How damn stupid do you have to be to believe this argument?

So Deborah Orr tells us all about how her mother worked her fingers to the bone running the household, how poverty meant she never had, despite father working 6 days a week, store bought clothes or a takeaway. And she doesn’t have to do that, no one does these days in fact. Then:

Yet, despite all these profound and fundamental changes, the definition of what is “full-time” work and what is “part-time” work hasn’t altered. Red Pepper magazine points out that “Keynes thought that by the 21st century we would all be working about eight hours a week and getting paid liveable wages for it. The history of human progress up until fairly recently has been people working less and less, and having more time to actually live and enjoy life. The triumph of neoliberal doctrine has reversed this – and to the benefit of nobody.”

And what is “neo-liberal doctrine” anyway? Essentially it’s that people should be paid as little or as much as the market can bear, without social intervention of any kind. That’s it. That’s what human life should be all about, according to the dominant ideology of the age. Then we wonder why social problems are so endemic. People don’t exercise enough. People don’t cook enough. People don’t spend enough time with their children. People don’t read enough, to themselves or their kids. People don’t volunteer enough. It’s hard to look after the elderly. People drink too much. People watch too much TV. Why? Because people are at work, and if they’re not at work, then that’s the biggest of all the problems. The way we live our lives needs fundamental restructuring. Time is precious. But you wouldn’t think so, not at all, not from looking at the average earnings people get for spending precious time at work.

How damn stupid do you have to be to believe both parts of that argument?

As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, it’s those household production hours that have declined, in a manner that Keynes didn’t predict, leaving us all, both men and women, with vastly more leisure time. She actually points this out in the first part of the piece then entirely ignores it at the end. This is just so damn stupid.

23 comments on “How damn stupid do you have to be to believe this argument?

  1. And what is “neo-liberal doctrine” anyway? Essentially it’s that people should be paid as little or as much as the market can bear, without social intervention of any kind. That’s it. That’s what human life should be all about, according to the dominant ideology of the age.

    Well passing over her stupid definition of what neo-liberal means, her argument is actually stupider than TW gives her credit for:

    Then we wonder why social problems are so endemic. People don’t exercise enough. People don’t cook enough. People don’t spend enough time with their children. People don’t read enough, to themselves or their kids. People don’t volunteer enough. It’s hard to look after the elderly.

    OK. I suppose in theory if we were all working 16 hour days, we might not have enough time to exercise, or cook, or spend time with children or the elderly or whatever. Although I note, in passing, that Third World sh!tholes where people really do work long hours, are full of people who do all these things.

    People drink too much. People watch too much TV. Why? Because people are at work, and if they’re not at work, then that’s the biggest of all the problems.

    But sorry? WTF? People are so busy at work they watch too much TV? They have so little free time, they are just forced to sit in front of the TV all day? Can anyone explain to me how that works? We have so little free time that we have to spend more of it watching TV? We have to little spare time, we have to spend it in the pub? How does that work then?

    These last two are clearly the result of *too*much* leisure time, not too little. Again, in Bombay slums people do not watch too much TV. Although they probably do drink quite a lot.

    The way we live our lives needs fundamental restructuring. Time is precious. But you wouldn’t think so, not at all, not from looking at the average earnings people get for spending precious time at work.

    That is rich coming from someone who gets paid obscene amounts of money for what looks like 25 minutes of work a week.

  2. And what is “neo-liberal doctrine” anyway? Essentially it’s that people should be paid as little or as much as the market can bear, without social intervention of any kind.

    If that’s the official Guardianista definition of “neo-liberal doctrine”, then you can understand why they are quite so down on it.

    What that has to do with capitalism, free- (or minimally regulated) markets, open borders, classical liberalism and neo-classical economics is uncertain.

  3. Yes, the Guardian is very confused about its understanding of capitalism and neo-liberalism.

    On the one hand it is to pay people as little as possible. Then 5 mins later they’re getting upset that the most uber-capitalists, the bankers, are paying themselves obscene amounts of money.

  4. Some of you buggers with the leisure and disposable income ought to read Piketty: it is not all plain sailing reverting to economic arrangements that support a Jane Austen leisure class.

  5. Classic bien-pensant. Orr truly is a talented writer to cram so much condescension into so few words.

    “Not enough leisure time” yet “we watch too much TV”. Hmmm… Haven’t quite thought that through. Betrays the prejudice of a professional luvvie.

    And, the eternal battle-cry of our ‘betters’: “The way we live our lives needs fundamental restructuring.”

    As long as millionaire Orr and Self get to do the restructuring.

  6. The fucking White Queen strikes again. Six impossible things before breakfast.

    Look, it’s not binary Reed. Not everything is perfect now, nor was it ‘then’, whatever value you assign to then.

    But most people are better off now than then and the only people who would seriously want to go back in time are the landed gentry.

