I know that I am not smart enough to know if things are getting better or worse. My guess is that its probably both. Like everyone I see things from my perspective, I try to see the other sides but that’s all I can do is try. I am in my mid 50’s and finally got myself in a good place but the trip here wasn’t without its bumps. I remember cutting open toothpaste tubes to make sure I got all the toothpaste out before I had to by another one. Learning that credit cards can get you into trouble. Life lessons that can make you a better person or a miserable one. I made a choice to not dwell on the negative but embrace the positive.
Again, what’s the real world economic impact of this on individuals? “Wouldn’t it be great if we all worked less?” is not clearly articulated policy.
It’s frankly also bottomless. Is 35 hours enough, 30, 25? What’s the backstop, if not economics?
A company in NZ recently tried it, and as I posted up thread, 40 hours is a completely arbitary number as well, a hold over from 19th century industrialism. We’ve moved beyond that. Google “four day work week.” People would get the same pay they do now.
(Which of course means it’s not something that’s going to happen any time soon, and almost certainly not within my lifetime.)
So much yes to this.
This is the consequence of everything moving towards efficiency and “self-direction” we all suddenly need to become experts in a bunch of stuff that used to be handled by someone else.
You can now get a mortgage on your phone! Wahoo!!! DIY!
A good example of this is travel agencies. People used to use these to plan vacations, because it was too much work to do when you are a busy working person. Now, travel sites and the internet have made this much easier (and cheaper) for people to DIY, but while it might be cheaper to not pay the travel agent, you are paying in your own personal time.
It is awesome how much the internet has changed our lives for the better, but it has also given the regular person so much more to burden themselves with. I struggle to purchase anything online, because I spend hours perusing reviews, ensuring I get the most for my money. Before, you would walk to the local hardware store, and talk to a guy who would say “you need this thing for that” and go on your way. You might pay more, but you don’t spend as much time. Unless your local hardware shop just closed (Me).
I’m with you, @MrGrumpy. Bob Black wrote “The Abolition of Work” in 1985, an essay on the subject, and I’ve been thinking this way since i first read it in '92 or something. I’ve linked it here a few times, but no one ever comments on it or clicks through really (thanks, discourse!), so I won’t bother doing it again.
40 hours isn’t terrible… if that’s all it is. But it seldom is anymore, and that’s what this thread is about, Timex. Your average salary worker works much more than that, and as noted earlier, you don’t get to take it easy the next week to make up.
My industry is especially bad (professional chef). Most places expect 50-60 hours per week minimum, and much, much more if you’re short handed in the kitchen (which is always lately here in Seattle, land of the $15/hr minimum wage). For this effort you get paid on-average about 60% median income for the region. I decided ‘fuck that’. Not worth it to destroy my body and soul for someone else’s profits. I hope more workers figure that out. We need change soon. The situation is untenable.
Why is that an important question? If people could be healthy and happy and well fed and sheltered while no one worked more than an hour a week, would that be bad? This is a serious question: There’s good reason to think that a lot of so-called productivity is simply wasted labor, and that it will be even more so in the future.
That’s a fun question that I love to debate with friends after a few beers. Though I typically phrase it as zero hours a week, not one. It’s not that much of a stretch to think that someday we could build machines of sufficient sophistication to both take care of our material needs and each other, which essentially drops the value of human labor to zero. So we will be tremendously wealthy as a society while being individually greatly improverished. Or at least that will be the case if we cling to our current social and economic ideas that view hard work as a virtue and not working as a sign of laziness or poor moral character.
There’s a few ways I could see that falling out. One way is that we will keep on inventing make work jobs for people to do while pretending the people are vital and ignoring the fact that the machines do everything useful. Another way is that we might need some really bloody social upheaval to shake out the old ideas and institute an economic system along the lines of AI controlled communism to ensure that the machines provide for all fairly. Heck, there’s an outside chance we just can’t accept that humans are superfluous to economic activity and deliberately don’t allow machines to perform unsupervised productive tasks so all the humans end up as robot supervisors.
I don’t have any hard answers but it’s a fun question.
This is more or less the basis of all of Iain Banks’s Culture novels. I guess if we don’t destroy ourselves, we’ll end up in something like that, albeit not jetting around the galaxy.
The George Jetson model, where his job is sitting at a desk and occasionally pushing one button.
I don’t think there’s any chance we move toward anything like that. The owners of the machinery are not going to reduce their profit margins by even the tiniest bit if they don’t have to. I’ve spent 25 years in management consulting. Big manufacturers for whom labor is a sliver of their cost of goods sold nonetheless want it cut further. Because you always, always, always have to be improving your margins.
