Radicals have long understood the importance of the garden. Now the New Economics Foundation has got the numbers to back up the sentiment. We and the national economy would be better off for a day in the garden. Ideally a communal garden, since volunteering is probably the only other activity that can be as conducive to a feeling of wellbeing. NEF has quantified the impact of a shorter working week (spreading the available work around) and the personal benefits of spending the spare day digging, planting, pruning and potting. Time outdoors is a stress-busting, calorie-consuming, mobility-enhancing, all-round good thing, and time spent growing stuff you can eat is just the proverbial icing on the homegrown strawberries. It makes economic sense too: from Utrecht to Utah, four-day working week experiments (not necessarily involving fewer hours worked) make people more productive, happier, and thinner.
The way to do less work is to insist that everyone work like a peasant for a day.
Well done there, well done indeed.
“Ideally a communal garden”
Or a collective farm!
Radicals? Like Pol Pot?
Anyway, when did the Nutty Economics Farce decide that capital letters weren’t a hideous example of right-wing oppression?
No, no, the NEF are merely following in the grand tradition of “getting rid of the tricky bit in the title”.
Plus they couldn’t very well call themselves the Discredited Communism Foundation.
It’s all rather like Marie Antoinette and her model dairy letting her play at milkmaid. The nearest any of the NEF is likely to have got to the realities of agricultural labour is buying a grow bag.
Although perhaps there is something in the proposal. How about requiring all those claiming unemployment-related benefits to do agricultural work on communal farms producing food for welfare recipients. They’d gain valuable work skills and exercise, contribute to their community, improve the diets of the poorest in society etc etc etc…
Or would that be akin to making them serfs of the state?
The four-day week is a personal crusade of mine. Particularly as commuting time goes up, I find it highly preferable to do four ten hour days than five eight-hour ones (for a forty hour week, natch – if I could do four eight hour days and get paid the same I wouldn’t object). I might well choose to spend the extra free time growing some vegetables – but probably not.
The idea is pretty close to reasonable, by NEF’s standards.
Hm. Just realised the whole idea can basically be summed-up as ‘rationalise the working week and build more allotments’. Neither of those is something I’d argue with. But what’s ‘New Economics’ about them?
If any neffie tries to make me get my hands dirty in the outdoors I shall thump him, after donning a pair of nitrile gloves. There’s bugs and dirt and all kinds of filth out there. I want my veggies from a sterile bag, thank you very much, not from some bit of disgusting earth. I’m very much an indoors person, and my idea of roughing it is seeing a campground out of the hotel window. If I don’t force them to live that kind of “outside? fuck that” lifestyle then they’ve got no right to force me to live theirs.
” I find it highly preferable to do four ten hour days than five eight-hour ones”
Ah, your the c**t who’s ” Not in the office, today.” when it’s all gone pear shaped & answer is needed, not next week, not tomorrow, but right now.
If I had a personal crusade it’d be to fire anyone who even mentioned the concept of flexible working. One person’s flexible working is another person getting a recorded message when they need a human being. Can well remember spending days trying to sort out trivia with local authorities because half their staffs treat their jobs as conveniences to themselves.
bis: Depends what kind of job it is, though right?
There has been a very disappointing decline in the demand for and use of allotments over the last fifty years despite the increasing number of people being housed in blocks of flats. There has also been a horrible increase in the quantity of garden being concreted over. So it would seem that vast numbers of people *do not want* to spend any time gardening or growing food. For many of them *any* other activity “can be as conducive to a feeling of wellbeing” in fact mostly more so. I can assure you that pruning roses that have partially reverted to briar, or blackberries, is *n0t* stress-free, let alone stress-busting – and as for dealing with ivy that one discovers to be trying to strangle a venerable rose when the foliage in front dies back … Maybe the nef guys should actually try it some time?
It always helps to remember that the term “radical” (in this context) as used in the Anglosphere is actually a euphemism for “upper class anti-enlightenment Romantic paleoconservatives”, and then it all starts to make sense.
What the blithering fuck are you on about? You’re the only one mentioning flexible hours. I take it you work 24/7 yourself to ensure that nothing ever happens when you’re not at work, right?
“No, no, the NEF are merely following in the grand tradition of ‘getting rid of the tricky bit in the title’.
Plus they couldn’t very well call themselves the Discredited Communism Foundation.”
The communists in East Germany had the same problem after the wall fell. What party to join? The Greens!
