Daniel Pink
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Free Agent Nation:  How America’s New Independent Workers are Transforming the Way We Live
ISBN: 0446525235
Free Agent Nation: New Independent Workers
The Organization Man is history. Taking his place is America's new economic icon: the "free agent"—the job-hopping, tech-savvy, fulfillment-seeking self-employed independent worker. Already 30 million strong, these new "dis-organization" men and women are transforming America in ways both profound and exhilarating.

In this landmark book, Daniel H. Pink offers the definitive account of this revolution in work. He shows who these free agents are—from the marketing consultant down the street to the home-based mompreneur to the footloose technology contractor—and why they've forged this new path. His entertaining and provocative account of the new frontier of work reveals how America's independent workers are shaking up all our institutions—from politics to education to the family.
—from the author's website

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TRANSCRIPT
Free Agent Nation: New Independent Workers
Program Air Date: November 18, 2001

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Daniel H. Pink, what is your book "Free Agent Nation" about?
Mr. DANIEL H. PINK, AUTHOR, "FREE AGENT NATION": My book is about the rise of independent workers, free-lancers, e-lancers, self-employed professionals, proprietors of very small businesses. And the book tells the story of--of how this new worker arose, what this new worker's role is in the economy and in our lives, and how it's really affecting the way we work and the way we live.
LAMB: You open up the book by telling us that you vomited on the vice president of the United States.
Mr. PINK: It wasn't actually on him; it was in his office.
LAMB: It was close.
Mr. PINK: It was close. Yeah, I was--before I chose the more honorable work of journalism, I worked in politics for many years, and most recently as a speechwriter for--chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore. And one day after working way too hard, I left a meeting in his West Wing office, fainted and began throwing up into a bowl that was a gift, I think, from the queen of Denmark. And that was sort of a signal that it was time for me to go and choose a different way to navigate my work and my life.
LAMB: What years did you work for Vice President Gore?
Mr. PINK: I worked for him, '95, '96 and '97.
LAMB: Why?
Mr. PINK: Why did I work for him?
LAMB: Mm-hmm.
Mr. PINK: Oh, I--I think Al Gore is a terrific leader. I think he's a very principled man, and he was actually a pretty good boss. He's--for--especially for a writer. He's someone who's written a book before. He's someone who was a journalist, so he has respect for the written word, and he's smart and challenging and really a good person to work for.
LAMB: Actually didn't want to know so much about him as why be a speechwriter. What--what got you into that, 'cause you also wrote for Robert Reich?
Mr. PINK: Yes. What got me into speech writing really was my lack of aptitude for almost anything else. I had worked in politics for a long time on a series of losing campaigns and eventually migrated into the policy and communications side of campaigns and more and more found myself writing speeches, because I was--if nothing else, I was a fast typist. And ended up falling into that world, and--and liking it quite a bit. I really--I really enjoyed it. It's an interesting juncture of the communication side of politics and the policy side of politics.
LAMB: What's your hometown?
Mr. PINK: My hometown is central Ohio; Columbus, Ohio.
LAMB: So where did you get the idea for "Free Agent Nation"? What--where did that all come together? Those three words?
Mr. PINK: Well, what happened was that I actually ended up becoming a free agent myself. After I left Al Gore's office, I decided that I would go out on my own and try to work for myself, because after, you know, a decade or so of holding a job I said, you know, this job thing gets a little bit old after a while. Maybe I can be--make the same amount of money but have a slightly better life if I work for myself. So I moved from the White House to the third floor of our house in Washington, DC, the Pink house, and ended up writing speeches and articles for a series of--of clients.

Now I was fortunate in that my wife had a job and, therefore, health insurance. So it wasn't necessarily a plunge into free agency, but kind of a gentle--gentle jump. And so what happened as I started doing this is I looked around and I said, man, there are a lot of people who seem to be doing this. And, yet, I realized our understanding of this world was remarkably, remarkably small. I wrote a magazine story for a magazine called Fast Company which got an incredible response from readers, just hundreds of e-mails instantly. And--but what I said is--you have all these people who are working for themselves; we don't really know that much about them. And so I said, well, how does any nation endeavor to understand itself? Well, it goes out and takes a census. So that's what I decided to do. For over a year, my wife and I and our--our young daughter and then another daughter traveled around the United States, and I interviewed hundreds and hundreds of independent workers about their lives and their dreams and their troubles to try to get a census of what this new world of work is about.
LAMB: When did you do that traveling?
Mr. PINK: I did it in the fall of '98, all through '99 and a little bit of early 2000.
LAMB: How'd you pay for it?
Mr. PINK: The--the fine people at Warner Publishing, who gave me a--a nice book advance and allowed me to conduct this research.
LAMB: Is this your first book?
Mr. PINK: Yes.
LAMB: Why would they hire you to do a book and give you the kind of money you needed to travel all over the United States? How did you convince them that this was a book?
Mr. PINK: Well, I--you know, I--I explained to them how large this population of people was, how there really is not a comprehensive coverage of this phenomenon. And to my mind, and as--as many reviewers have said, this is really one of the most important, if not the most significant phenomenon in the world of work today, especially after the dot-com collapse. There was all this hype about dot-com this and dot-com that. But I really think the most fundamental economic change is in the form of how people work and there hasn't been a comprehensive account of what it looks like, how it happened and where it's going.
LAMB: How old are you?
Mr. PINK: Thirty-seven.
LAMB: Where did you meet your wife?
Mr. PINK: I met my wife in law school, one of the--probably the only valuable thing I got out of law school.
LAMB: And what's her name?
Mr. PINK: Well, her name is Jessica Lerner.
LAMB: And--and where'd you go to law school?
Mr. PINK: Yale Law School. So I met--I met my wife at Yale Law School and...
LAMB: Is she a lawyer?
Mr. PINK: She was. She's now--she now is a free agent. Takes--also takes care of our kids. But I met my wife at law school, which was, as I said, about the only valuable thing I got out of law school.
LAMB: Now you--how'd you move around the United States?
Mr. PINK: What we would do is we would usually fly to a particular region and then from that region kind of be camped there for a few weeks and then drive out. So we would go to Northern Cal--we'd go to Northern California, fly, say, to San Francisco, fan out from San Francisco for a few weeks. Some of the--some portion of it I did by myself. Los Angeles, I did by myself. Seattle, I did by myself.
LAMB: How old was your daughter--your first daughter when...
Mr. PINK: She was--she started the road show when we--when she was two.
LAMB: How old--what's her name?
Mr. PINK: Sophie.
LAMB: You now have another one?
Mr. PINK: Eliza.
LAMB: And she was on this trip at some point?
Mr. PINK: She--she came--well, she came into the picture in 1999. So she missed some of the early stages of the trip and ended up taking some of the later stages in '99 and early 2000.
LAMB: How many people did you talk to?
Mr. PINK: Oh, boy. Face-to-face interviews was well over 300. I also did a number of phone interviews. I have a Web site, FreeAgentNation.com, where I did a--an online census, also of free agents. So I had about 12--over 1,100 people who filled out a kind of mock census about what--how they operated their lives.
LAMB: Name one person that you talked to that you thought was interesting and tell us why.
Mr. PINK: Betty Fox. Betty Fox...
LAMB: Grandma Betty?
Mr. PINK: Grandma Betty, also known as GrandmaBetty.com. Grandma Betty is a--now a 70-year-old woman. When I met her, she was 68 years old. And at the age of 67, she found herself in a really serious predicament. Betty Fox was widowed at a very young age, in her early 30s. And this is at the time that Betty Friedan, another Betty from New York, was urging women to seize the work force. But Betty Fox found herself getting seized by the work force. She was widowed, she had two sons to raise and so she took a series of jobs. The jobs were not high-level, high-paying jobs. And she would end up losing a job here and there, all--not because of her performance, but because the company would go under.

