Economic fallacies in The Guardian

Not that it’s unusual to spot one there of course:

Less time at work would mean more time to care for children and family, be a school governor, look in on elderly neighbours, or organise a game of football. It would mean more time to create the community spiderweb of connections and favours and reciprocation that keeps the world going round.

More than 6 million of us in Britain work more than 45 hours a week, while 1.85 million of us are unemployed. While it would need to happen gradually, alongside some reskilling and training, a shorter working week for all would mean fairer distribution of available work. It would reduce the number of people working far too many hours, and also the number with no work at all.

That’s pretty good though. Managing to assert that caring for children is not work at the same time as assuming the lump of labour fallacy.

And isn’t this good?

According to a report from the US Center for Economic and Policy Research, reduced greenhouse gas emissions go hand-in-hand with shorter working hours for a variety of factors including lower levels of consumption.

“Lower consumption” means “we’re all poorer”, by definition.

And this is what really gripes my goat:

It’s not a new idea – John Maynard Keynes predicted in the 1930s that by about now, we would all be working a mere 15 hours a week. It’s about time we got on with it.

But we are. Household working hours have fallen from around 60 to around 15 over that period of time (on average of course). We’ve already done what Keynes said.

21 thoughts on “Economic fallacies in The Guardian”

  1. You have long been championing an effective policy mechanism for widening employment participation without damaging economic growth. Increasing the personal allowance makes it cheaper to employ more employees working fewer hours.

  2. Plenty more fallacies on that article:

    Britain had lost its empire and was facing the first of the “balance of payments” crises that would haunt chancellors from then until now. Cripps needed wages to rise more slowly than prices.

    Balance of Payments is easily solved by letting the currency devalue; ending Bretton Woods took care of that.

    Nor did Cripps need wages to rise more slowly than prices; that’s a sufficient condition, not a necessary one. Raising productivity is generally the preferred solution.

    As for the greenhouse bit, if more people are working then more people are driving to work, which is clearly worse for the environment. Best not to give them ideas though.

  3. “More than 6 million of us in Britain work more than 45 hours a week, while 1.85 million of us are unemployed. While it would need to happen gradually, alongside some reskilling and training, a shorter working week for all would mean fairer distribution of available work”

    “*some* reskilling and training”? Surely many of the 1.85m unemployed are sadly unable to do much?

  4. or organise a game of football

    I wonder how far somebody would get with this before getting bogged down with insurance, CRB checks, and a whole load of other regulatory guff?

  5. Worked well in France, didn’t it?

    What is most amusing about the 35-hour week in France is that even the most hardcore lefty Frenchmen realised you can’t organise a working week around 35 hours (especially in France, when it’s lunchtime by the time you’re done with all the handshaking, coffee, and air-kissing). So everyone works 40 hours as normal, but is entitled to 14 RTT (reduction de temps de travaille) days in compensation. So the government might as well have just increased the number of statutory holidays by 14 days and achieved the same results.

    I don’t know anyone here who thinks this has been a success.

  6. reduced greenhouse gas emissions go hand-in-hand with shorter working hours for a variety of factors including lower levels of consumption.

    Funny how “everybody consume less” never means that the State should consume less.

  7. More than 6 million of us in Britain work more than 45 hours a week, while 1.85 million of us are unemployed.

    What is stopping the 1.85 million unemployed from doing the community organising that is apparently so precious? They’ve got the time for it.

  8. ““*some* reskilling and training”? Surely many of the 1.85m unemployed are sadly unable to do much?”

    Sadly – you mean wilfully…

  9. So, by Guardian logic, a limit should be put on the number of books J.K. Rowling is allowed to sell in order to even things out and make us all happier.

    After all there are many (talented and talentless) writers who aren’t selling at all whilst she is selling too much. Some of the people who want to buy a Harry Potter book should instead have to buy ‘Billy Frotter the Toy Wizard’ by H.P. Hackett.

    Also interesting to note that the Guardian does not recognise skill or talent. Must be interesting conversation when writers negotiate pay deals with management.

  10. “Also interesting to note that the Guardian does not recognise skill or talent.”

    It would be pointless for them to do so, they couldn’t apply it in their own organisation.

  11. Buy beer stock.

    Less time at work would mean more time to sit at the pub drinking. Watch football on the telly drinking. Sit in a rowboat drinking. Or just drink.

  12. Stuck Record: Another alternative to JK Rowling is the new diet book: “Fatty Potter and the Loss of a Stone”….

  13. Farty Potter and the Wind of Doom.

    Seriously though, how many fewer unemployed people would there be if taxes taken to redistribute to them were lower and we had more money to employ them as domestics of some form. As many of the professional contributors in this house would have done, were we around 100 years ago. It somehow went out of fashion. And I could seriously do with a Jeeves right now, just for a month or two would be enough, but no way could I afford it.

  14. “…care for children and family, be a school governor, look in on elderly neighbours…”

    Before feminism and the two-income family, this what wives did.

  15. Britain had lost its empire and was facing the first of the “balance of payments” crises that would haunt chancellors from then until now

    there’s balance of payments issues and balance of payments issues.

    Britain, and other such countries have the sort where we export lots and import more, and that’s a balance of payments crisis.

    Other places (most of the world), live in perpetual uber extreme mega balance of payments crises, where they have little to export, and cannot pay for meagre imports of essentials like food and engines.

    The solutions are, as the problem, different. High wage and high export countries (they go together though you mighta thought not) have to import a bit less, or work a bit harder at exporting a bit more.

    Those countries with the other kind of balance of payments crises have to go without essentials and sew more tee-shirts in their sweat shops, assemble more fan heaters, go abroad and clean more foreigners’ toilets.

    It is perhaps a little bit interesting to reflect that a low wage country that is in fact exporting slightly more than it imports, has by our standards crashed off the end of a mega uber total balance of payments crisis, even though it has no balance of payments crisis.

    In the end, those who clean other’s toilets have a genuine perpetual balance of payments crisis, those who have their toilets cleaned by others are living very far from a real balance of payments crisis.

  16. BiG: I’m editing census returns from 1901 and 1911 for my home town, and it’s amazing how many of the 12,000 people are listed as some variant of “domestic servant” (just done a count – 1285, so about 10%). Everybody doing each other’s laundry.

  17. jgh,
    Ah, but hang on. A greater % are now employed in “service” than were then (as we all know, Fatch closed down all production of real things in the real economy in the early 80’s).

    It’s really quite affordable for people to:

    – Have their groceries delivered
    – Have their washing done
    – Have meals delivered
    – Have their car valeted
    – Have their garden tended

    The amount of work you “have” to do outside of Work is reducing all the time.

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