Would Reducing The Hours Of The Work Week Put More Americans Back To Work?
Robert Skidelsky – a British historian and biographer of John Maynard Keynes – argues in the Financial Times that the government should lower the number of hours in the work week, guarantee a minimum income level and put harsh limits on advertising to curb consumption.
Because that would make us happier (via Jim Pethokoukis).
…we must convince ourselves that there is something called the good life, and that money is simply a means to it. To say that my purpose in life is to make more and more money is as insane as saying my purpose in eating is to get fatter and fatter. But second, there are measures we can take collectively to nudge us off the consumption treadmill.
One is to improve job security. Government should restore the full employment guarantee. This does not mean guaranteeing everyone a 40-hour a week job. Government should gradually reduce the maximum allowable hours of work for most occupations, guaranteeing a job for everyone who wants to work that amount of time.
At the same time it should institute an unconditional basic income for all citizens. This would aim to improve the choice between work and leisure. Critics say this would be a disincentive to work. That is precisely its merit in a society which should be working less and enjoying life more.
Third, government should reduce the pressure to consume by curbs on advertising. We already have curbs to guard against specific harms: it would not be a big jump to recognise that excessive consumption is itself harmful – to the environment, to contentment, to any mature conception of the good life.
The idea behind limiting the work week is, I guess, is that less productivity would mean more demand for workers. Forget that reduced productivity would also mean more expensive goods and services. After all, if a business most employ a larger workforce to achieve the same level of productivity that represents big new costs, which will be passed along in prices.
Higher levels of employment would be more than offset by the economic destruction caused by higher prices and lower demand.
As for a guaranteed income level, that sounds like a good way to create a permanent underclass of do-nothings and freeloaders who lack the impetus to earn their own way in the world. If you want a close up look of what that looks like, look at the nation’s Indian reservations where endless government programs and entitlements keep the people there locked into a generational cycle of dependence.
And why would we want to ban advertising? The assumption being made by Skidelsky is that people buy things because of advertising. That’s not true. Companies advertise because people want to buy things. Advertising is about informing people about the goods/services available for purchase. It’s annoying at times, sure, but it’s also valuable and vital communication that facilitates the free exchange of goods and services.
Mr. Skidelsky’s model is a recipe for the destruction of free society, replacing it with one made up of tightly-controlled citizens living tightly-controlled lifestyles. It surprises me that this sort of nonsense would be published in a publication like Financial Times.
The best recipe for prosperity is to leave citizens as free as possible to make free choices in a free economic environment.Tags: Economy, jobs, john keynes