And so finally at age 67, she--this woman, 67-year-old woman in Bayside, Queens, her company moves too far away for her to commute. And so here she is, out of work, no pension and a long time to live on this Earth. And so what she did is she--her--her son Marty had--was a bank technology officer. He hooked her up with something called WebTV, which allows people to surf the Internet using their television set. And before long, Betty started looking around, and she said, `Wow, there's some really interesting material out here, particularly for older Americans like me. But it's a mess, it's poorly organized, it's hard to find things.'

So she started organizing it herself. Her son got her a domain--that is, GrandmaBetty.com--she started organizing her sites, and before long, people started coming. She started getting e-mails about where to make--how to make peanut brittle, where to get--solve certain health problems, where to buy certain kinds of clothing. And she would dutifully, in her Queens living room, answer all these e-mails. And before long, almost unbeknownst to herself, she had created what the Internet gurus call a portal. And before long, she started getting advertising and affiliate relationships.

And so here's this woman who went from having no job and having a somewhat bleak set of circumstances to using the Internet and using her own gumption to establish a presence on the Web. And at the end of the book, I talk about Grandma Betty was eventually acquired. She had these venture-backed Internet companies come to her apartment in Bayside, Queens, and sit across from her, just as you and I are sitting right now, and say, `Grandma Betty, we want to buy you out.' And she drove a very hard bargain and remained--she ended up taking a nice deal with a company called iGrandparents but remained a free agent. Still alive, still working out of her living room in Bayside, Queens.
LAMB: So many of these dot-coms have failed. Does this group make it?
Mr. PINK: The free agents?
LAMB: Yeah.
Mr. PINK: Oh, sure, because the free agents were not--free agents had--had less exposure. Free--Betty Fox is making it--is making it great. These free--the--the dot-coms that failed ended up burning through, as everybody knows, tens of millions of dollars of venture capital. Free agents--if you work for yourself, you can't--you have to make a profit almost from day one. And if you don't make a profit from day one, you're in trouble.
LAMB: Name another person and tell us a story.
Mr. PINK: Another person who I--I really enjoyed was a woman named Deborah Risi, who is in Northern California. She worked at a number of high-tech firms--Apple Computer, probably the most prominent--and eventually tired of it. Now what was interesting, one of the things that--that had her make the break--and I heard this repeatedly in a--in a--in a lot of interviews, and--and it really surprised me, the--the frequency it was mentioned--was she ended up leaving because of ethical disagreements with the company. And that really surprised me in a lot of these interviews. People said, `Well, you know, the reason I left was I didn't really--I was asked to do something I didn't think was quite right.' And so there's a sense of people want a greater freedom of conscience in their work than they are able to get.

But anyway, Deb Risi left her job and ended up working as a marketing consultant for herself. She subsequently adopted two children from Cambodia, so she's a single mom, free agent, and she has this one interesting element, one interesting part of her story where she decided to buy a house. And the bank said to her, `We're not going to give you a mortgage. You don't have a job.' And she said, `Wait a second. I'm here in Silicon Valley, where companies come and go, you know, like the sun, and you're going to tell--you're telling me that you're not going to give me a loan because I don't have a job? Listen, I've got six clients.' And so she shows her clients. `I've got six clients. If one of these clients goes away, I'm going to still make my payments. But if I'm working at WebVan, say, and WebVan disappears, you're not going to get your payments.'

And so she tried to convince these--this bank loan officer that she was actually a safer risk working for herself than she would have been holding a job. And I think that right there says a lot about how work and risk have changed in America.
LAMB: How would you contact somebody in your survey?
Mr. PINK: That's an interesting question. It's a--it's a very aggressive reporting job. I would use contacts, and contacts of contacts. I--I don't know how I could have reported this book without e-mail. So what I would do is I would send out an e-mail to contacts in a particular region, saying, `I'm going to do this reporting. Anybody who I should talk to?' And get a few more e-mails back; I would ask them questions as well. I...
LAMB: What were you looking for?
Mr. PINK: I was looking for a wide variety of experience and backgrounds; people who had just started, people who had always been doing it.
LAMB: But they had to be free agents?
Mr. PINK: Yes. Yeah.
LAMB: So you only interviewed free agents?
Mr. PINK: Yes. Absolutely. 'Cause I was taking a census of free agent nation. I didn't interview--well, I interviewed a couple of people who were contemplating going into free agency, but I wanted to get a picture for the universe of people who were working for themselves.
LAMB: Tell me everything that a free agent has to be. What are they?
Mr. PINK: In terms of their attributes?
LAMB: Yeah. I mean, what ma--what would make me a free agent? What would you have to be?
Mr. PINK: Well, you would have to be working for yourself. You would have to be largely untethered from a large organization and not dependent on an institution or an employer. So, again, one of the interesting things here is the term `free agent' is--is an imperfect term. I mean, in some sense, it's modeled after the term `the organization man,' which came out in William White's book in the 1950s. And what he said is, when he described the organization man in his book, he said, `I use this term--I can think of no other better way to describe the people I'm talking about.' And that's what I feel with free agents. I can think of no other term to describe the people I'm talking about.

So there isn't, say, a pure, scientific definition of who's a free agent and who's not. But people--and even people in the traditional world of work often think of themselves as free agents. But what I focused on in my interviews and in my census was people who worked for themselves.
LAMB: Who was William White?
Mr. PINK: William White was a--a fabulous journalist at--mostly at Fortune magazine in the 1940s, '50s and '60s who ended up using journalism as a forum of just incredibly insightful sociology. And so he--he wrote the book "The Organization Man." He also did some really fascinating studies where he would--he studied how--where corporations located and--and made the incredible finding that the main decision about where a company's headquarters was, was proximity to the CEO's home. He also spent some time literally standing on the streets of New York watching how people interacted. So he was kind of an anthropologist/sociologist/journalist. Just a remarkable--he died about two years ago--a remarkable figure in American journalism.
LAMB: Did you meet him?
Mr. PINK: No, I didn't. I didn't. He passed away, as I said, about--about two years ago. And I...
LAMB: How successful was the book "The Organization Man"?
Mr. PINK: The book did very well. The book was kind of a surprise best-seller because it was a little bit on the academic side even though it was written by a journalist. And it's really endured over the years. I mean, you and I could have a conversation about "The Organization Man" and we can--you can say the phrase and people can nod and know what you're talking about, because that term has become such a part of our vocabulary.
LAMB: You say in your book that `managers are toast.'
Mr. PINK: I agree with that, and I'm glad I do, 'cause I wrote it. The--why are managers toast? Well, I tend to think of most managers at most companies sort of subscribed to the vice principal school of management. That is, they act almost as vice principals of the workplace. Their job is to get people in trouble, to watch what people are doing, to give people detention, to give people hall passes. And I think that that way of working, that way of managing is fundamentally flawed and outdated. Most workers are self-motivated. Most workers, talented workers especially, need organizations much less than organizations need talented workers.

