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Forum Post: Why the idea of "working less" does not have official support

Posted 7 years ago on Nov. 19, 2012, 3:58 p.m. EST by Misaki (893)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Some readers might be familiar with this proposal. For those who are not, these two recent threads explain it:

The closest anyone has come to supporting the specific idea is this blog post by Paul Krugman, the most popular economics blogger with ~700k Twitter followers: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/09/what-you-add-is-what-you-get/

I have explained in the past how the middle class is to blame for high unemployment by not supporting more government spending and taxation. This is why most people in poverty are politically independent, instead of supporting the Democratic party.

However, at the same time no one is really at risk of dying from being poor, even though it might require going to prison to survive. The result is that poor people have more children than rich people. If you think that rich people are "mean", then we are reducing the number of mean people who have children with how things are.

The current best explanation for why there has not been more support of the idea of working less by economists is that they view the middle class as mean and do not feel it is morally justifiable to support something that would help the middle class by giving them more time.

Is this a good reason for not supporting the idea?



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[-] 3 points by agkaiser (2447) from Fredericksburg, TX 7 years ago

In Germany, where job sharing works, the entire population is willing to sacrifice for the common good. In America the ruling class care about nothing but themselves. They own the politicians and the economists. They think they don't even need us as consumers in debt slavery, as they move their businesses from China to Indo Asia and sell to the Chinese they're screwing like they've screwed US.

I think the Chinese will execute a few CEOs they catch in their jurisdiction before our braindead corporate rulers catch on to the impossibility of perpetual motion of labor arbitrage. Meanwhile we'll have starved because we're too stupid to revolt violently.

[-] 2 points by Misaki (893) 7 years ago

I think this is a reasonable thing to say but there is evidence that the situation is not one of the rich oppressing everyone else, but rather the rich and the middle class oppressing the poor (financially).

If people in the middle class really thought that the rich were to blame, they would have supported the petition mentioned in the first link in the OP. The comments in that thread are helpful in showing why people don't blame the rich (and by extension, why OWS has not been more successful).

[-] 2 points by agkaiser (2447) from Fredericksburg, TX 7 years ago

The rich and the rest with positive net worth (what's left of the middle class) are about ten percent. They all look rich to the poor, of whom there are more every day. In other words, it is the rich against the rest of US.

[-] 2 points by agkaiser (2447) from Fredericksburg, TX 7 years ago

It would have been better if I'd said too stupid to understand the real danger and act to rid ourselves of vermin that threaten our existence with theirs than too stupid to revolt violently.

I don't disagree with anything you say. In an intelligent community it's workable. But our ruling class are idiots, middle class morons and the rest of US their dupes.

"It can't happen here!!!"

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 7 years ago

Have you watched the 2006 documentary The One Percent? Think of someone like a "wealth manager" who gets paid to keep track of investments for rich families. If they do their job correctly, rich people get richer. But it's still just someone doing their job.

So in this sense, it doesn't matter what the identify of the rich is or even what their goals are. They hired someone to manage their money. That person just does their job. To the extent that people might think that the rich are "evil" and somehow responsible for the current economy, the quote about how "evil is very banal" seems appropriate.

If you want real battles between the rich and poor, you need to go back in history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Blair_Mountain

[-] 3 points by agkaiser (2447) from Fredericksburg, TX 7 years ago

What your missing is that "just doing their jobs" is killing US. Literally! The status quo is a threat to the existence of life on the planet and the ruling elite are too stupid to see it.

Your explanation is like a surgical operation that is perfectly executed but the patient dies. I'm not in the past. I see what must be seen. Catch up!

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 7 years ago

Are you talking about global warming?

See this: http://www.freakonomics.com/2010/08/24/unemployment-vs-global-warming/

People (read: Republicans, mostly) are less likely to "believe" in global warming if unemployment is high.

[-] 2 points by agkaiser (2447) from Fredericksburg, TX 7 years ago

What we have here is a failure to communicate. One more try:

I'm speaking wholistically. It's not any one thing the ruling class and their minions do. It's all of their existence that's a threat.

It starts with Original Sin, which is the abomination of Human Nature through corruption of social instinct. Specifically I'm talking about leaders who lead in their own self interest instead of for the common good. The community, ruled by natural social instinct, is more important than the individual. No one can be rich unless others [do the] work for them. To lead a community in the way the rich lead us is self destructive to the Human Race.

Do you see now, what I'm talking about? If so, take it and use it. If not or if you challenge the truth, do it somewhere else. I find explaining such simple concepts tedious and I've spent all the time on it that I will waste.

Marx was a moderate!

