In Praise Of Leisure

 Technology was supposed to give people increased leisure, yet everyone is working harder than ever. Via Chronicle of Higher Education, Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky on the utopia which never came to pass:

Imagine a world in which most people worked only 15 hours a week. They would be paid as much as, or even more than, they now are, because the fruits of their labor would be distributed more evenly across society. Leisure would occupy far more of their waking hours than work. It was exactly this prospect that John Maynard Keynes conjured up in a little essay published in 1930 called “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.”

Its thesis was simple. As technological progress made possible an increase in the output of goods per hour worked, people would have to work less and less to satisfy their needs, until in the end they would have to work hardly at all. Keynes thought this condition might be reached in about 100 years—that is, by 2030.

He asked something hardly discussed today: What is wealth for? How much money do we need to lead a good life? Making money cannot be an end in itself—at least for anyone not suffering from acute mental disorder. Making money cannot be the permanent business of humanity, for the simple reason that there is nothing to do with money except spend it. And we cannot just go on spending. There will come a point when we will be satiated or disgusted or both. Or will we?

Let’s begin by pondering the reasons for the failure of Keynes’s prophecy. Why, despite the surprising accuracy of his growth forecasts, are most of us, almost 100 years on, still working about as hard as we were when he wrote his futuristic essay? The answer is that a free-market economy both gives employers the power to dictate hours and terms of work and inflames our innate tendency toward competitive, status-driven consumption. Keynes was well aware of the evils of capitalism but assumed that they would wither away once their work of wealth creation was done. He did not foresee that they might become permanently entrenched, obscuring the very ideal they were initially intended to serve.

Read the rest at the Chronicle of Higher Education

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  • Neodead

    Those who advocate for “free market” are not workers. Their job is to advocate for “free market” and they are get paid by exploiter class for it. The greed of ruling class makes workers work more. But workers’ labor remains undervalued. And there is amount how much. Just exactly as $21 trillion hidden in offshore tax havens. Greed. Greed. Greed. Whole this system is  based on greed and exploitation. Even neoclassical economics models start from “profit maximization” not “wage maximization”. It is obsessed with how to make workers produce more. More, More and More!! Monetarist economics teaches how to trick workers to work more, unless they found that they produced more that can buy for their wages. Whole this system, its ideology, its exploiters, advocates, economists are inhuman and asocial. How dare they blame “too high wages” for unemployment! Blame your own greed! Insufficient aggregate demand is caused by their own greed! 

    • Amxmachine2008

      you never had the experience of working for what you are really worth have you? maybe you never proved how much you were worth. who knows? either way ignorance and improper measurement of inflation has killed our growth. period. also, there are ways of making real money if you are smart. inflation kills the small jobs

  • Seventeen

    Make the lower class work hard so the upper class can profit. Until that problem is resolved we are stuck in a broken world. We have the technological know how to allow every man, women, and child on this planet to live a leisure lifestyle. However, that reality would narrow the gap between the super rich and the poor, which is unacceptable to the ruling class. Greed is going to destroy this world one way or another. 

    • kurisushiro

       That’s pretty much it. I mean, I’ve seen technology shows showing machinery that can quite easily make many jobs much, MUCH easier, but I never hear about them being deployed.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    “. . . As technological progress made possible an increase in the output of goods per hour worked, people would have to work less and less to satisfy their needs, until in the end they would have to work hardly at all. Keynes thought this condition might be reached in about 100 years—that is, by 2030. .  . ”

    You mean I can stop punching myself in the nuts by working 80 hours a week for shrill harpies and with mongoloid coworkers?

    Sorry, Lucifer, but I’m onto your little scheme, peddling pipedreams of a sustainable economy and reasonable lifestyle.  I think I’ll just keep plugging away at my soul draining death spiral into oblivion, thank you very much.

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    turn on, tune-in, drop-out
    (not necessarily in that order, your mileage my vary)

  • Server

    “Making money cannot be an end in itself—at least for anyone not suffering from acute mental disorder.”

    He simply underestimated the amount of people in the world with severely acute mental illnesses.

  • Simiantongue

    Promised a path away from drudgery to the good life. Given a hamster wheel to walk on.

  • razzlebathbone

    A culture of leisure is still attainable. There’s nothing stopping us from building that world, nothing except our own attitudes about work and powerlessness.

    • kurisushiro

       Well, that and the people with the gold who are all too content to just get more gold for themselves.

      • guest

        how about you teach yourself how to program. then go find some online contracts. build a report. then get a permanent job making 90k plus solving big problems. the money is sitting out there to be taken. just like herds of animals migrating the money has changed industries. get with the times man

  • Amxmachine2008

    we are in a free market? the BLS determines inflation… what the hell is inflation? its a number that DOESNT INCLUDE FOOD OR FUEL MARKET SPENDING. as a middle class worker what did i spend the most money on this month? i think we all know the answer to that. sound market is founded upon SOUND MONEY. our system is crap and i hope whistles that have been blowing for decades will be heard before it is to late