So I think the manager of the future is a very different kind of figure, someone who is in--a very astute judge of talent; someone who is able to marshal talent for the particular task; someone who operates--sort of my model for this is--is a combination of Phil Jackson, the great LA Lakers basketball coach, Penny Marshall, who is an actress and a writer and a director in Hollywood, and Steve Rubell, the guy who founded Studio 54, who became a great party-giver. So it's someone who can attract talent, assemble them for a particular task, really understand the idiosyncrasies of individual talent and get the most out of them.
LAMB: Will you be a free agent in 20 years?
Mr. PINK: I think so. I think so. We can have a--we can do this show again in 20 years and we can find out. But I--I--I--I think so. It's hard--no--again, there--there are certain, you know--there's a--you--you write a book like "Free Agent Nation" and use the terminology of free agency and describe this world as a nation and people declaring their independence, and it's somewhat--somewhat misleading, because it's not as if you become a free agent--that is, if you leave corporate America to go to free agent nation, it's the same as leaving Cuba and swimming to Florida and you have to turn around and denounce Castro. It's less stark than that. I think more and more people in the work force--and this might even be the most profound change--are essentially going to hold dual passports, one in free agent nation, one in corporate America, and migrate back and forth between the two.

Now in the days of "The Organization Man," that was impossible. If you left an organization and said to your boss, `You know what? I'm going to try to make it on my own for a few years,' and then came back five years later and said, `I--I'm ready to come back,' there's no way they would have taken you. But today, corporate employers are recognizing that a stint in s--in self-employment makes a worker extremely valuable.
LAMB: Columbus, Ohio, your hometown.
Mr. PINK: Yes.
LAMB: You--you met your wife at Yale. Where were you before Yale?
Mr. PINK: I was a--I graduated from Northwestern University.
LAMB: In what subject?
Mr. PINK: In linguistics, of course.
LAMB: Linguistics?
Mr. PINK: Yes.
LAMB: Why were you studying it?
Mr. PINK: It's--linguistics is a fascinating topic and in--in a way, its language that's at the juncture of both science and the humanities. So I ended up taking both a lot--courses in poetry but also courses in the psychol--you know, the--the--the circuitry of the brain. So it--so it's--to me, linguistics was a quintessential liberal arts discipline.
LAMB: What were your parents doing? Are--are they still active? Are they still busy? What do they do?
Mr. PINK: Yes. My father's a free agent. He was actually an organization man for many years. He's a chemist. He worked for--for over a quarter of a century for a large research organization connected to Ohio State University. My mother was a schoolteacher; now she works doing social service programs for older people.
LAMB: What year did you graduate from Northwestern?
Mr. PINK: '86.
LAMB: And from Yale Law School?
Mr. PINK: '91.
LAMB: So what happened then?
Mr. PINK: Well, the--I graduated from college; I ended up working here in Washington for one of Ralph Nader's groups. Pretty interesting group that organized buyers of heating oil to exercise greater leverage in the marketplace. I actually started law school and left because I didn't like it and ended up going to India for a while to...
LAMB: What'd you do in India?
Mr. PINK: I worked--I traveled around; I also worked for a legal aid organization. You can live--in the mid-1980s, you could live pretty cheaply in India if you were a single man in his early 20s.
LAMB: How--how did you get involved with Ralph Nader?
Mr. PINK: Through contacts of contacts. I didn't work directly with Nader. I worked from one of his constellation of--of groups.
LAMB: D--doing what?
Mr. PINK: I did media and outreach, trying to get people to join this cluster of consumers who exercised their power in the marketplace.
LAMB: First politician you worked for?
Mr. PINK: First politician I worked for was a guy name Sherrod Brown, who is now a congressman from Ohio. He was--used to be Ohio's secretary of State. He actually was elected Ohio secretary of State when he was probably eight years younger than I am right now. And worked writing speeches for him.
LAMB: And then other campaigns you worked on?
Mr. PINK: Well, the two most prominent figures would be President Bob Kerrey and Senator Geraldine Ferraro. I worked on Bob Kerrey's presidential campaign in 1992. I also worked in Geraldine Ferraro's Senate race. Those are the two most prominent people--politicians for whom I've worked.
LAMB: In the middle of your book, you find yourself in Terre Haute, Indiana...
Mr. PINK: Right.
LAMB: ...and you find yourself in the Eugene V. Debs Home and at the Larry Bird Motel.
Mr. PINK: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: But out of that--I mean, what I'm getting at is--here is this whole business of where you are politically and the union part of this. And you--you--you've discovered something there.
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: What was it?
Mr. PINK: Yeah. Well, what I discovered is--I think the traditional labor unions, particularly industrial labor unions, have become passe. They've become ineffective. I don't think they're necessarily that great for workers. But I don't think that unions are dead. In fact, I think free agents--free agency could trigger a rather robust union movement. But the unions I'm talking about are more of the crafts unions, the building trades unions, the entertainment industry unions. What I think is going to happen is that smart unions are going to recognize that, hey, you know what, we're becoming more and more a free agent economy. The idea that you can negotiate 10-year collective bargaining agreements, five-year collective bargaining agreements with large employers, it just doesn't work.

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Mr. PINK: What unions need to do and what many workers in this economy are crying out for are a place to learn new skills, a place to get health insurance and other types of benefits, a place to meet other people in your profession. And so that's what the building trades unions do. That's what the entertainment unions do. To a large extent, that's what the--the sports unions do. And so what I sort of had this moment in--in Terre Haute, Indiana, of all places, having visited the Eugene V. Debs Home, this great labor leader who ran for president, and also staying at the Larry Bird Motel--Larry Bird is from--Larry Bird went to college in Terre Haute, Indiana--in professional basketball labor negotiations, there's something called a Larry Bird exception, where c--where teams in--in--in--in the NBA there's a salary cap. Teams can only pay a certain amount of money for all their players. If they want to hire a free agent, they can't bust that salary cap. But they can keep one of their own players and bust the salary cap. That's known as the Larry Bird exception.

