. But there is another reason why its not a good idea. Even if you have a sponsor to cover expenses. Being "Open", is not a good idea either. If you can learn one thing from the success of Apple, it's that its entire company frame of mind out in infinity circle is one of secrecy. No one talks about what they are doing unless they have to. Everything is on a need to know basis. That's what makes a product valuable. It means you have something to offer no one else has. If you make it open, now everyone knows what it is. So to remain independent is nice but please don't do it at our expense.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...I find myself working on something that I really don't want to. Admittedly since the economy has been rough over the last several years, that seems to be more than it used to be, but I really can't complain. As mentioned above, I too still get to select my clients and projects. They may not be as fun as they used to be, I still get to pick. I don't know of anybody who isn't answerable to someone else. It's all a matter of degree. As it is, even with the responsibilities I have and those I need to answer to, I am still far more "free" that most people I know.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

We humans are like smartphones that have bluetooth always on, always announcing and always pairing with everything it picks up. The only way a human can be completely independent (on the personal level, thus dodging air, water and food dependencies) is when that person lives in a complete void. Even just occasionally seeing a neighbor in the stairwell is a form of low-grade dependency, the way we're geared. We constantly look for an "us" to form the backdrop for our "I". Even "Me vs. Them" presupposes an "Us", not to mention that "Me vs. Them" is a way a person defines itself, and people are extremely dependent on ways to define themselves. I do get it, though, life in Socky's world was an unpleasant mess of bitchy cliquery. And of course, they did eventually execute him for noncompliance with the ruling clique. I do think independence and belonging are opposite ends of an non-discrete scale. We optimize our position according to our tastes and possibilities, but ultimately there are few benefits in achieving the perfection of either extreme (barring religious beliefs; some probably feel that complete rejection of the material (and social subset) is the way to enlightenment, and others probably feel that complete belonging is to become one with the ... species consciousness?)

lastchip
lastchip

Even if like Ron_Ellis, you hand pick your clients, there is still a responsibility to them. Sure, the pressure you may have had when working for someone who was difficult may not be in the equation, but even simple conscientiousness provides that we try and deliver. So perhaps we push ourselves, maybe through not wanting to look a failure, or even simply needing the cash. I'm sure colleagues could name many other reasons. But at the end of the day, we're not free to do as we wish in the true meaning. About the only people I can think of in that position, are wealthy people who are retired and have sufficient funds to do whatever they want, when they want. And there aren't too many of them. Most are restrained by finances.

Ron_Ellis
Ron_Ellis

To be independent as a consultant is for me primarily about doing what I'd like to do, and doing it for folks I???d like to work with. After starting an IT consulting firm in 1990 I had the 'Great Blessing' of being able to sell it in 1998. When my non-compete was up in 1990 I started the consulting practice I wanted to have and it???s most important focus was carefully SELECTING clients. Over the years I've been brave enough to encourage some clients to seek other consultants when they suggested that trust or price was an issue, or if they began to routinely began to dishonor our services by not paying on time. It???s made all the difference. In fact the BIGGEST benefit might be that in the last 3 years during the most challenging economy in my lifetime not a single client has gone out of business. Sure things slowed down, but we and they stayed in business! That???s independence served with a dose of job security that I highly value...

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...was being able to declare that you'd never work on Visduh in the first place.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

for actual worth. Obviously, that's desirable for those unable to produce real worth. For his next trick, Sheldon will argue that people capable of creating better, easier to maintain code are morally obligated to charge so much for their services that also the mediocre can thrive. :^0

