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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/7/11

With Ever Growing Productivity, Why Must We Keep Working 40-50 Hours a Week For So Many Years of Our Life?

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The key point to understand here is that by throwing half the men out of work every time such a situation arises, and working the other half as hard as before, maximal profits are made for the owners of businesses.   Hence:

  • the growing pollution and resource waste that results from maximized consumption on the part of the second half of the workers, who still have decently paid jobs, and also . .
  • the crime and demoralization that is generated from the poverty and unemployment/underemployment of the first half, who no longer have (decently paid) jobs, as a result of this insanity.  


Also to understand:   the materialism and hyperconsumption that is generated from this as well as:

  • a $400 billion/year advertising & marketing industry in America, and
  • the whole phenomenon of "keeping up with the Joneses," as most women (prevented from equally good incomes themselves) struggle to meet and marry (from among the winning half of male workers) the best "provider" they can find.  


Meanwhile, the most "eligible" bachelors, from this winning half, play along, in order to get in the pants of as many of these struggling women as possible (most young men love novelty).   For more on the entirety of this sad situation, read Warren Farrell's book, Why Men Are the Way They Are.


In a nutshell:   Since the end of WWII, growing production efficiency has allowed ever fewer workers to produce all the basic goods and services that most people need in order to maintain a modicum of happiness and contentment.   However, instead of this leading to an ever shorter workweek, work-month or work-life (i.e. earlier retirement) for most people, we have allowed the lion's share of all the surplus value now generated (by this immense increase in productivity) to be guided into the pockets of the very rich.   They in turn "reward' most of us with ever more work opportunities and obligations, so that we are compelled to produce all the growing variety of mostly superfluous things that can most profitably be sold, principally to those fortunate enough to have well paid employment.  


And so it came to be that an ever increasing majority of the work that is done each day in the US is necessary only to meet the increasingly superfluous wants of those who are convinced by the $400 billion/yr. advertizing and marketing industry that they need the latest and nicest car, the largest and nicest house, the finest clothes, the best vacations (etc. etc. etc.) that they can possibly have.   Meanwhile, with all of this unnecessarily superfluous consumption, ever more carbon-based fuel is burned, ever more of our natural and mineral resources are squandered, ever more carbon dioxide and methane rises into our upper atmosphere, and ever more global climate craziness and air pollution occur.   By this means, climate extremes (like mega-tornadoes, mega-hurricanes, mega-floods) and diseases (like cancer and autism) multiply, as do the phenomenal costs of these things to society and to most of the individuals in it.  


As regards the policies that lead to these things, we really must ask:   Are they idiotic or are they not idiotic?  


So what are the other forms of wealth we might enjoy, if not those that are based on the maximized consumption of fossil fuels and other natural resources?


Here are some of the ways that the middle class COULD benefit from growing productivity over the past few decades without indulging in the enormous growth of consumption that rightly makes many of us apprehensive:

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Several years after receiving my M.A. in social science (interdisciplinary studies) I was an instructor at S.F. State University for a year, but then went back to designing automated machinery, and then tech writing, in Silicon Valley. I've (more...)

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