And what I realized is that more and more work is actually becoming this kind of AFL-CIO/NBA type arrangement so that I think the unions of the future, the worker groups of the future are gonna be very much like the sports unions; that is, they're going to have a union that sets a--a minimum, maybe a salary minimum, basic working conditions. And then beyond that, people are going to be represented by agents. More and more--something like 5 percent of workers who earn more than $75,000 a year are represented by talent agents.
LAMB: What did you learn at the Eugene V. Debs Home?
Mr. PINK: Oh, I--I learned that, you know, the--the--the idea that--this notion that the economy is changing and someone needs to represent workers is not a--is--is obviously an enduring American tradition. And it's expressed--it expresses itself in fundamentally different ways.
LAMB: Have you paid much attention to him, by the way, in history before you got there?
Mr. PINK: Not significantly. You know, there's not much to do in Terre Haute, so--you know, there are only really two real big sites to see. And I just sort of inadvertently made this connection.
LAMB: He ran for president--What?--s--five or six times.
Mr. PINK: Yeah, a few times. He was in prison for a while.
LAMB: Released by Warren G. Harding, I believe.
Mr. PINK: I think so, yeah.
LAMB: Pardoned and all that.
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: But--but was involved in--can the--in the railroads. Could--is there--could that duplicate itself, the kind of world we had back when he was involved in the labor movement?
Mr. PINK: I don't think so. I--I think that that--but--but, again, that sort of labor activism arose because of the circumstances of the underlying economy. And I think that--that a new sort of labor movement could emerge based on the circumstances of this economy. So what workers really need to--no workers expect lifetime employment at a single company. But what I--what I think workers do demand and what they want are valuable places to work, interesting places to work, benefits--it's a big issues; health-care benefits, retirement benefits--and a way to learn new skills, because today you--you learn some skills for a job, it's not like you can do it for 30 years. You have to constantly, constantly sharpen your skills. And workers are looking for a venue to do that.
LAMB: OK. Go back here, in '98 and part of '99. You're traveling around. What's--what's your wife thinking about all this? Does she like this traveling around and...
Mr. PINK: I think so. I think she likes it.
LAMB: Did she help you in any way?
Mr. PINK: She helped me by taking our daughter to the zoos so I could do my--my interviews. And--and my wife was a--just an incredible sounding board for a lot of these ideas. My wife is a much more rigorous thinker than I am. You know, in law school I was in the portion of the class that made the top 90 percent possible. And she was someone who was getting straight As through college, straight As through law school and has a very keen left-brain sense of what's a strong argument and what's not. And so I cannot make an argument--I cannot run an argument past her and--without it getting significantly sharpened in the course of our conversation.
LAMB: Has it dawned on you that Bill Clinton's 55 years old and he and his wife went to Yale and met at Yale and--there you are, 37. You met your wife at Yale.
Mr. PINK: Yeah, I--I think it's dawned on me. I mean, his book deal was much more lucrative than mine.
LAMB: Did--but--but what was the circumstances you--when you met her?
Mr. PINK: I was in the class ahead of her and...
LAMB: Isn't that about the same situation?
Mr. PINK: You know, I'm not sure. I never really--I never really looked at the Clintons as a--as a model for my romantic life.
LAMB: Well, the reason I mention this...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...is because you're obviously interested in politics...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...but you then talking about Bill Clinton as being...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...the `just in time politician' of this age.
Mr. PINK: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
LAMB: What does that mean, `just in time' politician?
Mr. PINK: Well--`just in time.' In order to understand it, we have to take a step backward. American manufacturing h--rehabilitated itself in the early 1990s through a practice called just in time manufacturing. It used to be that companies would make a whole bunch of a product, stick it in a warehouse and have these huge inventory of products and wait for customers to order them. And we would go into recessions when you had a big industry--big inventory overhang. Now, in part, that's what's happening right now in the economy. We have excess inventory. So just in time manufacturing has not been the perfect panacea for American manufacturing.

But a company like Dell Computer is a good example. Dell's inventory l--is only about a day. So someone takes an order from Dell, Dell goes out and gets the parts, assembles the particular computer that the consumer wants, ships it to them. I think that our politics are moving in that direction--have moved in that direction. We used to--the task of political leaders used to be to maintain a coalition. Democrats had racial minorities, environmentalists and labor unions. Republicans had big business, social conservatives. And the goal of the leaders of these parties was to keep this big coalition intact, to make sure nobody fell off of the wagon. And, in a sense, it's basically making sure you have a giant inventory of voters and constituents.

But I--but because of disenchantment with politics, because of the rise of independent voters, because of some changes in the economy, it's no longer possible for--for most parties to maintain these giant inventories of supporters. So s--effective leaders, smart leaders practice what I call `just in time' politics. They assemble the right coalition for the right task. And we see that in--and I think Bill Clinton was a master at this. Bill Clinton, I think, understood this. He didn't call it that, of course. I think he understood that, and I think he was masterfully skilled at doing it.

So you take something like the '93 budget agreement. Passed with one vote in the House; one vote in the Senate. We had this--and it was a strange coalition of people who voted for that. Although that one was mostly Democrats, but--but it was--it was a particular coalition. Then he passes NAFTA. Well, who--organized labor leaves him, environmentalists leave him, but he does a coalition of free market thinkers, of Republicans and fashions another coalition; wins by one vote. And the coverage of him had this kind of "Perils of Pauline" quality. `Can Bill Clinton do it?' `Is it going to get the votes?' `Can he summon the--the will of all these people and pass this thing?'