apotheon
apotheon

What you do is cheapened only if what you do is "selling" something in a market 100% dependent on artificial scarcity -- and, as any economist with any brains and integrity will tell you, artificial scarcity is *bad* for economies, the people who live in them, and the forward progress of civilization. What "we" should be doing is helping people advance, not holding them hostage to monopolistic control over artificially scarce ephemera, regardless of the time that might have gone into producing that essentially imaginary "product". If you think Apple's business model is predicated upon complete opposition to open source software, you're mentally impaired or ignorant of the truth. The best C compiler available right now is Clang, an open source compiler created by . . . Apple. The kernel of MacOS X is a Mach kernel, which is . . . open source software. The userland tools of MacOS X are . . . open source software. Google Chrome, xombrero, Surf, Uzbl, and Safari (for MacOS X) are all browsers that have in common the fact they're built on the open source WebKit browser rendering engine and toolkit, a project maintained by . . . Apple. I could go on at great length, but the point is already made: your notion of Apple as some kind of great success because it is the opposite of open source is fatally flawed. In fact, the secrecy surrounding some of what Apple does is the thing that most holds it back. Being "closed" is what got MS Windows into its security problems in the first place, by the way. It's far too tempting for a financially successful organization (as Microsoft once was) to lie to the world about security issues rather than fix them when its software is closed up and secretive, which ultimately got Microsoft its reputation for a peddler of some of the least secure desktop computing software available. I'll continue developing open source software -- for my benefit, for the benefit of users, for the benefit of consultants and businesses that have integrity and aim to help their clients and customers rather than hold them hostage, and to the detriment of people like you who evidently think that a client-provider relationship should be secretive, deceptive, and ultimately coercive, 'cause screw that.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." In the extreme, anyway.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

It's probably more than a one-dimensional scale, too (perhaps that's what you meant by "non-discrete"). With each relationship, we have to evaluate our relative independence/interdependence in the various aspects of that relationship, and try to get where we're most comfortable. Although 'comfortable' isn't always the right word, either -- sometimes we're willing to sacrifice comfort for fulfillment.

Ron_Ellis
Ron_Ellis

lastchip... you're right existentially, but I think we all need somrthing to do... I often, but not always, enjoy being a consultant and being involved in my clirnts businesses. I love the rush of helping a new client, but I also appreciate the value we both receive when working together with a client of 5, 10 or even 17 years. So, I have to wonder what might be the purpose of that "truly independent" goal you suggest? It is to be able to do precisely what you want. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are clearly both wealthy, but I'd say neither is pursuing that goal. And to me that's not the apparent goal of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. Might the goal of this kind of independence be to find the things that motivate you to engage, to do the things you enjoy and be willing to put up with the rest?

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Michael Jay also mentioned this. I would say that independence does not diminish responsibility -- in fact, it magnifies it. We can't retain our freedom unless we take responsibility for the success of our clients. When we do, more clients come to us and we can choose the work we want. When we don't, they all eventually fade away and leave us to take whatever we can get. It's a bit of a paradox.

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

And considering your last blog, I hope all is well. It would be nice if we could decide all that we do, but there is so much that we must do, and have no choice but to do it. Independence Day, yes we are independent, but there are responsibilities.

rader
rader

Doing a favor for a friend. Next time favor will be wipe and load different OS.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

especially on the week of Tesla Day :)

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

You are probably right about the dimensionality, that goes further than what I said. Even if we can abstract a binary opposition, it doesn't follow that the relation is linear, or that no other factors figure. I guess independence means having more choices. But sometimes the additional choices are all less optimal than an independence-reducing choice. And sometimes options are dependent on independence-reducing choices: I would imagine that some consulting tasks are sensitive enough that the client feels uncomfortable handing them over to consultants that are not committed. If those tasks are desirable, then the independence-preserving stance can be the more limiting one.

apotheon
apotheon

The important thing is more individualism than independence. Sometimes, being true to oneself (and thus a true individual) depends to some extent on relations with others. edit: I'm not entirely certain, at first blush, how that relates to what you just said.

