Re: For Many, a Boom That Wasn't
Source Sandwichman
Date 08/04/12/08:38

On 4/9/08, Marsh Feldman asked (and answered) the what-to-do question:

> Of course, my comments beg the question of what to do. As a starting point,
> I'd suggest a better analysis of the problem.

Digging through my charlatan's bag of economical cure-alls (and
associated analyses), I retrieve a dusty vial prescribed by a English
factory inspector, R.J. Saunders, in 1848:

"Further steps towards a reformation of society can never be carried
out with any hope of success, unless the hours of labour be limited,
and the prescribed limit strictly enforced."

Eighteen years later, the first congress of the International
Workingman's Association paraphrased our factory inspector in a

"The legal limitation of the working day is a preliminary condition
without which all further attempts at improvements and emancipation of
the working class must prove abortive and The Congress proposes eight
hours as the legal limit of the working day."

Now said resolution for an eight-hour day was adopted 142 years ago,
but as economist Sydney J. Chapman argued in 1909, technological
advance would require the perpetually recurring and progressive
reduction of working time to the extent that today's "utopian dream"
of leisure time would appear as the day-after-tomorrow's timid

Even John Maynard Keynes, to whose name many economists even today
attach an epigonic "-ian", prescribed shorter working time as one of
three "ingredients for a cure" to unemployment and specified that of
the three ingredients, working less was the "ultimate solution."

Way back in 1821, Charles Wentworth Dilke had already defined wealth
itself as disposable time (and nothing more!):

"After all their idle sophistry, there is, thank God! no means of
adding to the wealth of a nation but by adding to the facilities of
living: so that wealth is liberty -- liberty to seek recreation --
liberty to enjoy life -- liberty to improve the mind: it is disposable
time, and nothing more."

But wait! All these ideas about the remedial properties of shorter
work time are based on the insidious and laughable notion that there
is "only a fixed amount of work to go round." How do we know that?
Because unnamed "economists" say so! Because the Wall Street Journal,
the Economist magazine, Paul Samuelson's introductory textbook and
countless audio-animatronic econ professors standing in front
blackboards have for years drilled this gem of revealed wisdom into
the heads of nodding students, business managers and distracted
perusers of the disinterestedly reported public-opinion consensus.
More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette -- and the
lump-of-labor fallacy is the best known fallacy in economics (look it

Who to believe? The factory inspector, the Workingman's Association,
Keynes, Chapman, Marx, Dilke (and many more I didn't mention)? Or
unspecified "economists" whose collective anonymous authority goes
unquestioned by paid pimps for perpetual pump-priming? Believe those
guys or your lying eyes?

But, hey, I'm a mere sandwichman bearing a sign, "the end is nigh",
leaping up on his soap box from time-to-time to rant about things that
are either "too complex for ordinary people to comprehend" or "too
simple-minded to be of any real use for policy" or maybe both. As the
Madison Avenue crowd asks, "What good is happiness if it can't buy you

So, what to do? Anything but.

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