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 7 years ago

No one can be rich unless others [do] the work for them.

I certainly agree with this. But really don't see how any of what you said shows that "The status quo is a threat to the existence of life on the planet".

[-] 2 points by agkaiser (2447) from Fredericksburg, TX 7 years ago

How do the rich threaten us?

It's about corruption of social instinct. The Human Race and our immediate antecedents have survived for millions of years by forming groups (extended families, clans, villages, tribes etc.) that provide the security for individuals to survive and prosper. If the community doesn't prosper then no one will. Few could make it alone in prehistoric times and virtually no one can now. Certainly it's impossible to have much more than average without exploiting the work of others.

The rich, by the corruption of social instinct, are an abomination Human Nature. The corruption is the use of leadership positions to advance individuals, at the expense of the community that makes life possible.

Not only the concentration of wealth, which hoards resources that billions need to live, threatens our existence. Degradation of the environment for the profit of the rich and their corporations, monopolization of food production and distribution by a handful of Giga corps and the genetic engineering of plants and animals, wars of resource conquest [for profit war in general] and their privatization and worst: the usury and debt, banned by Moses 3500 years ago, which must own everything in the end. That last is a mathematical certainty.

That distillation of the book is about as concentrated as is possible. For detailed [does the math] proof of my assertions, with references, read:

How Does That Work? https://www.createspace.com/3852916

[-] 2 points by NVPHIL (664) 7 years ago

Anyone who sees the progress made in automation knows that in 10 to 20 years there will not be enough jobs for most of the country. We can either have job sharing or a majority of the people will not have an income.

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 7 years ago

Thank you. The problem is (and has always been) saying it in a way that people will agree with.

You also have things like this: http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-resource-issue-informal-poll/

Working less using the method of paying people a higher wage rate for the initial period of work does not require anyone to sacrifice their interests to promote the common goal of economic equality, and so it would spread to other countries (unlike a reduction in the work week before overtime which has been used in France but did not spread). This would raise living standards throughout the world... and therefore the price of gasoline.

If people in the US really do want to help the rest of the world (and we wouldn't have trade agreements if there weren't at least some people who wanted to help other countries) then they should support this solution. If they don't, then ignoring it will help rich people in the US although unemployment and inequality will remain high.

[-] 1 points by Shule (2638) 7 years ago

I think this idea of "working class" is a concoction of the evil rich for the purposes of separating we the people. (Notice how much that term was used in the last election. The politicians just could not say people.) If we the people, that is we the poor, we the middle, and we the good rich came together we can overcome a lot of injustice. Of course that is not what the evil rich want. They want us to fight and discriminate amongst ourselves.

Notice I'm trying to separate the rich into the good, and the evil in hope of some of the rich becoming a some of of us.

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 7 years ago

RedDragon made a similar point about the inaccuracy of the term "working class" elsewhere in this thread.

As he pointed out, and as statistics back up, most of the top 1% work.

I don't know that anyone wants people to fight among themselves. I think they just observe it without understanding why. Regarding the 'Giving Pledge', from http://www.economist.com/node/21555605

“I do not see any of the philanthropic activity I run into motivated by the idea that this is going to calm the masses,” explains Mr Buffett, who confesses that “it is amazing to me the degree of inequality that exists without people really getting upset.

I actually tried sending a letter to the correspondence address for Warren Buffett, about using the idea of allowing employees to work less time and receive a higher wage rate as an alternative to philanthropy (and which might even have resulted in net gain instead of loss, due to the greater efficiency when working less). I don't think it reached him though.

[-] 1 points by gsw (3324) from Woodbridge Township, NJ 7 years ago

because we are presently working less: it's called underemployed and "early retirement."


the people make to little to work less, unless there is a dramatic increase to livable wage. see above.

If the rich want to work less, good for them. we can't mandate that, but we could better utilize their surplus income (like minumum wage, in reverse) through taxes.

If you can get by by working less go for it. I endorse it. where are you residing, if I may inquire politely?

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 7 years ago

This explains it best:

The chasm between the 1 percent and the rest is so deep and so life-defining that people will do anything to stay in the 1 percent. . . . the people who benefit from the surplus created at the top are not hesitant to use their power to extract the last billable hour from the desperate individuals competing for the scarce opportunities of the winner take all economy.

At the end of the day, it's the economy, stupid. Until the cost of getting a B, or being a B-type or even embracing a B-grade lifestyle for a time stops being a life-altering event, everyone, male and female, with a shot at the gold ring, is going to race around the carousel, dodging horses and missing the scenery spinning by. Hillary Clinton's State Department was considered humane for requiring its executives to be at the office "only" eleven hours a day? That would be close to three thousand hours a year, not counting weekends. It's Dickensian.