lastchip
lastchip

I think your post is pretty much spot on. I'm actually in a position where I can decide to work or not, but on occasions still choose to. I don't work on a regular basis and pick and choose what I want to do. I think I would find the boredom of doing nothing extremely frustrating. I was perhaps looking at the concept from a different point of view, where the seriously rich, do in fact have that choice should they wish to make it. But unless it's inherited wealth, the chances are those that are in that position, have probably built empires (Bill Gates just for one example) and they are the type of people that are not necessarily driven just by money. People have all sorts of motivation; power being a huge one and one that can bring untold suffering if not in the right hands. Maybe that's Barack Obamas driving force. Perhaps he genuinely believes he can make the US better and maybe he can. Perhaps for some, he already has and that for him, is satisfaction and motivation enough. (not being from the US, I don't know enough about US politics to form an opinion and I'm certainly not getting into a discussion about it). But the point is, motivation can be obscure. However, getting back to whether consultants can be truly independent, I suspect that varies greatly between each individual, where they are in their life and not least, whether they need the cash or not. For all that, I don't fundamentally disagree with you. Thanks for your reply.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

Shortly after becoming available, it was clear that Visduh was going to be a performance and support nightmare with no tangible benefit for my clients to make the trouble worthwhile. I told all my clients that I would not "officially" support Visduh. If they insisted on allowing a Visduh computer into the fold, I'd work on it if asked, but only with the understanding that I could not and would not guarantee any results like I would with everything else I supported. If you were willing to pay me to waste 5 hours trying to solve some problem on a Visduh machine, I'd do it, but only with the understanding that after that time spent, you'd probably be left with the same problem, as well as a bill for my time. That money would have been better spent on an XP license and a few hours of load time. As for favors, I wouldn't do it at all. It was painful enough when I was getting paid to do work knowing that positive results were unlikely. Doing it for free was intolerable.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

No Good Dead ever goes Unpunished. ;) Col

apotheon
apotheon

As it happens, I developed a new license recently called the Tesla Copyfree Open Innovation License, or COIL for short. It's at (coil dot apotheon dot org) if you're interested. I created it basically because a bunch of people use some really awful licenses just for the patent clauses, so I figured the world needed a simple, clear, copyfree license that includes a patent grant. http://coil.apotheon.org edit: license name and URI fix

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...and I agree with most of them. My original post was more tongue-in-cheek is response to some spin I had just heard someone spew trying to justify aspects of Obama's agenda in relationship to the Clinton years, mainly in terms of taxes and growth. (The growth they take credit for occurred long after the GOP had broken the Democrat's 40-year monopoly on Congress in '96, and more energy taxes & HillaryCare were effectively removed from the table)

apotheon
apotheon

There's a reason I refer to each presidential *term* being worse than the last, and it's tied to what you describe, Sterling. It's because no president tries to undo any damage from a previous term, so that even if the new presidential term only adds half the damage that was done in the previous term, the end result is still worse, because almost nothing has ever been fixed in the process -- and the new damage builds on the old damage, with magnified effects.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... the US political machine accelerates such negative effects by providing incentives in all the wrong places. I don't think any single President has the power to stop that, although I don't think any of them have tried.

