Saturday, February 13, 2010
nef strikes again
The new economics foundation has a brilliant idea: let's all work 21-hour weeks (link). Genius, except for a small number of teensy problems.Firstly, does this allow for overtime? Secondly, people on hourly wages won't have their rate increased, so they have just been given a mandatory pay cut of 50% (this will also go through for salaried workers, but the mechanism is slightly different). Thirdly, the self-employed get to work as many or as few hours as they like, thus earning as much as they wish: why bar employees from, through negotiations with their employers, achieving something similar? Fourthly, professionals work far more hours than their contractual hours, as I know from working in a university. Fifthly, hospitals and many schools only survive because their professionals work far longer than twenty-one hours: what will become of the health service and education? Sixthly, the lump of labour fallacy (wiki), about which one might have expected a self-described economics group to have known. Seventhly, the French experience with a simple 10% cut is not universally positive. Eighthly, laws to restrict people's working patterns are illiberal; we need the law to put employees in a position to refuse demands, rather than the law refusing negotiations on their behalf. Ninthly, technology and capital investment have been the main driver behind the reduction in the industrial working week by a factor of fifty percent from 1840 until now: why use the law to make us all poorer, instead of investment to make us all richer?Bryan Caplan commented — my summary! — that crazy libertarians exist to make moderate libertarians look sane (src). Is this the function of nef with regard to the left wing? Because otherwise, I can say this with confidence: it would be no great loss to society if nef cut its working week to twenty-one hours. The corresponding fifty percent decrease in the output of vapid and insane policy papers which merely serve to embarrass the sensible and thoughtful side of the political left-wing would be a gain to us all.