And there was a--a lot of the commentary was, oh, he's not an effective leader. Look, he has these "Perils of Pauline" travails in order to pass legislation. But to my mind, that was very much like in these days of waning party loyalty, of an even split in the parties, of very strong special interest groups, that would have been like some securities analyst saying, `Can Dell fix Brian--get Brian Lamb his computer? It only has one day of parts. Can it get the CPU? Can it get the screen? Oh, my gosh, it shipped the product.' And so I think our politics now, especially right now where the Senate and the House are basically split, where the last election was essentially a tie, that our politics are really `just in time' politics, and Bill Clinton is a true master of that.
LAMB: Does Al Gore practice `just in time' politics?
Mr. PINK: I mean, I think if Al Gore were elected president, he would have had to. I think any smart leader has to do that in order to get their--their legislation--to get anything through. I mean, we have essentially a dead split in this country politically. And so--and I also think that a lot of the alignment of voters and of special interests and--and of interest groups is--is no longer permanent. I mean, Virginia Postrel, her book "The Future and Its Enemies" talks about dynamism/stasis as a dividing line in how political thinkers and political groups are operating.
LAMB: But the--I'm glad you brought up Virginia Postrel, because she endorses your book.
Mr. PINK: Right.
LAMB: She's Reason magazine. She's a libertarian.
Mr. PINK: Right.
LAMB: But you also have Tom Peters, who gives you a strong--`the best book on work life since William H. White.' What'd that cost you?
Mr. PINK: Cost me sending him a manuscript.
LAMB: Steve Case says, `"Free Agent Nation" is the shape of things to come in the Internet century.' What'd that cost you?
Mr. PINK: You know what? These blurbs are--these blurbs are free.
LAMB: Did you--do you know these folks?
Mr. PINK: Well, I know Virginia Postrel. I mean, I've met Virginia Postrel in the course of doing my reporting. I'd actually written a couple of speeches for Steve Case. Tom Peters, I had--I had met maybe once in my life.
LAMB: Naomi Wolfe...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...the woman that--the alpha-beta woman that advised Al Gore. She says, `A groundbreaking book, a readable and persuasive benchmark.'
Mr. PINK: And that--that's partly because women are su--are playing such a prominent role in the free agent economy.
LAMB: How so?
Mr. PINK: Well, first of all, women are becoming self-employed at 12 times the rate of men. Women--there are a lot of women out there in the work force who are hitting a glass ceiling and not being able to make it to the upper ranks of corporations. And they figure they'll be better off on their own. But there are also a lot of women who don't even hit the glass ceiling, who look up there and say, `Man, I don't want to be there anyway.' So they're finding that the best way to navigate their work lives is to go out on their own, and women, for a whole set of reasons, tend to be extremely effective free agents.
LAMB: You consider yourself a Democrat?
Mr. PINK: I'm a registered Democrat in the Dis--I'm--well, I live in the District of Columbia. I'm a registered Democrat.
LAMB: The reason I asked was because, you know, Virginia Postrel...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...and Naomi Wolfe and all these different names in here...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...where is this heading in politics, though, because your survey...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...your online survey...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...and all, tilted more--the--the people that answered are more Democratic than Republican, you say?
Mr. PINK: Yeah, in the survey, right.
LAMB: Is this a Republican-Democratic split? Are free agents Democrats?
Mr. PINK: I don't think that either party really understands this. I mean, I think the Democrats tend to look at free agents as people who are being cast out into this e--this--this perilous world of work by evil corporations, and Republicans tend to think of self-employed people as modern-day Babbitts who don't believe in any role in government, who don't believe in any kind of form of social justice. And I think both are fundamentally, fundamentally misguided. I'll give you an example. You know, today in America, fewer than one out of 10 workers--belongs in the private sector belongs to a labor union. Fewer than one out of 10 workers works for a Fortune 500 company. Yet our politics, national politics especially, are this pitched battle between big business and big labor, when most Americans have a rather scant connection to either group.
LAMB: I almost took you up on your offer in this book. I think you may know what I'm talking about because I read a book a week. You--you--you're going to make it easy for people like me. I didn't. But--and that is that you--you have a technique in here, and I've basically earmarked all of them, where you've got one page on each chapter that can kind of tell you everything.
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: Why'd you do that?
Mr. PINK: I respect people's time. What I'm asking people, as an author, is to make a very significant commitment to me. They don't know me. They have to be--to--her--hear about the book, and they have to make a significant commitment. They have to pay $17, $18 for the book, and they have to spend perhaps six or seven hours reading it. That's a significant commitment for people to make. So I want to make it as easy for them as possible. So what I did at--done at the end of every chapter was fashion something that I call The Box. The Box has four elements to it. One element is what I call The Crux, which explains the point of the chapter in about 150 words or--or fewer. There's also a--an entry called The Factoid, which is one startling factoid from the chapter. There is a section called The Quote, which offers one representative quote from the chapter, and there's an--an entry called The Word. And every chapter, because of--the work is changing so fast and our vocabulary is racing to catch up with it, there are many new words, some of which I've coined myself--tried to coin myself, that this new world of work has spawned. So I like to offer a little vocabulary word in every chapter. So the point is, someone who wants to read this book might not want to read every single chapter. They can look at The Box, get the gist of it and--and move on. Other people who want to come back to it--a lot of readers who've e-mailed me have told me that they--they like The Box, so they can--if they forget something, they can come back to it and be reminded of it.
LAMB: Can people get to you on e-mail now if they--they're watching this show?
Mr. PINK: Oh, absolutely, yeah. I'm--I--even on the book jacket, I invite readers to e-mail me. My e-mail address is dan@freeagentnation.com. I answer every e-mail from every reader. Again, if you're a writer, people are making--I'm so grateful anytime anybody reads anything that I write, anytime anybody picks up anything that I write because they are investing their time and their brain power in hearing what I have to say. And I am firmly committed to hearing what they have to say, too, and responding to them.
LAMB: Dan@... LAMB and
Mr. PINK: (In unison) ...freeagentnation.com.
LAMB: All right. I'm going to go through and pick out some factoids and see what you say about them.
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: Here's the factoid in the first chapter. `The largest private employer in the United States is not Detroit's General Motors, Ford or even Seattle's Microsoft or Amazon.com, but Milwaukee Manpower--Milwaukee's Manpower Incorporated, a temp agency.'
Mr. PINK: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: How big is it?
Mr. PINK: It has 1,100 offices. It employs more workers than any other corporation in America today. That is a remarkable, remarkable change.
LAMB: Why?
Mr. PINK: Why is it a remarkable change...
LAMB: Yeah.
Mr. PINK: ...or why do they do it?
LAMB: No. Why is it a remarkable change?
Mr. PINK: Well, because it used to be that someone could go to General Motors and work there for 30 years. General Motors would have this incredible roster of fixed talent and employees and would just be this behemoth. And now essentially what people are--many people are doing is working for Manpower. That is, they get a W-2, the--the paycheck and--and tax form, from Manpower and are the employer of Manpower, but actually do assignments at other places.
LAMB: Eleven thousand offices?
Mr. PINK: Eleven hundred.
LAMB: I'm sorry.
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: Eleven hundred offices, and that's the largest employer in the United States?
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: How many?
Mr. PINK: I think it's up--upwards of one million?
LAMB: Factoid from chapter two. `Two out of three workers in California do not hold traditional jobs, the permanent year-round, full-time outside-the-home employment arrangement that is the basis of nearly all American labor laws and social assumptions.' Why only in California?
Mr. PINK: Well, because that's where the study came out of. The study was from the University of San Francisco, and it looked at how many people in California have the kind of job where you leave the house in the morning, go to work somewhere else, work for someone else, do it full-time, year-around. Essentially, the kind of job on which our social assumptions are based, our health insurance system is based. And in California, only one out of three workers works that way, which is remarkable when you think about how our--our tax system is--is girded to this way of working, our health insurance system is working to this--is girded to this way of working. Even our transportation systems are based on the idea that this is the norm of how people work. And California has been on the edge of basically every trend in the last 40 years. So if two out of three workers in California have so-called non-traditional jobs, to me, that's a warning sign for the rest of the country.
