You have nothing to gain but free time.
October 12, 2010 6:18 AM   Subscribe

Huh? A little context would be nice. I *guess* the main link is that people work too hard and need to goof off more?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 6:29 AM on October 12, 2010

A lovely thought, but it would only work if you could force everyone to do it. Otherwise, one village or nation full of busy little worker bees would overpopulate, buy off, and/or conquer everyone else. Like those assholes who came up with agriculture and ruined the nice hunter / gatherer thing we had going on.
posted by condour75 at 6:36 AM on October 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

Bertrand Russell is still relevant.
posted by echo target at 6:36 AM on October 12, 2010 [6 favorites]

Done and done!
posted by wobh at 6:49 AM on October 12, 2010

Otherwise, one village or nation full of busy little worker bees species would overpopulate, buy off, and/or conquer everyone else.

Honestly, I think the end of continuous growth and resources is the biggest challenge of modern civilization. I haven't heard any good answers on how to transition there (without losing billions of people along the way).

George Monbiot's Heat is fantastic. It put things very clearly for me. But he really doesn't have a fix for the problem.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:52 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

> A lovely thought, but it would only work if you could force everyone to do it.

An acquaintance of mine buys wholeheartedly into the whole "work your way to the top" ethos and believes anyone who doesn't want to work 50+ hours a week and make as much money as they can is some sort of slacker parasite sucking society dry. We once had an argument about the value of leisure time and she told me that if everyone in Canada thought the way I did the Chinese would overtake us economically and the country would go down the tubes (needless to say, she hates unions). You know you're living in strange times when fiscal conservatives like her point to China as an example of how to run an economy.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:54 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is the same conundrum that makes complete nuclear disarmament apparently impossible - I'll work less/do away with my nukes when they do. It's the Prisoner's Dilemma writ large, basically.

If you choose to work less in a global economy based on eternal growth, all you are really doing is limiting your own income, globally speaking. The payoff for you personally may be huge in terms of time freed up for personal pursuits, realignment of personal priorities, reduction of debt etc. But until some sort of Outside Context Problem comes along to force us, as a species, to optimise for long-term species survival rather than maximisation of personal time on Earth, we will remain locked in a fallacious global zero sum game where our decision to slow down is always an opportunity for somebody somewhere else to speed up.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:21 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Never say I didn't contribute to the cause.

*goes back to bed*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:24 AM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Paging Bob Black (Link to "The Abolition of Work")
posted by symbioid at 7:28 AM on October 12, 2010

Well there's probably some optimum that's NOT working your fingers to the bone; leisure time's important to a community's health and sanity and sense of stability. What I'd doubt is that the optimum is 0% economic growth. If you shot for maintaining a status quo, you'd probably end up backsliding pretty quickly. Sort of like how when everyone pays what they think they owe on a check, you end up twenty bucks short.
posted by condour75 at 7:32 AM on October 12, 2010

locked in a fallacious global zero sum game where our decision to slow down is always an opportunity for somebody somewhere else to speed up.

Of course, your body exacts this sort of control with cells. A bunch of skin cells sees an aspirant melanoma forming and yells SCAB!
posted by condour75 at 7:41 AM on October 12, 2010

Slack already fills this need. I didn't even pay to be saved.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:42 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

We keep on making all these machines to do our work for us. We should be like "sweet, that means we can take a nap," but instead it just means that some people are "unemployed", and therefore people have to FEAR machines.

Man, when are we going to get to the point where we all laze about in hammocks being served lemonade by robot butlers? How do we change the economy so that automation becomes a good thing for workers?
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 7:46 AM on October 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

There are two main problems.

1. People gain happiness from their relative status. If the Joneses have a Ford, the Smiths want a BMW. If the Smiths buy a BMW, the Joneses want a Mercedes. So, they have to keep working longer and longer hours as they compete for their status symbols.

2. A similar rat race operates at the office. Looking for promotion, Mr Black wants to work longer hours than Mr White, and Mr White wants to work longer hours than Mr Smith.

These present collective action problems, like the Prisoner's Dilemma or the Tragedy of the Commons. People trying to make the best decisions for themselves as individuals, collectively makes the outcome worse for everyone.

An individual deciding to work less can only do so if he doesn't mind his peers looking down on him, his family regarding him as a failure, and his boss relegating him to the lowest rung of the hierarchy forever.

One solution to the collective action problem is for the State to enact maximum-hours laws. Another solution to problem 2 is for unions to enforce working hours restrictions.

So, I'm glad I live in the EU where there's a Working Time Directive enacting the first solution, at least to an extent.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:39 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


posted by entropicamericana at 8:50 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

As long as a society values money and power, leisure time will always be eaten by work, because the alternative is to have other people working harder than you and diluting the value of your money.