    Deborah Orr didn’t have takeaways despite her dad working six days a week? Not even fish and chips? I call bollocks, but if it’s true maybe he was incredibly dense and worked in an early Remploy factory. Which would make sense.

  7. “People don’t exercise enough. People don’t cook enough. People don’t spend enough time with their children. People don’t read enough, to themselves or their kids. People don’t volunteer enough. It’s hard to look after the elderly.”

    Who gets to define ‘enough’?

    The reason many people don’t read is because there’s no discipline in our shittiest schools (thanks to people like D Orr).

    They don’t spend enough time with their children because half the time they don’t know them as a result of the all-but destruction of the nuclear family (thanks to people like D Orr).

    People watch too much TV? I actually agree but it’s their choice.

    Mind you, in recent months D Orr has written about Benefits Street, Breaking Bad, Mock the Week, The Good Wife, The Big C, Big Ballet and Christmas ads so I suspect she’s among them.

    Her idiot husband isn’t shy of appearing on the box himself.

  8. If Orr (I’m tempted to say it but I won’t) doesn’t like the long hours that the UK poor (I presume that is on whose behalf she is acting as an un-appointed whiner)have to work–then perhaps she and her leftist pals should not have encouraged millions of foreigners to come here and provide employers with the chance to reduce wages.

  9. Dear Mr Worstall

    Add up the hours of real work that needs to be done, divide by the number of working age people. Result is probably about four hundred man-hours or fewer.

    How many lifetimes are wasted ticking boxes or languishing in the welfare trap? How much ‘work’ is presenteeism, makework or having a social life with pension rights? Or being employed by government just to punish taxpayers?

    DP

  10. Oops meant to add:

    The mystery is why anyone thinks Deborah Fucking Orr should be listened to.

  11. Most reviews I’ve read of Piketty either say:

    A – it’s the greatest book written since Keynes, and offers total refutation of the ‘neo Liberal paradigm’ and theoretical justification for imposition of socialism as an urgent necessity on a global level (or words to that effect)

    B – it’s a stale rehash of second hand ideas that have been discredited by the collapse of most collectivist economies 3 decades ago and as such is worthless, or something along those lines.

    Having seen the people lining up to praise it, including yourself, take a stab at which position I’m likely to take….

  12. “People should be paid as little or as much as the market can bear, without social intervention of any kind.”

    OMG! If you had that, you could end up with prosperity!

  13. How are you supposed to enjoy any leisure time when it’s all spent getting your 10 units a day?

  14. Deborah Orr talks about “takeaways”. That betrays her ignorance: the word was not invented when four penny worth of chips was a once-a-week treat. She is not old enough to have observed parents working their fingers to the bone. She was not even born until 1962, By then the Tories had raised average standards of living by about 40% since 1951 (and with reducing inequality that meant over 50% at the bottom end).
    She is too young to remember the Attlee government rationing clothes so that it was a viewed as a patriotic duty and moral requirement to wear hand-me-downs, which attitude persisted into to the mid-fifties.
    She does not know what she is talking about: “Keynes thought that by the 21st century we would all be working about eight hours a week and getting paid liveable wages for it.” and claims that “The triumph of neoliberal doctrine has reversed this” Minimum wage for eight hours a week provides more than was considered a liveable wage in Keynes’ era.
    Is she irredeemably stupid or does her work for the Grauniad distort her views? Since she can read and write, my opinion veers towards the latter.

  15. Bloke in Germany – “How are you supposed to enjoy any leisure time when it’s all spent getting your 10 units a day?”

    Especially when Dancing with the Stars is on.

  16. @john77

    “when four penny worth of chips was a once-a-week treat.”

    In MrsBud’s ex-coal mining Yorkshire village, the expression still is “fish ‘n a penneth”. Her family use to have it virtually every Saturday lunch (from the late 50s to well beyond us meeting in the late 70s). One of the six children would be dispatched to the top or bottom fish shop, depending on which one was currently thought to be cooking the best fish, while back home copious quantities of Warbie’s bread was thickly spread with Lurpak.

    My father-in-law was a long distance lorry driver, all the children had shop bought clothes though some of the lads had hand-me-downs, MrsBud being the only girl was spared that.

    In MrsBud’s house, as well as my own (only five children), the children all did chores. We were expected to make our own beds, wash or wipe, make up the coal fire, etc. I won’t pretend our mothers didn’t work hard, but they didn’t see life as being endless, poverty-ridden drudgery. Perhaps if Deborah Orr had helped out around the house a bit her mother’s life would not have been so hellish.

    Out of interest, did the UK working class know you could name a daughter Deborah back in the 60s? I only knew Debras when growing up, but I’ll concede it was not a statistically significant sample size.

  17. “eight hours a week and getting paid liveable wages for it”

    Ceding no wisdom to Keynes, this is actually the direction of mankind. Gains in productivity will reduce manpower requirements. It will take two things: capital and education. Capital to pay for the upgrades in technology, and education to operate the technology.

    What could prevent this future? Government.

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