LAMB: Factoid in the third chapter: `85 percent of Americans today were not alive during the Great Depression, which means most of the country lacks any conscious recollection of widespread economic privation.'
Mr. PINK: Privation, yeah.
LAMB: Yeah.
Mr. PINK: The significance of that, I think, is--is quite interesting. The--the default assumption of work in this country, I think, has changed. It used to be that the default assumption, say in my grandfather's day, was the fear of privation. Because the Great Depression was widespread economic privation, privation that reached deep into the middle class. But now seven out of eight people in this country weren't alive during the Great Depression, and they have no conscious recollection of widespread economic privation. And I underscore that word privation because recessions, even though they're painful, are not privation. Or long gas lines are not privation. And so I think that more and more people today, because of the incredible prosperity in this country, a country where two out of three people own the homes they live in, is making people seek from their work not only money, but meaning.
LAMB: Factoid in chapter four: `A 1999 Lou Harris survey of 1,000 self-employed Americans and small entrepreneurs found that money was not their top motivator. Nine out of 10 re--respondents said that, quote, "setting their own priorities and independence influenced their decision most to go out on their own."' Is that your situation?
Mr. PINK: Oh, sure. And--and actually, that--to me, that was one of the biggest surprises in doing these interviews--in--in doing these interviews around the country, and that--that survey simply confirms a lot of what I found. I thought when I started writing--when I started researching this and interviewing people that this was a big kind of hard-headed economics story, that people were being cast to the periphery by the inexorable forces of information age capitalism, and that wasn't really what I found. I mean, people were making very private decisions based on much touchy--touchier, feelier values of authenticity, of freedom. And almost nobody mentioned money. Not that free agents don't want to make money, but working this way is hard enough that people don't--people don't necessarily do it to get rich.
LAMB: Who was the most--and I've got to be careful how I--what modifier I use. Who was the most unusual person you interviewed? Or unusual situation?
Mr. PINK: One of them was a--was a--a guy who is--by the name Bob Milbourn who's in San Francisco, who came of age in the days of the organization man, and was so miserable in his company and was so fearful in his company, which was going through downsizings, that he asked to be fired. He went to his boss and said, `Please, just--please, fire me.'
LAMB: What'd he want? The severance?
Mr. PINK: He just wanted--he wanted--no, he actually wanted the relief from the anxiety of being scared of being--being fired. He wanted to--he wanted simply the punctuation mark at the end of this part of his career.
LAMB: What'd he do then?
Mr. PINK: He ended up going out on his own as a free agent, not necessarily--you know, struggling a little bit, but recognized that this world of work, working at a big bank, was not for him. But he lacked somehow the gumption to leap and so he a--asked to be pushed.
LAMB: How many states did you go to, do you think?
Mr. PINK: Ooh, I think it--it was 24? So about half.
LAMB: Well, is there any part of the country you didn't go to?
Mr. PINK: Well, I--I didn't go to Alaska and Hawaii. I didn't go to some of the big states in the--in the Great Plains--Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and the Dakotas. But most of the East Coast, most of the West Coast, a big portion of the Southwest, a big portion of the Midwest.
LAMB: Did you get a sense that some parts of the country are happier than others?
Mr. PINK: I don't know about happier. I think that in the center of the country, this form of work is slightly, slightly more exotic than on the coasts. Seattle and LA and San Francisco, you know, you go into any Starbucks coffee shop and there are a zillion people sitting around punching on their laptops. Same is true in New York and even here in Washington, DC. In the Midwest, I think that there are pockets where the--the free agent work force is more robust. Minneapolis is a good example. Chicago is a good example. But in some of the other pl--in some other places, it's slightly more exotic.
LAMB: Factoid in chapter five: `More than half of American households now own stocks up from only one in five households in 1983. In 2000, shareholders outnumbered voters. More citizens owned stock than cast a ballot for the president of the United States.'
Mr. PINK: Right. I think--and we were talking about the politics before. I think that is a remarkable fact right there, that we have more shareholders than voters in this country. And what that does is--the--the point of that in--in--is to--is to show that people are--have learned an enormous amount about the stock market, particularly about the values of diversification. So free agents are saying, `Why should I invest--if I wouldn't invest all of my financial capital in a single company, why should I invest all of my human capital in a single company by working for only one employer? I'm better off, like--as Deb Risi was--I'm better off with a portfolio of clients and assignments and projects than I am with a single employer. I'm diversified.'
LAMB: Chapter six factoid: `Americans work 350 hours more per year than Europeans and 70 hours more per year than even the Japanese, whose language contains a word "karoshi," that means death from overwork.'
Mr. PINK: Mm-hmm. Well, that--that chapter, chapter six, I tried to figure out how free agents used their time, and what I did was I asked about 50 people to keep time diaries for a whole week to tell me everything they did during every half-hour increment of the day, to try to get a sense of how people navigated the time element of their life. And what I found is that free agents work about the same number of aggregate hours as your traditional worker, roughly 41 hours. But they apportion their time in wildly different ways, very idiosyncratic, personalized ways. And, you know, I ho--I think that the--the issue of time and working hours is something that this country is trying to figure out right now because we do work many more hours than Japanese work and certainly more than the Europeans work.
LAMB: Why do we?
Mr. PINK: I think it's a mix of reasons. I think for some people, it's simply necessary to get ahead. If you have a low hourly wage, you have to work more hours in order to make a living for your family. But I also think that at the dif--at the other side of the labor market, there's something more intriguing going on, which is that people--many people like to work. They work not only to earn a living--they don't necessarily go to--it's not--it's no longer the days of everybody goes to the factory, tries to get over with their job, watches the clock all day, tries to get done with their task as quickly as possible so they can go home, but I think people get a lot of satisfaction out of work. And so if you enjoy something, as I enjoy my work, as many free agents enjoy their work, you actually want to work a little bit more. So I think it's a kind of a curious mix of factors.
LAMB: Have you thought of politics yourself?
Mr. PINK: Well, I worked in politics, and that experience was enough for--for me to swear off of it for a while. For--per--probably forever, yeah.
LAMB: You don't think you could ever run for office?
Mr. PINK: Oh, no.
LAMB: Why not?
Mr. PINK: Oh, no.
LAMB: What'd you see up close that the average person can't?
Mr. PINK: It's a very, very tough life. Your private life is incredibly exposed, and I think that--that politics pressures people to say things that they don't necessarily deeply believe, and that troubled me a lot. Whereas if you write--if you write for yourself, you can say what you think and take--and take the consequences. I also think that the poli--that--that politics is not necess--that government is not necessarily the most effective way to get things done. If you work in the executive branch of the government, you come in thinking, `OK, we can do all kinds of great things, we can change everything.' And after a few years, you think, `Oh, my gosh, it's a wonder that anything is accomplished.'
LAMB: You worked for Robert Reich...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...the former Labor secretary and Bill--Al--Al Gore, but you saw the Bill Clinton operation up close.
Mr. PINK: Sure.
LAMB: What's the deal between Robert Reich and Bill Clinton? Why did they not--I mean, wha--what--what--you hear a lot of criticism now about Robert Reich. What's that all about? I mean, what did you see up close? Wha--why was Robert Reich...
Mr. PINK: Well, I worked for--I worked for Bob Reich in the--in early 19--early to mid 1990s, and their relationship seemed fine. I have no idea what's going on between them. They haven't--neither one has let me in on that secret.
LAMB: Well, I just wondered if--if Robert Reich was--when he got out, whether or not he was discouraged by what he had seen happen, when he saw what actually happens up close with politics.
Mr. PINK: Maybe. I mean, his book is a very entertaining book "Locked in the Cabinet." Talks about some of that.
LAMB: All right. Factoid in chapter seven: `One of the earliest self-organized clusters of free agents, Benjamin Franklin's Junto, formed in 1727, created a subscription library for its members which in turn became the first public library in America.' Why is that in this?
Mr. PINK: Yeah. Well, one of the intriguing things that I found was you have this notion of people are working for themselves, they're isolated and lonely, they're stuck in their home offices working by themselves. And what I found is that many, many independent workers are fashioning these very small groups that meet once a month to talk about business, to talk about life. They're sort of one part board of directors, one part group therapy. And I found this absolutely fascinating, these kind of self-organized tiny groups of people who are meeting regularly.