[-] 2 points by gsw (3324) from Woodbridge Township, NJ 7 years ago

Americans work a lot. They should have more balance,like rest of world.


1 percent should invest in people for education, and chance to have decent job. Americans need work and jobs. Don't ship everything to 3rd World. That doesn't help everyone. just the owners and financiers.

build solar. put on every home. bring technology jobs back. give tax breaks for business that brings jobs back and pays living wage.

build more rail. bullet trains in usa.

[-] 0 points by RedDragon (-161) 7 years ago

I see a whole lot of idiocy here both in the post and Krugman's blog - and so it has happened - they have realized their error in trying to tax the rich and have now redirected to blame the middle class. If this trend continues eventually they will have to blame poverty on the poor, no? And we know that's not going to fly.

Work... everyone should work ten, twelve hours a day, or more, preferably at something they enjoy. But unfortunately most are not this lucky.

The poor have more children for one reason and one reason only - it's because they act irresponsibly in the moment; this occurs in part due to control issues - a wife dedicated to home and children is far less likely to have an affair. The rich and middle class, often to their detriment, accept this risk in favor of a perceived-to-be higher mandate to prosperity. And so, they encourage their wives to pursue careers and purposely have less children.

It is always amazing to what fictional lengths many will go to justify some deficiency of self.

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 7 years ago

Should Chinese people work 10~12 hours a day? Does it help US workers if people in other countries work a lot?

If you say no, then you will have to explain why it's good for US citizens to spend a lot of time working but not other countries.

This isn't about blaming the middle class for working, though. It's about the effects of their voting choices and unwillingness to support working less in various petitions. The quick summary is that people know that the government could create jobs for the poor by spending money, but do not want this to happen.

Would you care to answer the question in the OP, though?

[-] 1 points by RedDragon (-161) 7 years ago

In the Op... the OP is like three or four months old; why bother posting if no one will ever read it?

The middle class does not support more taxes, no. They have lost market value, investment, retirement savings, while simultaneously their medical costs have risen.

And interest rates on deposits are so artificially low... we have been forced by current monetary policy into the bond market; we are buying government debt which allows the Fed to grow debt at a lower rate. In short, the middle class is subsidizing our national debt; the problem is that bonds no longer offer a return, either, and for every month this president remains in office we are losing millions because inflation and the cost of living are outstripping the rate of return.

My point is that we already aiding the poor at detriment to ourselves.

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 7 years ago

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[-] 1 points by RedDragon (-161) 7 years ago

Yea, I know what it means. I thought you meant the original Krugman article which dates to July.

[-] -3 points by Misaki (893) 7 years ago

Sorry about the confusion. I guess people won't respond to the question when it isn't clear that the argument is correct.

One of the big reasons that the middle class feels squeezed is that high unemployment has been driving down the share of income going to labor compensation, while corporate profits rise: http://www.businessinsider.com/corporate-profits-just-hit-an-all-time-high-wages-just-hit-an-all-time-low-2012-6

This means more money going to people who own stocks and so on, which is part of why inequality has increased (driving up costs for everyone else through gentrification, etc).

If government jobs don't provide much utility to people (and many people think they don't), the issues you list are pretty reasonable in explaining why the middle class doesn't support more government spending.

It doesn't explain why people don't support working less since it would reduce spending on welfare, but as GirlFriday keeps saying it's pretty complicated and not everyone should need to take the time to look at all the aspects of the situation and decide whether it's worth it.

[-] 2 points by RedDragon (-161) 7 years ago

Well it's interesting to me that you find it difficult to relate to "middle class."

The truth is that we have no gentry, no aristocracy, in this country. Virtually all with income are working class people - even Buffet "works" - and so I think these terms are rather arbitrary. What is middle class? And where is the divide? Well, it's relative and therefore these terms are rather arbitrarily applied.

Many of our comfortable working class would prefer to self-identity as middle class; perhaps it is these to whom you here refer?

Really, the lines blur, so it becomes a question of how individuals choose to self identify. Buffet, I'm quite certain, considers himself too "poor" while many working class people consider themselves too wealthy.

But either way virtually all above this "poor" are invested - "vested" in the sense that they have vested their futures in the market through pension plans, retirement savings accounts, mutual funds. So it's not accurate to say that only CEOs are invested in stocks - everyone is invested - and if you are not, you should be.