apotheon
apotheon

You're thinking of immediate, short-term conditions, rather than thinking in the long term. Lasting effects of things that occurred during the second Clinton Administration is what concerns me most. Rather than the superficial effects such as how many people were able to afford to move into a house (hitting a high, relative to immediately preceding conditions, in Clinton's second term), I think more about how many of those people were able to keep their homes until the present, and how much widespread damage the conditions that got them into their houses in the late 1990s caused in 2008 and beyond after the bubble burst, for instance. Let's consider a few things that went wrong during the second Clinton Administration: The "balanced budget" propaganda only takes into account public debt, and ignores the fact that gross federal debt was still growing. The Clinton Administration continued to inflate the War on Drugs throughout its entire eight-year run. In related news, relations with Colombia in 1998 started with talks over how to help end the violence overrunning the place by achieving peace with guerilla forces, but ended with the US using the drug trade as an excuse to force the Colombian government to renew and intensify military action against internal discontents. In the US-provided rewrite of the plan for aid, coupled with a blanket waiver of a lot of human rights requirements by Clinton himself, almost all provisions for improving the Colombian military's record on human rights abuses were eliminated. For each year of Clinton's Presidency after 2007, military aid to Colombia to turn the place into a drug-warzone more than doubled, before sharply declining in 2001, when Bush cut aid in his first year in office by two thirds, which was pretty much exactly the amount needed to bring aid back in line with the levels specified by the Clinton Administration's actual agreement; the Clinton Administration established unconscionably high levels of bribery to perpetuate internal bloody conflict in the agreement, then proceeded to triple those levels in practice. The level of US financial military aid never again reached the high point it had under Clinton, even with significant real inflation of the US dollar contributing to what amounts to "cost of living raises" for aid. Meanwhile, in Clinton's first term, he established a RAND corporation study into the most efficacious way to eliminate the drug problem in the US, but after the study came back with a prescription for treatment rather than a police-state "war on drugs", failing to provide the justification for military and law enforcement spending that administration officials must have wanted, Clinton's second term administration ignored the study and went ahead with intensifying the "war on drugs" instead. Clinton presided over the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act and signed it into law. This was one of those governmental farces of using a law to redefine terms, classifying something differently from what it actually was to favor well-placed corporate campaign contributors. Central to this was the OTC derivatives market including the now-infamous credit default swap, which was a key factor in the 2008 crash, and the CFMA even helped enable the Enron fiasco as well. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, ultimately passed in a form for which the Clinton Administration argued, and signed into law by Clinton, created a faux-deregulation situation where instead of actually pulling governmental interference out of a market, it created a critically unbalanced regulatory climate. The result was that dangerous speculative investments were encouraged in the very class of companies that precipitated the 2008 financial sector crash, by giving such companies the go-ahead to do some speculative investing while implicitly promising to subsidize bad investments with banks' federal safety net. You might be getting the impression by now that policies enacted by the second Clinton term created a sort of "perfect storm" of conditions that instigated much of what led to the 2008 financial crisis. Y'know the Iraq fiasco everyone hates so much and blames on Bush Jr.? In 1998, Clinton signed that policy into law with HR 4655, then launched a bombing campaign. The Clinton Administration expanded the federal death penalty, of which Bill himself was a strong supporter. Given the almost comically ineffective protections for innocent suspects in their efforts to escape prosecution in our current judicial system (only "almost" because it's so tragic), expanding the federal death penalty amounts to a callous disregard for human life at all levels, providing the tools for institutional murder in pursuit of politically expedient boosts to a "tough on crime" image. The creation of the Pell grant system contributed to significant subsequent increases in university tuition rates, thus increasing governmental financial burdens in "higher education" while creating greater challenges for people who had to, or chose to, pay their own way (and even for those who didn't, because such interferences always have an effect greater than the sums of their parts; tuition rates were pushed higher than the average rate of Pell grant disbursements). The US under Clinton's order participated in the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, which was generally pursued in violation of both US and NATO policies and charters, as well as in violation of "international law". In fact, NATO was charged with war crimes for these actions in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, a body originally proposed and championed by NATO member nations (and presided over by US and French appointees around that time, both of which are NATO member nations; I'm not sure whether it was the US or French president of the tribunal that was there during the critical event), but that tribunal claimed it did not have jurisdiction and the matter was dismissed -- despite the fact that war crimes were the established essential focus of that body. Convenient. The dot-com situation was not a boom; it was a bubble. If a more reasonable growth period in online entrepreneurship had occurred, the dot-com bust would never have happened. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which set the groundwork for such atrocities as criminal prosecution of researchers for, y'know, presenting research findings (i.e., what researchers do), was signed into law by Clinton. It was the first significant amendment to the Copyright Act in about a quarter century, and set into motion the current avalanche of abusive efforts by copyright industry groups to turn copyright law into a way for them to own everything and ensure their ability to spy on anyone and everyone in pursuit of iron-fisted extraction of money through what economists call "rent-seeking behavior" -- a much more loathsome act than the name suggests. He wrapped up his presidency by issuing a bunch of bought and paid for Presidential pardons. Some were bought with actual US dollars via Hillary's brother; others with votes for Hillary's Senate campaign. The latter led to legal scholars establishing a popular narrative to the effect that making promises to engage in improprieties in public office (such as trading pardons for votes) does not constitute a crime because politicians make promises all the time, or some such twaddle. Ultimately, the combination of drug war and copyright war actions taken under the second Clinton Administration's watch added up to the establishment of conditions, policies, and precedents that will have harmful effects on the US for years to come, and its economic policies led almost directly to the housing bubble and 2008 crash. The common thread through all of this is that I'm not talking about superficial conditions during the presidential term in question when I say that each four-year term was worse than the last. Rather, I'm talking about the policies, precedents, and initiations or exacerbations of developing conditions originating or occurring during the term in question, all of which feed into lasting negative effects on the nation politically, economically, and socially.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...Clinton's 2nd term was much better than his first. It's his 2nd term that witnessed the dot-com boom and a balanced budget. (albeit a totally accidental side-effect of the dot-com boom) That's certainly the meme the Democrats are trying to sell right now.