The German Green Party is stuffed full of East German politicians who didn’t want to leave the political gravy-train but couldn’t very well stay in the PDS.
Radicals have long understood the importance of the garden.
Indeed. When the radicals’ policies were in place in the USSR, people relied on them so as not to starve.
Or a collective farm!
Er, the NEF is not “insisting” (as per TW) or “forcing” (as per Matthew L) anything at all.
They specifically say that their proposals, if adopted, should be entirely voluntary.
By all means criticise the NEF’s data, methodology, arguments, or conclusions. But there’s no point in attacking them for something they didn’t say.
“There has been a very disappointing decline in the demand for and use of allotments over the last fifty years”
Not where I live there hasn’t. I’ve been on the waiting list for nearly two years with no idea of when if ever I will reach the top. This in a town which still has a large number of allotments and plenty of houses with reasonably sized gardens.
@ James James
as I understand it, our own dear Green Party has a few people who have former affiliations with what we might call “socialism+” politics.
I don’t think the one leads to the other, mind. I think both are a symptom of being the kind of person who wants to tell everyone else what to do; the ideology is just that decade’s excuse.
“There has been a very disappointing decline in the demand for and use of allotments over the last fifty years”
Where I live (SE) the wait is now down to 4 years. My sister (Midlands) waited 2 years.
Maybe it’s because George Monbiot has 5 allotments.
” I take it you work 24/7 yourself to ensure that nothing ever happens when you’re not at work, right?”
Yep. For my customers, I’m never ‘not at work’. Duty I owe them.
As Matthew L so rightly says, depends on the job. But unfortunately, so many of the people, think four day working a great idea, handle information of one sort or another. Which implies communication. Now it’s OK if the people they’re communicating with work the same 4 days. If they don’t, there’s only 3 out of the 7 days the two can interact.
As for these NEF/nef hippies. Biggest problem we have is lack of productivity. Not only do they want to dig the garden, they want to dig the hole we’re in deeper. Labouring like peasant isn’t productive. Stress-busting, calorie-consuming, mobility-enhancing bollocks.
“I’ve been on the waiting list for nearly two years with no idea of when if ever I will reach the top.”
Yep, waiting lists in my corner of SW London (which must be one of the greener parts) range from (shortest) 4 years to (longest) 15 years.
So, err, demand is somewhat outstripping supply there.
Can you not see the difference between a job which has set hours and one where you’re on call 24/7? You certainly wouldn’t accept the same remuneration for the former as the latter. Doing extra work for more money is irrelevant when talking about doing the same amount of work in a different number of days.
If I’m the employer and I don’t want to be on call 24/7, I have to employ someone to cover the times I don’t want to work. If I’m the employee in a firm which needs cover 24/7, but I’m only paid for a forty hour week, then the firm needs to employ someone – perhaps me – whose job it is to provide that service for them.
If you want to talk about flexible working, though, there is a sensible way of doing it which would actually help pretty much everyone. There’s no actual need for everyone to start and finish on the hour – not that 9 to 5 is standard anymore, but whether the hours are 8 to 6, 5pm til midnight, or whatever, even starting/finishing at half-past is pretty uncommon. Sure, in a factory with shifts it makes sense, but not in an office building.
In almost all cases it’s simply unnecessary for everyone in an office to be in exactly on the hour, as long as at least a few are – businesses rarely are at peak busy-ness two minutes after everyone walked in. If, instead, we all worked the same length of day, but varied starting and ending times by +/-15 minutes – that is, between quarter-to and quarter-past – it would make very little difference to anything except the length of everyone’s commute would decrease because the congestion peak would be flattened greatly.
“as I understand it, our own dear Green Party has a few people who have former affiliations with what we might call “socialism+” politics.”
Indeed! Derek Wall writes for the Morning Star.
“I don’t think the one leads to the other, mind. I think both are a symptom of being the kind of person who wants to tell everyone else what to do; the ideology is just that decade’s excuse.”
I quite agree with that. Presumably most people in the Green movement are harmless, useful idiots, who wouldn’t have been involved with the Communists if born a couple of decades earlier. Just like some people involved in the SWP front Stop The War weren’t SWP members.
On the other hand, there are some deeply evil people in the Green movement like Tamsin Omond (also an idiot, but not someone else’s useful idiot) who would be true-believing apparatchiks of an oppressive government if they had been born in another time and place.
I’m glad to hear that there is a revival in the Thornavis area (although waiting were often longer than two years when I was young). Around here some of the allotments are uncultivated.
