Home > political-economy, politics, shorter work time > Making austerity work in Britain for Dummies (Anti-statist version)
  1. Al
    October 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm | #1

    This is an interesting suggestion – but it begs many questions. For starters, if the government goes bankrupt ( I assume you mean defaults on its debts) how will the currency be worth anything? And without a functioning government how would we implement a policy of drastically reducing the hours of labor for the pay of full time work? It seems to me that you would need the government to mandate this reduction in “socially necessary” labor hours – and that without such a mandate the population wouldn’t be insulated from the effects of bankruptcy.

    Having said that your analysis seems to make sense from a macro-economic point of view – Working less for the same pay would keep everyone employed.

    • October 8, 2012 at 2:45 pm | #2

      Thanks for your comments, Al. A few answers to you questions:

      “…if the government goes bankrupt ( I assume you mean defaults on its debts) how will the currency be worth anything?

      This is why the country in question must move to adopt the dollar, which is immune to default risk — or at least low enough on the scale of risk as to be immune.

      “And without a functioning government how would we implement a policy of drastically reducing the hours of labor for the pay of full time work.”

      Surprising as it may seem, you do not need a budget to enforce laws reducing hours of work. People will not work one minute longer than they have to. :)

      ” Working less for the same pay would keep everyone employed.”

      This has nothing to do with working less for the same pay. Remember, the currency is just a worthless piece of paper. Prices can adjust to any level of real economic activity. If hours are reduced, prices will have to fall because there will be less wasted labor overhead. So, even with less wages, the actual income of the working class will increase, because prices will have to fall faster. The scam used against us all of these years is the common misconception that the amount of currency we are paid has some definite relationship to our material standard of living. This is not true.

  2. Al
    October 9, 2012 at 9:04 am | #3

    Thank you for the response. If I follow your argument, you are suggesting as more and more people end up in part time and/or seasonal employment, they will make less. Thus prices for goods and services will have to fall given that there is less demand for them. If this is the case, mass deflation will eventually cause the system to mutate into something like communism? It’s a nifty description of the road we seem to be on but it still begs all sorts of questions – and this is where I think political considerations are still relavant to the discussion. I can certainly see the logic but it suggests decades of suffering at levels of deprivation not seen in the united States since the great depression. And given the standard of living most Americans have come to expect, the trajectory your describing will lead to massive unrest and will likely provoke massive resistance from both the left and the right. In my experience it is the right the tend to have the guns and far more innovative at mobilizing people. Thus larger regional or even a world conflict would seem just as likely as progress toward communism. In fact, we don’t have to imagine it – we just have to look at what happened in the 1930′s.

    • October 9, 2012 at 10:37 am | #4

      I think there are two things to separate: the scenario you outline is going to happen in any event. My argument is designed to avoid that by immunizing the working population from its effect. Simply stated, the scenario you outline is nothing more than a futile attempt made by capital to shift the burden of the inevitable collapse of capitalism onto workers. We can prevent precisely what you expect by reducing hours of work.

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