And then I started doing some more research, and I realized, as always, there's nothing new under the sun; that Benjamin Franklin, in 1727, started he--the very same kind of group that lasted, I think, for 40 years and became as you--as you said, the basis for the first subscription library. And it was a group of free agents. It was small merchants who would meet once a week above an ale house in Philadelphia to talk about work, and--and Franklin would assign each mem--one particular member to write an essay about a topic of the day and they would discuss it. So this idea that Americans--free agency, I think, is a very, very quintessentially American phenomenon. Americans have this incredible capacity to form small groups, whether it's Bible study groups or whether it's support groups for disease or--or whether it's these new small groups for work.
LAMB: All right. Factoid, chapter eight: `In sociologist Mark Granovetter's'...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...`classic study of how people find jobs, he discovered that most people found them through contacts.'
Mr. PINK: Yeah. Not through people who they were very close to. That is...
LAMB: Yeah.
Mr. PINK: Well, the--the--people found--most people find jobs not through classified ads or through Internet job sites, but through contacts. And most of their co--the contacts that are most valuable, he found, were not the strong ties, not your wife finds you a job or your son finds you a job, but weak ties, one or two degrees of separation away. Because those weak ties allow you entr--entree into worlds that you don't necessarily know. So in his study, he found that most men found their--his study of workers in--in Boston, most found their jobs through contacts, but not through close contacts, through somewhat distant contacts.
LAMB: What impact does that have on us?
Mr. PINK: Oh, well, free agency--he described in--in, I think, very beautiful terms, the--the difference between strong ties--that is, say, your spouse, or weak ties, someone who you don't know that well. And he found that what he called the strength of weak ties, that weak ties allowed you incredible mobility and entrees to new opportunities and I find that the free agent economy depends very significantly on weak ties. Someone's social safety net is their--is their network of contacts, and often, the most valuable contacts are contacts that are one or two degrees of separation away.
LAMB: Chapter 10 factoid: `More than 5 percent of workers who earn more than $75,000 per year now have agents to negotiate their employment contracts.'
Mr. PINK: Right. Well, this goes to the Larry Bird, Eugene V. Debs point, that more and more workers at the high end of the talent market want to be able to negotiate the best possible deal, and they're--they're hiring people to do the negotiation for them. It used to be only athletes and--and actors would have agents; authors as well. But now, more and more workers have them.
LAMB: How many agents do you have in your life?
Mr. PINK: Two.
LAMB: And they are? What do they do?
Mr. PINK: Oh, well, I have a literary agent, Rafe Sagalyn, terrific literary agent, and I also have an agent who represents me for speaking gigs, David Lavin, who's based in Toronto, Canada.
LAMB: And out of all this, have you gotten speaking engagements?
Mr. PINK: Yeah, a few.
LAMB: What do you think of that?
Mr. PINK: I'm a writer. I'm not a--I'm not a--you know, a--a dog-and-pony show giver.
LAMB: But as a free agent, where is this all headed for you?
Mr. PINK: Oh, I'm--I'm--I'm just hoping to continue to write books and have interesting conversations about fascinating topics and earn enough money to support my family.
LAMB: What's your wife doing now? Is she back to work?
Mr. PINK: No, no. She's still at home with our kids.
LAMB: But you did tell a story--I think I understand you to tell a story about how you got medical insurance...
Mr. PINK: Right.
LAMB: ...because--you had to--What?--employ her?
Mr. PINK: No, no.
LAMB: Explain that.
Mr. PINK: No, although--although it's possible. It--actually, there are--there are a number of people who are--who are free agents who are taking a--a--a twist in the tax code to employ their spouse and because of their benevolence as an employer, give their spouse a very full set of health insurance because today, if you're self-employed, your health insurance--you can only deduct 60 percent of your health insurance premiums. But companies that employ people and pay their health insurance premiums can deduct 100 percent. So there's a big imbalance there as well.
LAMB: How many people are doing that?
Mr. PINK: I don't know. I--I--you know, it's a--I--I don't know if there's any way to quantify it.
LAMB: Factoid in chapter 11: `Small to mid-sized family businesses account for about 60 percent of all employment in the world.'
Mr. PINK: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: Surprise you?
Mr. PINK: Well, a little bit. I don't--I--because I think that--that we're conditioned to take as the norm whatever set of social circumstances we inherit. And so all of us say under the age of 70 or--or--you know, basically everybody in America today essentially inherited this world of large organizations and industrial economy. And we take that as the norm. But, in fact, it's--I think it could go down as an aberration. It used to be--the industrial economy separated work and family. It used to be that you would work at your home, you would work with your family, and that was the norm. And the industrial economy cleaved that, and I think that free agents, in many ways, are repairing it. I work at home. There are tens of millions of people who--who work at home. And that creates a very different neighborhood life. It creates a very different family life, and I think it's mostly healthy. But it also, I think, is much more in tune with how human beings are wired. And that factoid is from a very interesting guy at the University of London named Nigel Nicolson, who is using some of the principles of evolutionary psychology to understand business today.
LAMB: All right. I'm going to switch to a quote in chapter 12. "If you have a job and get your health insurance through your employer, be thankful. It was never supposed to be this way."
Mr. PINK: Right. Again, this is ve--very similar--very similar point. We take it as the norm in this country, the idea that we get health insurance through our employers. But that is truly a historical accident. In the 1940s, there was a wage freeze. To get around the wage freeze, employers said, `Hmm, what can we do to lure people? We can't raise salaries. Let's give them something. Let's give them health insurance.' So they gave them health insurance, and there are a couple of policy changes that--that hardened that into the norm. First, the IRS determined that health insurance was not taxable income, even though it was a value that a--a worker was getting. And also, health insurance was fully deductible for employers. So in a very swift am--very swiftly, getting health insurance through an employer became the norm in this country. There's no economic logic, there's no moral logic behind it. So that's why you can have this incredibly prosperous country, even in this downturn. This is a very prosperous country. But yet, 41 million people without health insurance because the way our health insurance system is structured and the way people actually work and live are increasingly at odds.
LAMB: Factoid from chapter 13: `African-Americans make up 11 percent of the total work force, but 22 percent of the temps.'
Mr. PINK: Right.
LAMB: What's that say to you?
Mr. PINK: It says to me that at one part of the labor market, particularly temps, workers are getting a very, very bad deal. There were benefits to an organization man style of work. There was easy access to decent jobs that paid decent wages. And today in this economy, if you don't have skills, if you don't have connections, you're in big trouble, whether you're a free agent or whether you're not. And often, the burden of this falls most heavily on low-income workers who