Corporate raiding - this cadre of professional CEOs that specialize in arbitrage - has been going on since the early 90s, it's nothing new. So has corporate rape, so has shareholder value, etc. Companies continuously seek to reduce debt, increase efficiency, and so often downsize. Since, as human beings, we are rather limited - no one, for example, can be in two places or more at once - we tend to seek out a niche, which most would prefer be relatively profitable; we specialize. And it has become increasingly difficult for those who specialize to attain any level of security.

And it's a multifaceted difficulty - it is not only a question of stable profitable employment but also a question of maintaining that security we have attained - divorce, for example, for many has proven to be devastating. It is redistribution, a transference of wealth. Our ancestors knew this; we in our prosperity do not.

Inequality has increased... I don't feel that that's the case. Because equality is not a monetary thing; it will never be a monetary thing in America. If you believe this to be the case, you are probably entertaining some self created fiction, an induced logic.

Inequality occurs when one gains favored status - affirmative action, for example, is inequality; the favoring of minorities with educational grants is inequality - any legislation that favors one over the other to gain some vantage is inequality; more specifically, it is inequity.

Working less... what is work? Migration could be considered work, building a home could be considering work, destroying one's enemies, claiming territory, producing children - driving a car, catching the bus - all are "work." It is an expense of energy... and all energy is expended in an effort to promote happiness; all that promotes happiness is an economic endeavor, even if that endeavor merely improves health and happiness.

But it doesn't matter - the middle class are middle class precisely because they believe in work; work provides purpose and promotes happiness. We don't need less work, we need more work. And those who are middle class are not opposed to taxes, they are opposed to taxation without consent; specifically they are opposed to redistribution, waste, corruption, and inefficiency, and all in government is so categorized.

And as I stated, since they are already subsidizing the poor through the finance of the national debt due to low interest rates, and, are already paying a significant portion of their income in taxes, why should they pay more? The middle class is not opposed to taxes, they are opposed to higher taxes.

Your idea of working less in not wrong. People need balance in their lives, they need to balance the economic endeavor and the surreal security wealth provides against happiness and fulfillment. It's not that we need to work less, it's that we need to work smarter.

And think, really, that's what you're saying - that society needs to work smarter. And I agree.

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 7 years ago

What is middle class? And where is the divide?

I would put it at "not rich enough to maintain exactly the same standard of living if inequality decreased".

Rich people don't spend most of their money. The only real big-ticket items are maybe houses, planes, and yachts. And they still have most of their money left over if they are very rich, like Warren Buffett as you mention who is giving away most of his $40b or so instead of spending it.

Many of our comfortable working class would prefer to self-identity as middle class; perhaps it is these to whom you here refer?

This is why unemployment exists. People want to look up socially, and do things that help their successful friends instead of their less successful friends. I am not judging, just observing.

Really, the lines blur, so it becomes a question of how individuals choose to self identify. Buffet, I'm quite certain, considers himself too "poor" while many working class people consider themselves too wealthy.

Yes lol, this is exactly what I had in mind when I wrote this ("If you're poor, it's because you want to be or because you're stupid").

But either way virtually all above this "poor" are invested

It's only a small amount for most people. This is data intensive, but from here... the top 10% of wealth own 76% of net worth but 83% of net financial assets. Table 6, if you exclude pensions the bottom 80% only own 4.7% of common stock. 8.9% of common stock if you include pensions, and 8.7% of non-stock financial assets when you include pensions.

Table 7, half of households own any stocks either directly or indirectly, but only 35% own holdings of at least $6k.

For some people, what they own might seem like a lot I guess. But things that increase "corporate profits" mostly increase the income of the 1%, and do not go into retirement accounts for ordinary people.

Because equality is not a monetary thing; it will never be a monetary thing in America.

For people who go to prison simply to get medical care or to avoid being homeless, it is a monetary thing. For the losers when someone else has favored status, such as minorities who are discriminated against in employment, inequality is a monetary thing.

"Working less" is used in the sense of the amount of time spent working and for which wages are received, and is focused on rich people working less. As you mention most rich people do have a job (maybe self-employed if a professional).

Maybe the best argument for creating jobs through working less is that society already pays $30~50k per year for each of the 2 million people in prison/jails in the US. Most of that wouldn't be necessary if those people had jobs.

Here is a nice article on spending less time working: http://www.salon.com/2012/03/14/bring_back_the_40_hour_work_week/

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 7 years ago

I have linked to this post from a comment on Paul Krugman's blog. If you want him to support the idea, just post in this thread saying so.

[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 7 years ago

More justification for underemployment.

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 7 years ago

I don't expect people to say that they support the idea of working less. This thread is just about whether "punishing" the middle class is a good reason for economists to keep quiet about it.

[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 7 years ago

It's all the same shit.