William McGaughey, formerly an accountant who read Monthly Labor Review and other such publications, was author of the book, "A Shorter Workweek in the 1980s', whose economic analysis of work-time changes inspired a new generation of shorter-workweek enthusiasts. He was also coauthor with Eugene McCarthy of the 1989 book, "Nonfinancial Economics: The Case for Shorter Hours of Work". More recently, he created and maintained the multilingual website, http://www.ShorterWorkWeek.com. He is an active participant in the Shorter Work Time discussion group.
Some thoughts on labor and leisureby William McGaughey
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This is a set of diverse writings about labor and leisure. The first section considers the question of how labor supply should be measured. Traditionally, it has been measured in terms of worker-hours. In other words, labor is the product of the number of people employed and their average periodic hours. The shorter-workweek argument is based on that conception.
However, labor also has a fixed component in equipment used during work and the worker’s fund of work-related knowledge. There are other components of work in certain positions.
The second section takes up the argument that if people work shorter hours, less will be produced, and so the community will be less prosperous. Whether or not that is true depends on the type of product created in the economy. Some products exist simply because someone (government) funds their production, whether to make work or to have them as a “necessary evil”. In reality, few would miss them if they were simply not produced and workers stayed home.
The book also considers how sophisticated consumer products also require consumer knowledge, which soaks up a person’s free time. The services sector of industry supplies specialists who can fix problems for a fee, thus saving a person’s scarce time.
Finally, in the third section, we look at the U.S. consumer economy in a stage of terminal decline. People are losing their jobs, income is declining, and debts are growing. Is there light at the end of this tunnel? Surprisingly, yes.
We here imagine a “society of leisure” to follow one that requires sustained economic (financial) growth. More leisure is more free time, and more free time allows individuals to pursue what they really want. What they want is a positive personal identity. If we are lucky, our future society may be focused on such ends.
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