lastchip
lastchip

It's pretty much the same in the UK. Just when you think things can't get any worse, they do!

apotheon
apotheon

I'll give you the executive summary on US Presidential politics. For the last 32 years, every four-year Presidential term has been worse than the last. That means Reagan's second was worse than his first, Bush Sr.'s term was worse than Reagan's second, Clinton's first was worse than Bush Sr.'s term, Clinton's second term was worse than his first, Bush Jr.'s first was worse than Clinton's second, Bush Jr.'s second was worse than his first, and Obama's term-in-progress is worse than Bush Jr.'s second term. I fully expect the next Presidential term to be worse than Obama's current term, whether it's Obama or Romney that wins. All bets are off if, by some miracle, Dr. Paul wins the Republican nomination -- but that would be a bit of a surprise, and the unlikelihood of Dr. Paul getting the nomination is really for exactly the same reason that the two people most likely to face each other at the polls this November will both be worse than any four-year Presidential term in the last 32 years. I believe there have probably been a couple of relative bright spots in the last hundred years, but I don't think the US has actually had a *good* President since Cleveland. There you go. That's US Presidential politics in a nutshell. Anything else is biased, partisan bickering.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Thanks for the kind wishes. Survival wasn't Socrates' goal, as evidenced by the cheerful manner in which he accepted his death sentence. The Athenians probably didn't want to kill him -- just to discredit him. They figured he would make use of one of the standard Athenian ways of avoiding a death penalty: by proposing an alternate penalty, or by making an emotional plea for mercy, or by fleeing the city. He refused to do any of those, because any one of them would have been an acknowledgement of guilt and of the power of his accusers over him -- thus setting the value of his life over his liberty and integrity. He chose the latter over the former.

bp1argosy
bp1argosy

First of all, well wishes on the surgery; I'm facing it in the near future (September), myself, so I can relate. Consulting for me has always been essentially two major things; doing work I truly love and enjoy, and NOT working for people who think significantly different than I do. When you're getting to know a potential client, the one question that seems to be screaming for an answer sooner than later is, "Does this person generally think the way that I do; see the work (and the path to the solution) as I do?" If not, then it's almost a given that they're going to have a more difficult time UNDERSTANDING you, agreeing with you ... and even liking you. It's finding that proper balance between the enjoyment of the work, and the people you're dealing with along the way; human nature being what it is, there will typically be more success with the former, than the latter. Socrates wouldn't survive in today's world, for the simple reason that it's infinitely more complex than it was in his time. WE can understand (and connect, as you have, Chip, in a way) to HIS philosophies, but HE wouldn't be able to function in OUR world; and therefore wouldn't understand the connection between happiness and prosperity that we strive for at this point in our evolution. Socrates would NOT have been a good American; possibly instead a Frenchman ... if he were no longer allowed in Athens, that is; which seems likely.

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