are increas--who are--who are heavily racial minorities.
LAMB: Now as you see me go through all these factoids in this chapter, are you saying to yourself things like, `This little plan of mine worked. The media is so lazy, they just go to the factoids?' I mean, is that what you've found has happened in your book?
Mr. PINK: I--no, I find that people have--I find that people have--ve--very few people who have contacted me have at least admitted to having read only The Box. But I find it useful. It's a useful way to have a conversation. There are many people, as I said, who read the book and say, `Oh, geez, what did he say in chapter 10?' And they have an easy way to go to that Box and find out what's going on.
LAMB: All right. I...
Mr. PINK: I mean, I'm so grateful, Brian. If you read only the factoids, I'd be grateful to you.
LAMB: Chapter 14 factoid: `When Franklin Roosevelt established 65 as the standard US retirement age...
Mr. PINK: Yeah.
LAMB: ...the average American life expectancy was 63. Today, life expectancy is 76 and rising.'
Mr. PINK: Right.
LAMB: What impact's that going to have to free agentry, in the long-term?
Mr. PINK: Well, I--I think that our notions of retirement are going to change. There are going to be more people like Grandma Betty, who instead of fully retiring, are going to work as part-time free agents. My father, who is 70, is an example of that. Other people in his generation are doing that. They're--they've left big organizations and now are working as part-time free agents. And I think there are a whole host of reasons for that. One is that today, if you're 70 years old, you're really not that old. You've got a lot of good years left in you. And most people, I think, don't want to spend 20, 30 years playing canasta and shuffle board. They want to do something that is more meaningful. They want to do something that is more engaging. And so that--I think that's one force in this. The other thing is that the--the demographic cohorts behind the baby boom are very small, and in a couple of decades, we're going to run out of so-called working age people, and so there's going to be an incredible demand for retired baby boomers.
LAMB: Running out of time. Can't get all these factoids in. Here's another one, chapter 15: `40 percent of college students are now older than 25.' Forty percent of college students are now older than 25.
Mr. PINK: Right.
LAMB: Did that surprise you?
Mr. PINK: Sure. But it also--it also shows that people are using college in fundamentally different ways. Workers are always looking for ways to sharpen their skills. They can do it through employers, but they can also do it through community colleges. And that's what a lot of people are doing today.
LAMB: This is chapter 16's factoid: `At any given moment during the work day, 70 percent of desks, offices or work stations aren't occupied.'
Mr. PINK: Sure. I mean, your desk is unoccupied right now because you're talking to me. My desk is unoccupied right now because I'm talking to you. I think that free agency is going to reshape commercial real estate and the way that offices are configured.
LAMB: What about this one? This is the next chapter. `A 1998 Arthur Andersen study found that 47 percent of entrepreneurs had financed their businesses with credit cards'?
Mr. PINK: Yep. Because they are--there are very straight--there are very efficient capital markets for large companies. The capital markets for small entrepreneurs are much less efficient, but people are using their credit cards as a way to boot strap their businesses.
LAMB: So what is your reaction to the reaction you've gotten to your book?
Mr. PINK: I'm mostly--I'm mostly pleased. The reviews have been, for the most part, quite good, and, again, the--to me, what's most gratifying as an author is all the e-mail and phone calls and comments I get from people who read the book and said that they liked it, that it--it really explained their own lives, that it gave them a window on to--a window on to the future.
LAMB: Back to your time with Al Gore. Why did you leave?
Mr. PINK: I was tired. I was burnt out. I felt that I didn't have any control over my life.
LAMB: What burned you out in a job like that?
Mr. PINK: Working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
LAMB: Literally?
Mr. PINK: Well, I mean...
LAMB: I mean, the--the...
Mr. PINK: Working basically every day of the week. As a writer, you're on deadline all the time. And also being tethered to your beeper. Again, not being fully in control. 'Cause at any moment, your beeper could go off and your Saturday afternoon is going to be spent typing a speech rather than doing something with your family.
LAMB: What do you know about him that we don't?
Mr. PINK: He's an incredibly funny guy. He has an incredibly sharp and sophisticated sense of humor.
LAMB: Why doesn't he let us see it?
Mr. PINK: You--you'll have to ask him that. I think part of it is that most politicians are not very funny. And so--because in order to be funny, I think you have to say things that people are thinking but aren't allowed to say. And politics is almost the opposite of that. You tell--you--you tend to give these banal blandishments that aren't particularly interesting, but are utterly inoffensive.
LAMB: Did you ever tell him that he ought to lighten up and be funny in front of the public?
Mr. PINK: Well, you know, we--no, we--we actually did a number of kind of comic routines there and he's incredibly funny, has a very excellent sense of--of comic timing.
LAMB: What's your sense? Will the man ever be president?
Mr. PINK: Hard to say. I think he could be. I think he'd be a very good president.
LAMB: Do you think he'll run again?
Mr. PINK: I have no idea.
LAMB: Would you work for him again?
Mr. PINK: Probably not.
LAMB: Would you go back into that field?
Mr. PINK: Probably not. No, I don't think so. I think--partly, as you were talking about earlier, my politics have changed a little bit or they've--they've matured. You know, I'm--I'm still a registered Democrat, but by a very thin thread. But I would never become a registered Republican. I like to think of myself now as kind of a bleeding heart Libertarian.
LAMB: And what's the difference between being a bleeding heart Libertarian and being a Democrat?
Mr. PINK: Democrats put too much faith in large institutions and large organizations rather than in the integrity and freedom of individuals.
LAMB: When did this trip for you? When did this change?
Mr. PINK: You know, it had been changing over a certain--you know, in--in a way--you know, there used to be this old joke that a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged. But today, I think, you know, a Libertarian is a liberal who's--who's worked in the executive branch of the government. It's very poorly run. It's--it's not necessarily the most effective way to accomplish things and a lot of it is done for self-preservation rather than for effectively getting things done. But I still believe that people who are being left out need--need a helping hand to come up. But I think the helping hand is allowing them to move under their own steam.
LAMB: Here's the cover of the book. "Free Agent Nation: How America's New Independent Workers are Transforming the Way We Live." Our author has been Daniel H. Pink, and we thank you very much.
Mr. PINK: Thank you.