I think our choices are 1) Favelas everywhere, 2) a Universal Basic Income or 3) Severe upheavels, leading to… god knows what. Jobs are going to vanish more quickly than new ones appear.
UBI is imo a kind of giant subsidy to corporations and is a huge red herring.
UBI supporters see this as a panacea. What will happen is this, though: UBI gets passed along with corporate tax cuts for globalized corporations which benefit most from UBI (not tax raises to pay for UBI because if UBI passes regulatory and pollical capture by globalized corporations of the political system will have already happened) and then pass on the tax burden to “traditional” businesses, or simply pay it with ever increasing debt.
Then most of UBI each individual receives will be captured by landlords directly or real estate price increases indirectly, and by higher medical deductibles and copays. Taking loans against your UBI will be commonplace, and the majority of people receiving UBI will have some substantial portion of it auto-deducted to pay debts and expenses within 10 years of it being passed.
UBI would be one of the largest wealth transfer from Government to Industry known, and would (imo) mark the corporatization of society having actually occurred. Queue the synth-cyberpunk soundtrack.
I watch quite a few cooking/cooking competition shows (weirdly, since I don’t cook or even like to cook), and I get stressed just watching them run a restaurant (e.g. if the expediter isn’t any good the whole kitchen is screwed.) I can’t imagine doing that week in, week out. Wise choice to get out (or become a private chef, they seem to have it made.)
Heh, reading those is definitely what made me start pondering this stuff. I don’t agree that the setting he cooked up in his books is a likely future, he was playing with some very utopian stuff there, but he definitely gets props for making people think about a machine-managed future.
There is no profit if no workers are employed and thus nobody has any money and thus nobody can buy products. A completely machine managed future blows up the basis for our economy. The interesting question is how society will handle that. If we want to cling tightly to our concept of private ownership of the means of production, then we either have to go real darkly dystopian where surplus workers (all but a few elites who actually “own” things) get ruthlessly suppressed by force or we have to go with something like UBI where everyone gets some money for free to spend on products.
I completely agree with where you are coming from, I know from my own career experience how ruthlessly corporations can cut costs. I just think that model isn’t sustainable into a future where the value of human labor approaches zero.
Is this a problem for current recipients of social security checks?
That is true, when you view the economy as a whole. From the standpoint of an individual company and its shareholders, though, the pressure remains to drive wages as close to zero as possible.
The world only needs so many poets, chefs and masseuses. As manufacturing and services continue to shrink (and it’s really just getting started in services)… well, it leads me back to favelas, riots or a UBI.
Yuval Harari discusses this at length in Homo Deus. He, interestingly, argues for a new dominant political philosophy to replace humanism, and a more inclusive ethic to go with it.
Ah yeah that’s a long time, kids get a total of 13 weeks a year, 2x2, 1x6 and 3x1. Spread pretty evenley.
I would love a 4 day week of 10x4 rather than 5x8.
Well that’s always potentially an issue. You’re still negotiating, you just may be negotiating from a weak position.
Although today, we’re nearing full employment in the economy. Employees have a better position to negotiate from.
I also totally agree with the aspect of healthcare. That’s why the ACA is good, or some other type system that doesn’t require our employer to be an intermediary for our health insurance.
It’s certainly not a fairy tale, given it’s been my life for the past 20 so years.
On some level, I’m just not that interested in the government being the negotiator for me when it comes to working out my compensation package. We treat our engineers well, because happy engineers are better engineers. It’s profitable for us to do so. Our engineers are happy. We don’t need the government to get involved. They’re just gonna fuck it up.
If you don’t like what an employer is offering, then don’t work for them.
If no employer is willing to meet your expectations… then your expectations are unreasonable.
That’s just the way it is. You can’t change it. Like I said, if you aren’t willing to work as hard as some dude in a developing country, or can’t offer something that is clearly better than he can… then you’re gonna lose to him. That’s tough shit. We, as Americans, don’t deserve anything more than they do.
And those dudes are willing to work more than a 30 hour week, I promise you.
Maybe this, more than anything is gonna contribute to the “burn out”. In previous decades, American workers didn’t have to compete so directly with workers in other countries, because the infrastructure wasn’t in place to easily move goods and services around.
But now it is. Competition is going to get harder.
Folks are just gonna have to deal with it. There’s no law that’s gonna somehow make it go away.
The Market Is King! Goddamn bullshit. Fuck that noise.
The market seems to work for you and the company you work for. Great. Awesome. That is not the experience of a lot of people. The majority? Who knows, but I think we’re going to find out.
Conservative brain on display. 🤔