Thanks for many thoughtful comments on “If You Don’t Like It.”  A few that particularly grabbed me:

Tom P:

I think we can give a friendlier interpretation to Roehling’s terms.

“Bargaining power”: you spend many years working for a firm,
developing human capital that is useful only at that firm. The firm
effectively has monopoly power over you.

True, but:

1. Just as workers make firm-specific investments, firms make worker-specific investments. (See also Peter H’s comments).  Firms gives workers training, access to crucial information, personal contacts (including clients they can steal), etc.  So there’s “bargaining power” or “monopoly power” in both directions.

2. More importantly, the same clearly holds for romantic relationships!  People make emotional, financial, and social investments in their relationships all the time.  Once you make such an investment, your romantic partner has room to squeeze you, if he or she is so inclined.  But unless you marry, “If you don’t like it, break up,” remains your recourse of last resort.

Some other readers argue, like John David Galt, argue:

There’s a good reason for what you call the “double standard.”

To put it simply, a job is a necessity; that is how employers get
away with butting into your personal life habits that are none of their

Ybell similarly writes:

For the very poor, being fired leads to a very sharp decrease in the
quality of life, one that harms you and your family. Your “exit voice”
in a market with many substitutes is very weak.

For the very ugly (only in the sense of having the collection of
socially undesirable traits), however, the same does not apply. Yes,
being alone is terrible, but it is not as terrible as being hungry.

Two points:

1. As I suggested in my original post, many romantic relationships include financial support.  A break-up can and often does leave the poorer party in dire straits.

2. The causal chain from unemployment to hunger and homelessness is far weaker than you suggest.  Workers can save.  Those who fail to do so can usually appeal to the charity of family and friends.  Of course, many consider asking for charity to be humiliating.  But now we’re comparing heartache to humiliation, not heartache to hunger.