The worker always has the right to leave his employer, but has he the means to do so? And if he does quit him, is it in order to lead a free existence, in which he will have no master but himself? No, he does it in order to sell himself to another employer. He is driven to it by the same hunger which forced him to sell himself to the first employer. Thus the worker’s liberty, so much exalted by the economists, jurists, and bourgeois republicans, is only a theoretical freedom, lacking any means for its possible realization, and consequently it is only a fictitious liberty, an utter falsehood.
Mikhail Bakunin, The Capitalist System
So the preference for more rewarding work is a negation of liberty? Really? That pesky, nagging sensation called hunger transforms the right of job hunting into a “fictitious liberty” or “theoretical freedom”? Does the law of gravity make shopping for shoes a fictitious liberty? Does the inevitability of inclement weather make the freedom to acquire suitable shelter merely theoretical? Is everyone entitled to “adequate” time off from their current job to search for a better job? Should we momentarily suspend gravity to allow people to shop for new shoes? Should we interrupt global weather patterns to accommodate home shoppers?
Individual freedom doesn’t mean an immunity to every conceivable force beyond an individual’s control, such as time, hunger, gravity, and the weather. Neither is freedom the absence of want and suffering. Very simply, freedom is merely the exercise of one’s prerogative over oneself and that which one possesses. I recently read Bakunin’s God and the State, and I loved it. However, the economic reasoning of collectivist anarchists such as him confounds me.