According to allotments .org
“Decline in Allotment Numbers
Following the peak of 1,400,000 in 1943 there was a sharp decline in allotment provision to around 500,00 in the 1970s. The decline continued during the 1970s but at a much slower rate. During the 1970s there was a huge upsurge in interest in self-sufficiency and home food production epitomised by the television series The Good Life which ran from 1975 to 1978.
The rate of decline again increased encouraged by the continuing increase in land and housing costs, which created an incentive to hard pressed local authorities to sell allotment land for high prices to housing developers.
By 1996 there were around 297,000 plots available and, although definite figures do not appear available, since then the rate of decline appears to have decreased whilst at the same time there has again been an upsurge of interest in growing food crops.”
That’s an 80% decline in 70 years. A
It is worth baring in mind that these people aren’t communists in the Marxist tradition, they’re moral socialists in the Progressive tradition. There is a difference. The Marxists understood the need for efficient production, they just had the wrong theory of how to achieve it. But the much-derided “Tractor statistics” were at least an attempt to measure outputs, and in some ways more rational than our current bizarre thing of measuring spending (GDP and the like).
This lot believe that the purpose of labour is labour, as a moral virtue. They don’t actually care about outputs at all; in fact they rather dislike increased output since it makes nasty luxury (bad for your moral fibre) and consumes more inputs (bad for the planet).
So, the ideal Progressive labour is that which produces less for more effort. Hence, half your life in a “garden” producing a few pounds of spuds; more labour, less production. The Progressive Ideal.
The vanguard of a future Western Khymer Rouge.
I have a theory that 99.9% of the people who advocate mass subsistence agriculture have never been near a farm in their lives, unless it is a ‘city farm’.
Waiting list? I’d always suspected the reason the countryside is knee-deep in Eastern Europeans harvesting our fruit and veg is that we aren’t too wild about getting our own hands dirty. I’ve always wondered if allotments are a middle class affectation or some sort of post working class romantic fantasy, as in it’s something my granddad would probably have done.
To many people the dream of having a piece of land in the country with a nice house on it, and a big kitchen garden, maybe a few chickens or ducks, a goat, and so-on, seems very attractive. Lots of people like to think they could sell off their house in town, move to the country, and cut their outgoings by being mostly self-sufficient. I’m sure in their dream they see themselves sitting outside on a fine summer’s evening eating their home-grown food with a nice bottle of wine.
What they fail to realise is that there’s a lot of work involved in micro-agriculture – at least a couple of hours a day most days, and whole days at a time some times of year. The way to make such a lifestyle work is to have a whole passle of kids to do the chores for you, so what’s being advocated here is a) a massive increase in population and b) re-introducing a significant amount of child labour into our economy. (To be fair, there are worse things for kids to do than spend half an hour a day collecting eggs and picking weeds – and better ones.)
Waiting list? I used to suspect the reason the countryside was knee-deep in Eastern Europeans harvesting our fruit and veg was that we weren’t too wild about getting our own hands dirty. I can’t decide if allotments are a middle class affectation or some sort of post working class romantic fantasy, as in it’s something my granddad would probably have done.
I blame Felicity Kendall.
Ian B….I would prefer to spank Felicity Kendall
” I’ve always wondered if allotments are a middle class affectation or some sort of post working class romantic fantasy, as in it’s something my granddad would probably have done.”
Neither in my case, although I plead guilty to being working class with horticultural worker ancestors. I first had a railway allotment, on terrible soil with no water, when I was 22 and I’ve worked as a gardener, it’s just something I very much enjoy doing. There’s a lot of people who feel the same way, the stereotyping of us all as green stooges or pastoral romantics in some quarters is just silly.
Allotments have been around for 200 years and always were intended for both moral and economic improvement. It was estimated that on a standard plot of 40 rods a man could,without trespassing on his master’s time, feed his family. Up to 4 plots are allowed for the more energetic.
It was estimated that on a standard plot of 40 rods a man could,without trespassing on his master’s time, feed his family.
You’ve got to bear in mind that this assumes that the ordinary working man can subsist on a diet of turnips and poo. Not quite what your average middle class back-to-the-lander envisages.
Potatoes,wheat,beans,peas,barley,cabbage,turnips,onions,carrots,parsnips,lettuce,fruit,broccoli,flowers,leeks,oats,artichokes,clover,mangelwurzel,tares (1830-1849). Potatoes for self and pig. Eaten any allotment-grown potatoes recently? Golden Wonder? British Queen? Pink Fir Apple?