For instance, let's adopt a four-hour workday. Lots of people stick to that, and prices adjust accordingly. Except there's a subset of the population that thinks "oh hey, I can work two four-hour jobs!" and their salary is double everyone else's (on average). They can buy more, they can save more, and as more people see that "success" they adopt the same approach. Soon prices adjust accordingly, and the four-hour-a-day people have to work longer hours to stay in place.

If you don't believe me, go to a major metropolitan city and try to drive around on a Saturday -- traffic's as bad as weekday rush hour, because so many people are putting in that extra time.
posted by davejay at 9:25 AM on October 12, 2010

Never did see the appeal of work. I work to make money so I can live and play. Well, I did when I used to work, anyway. When someone tells me I have to do X and Y at time T1 - T2, X and Y become tiresome. Doesn't matter what they are; as soon as I'm told I have to do them, they become things I'd rather not do.

I've been voluntarily unemployed for over eighteen months. I think the only time in my life I've been happier is during the early years of my marriage, and what a fool's paradise that phase turned out to be. I don't think this one will, even though I'm looking for work again now. Dammit. Anyone got anything for a smart, talented, articulate lazy bastard who'll do the job reliably and competently but will definitely be out of the door no later than 5:00 unless lives are at stake? Nah. Thought not. The world is full of goddamned drones. Bloody hell, it's 5:30! Time to start drinking!
posted by Decani at 9:31 AM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

As long as a society values money and power...

Well yeah, exactly. Although I'd argue that it isn't the society so much as the individual. If you personally don't care about being rich or advancing up the corporate ladder, you could get by with less, in all likelihood.
posted by DU at 9:52 AM on October 12, 2010

An interesting essay on this subject: Le Droit à la paresse/The Right To Be Lazy by Paul Lafargue.
posted by nfg at 10:36 AM on October 12, 2010

The thing is, time is still pretty much the only thing you can't buy, no matter how rich you are*. From where I stand that makes it more valuable than any material good. Sometimes on my weekdays off I ride my bike to a park and read a book under a tree or lie on the couch and listen to a good jazz album or go to my favourite neighbourhood restaurant and have a nice long lunch while I read the paper. If you're working your ass off so you can afford a big house or a BMW the value of days like this is $0, but if you're me it's closer to $∞.

* sure, more money usually equals a longer life expectancy and more vacation time and that sort of thing, but not even Bill Gates can buy back the time he's already spent
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:49 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

"We could work less and produce less. It would also mean consuming less. "

Oh, you mean unemployment and underemployment. Yeah, there are a lot of people practicing that these days.

As a freelancer who's fighting tooth and nail just to tread water let me assure you, it's not nearly as awesome as they make it sound.
posted by ErikaB at 1:17 PM on October 12, 2010

I hope the commenters in the post don't take this the wrong way, but you guys sound so American.

If we stop working for even one moment the communists will overwhelm us!
posted by dobie at 7:20 PM on October 12, 2010

Monbiot brings out the worst in me.

I agree with everything he says but his presentational style is to treat one as if one is a silly little child who should have asked Daddy first before making such a stupid mistake and making a fool of themselves. I end up thinking, "Screw you ! I hope the world DOES end ..."
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 4:14 AM on October 13, 2010

"Victoria, dear, stop leaning over the railing or you could fall over and die."

"I choose death!"

the end of continuous growth and resources is the biggest challenge of modern civilization

Will America come to envy Japan's lost decade? - "Whether we like it or not, we are 'built to grow' and we use the fruits of that growth to buy off interest groups as we go along. Japan in contrast has greater capacity to stifle these grabs for new redistributions because their politics is more of an insider's game. Imagine a future world history where, fifty years from now, we look back and decide that Japan was the one country that made a semi-success of near-zero growth."

What next on climate change? - "It seems we're only going to adopt a solution which is quite easy and cheap in any case, and doesn't crash into NIMBY... Maybe only really cheap solutions will be adopted in any case and the rate of their discovery may depend more on research subsidies than on prices at the user level."

The Technology-Driven Consumption Trap: How Facebook is Killing the Economy - "We are in the year 2025. Because of advances in production technology, much of the path from extracting the required renewable resources through to the production and distribution of most of the items we demand can be accomplished with automated methods overseen by a small cadre of engineers... I don't know exactly how this economy works, but I can tell you that it is not working well."

the answer of course is idle theory :P cf. The Adaptive Value of Human Institutions: Building a Better (Secular) 'Religion' & limits; adam curtis' century of self is also worth watching...
posted by kliuless at 6:06 AM on October 16, 2010

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