Watch for self-employment rates to rise rapidly in this country and, in the process, create a very hot new market. Here's why:

Traditionally, there are three main factors affecting the rate of self-employment. Number one is demographic: people are more likely to choose self-employment as they get older, up until the age of 40, when the rate levels off. The second factor has to do with large-company employment patterns, specifically, the number and nature of jobs being created or eliminated. The third has emerged from recent studies of employment trends in Europe: self-employment is highest in countries with lots of government or legal intervention in the relationship between employer and employee.

Now look at the situation here in the United States. The baby boomers, alas, are no longer babies; they have the means, the professional experience, and the midlife crises necessary to propel them into self-employment. Meanwhile, downsizing in large companies will help the process along. And whatever else you may think of those diverse folks in Washington, it's clear they have big plans for employer-employee relationships: more support for unions, mandated health-care benefits, mandated leave, mandated this, mandated that.

We all know the effect of mandates on job generation: it gets S-L-O-W. The flip side is that self-employment will take off. I expect to see a new generation of savvy home-based sole proprietors. I call them soloists, although I've heard them referred to as artisans and even SoHos (self-operated, home office). Whatever you call them, they are going to play a big part in our lives over the next decade. I know. I'm writing this in my soloist wife's home office.

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