I think another approach would be more effective. I nominate a conversion to an 8-day week, with the 8th day following Sunday and named Funday. No other changes required–no legislation, no requirements, no prohibitions. Just give the world an extra day each week and watch what happens.
We’ve only had our current calendar for a few centuries, and 8-day weeks have been used in other cultures in the past.
The only problem will be that Microsoft will screw up our calendars for a very long time, but otherwise I predict that annual working hours will resume their blessed decline and people will gain more flexibility in their schedules. Employers will benefit from the ability to schedule Blue and Gold teams in some sectors, and can package work schedules in ways that retain workers more happily. Extra bonus points for the ability to tag team childcare at work due to shift arrangements.
The Beatles proclaimed it–let us now adopt it!
“…just the proverbial icing on the homegrown strawberries”.
Which proverb suggests putting icing on strawberries? As Agatha Runcible in Vile Bodies would say: “Too, too sick-making.”
Tim adds: Dunno about icing, but there’s a Welsh couple running (OK, used to for all I know) a sweet/chocolate shop in Sintra, N/W of Lisbon, who do a double dipped strawberry. In season, dipped in white choc, then dipped in dark (ie, not milk).
Not quite good enough to make the trip from the UK worthwhile all on its own. But combine a dozen (between two of course) with a post prandial glass of the vintage port from Instituito de Vinho de Porto. Or two. That does actually make the pittance that Easyjet charges to get there worth the money.
This message brought to you by personal experience. Not the tourist board of Sintra and or Lisboa.
Surely you do not expect the nef to actually read any proverbs, let alone Proverbs, which does not mention strawberries?
Wasn’t this suggested already suggested by Ramsay MacDonald?
He [MacDonald] appeared to imply unemployment could be solved by encouraging the jobless to return to the fields “where they till and they grow and they sow and they harvest”. (Wikipedia)
I guess the difference this time is that they want us all to return to the fields.
Ian B – “It always helps to remember that the term “radical” (in this context) as used in the Anglosphere is actually a euphemism for “upper class anti-enlightenment Romantic paleoconservatives”, and then it all starts to make sense.”
Ian B – “It is worth baring in mind that these people aren’t communists in the Marxist tradition, they’re moral socialists in the Progressive tradition. There is a difference.”
Ian, for crying out loud, I love your work, really I do, but as someone a bit down the paleocon end himself, I find it amazing you can accuse me of being on the same side as these morons *and* of secretly being a socialist in the Progressive tradition.
diogenes – “Ian B….I would prefer to spank Felicity Kendall”
Now there’s an episode of Jim Will Fix It I would like to see.
Thornavis…I am silly, and, I was parodying myself.
Actually my comment wasn’t aimed at you specifically, I just used it as a peg to hang one of my pet gripes on.
You’ll find that Ian B, although he talks a lot of sense also has an almost theological view of the world, there are dark forces at work in the shape of the progressive fallen angels, ever ready to ensnare the unwary in their web of deceit, it could happen to any of us. I think that’s why he’s so down on the Puritans ( the real ones ) he’s almost one himself.
Well, it’s a theological analysis; in a nutshell, my argument boils down to saying that we are still enmeshed in an ideological struggle that kicked off with the Reformation, and our socio-political sphere can be understood by recognising the Christian and post-Christian philosophies who are at war. It doesn’t éxplain anything, but it explains quite a lot.
The other aspect of the struggle is more familiar, between moving forwards and holding back (or reversing). So in this context, “paleoconservative” is the wrong word, but I used it to attempt to describe my opinion that those people calling themselves “progressive” are in reality more interested in reversal. This is of course most obvious with the Greens, but they are generally opposed to modernity.
It is a bit cartoonish to describe this as “dark forces… ensnaring” etc. It’s not unreasonable to observe that our politics is primarily driven by reform groups, who work in concert, and then to ask, “well, who are these people?”. I am trying to encourage people to look anew at the things they take for granted, particularly social values, and to consider the possibility that things may not be as they seem, or presume.
I’ve been called many things in my time, but not often a puritan 😉
Er, “doesn’t explain everything”, not “doesn’t explain anything“!
I’ve certainly no problem with your efforts to get people to look differently at things taken for granted, It’s just that I think your tracing of it all back to the Reformation is incorrect, or rather an over simplification. Still that’s the thing about historical analysis it’s essentially subjective even if that subjectivity brings insight.