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Friday, September 20, 2013

Should people work hard?

I'm talking about the U.S.A., in the 21st century. What do you think, should people work hard? Our ancestors certainly did; shouldn't we keep doing the same?

Funny thing, though - part of the work that our ancestors did was to invent labor-saving methods and devices.  This is still going on, so that less and less labor is required as time marches on. One of the consequences is that we typically work about half as many hours per week as our great-great-grandfathers did. Nevertheless, at the present time we are able to produce all that we need without using the entire labor force. A large fraction of today's adult population is either unemployed or under-employed. And this is with millions of people in the military or in the some aspect of the defense industry. What if peace were to break out?  (actually, it already has. The U.S. is not currently at war, nor is it currently threatened by any major military power.)

Maybe it's time to reconsider the "protestant ethic"? After centuries of development of labor saving technology, perhaps it's time to start working less.  Otherwise, what was the point of all of that clever inventing?  Should we keep everyone working full time and simply produce a huge amount of stuff that is not really needed?  Or would it make more sense for most people to just work less, and have more free time?

Today in America, many people are struggling to get by.  How can this be, when there is so much technology, which accomplishes so much with minimal human input? The answer to that question is that most of that technology is benefiting the business owners and not their employees. The latter are mostly receiving rather low wages, because there is a labor surplus in America.  The market for labor currently favors the employers, in most cases.

If the nation were somehow able to get people to work substantially fewer hours, then many new jobs would open up, as people were hired to fill in the missing hours. This could lead to full employment, and a happier American workforce, with time for relaxation, sports, and hobbies.

In a future article I will describe how that might be accomplished.  Some thoughts in that direction can be found in these older articles: