David Thompson


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February 13, 2010



Wow. We should definitely put these guys in charge.

Elrond Hubbard

Leave it to the socialists to resolve income inequalities by making everyone poor. The NEF plan reads like a recipe for total boredom, sitting at home in a cold, dark house with an irate spouse and unschooled children. A four day weeknd could become an eternity.


I would bet that they don't expect to be paid less. You know the "living" wage.


Socialism + real world = comedy.


"Socialism + real world = comedy."

It's only comedy if they aren't in power.


Reminds me of the old joke about the Soviet Economy and how it worked: "We pretended to work, and they pretended to pay us!"

Of course, this whole 21-hour, 3-day work week on succeeds if you eliminate private property, and move everyone into communal barracks, with a communal cafeteria/chow hall, and public transportation for everyone.

Then of course, you'd have to have special ID's to show the green police to make certain you were only using public transport to go to your approved place of work, or school, etc.

Communal housing? cafeterias? Public transport? Worker's ID's? haven't we tried this several times before?

Vern Lohman

I don't know, this sounds pretty tempting. Six or seven others living in my mortgage-free flat may not be so bad. The forced camaraderie would surely make me - all of us - better citizens.

Howzabout you folks try it out, work out the kinks, then we can enact the perfected version here in the States. Why should you have all the fun!?


its more like tragic comedy, its sureally funny in a dark gallows humor kinda way, becuase all that they want to do is the recipe of disaster and heartache


Wow, just . . .wow. Swift had nothing on these folks. Of course, he was aware of the fact that he was writing satire.


Well it is called "the dismal science" after all. Did I miss something...why don't these NEF people work a 21 hour work week themselves, then they would be only half as dangerous? Either that or it would take them twice as long to get there. Of course, I'm not a UK tax payer so it won't be me feeling conflicted about not getting what I'm paying for. Come to think of it, just what are you guys paying for anyway? I think maybe you're mistaken and this NEF thing is just a sequel to Monty Python. Do any of your taxes get to them via the BBC? Have they ever done an economic study on local cheese shops?


“Come to think of it, just what are you guys paying for anyway?”

Good question. Some of us hope we won’t be doing so after the election.

The people at NEF do seem to have problems grasping the basics of the subject in which they claim expertise; even rudimentary terms are misused, resulting in inadvertent comedy. And it’s interesting to note how practical details tend to be overlooked in favour of fuzzwords and woolly supposition. They also seem prepared to lie about the sources of their funding, the bulk of which is sucked from the taxpayers’ teat. Here we have a group of supposed thinkers whose average salary is around £40,000 and top pay around £70,000 telling the rest of us that wealth doesn’t bring happiness and we must make do with less. Not that any of this prevents their pronouncements being aired by the Guardian and BBC with surprisingly little challenge.

Tim Worstall has catalogued some of NEF’s wisdom:

“You know there’s something wrong with the metrics you are using to describe ‘best’ when your example of the best human society is a Stone Age one where penis sheaths are the major fashion accessory and they worship the Duke of Edinburgh as a living God. It’s the sort of result that would have anyone rational scurrying back to look at their basic assumptions to see where the error is.”



Idle hands are the Devils Workshop.


These jokers are using money taken from me in taxes to tell me I only need half of the money I've got left and that being poorer will be good for me?

I've got to set up a think tank. It's obviously a good scam.

R, Sherman

Well yes, but what about those people--present company excepted, of course--who go to work to get away from the spouse and kiddies for eight hours of blissful manual labor? What about those poor sods who know have to look that their husbands sitting in front of the TV in their undershirts while listening to them bitch about Oprah or trying to engage their children who are more interested in video games or texting their friends. Oh, the humanity.

Ever the peril, those unintended consequences.



> As work gets redistributed, incomes will become more equal

So as productive time is made artificially scarce it will become magically cheaper?

Hmmm let me look at rule 2 of economics (Price = Demand/Supply) oh, they're totally wrong. What a shock.

I actually think that relative productivity is maintained on a post income-tax basis, so "progressive" taxes on income actually make inequality of pay worse.


What's really hilarious about this stupid report is that, even if you think leisure is way better than consumption, these recommendations would probably have the effect of dramatically reducing the leisure time that is supposed to turn everyone into such a cheery neighbor.

After all, the only reason people don't spend nearly as many hours cleaning their house is because other people are willing to work hard to make sure that there are cleaning supplies and vacuum cleaners in the stores. The reason people don't slave away on the weekends growing their own personal acres of wheat is because others are willing to bake the bread for us. The reason we can get from one place to another at a mile a minute is because other people are willing to make cars and drill for oil. Get rid of the efficiency associated with having specialists do these jobs, and suddenly you have to do them yourself.

It's one thing for someone to look at, say, the Amish and conclude that the Amish lead an excellent life that ought to be mimicked. It's quite another to look at the Amish and think that the reason for that great life is because they have so much leisure.


David, I wonder if you're familiar with the Idler magazine and the books put out by Idler bigwig Tom Hodgkinson - especially his first, 'How To Be Idle'? It espouses a philosophy quite similar to this, complete with questionable Marxist economics. The style, aesthetic, and even the aims Hodgkinson has in mind are attractive and admirable; but the dissimulation, the bad economics, and the misleading arguments make his claimed 'Idler' movement substantially less attractive.

(My review of Hodgkinson's book is here:
http://willtypeforfood.blogspot.com/2006/11/idyll-on-idle-ideal-or-not-striving-to.html )

In fact the themes outlined here by the NEF and elsewhere by Hodgkinson's 'Idler' movement strike me as being particularly European, and probably British. Our lefties over here have very different concerns and come to very different conclusions.

Anyway, I'm just interested in the comparison.

Chris S.

So I get paid half of what I get now, and businesses will have to charge more per product for all the worker management overhead. But we'll have free time to ponder our fantasic new poverty. Just great.

Somehow I think that the NEF belives that when you work your 21 hour week, you'll still get bring home as much as you did when you worked a 40 hour week. I mean why wouldn't businesses want to pay their harder working more relaxed workforce to compensate. They'll be super men. Ubermench even. A whole New Man.

In the end I'm sure businesses and productive people would find some way to have 2 jobs at the same company.



I’m vaguely aware of The Idler. I assumed it was an extended exercise in whimsy. I remember the “Crap Towns” book had me laughing. However, the socialists at the NEF take themselves very seriously (which itself is kind of funny) and seem more inclined to coerce should they get the chance (which isn’t funny at all).

As Anna Raccoon notes today,

“I’m not entirely clear how a 50% pay cut, which would lead to me losing my house and the ability to feed and clothe my child would somehow make me a ‘better’ parent. As someone [whose] major stress levels arise from my income levels, it’s also entirely unclear to me how being on the bones of my arse would make me *less* stressed, more in control, happier in my job and more productive.”


The NEF’s dogma and incompetence is indeed a source of unintended humour. But it helps to bear in mind that, given the opportunity, they really would do you harm.

J. Peden

Sounds like they've already piloted the plan themselves and have shown us the startling results! Everyone in it wants to tell everyone else what to do, and complain, of course. "Now that's progressive."

Ted S., Catskills, NY

According to the Tim Worstall link, the New Economics Foundation are one of those organizations that have put their name into lowercase, and call themselves the "nef". My first thought whenever I see such a lowercase abbreviation is that the folks doing it are trying to hide the meaning of what they're abbreviating. It's similar all those British government "Of-" government bodies, which are truly Orwellian in their nomenclature: what's the difference between OfCom and MiniLuv?

At any rate, a more accurate name for the group would be the Used Economics Foundation. Of course, the Used Economics didn't just have one little old lady owner and low mileage....


Wait a minute. Isn't NEF really calling for a decrease in the state-regulated economy and an increase in the unregulated private 'black-market' economy?

From their report, I see
more time to (...) participate in local activities and to do other things of their choosing.


(...) people will be able to start doing things for themselves:growing their own food and cooking (...), mending and repairing things that break rather than throwing them away.

All in all I see this as a call to a pre-state level of government, where the impact of the local authorities is lessened and people are more free to organize their personal and economic lives.

While I do suspect the NEF'ers to take a dim view to those growing wealthy on their community involvement by providing helpful services to their neighbors, the vision of de-regulating society in the aim to regulate it stronger makes me feel happy.



Maybe you should only be taxed for work in the first 21 hours of the week. :)


I realize it's hard to climb outside of your own assumptions but you guys dismiss the 21-hour report on the basis of your preconceptions, not the thinking behind the report. Fifty years ago the consensus among conventional economists was that we'd be working something like a 20-hour week by now. What happened? Somebody got the bright idea that spending on an arms build up would make the economy grow so much that we'd eliminate poverty. How did that work out? Well, the arms spending happened and the massive deficits. But you blokes are fine with that, right?


If you think stopping productive people from helping society by working longer than 21 hours is going to help then you are terminally stupid (as all socialist are (death toll 150 million)).



"I realize it's hard to climb outside of your own assumptions but you guys dismiss the 21-hour report on the basis of your preconceptions, not the thinking behind the report."

So it's not because the report is laughable? We just can't get our heads round its unconventional brilliance? Being poor will be good for us? Yeah, that must be it. And in case you hadn't noticed we're not all "blokes".



Do you really think voluntary poverty is something the electorate will vote for -or is democracy one of the things we'll have to do without?


"Somebody got the bright idea that spending on an arms build up would make the economy grow so much that we'd eliminate poverty. " Please let us know when you've climbed out of that assumption and maybe then you can enlighten us on whatever else you think you might know.

Spiny Norman

"Ah. So by “better parents” and “better neighbours,” Ms Coote actually means poorer parents and poorer neighbours. Parents and neighbours with little if any disposable income."

Green socialist serfdom, it's a beautiful thing! Embrace your inner hermit:




"Somebody got the bright idea that spending on an arms build up would make the economy grow so much that we'd eliminate poverty. How did that work out? Well, the arms spending happened and the massive deficits."

Way to go - you certainly killed that straw man.

When you stop and read some stuff outside your comfort zone then you might gather that right wingers aren't too keen on government deficits.

David Gillies

Ted S. beat me to it. Any time you see someone not capitalising proper nouns like that, you know they're up to no good. q.v. bell hooks, miriam cooke (and excepting e. e. cummings, since that was how others styled it.)


I realize it's hard to climb outside of your own assumptions but you guys dismiss the 21-hour report on the basis of your preconceptions, not the thinking behind the report.

The troublesome preconception: That I'm an adult and a free person, and you may not tinker with my life.

I'll be the one to decide when I've been productive enough, thank you anyway. I'll also be the one to decide when I've eaten enough, smoked enough, and have enough shoes.

It's not closed-mindedness that makes me resist arm-twisting statists. It's not an unreasonably calcified world view that causes me to loathe their empty headed cheerleaders in the population at large.

It's adulthood.

Chris S.

What I think is interesting is how we "get" to do all these great things, like growing our food, and repairing all these other "relaxing" things. I'd put forth that with next to no income, these become things we HAVE to do in order to literally survive, not GET to do for fun. It's not relaxing if your home garden has a bad year, or weather ruins your crops. Sorry kids, it looks like beans and rice for winter this year.

I guess their utopian model was the great depression? Fun times those were. Fun times.



“Do you really think voluntary poverty is something the electorate will vote for - or is democracy one of the things we’ll have to do without?”

I suspect the NEF - and their cheerleaders - aren’t overly concerned with what individuals want or what might actually work. Theirs is grander vision, uncluttered by such details. In fact, it’s remarkably uncluttered by all kinds of details. And even BBC commenters aren’t terribly impressed by the NEF’s proposal. The phrases “complete nonsense” and “dumbest thing I’ve ever heard” are fairly representative:


Despite this, the NEF maintain that a 21-hour working week is “inevitable”. The NEF’s Anna Coote (interviewed below) also maintains that “if people spent more time at home... being better citizens, it would be good for all of us.” She just knows this, you see. Ms Coote claims this radical transformation would take “a decade or so.” She is, however, rather vague about exactly how this betterment of the breed would be achieved, and whether it would have anything to do with what voters might actually want.


Ms Coote also tells us, rather grandly, that people will be “satisfied as long as they’ve got enough to live on” (again, she just knows this); yet her proposal entails reducing people’s income, forcibly, by at least 40%, thus ensuring huge numbers of people would *not* have enough to live on, or indeed be “satisfied”. “We,” she says, are stressed by overwork, but “we” somehow won’t be stressed by mass poverty and the crippling of the economy with all that entails. And, again, she just knows this. The population will just have to “change their idea of how much is enough,” one way or another.

And if you’re a British taxpayer, you’re paying for this absurd woman to tell you this.



Thanks for the interview link. She's a joke. The guy from the IEA totally demolishes her.

"Ms Coote also tells us, rather grandly, that people will be "satisfied as long as they've got enough to live on" (again, she just knows this); yet her proposal entails reducing people's income, forcibly, by at least 40%, thus ensuring huge numbers of people would *not* have enough to live on, or indeed be "satisfied". "We," she says, are stressed by overwork, but "we" somehow won't be stressed by mass poverty and the crippling of the economy with all that entails."

I know I'll be a lot less stressed when people are rioting in the street.


"So it's not because the report is laughable?"

I'm just saying you folks haven't read the report. You're appalled at what you imagine the report does and doesn't say. That's only your imagination. Try using your imagination to expand your experience rather than narrowing it.

"right wingers aren't too keen on government deficits."

Sure. As long as you overlook the source of the BIGGEST deficits. Dwight Eisenhower nailed the false prosperity of the military-industrial complex swindle and the right wingers of the day called him a commie symp.

But, hey, if you ENJOY being slaves no one should FORCE you to stop being a slave by cutting your shackles.



I love how you just assume we can't have read the report because we don't agree with it. Take a look at YOUR preconceptions. Well I read it and it's a joke. The section on 'transitional problems' is a laugh a minute. It has all the socialist authoritarianism David mentions. How is the culture going to be 'changed' in 10 years? What if the electorate don't WANT it changed by some leftwing control freaks?

I found one line on this.

"How people are encouraged to change has implications for civil liberties."

That's it.


OK Limburger&onionboy, see if you can broaden your experience to understand this. FREEDOM is not SLAVERY, at least not in the English language I was taught...but then my car has a hood and my baby wears a bonnet, so I suppose I could have been improperly educated...

"But, hey, if you ENJOY being slaves no one should FORCE you to stop being a slave by cutting your shackles". You are right; if I enjoy being a person of free will (or "slave" in your language) no one should FORCE their ideas for what they think is good for me on me. You want to work 21 hours a week, go right ahead. But do not FORCE me to do so nor any employer (they are people too, you know...of course "people" probably means something different in your tongue) to structure his/her business to fit your chosen lifestyle. What you could do, of your own free will, is start your own business that only requires its employees to work 21 hours a week. You have that freedom now, you can lead the way. Now off with you and be lively...


If anyone missed it, the full NEF report is linked in the post above, and below.


As you might expect from the summary, press release and interviews, it’s not exactly persuasive, or coherent. Any report that relies heavily on tendentious ill-defined terms such as “social justice,” “hyper-capitalism” and “a ticking climate clock” should invite suspicion. It’s hard to take seriously a report that mournfully asserts, “We are in a very tight corner and it not easy [sic] to see where we can turn. What buttons can we press? Which wheel can we turn to steer ourselves in a new direction?” (The promise of egalitarian revolution and A Planned Society lurks in the background, at times explicitly, and the paranormal “we” is used continually – again not a sign of intellectual rigour.) Nor am I impressed by reports that claim our modern consumerist society leaves “us” – i.e. all of us – “unsatisfied,” as if the function of a society was to perpetually fulfil every citizen’s emotional, psychological and material desires.

Indeed, the report is remarkable for its endless tendentious assumptions, its absurdly loaded language, the omission of pertinent detail and the arrogance of its tone and premise. As Anna says, it isn’t at all clear how the British population and its culture would be “changed” without coercion practically overnight to suit the rickety utopian blueprint of the NEF. What if the electorate, or a significant part of it, declines the invitation to become poorer, kinder people? Despite the pseudo-scholarly approach, the report reads like a recipe for riots in the streets and mass emigration.

We could save ourselves the time and inconvenience by burning down the offices of the NEF.

Dr. Westerhaus

Why would anyone's income necessarily be reduced by 40% by only working 21 hours a week for an employer? That still leaves 19 hours of 'official' work-time to run a business of one's own (either self-employed or limited company), invest in other businesses or structures, or indeed, even get involved in black-market activities (which would probably be easier to get away with, and probably seem a lot 'fairer' to many folks once they'd had a taste).

I don't really agree with the philosophical fluff behind the report, but I do agree that 21 hours a week of employment is probably an ideal target to aim for. Since when were we all supposed to work all the sodding time? I thought we created technology to REDUCE the need for human labour, or at least make it more interesting and productive when done.

I would much rather read some suggestions of alternative programs than this endless pointing-out of the report's 'socialist' credentials - which are obvious, and therefore only tangentially relevant to the actual problem. If that's a 'leftist' report, then let's hear some 'rightist' or 'centrist' solutions, as I rarely do hear many that might work. John Redwood on Newsnight tonight for example, was only slightly concilliatory on future Tory policy on Public Sector employment rights, and completely failed to answer how jobs and wages can be INCREASED in the face of increased worldwide competition, and of course, further efficiencies brought in by our old friend, Technology.

He has no idea, of course, because the right, like the left, is just as tied to ideology and tired, redundant public policy, and the fear in their eyes at future redundancies amonst the lower-skilled is clear to see. What DO low-qualified, poorly-educated men do for a job now? There's a lot of them out there, and they're pissed-off and getting meaner. The steel and coal industries are dead, as is shipbuilding, large-scale farming, etc. The army claims to only want 'intelligent' soldiers, and mass recruitment for a semi-bankrupt army is clearly not going to happen anymore.

The banking sector claims the need for massive bonuses because their 'massive talents' justify it, and yet all they do is a moderately complex number-juggling routine with a certain amount of risk. Council estate drug-dealers do that too, with far more 'direct exposure' to that risk than any banker. Watch 'Cops with Cameras' on ITV to see how often middle or high-income 'criminals' are targeted on that programme. Never, basically. It's fun to watch, but it's cripplingly sad and biased in reality.

So - how does a population of increasing affluence and with increasingly 'easy' jobs to do (thanks to technology), gainfully employ 'every adult in the country, full-time'? Because that's the stated policy of every political party, and it seems, the stated philosophy of most posting here, and yet employment is clearly not going 'up' on any realistic scale.


Let me illustrate my own perspective with, first, a little digression:

"Imagine you're standing on a street anywhere in America," Derek Sivers invites his TED Talk audience, "and a Japanese man comes up to you and says, 'Excuse me, what is the name of this block?'

"And you say, 'Well... I'm sorry? Well, this is Oak Street, that's Elm Street, this is 26th, that's 27th…'

"He says, 'O.K., but what is the name of that block?' You say, 'Well, blocks don't have names. Streets have names. Blocks are just the unnamed spaces in between streets.' he leaves a little confused and disappointed.

"Now imagine you're standing on a street anywhere in Japan. You turn to a person next to you and say, 'Excuse me, what is the name of this street?' and they say, 'Oh, well, that's block 17 and this is block 16.'

"And you say, 'O.K., but what is name of this street?' they say, 'Well, streets don't have names. Blocks have names. Just look at Google maps here, there is block 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. All of these blocks have names and the streets are just the unnamed spaces in between the blocks.'"

As Sivers observes, "sometimes we need to go to the opposite side of the world to realize assumptions we didn't even know we had…"

I'm not addicted to money. I work three days a week and like it that way. I get three weeks annual vacation and take an extra five weeks leave of absence.

I'm never sick and I work hard so my manager is always trying to schedule me for extra days of work. I have a union contract that lets me restrict my hours but the manager lets us get short staffed (to cut costs) and then schedules me for four days a week instead of three. I have to constantly push back to defend my cherished free time.

You folks keep SAYING I'm free to work as much or as little as I want. Have you ever tried to do it? And you lot prattle on about how the nef authors want to force you to work less than you want to. Bollocks. The first sentence in the report says, "Anyone can disagree and many will do things differently." Gosh, how totalitarian can you get?

The report is saying it is "worth thinking about" what might make it possible for shorter work week to become the norm.

And don't give me any crap about working for myself. I was an independent contractor for 12 years and NOBODY "works for themselves." You work for clients or customers and you have to be there when they call or you lose business.

Right now there are are incentive structures, including those imposed by government, that make it unattractive to businesses to encourage shorter standard hours of work. The pay, benefits, promotion opportunities and job security for part-time employment are substandard. These incentives can be changed to make a level playing field for hours OR they could be changed to create encourage shorter hours. That would involve no more compulsion than currently exists.


The bottom line is how many of you chaps are bankers taking home million dollar plus annual bonuses? Because if you aren't, you're just a bunch of sots doing what you're told to do, thinking what you're told to think and defiantly telling yourself it was all your idea in the first place (as if you ever had any choice in the matter). Willing slaves suckled on the teat of TV adverts.

Just to let you know there are free men and women in the world and you are welcome to join us when you awaken from your dream.

Andrea Harris

What in the flipping fucketty fuck does the fact that Western countries name their streets and the Japanese name their blocks have to do with anything? Please take your cutesy "foreigners see things a different way" bullshit and shove it.

Excuse my language, other people on this blog, but I have had it with Little Hippie Sunshines like this Sandwich fellow telling me I should be happier with "less" because they can't stand the idea of having to work for a living. I'm one of those people working that fantasy 20 hour per week job, not because I want to, but because the goddamn economy is in the toilet thanks to university-coddled pie-eyed moonbeams who think they can play with peoples' lives to burnish their own status, and it was the only job I have been able to find. And I'll be lucky to keep it for very long. And if a friend wasn't putting me up, I would be living in a homeless shelter or the street, because they can't afford to pay me a full week's wage for a half-week's work. Worrying about paying bills kind of cuts in to my enjoyment of my extra "leisure time."


Sandwich man, we can't all live in your union-job-leisure-utopia, because most of us must work extra hours to subsidize it. You're welcome, chap. Enjoy.

And I'm sorry if you were disillusioned while being self-employed. Yes, you actually have to work for clients. And you have to make them happy. That's where the wheat splits from the chaff, isn't it?



I'll tell you what Japanese addresses have to do with the 21 hours report, you foul-mouthed flagellant. Because you and your self-righteous friends here wouldn't have the good sense, patience, humility and open-mindedness to listen to (let alone entertain) the explanation, analysis and empirical evidence supporting the paradoxical-sounding 19th century labor slogan, "whether you work by the piece or work by the day, reducing the hours increases the pay."

That slogan seems hard to believe, doesn't it? As at first the Japanese address system may sound weird and inconvenient. But the weird address system makes sense when you understand that it is related to the way that neighbourhoods there are organized socially.

From your standpoint, you work (at a paid job) to consume. What you do at your job is incidental to your desire for the income to pay your rent, buy food and maybe a pair of shoes or a bottle of wine from time to time. From the employer's perspective you work to produce. Both objectives are perfectly sensible from each perspective. But they are not identical. In fact, they are opposites.

Conventional economics takes your employer's perspective. Oh, sure, they have these concessions to some income/leisure trade-off but they don't really mean it. From your employer's perspective, the more you produce, the better -- no matter how much of your time it takes up. From the economist's perspective, the more you produce, the better -- no matter how much of your time it takes up.

From your perspective, though, you can work and produce "too much." You can wear yourself out so that although you may make more money this week or this year, you will not be able to earn as much over the long term. Your "human resources" can be depleted, just like a cod fishery or an oil field. It doesn't matter to your employer because -- YOU CAN BE REPLACED. But it does matter to you, because for your own sake, you can't be replaced.

Now, you may not believe this but there is actually an alternative economics, an economics that doesn't automatically take the employers' point of view. The difference between the "official" economics and this other economics is like the difference between streets in the West and blocks in Japan. But you only know the official economics. And instead of trying to understand the alternative system, you reject it out of hand because it looks weird from the standpoint of the official system.

I'm not saying the official economics is wrong. It's right if you're a CEO and interested in maximizing your companies profits (or more realistically, your bonuses). But for a drone like you to assent to official view is lick-spittle stupidity. Who do you think put the goddamn economy in the toilet? The nef? Someone has sure pulled the wool over your eyes. No wonder you can't get at a decent wage to be able to pay your own bills. I don't feel any pity for you, as you obviously do for yourself. Instead of fighting back against the system that gives you the shaft, you lash out at those who tell you to open your eyes. What a ditz.

Well, open your eyes or go to Hell. I don't care.


"Sandwich man, we can't all live in your union-job-leisure-utopia..."

Yes, it's true, lauraw, me and my union mates sit around all day sucking blood out of your extra hours with a straw. No, come to think of it, I work in a little grocery store and we have to be... wait for it... competitive! We have to work hard for our money but we also have a union so we stand up for ourselves. We work hard but we don't take it in the ass, like you seem to think you do, "most of us must work extra hours to subsidize it." Whine, whine, whine away, sister.

I like my job and I like to work hard. I just wouldn't want my job to swallow up my life. I'm also glad I don't carry around the huge burden of resentment that a lot of the folks here seem to endure. Sorry if that makes me some kind of "hippy" freak in your eyes.

I wasn't "disillusioned" by my self-employment, either, BTW. I liked that, too. I was just pointing out that all the above comments about how people are already free to work as few or as many hours as they want now are horseshit. Andrea, above, can only get 20 hours of work a week and it's not enough for her to live on. Yet she's hostile to my point of view. I can live just fine on 24 hours a week but it's a constant struggle to keep the manager's hands off of MY TIME -- and by the way, the manager is a nice bloke and he and I get along just fine. He's just trying to make his job easier by making me carry HIS load. That's how life works.

As for the wheat and the chaff, anyone who thinks they are working extra hours to subsidize my frugal $1700 a month "union-job-leisure-utopia" and not the million dollar bonus lifestyles of the plutocrats are what I would consider to be "the chaff."

Grow a brain, sweetheart.


Perhaps now is a good time to remind patrons of the house rules. No spitting. No biting. No heavy petting. If anyone is caught dealing drugs, the house takes 20%. Scratch that. 30%.

And now some music.


Karen M

The NEF wants to make massive changes to Britain as if it could 'opt out' of the global economy. Won't millions of people just leave Britain to get richer (or not get poorer) somewhere else?

Karen M


"How people are encouraged to change has implications for civil liberties."

Hehe. If the change is supposed to be voluntary there's some strange stuff missing in the report. I can't find anything about what would happen if some people DON'T choose the new 'low budget' lifestyle. Who's going to go first and choose being poor compared to everyone else? You couldn't have any part of the country being free to carry on as normal so there's got to be coercion not just "encouragement".


"Just to let you know there are free men and women in the world and you are welcome to join us when you awaken from your dream."

Ooh, false consciousness. You're a troll, right?



“Won’t millions of people just leave Britain to get richer (or not get poorer) somewhere else?”

Sadly, this is one of the trifling details not covered in the report. The idea of dissent among the electorate gets surprisingly little attention, which perhaps tells us something about the authors of the report. It does fleetingly acknowledge the possible “resistance” of employers and employees, which I think covers most of us, yet the means of “encouraging” citizens to submit to the approved worldview remain somewhat vague. We do, however, get a few lines involving some non-specific “changes” to taxation and plenty of airy waffle about “changing the culture,” again, in ways never quite made clear. “There is more work to be done,” we learn.

The overall tone assumes that the rest of us will – or should – come to think like the report’s egalitarian authors, embracing their redistributive urges one way or another, thus cushioning any deviant resentment and “transitional difficulties.” No doubt “well-being,” travelling by bicycle and “improved gender relations” will make it all worthwhile.

In fairness, we do get pages of implied disdain for the “dispensable accoutrements of middle-class life,” including “cars, holidays, electronic equipment and multiple items of clothing.” Though again, those of us who rather like such decadent baubles – say, our computers, TVs and a spare pair of shoes - may not find this Brave New World entirely congenial. One wonders, then, how the NEF proposes to convince us of the error of our ways. Alas, they do not say. Though I suspect readers may have clearer ideas of what they might be prepared to do to resist such interference in their lives.

Dr. Westerhaus

OK, here's some real data to play with, based on my personal acitvities - I'm entirely self-employed, so it's obviously an issue dear to my heart. Two weeks ago I had no work at all, and so existed on £49 Working Tax Credit. Last week I managed to get some work, entering data into a web-based database - not what I do for a living, but handy to pay the bills - experience and having three computers swung it as much as any great skill for the post, as it's extremely easy work for me - and boring (as it's piece-work).

In seven days, I've worked for about 73 hours, for a total income (so far) of £1086, an average hourly rate of £14.86. That could look either like a great hourly rate or a terrible one, depending on one's perspective. It's been an extremely boring week, and not remotely satisfying from a creative standpoint. But it will pay for a couple of weeks of creative 'non-work', and probably allow me to feel less guilty about my lack of 'employment' in the following period.

But the reality is that without these 'bio-survival tickets', as Robert Anton Wilson called money, I will be unable to produce ANY creative work at all, and so I consider myself duty-bound to take the work, no matter how mindless or dull it might be. It's the computer equivalent of filling envelopes - hardly the stuff of dreams.

But technology enabled me not only to get the work, but to perform it extremely quickly, in bulk, and allowed me to use one or two tricks of my own (experience) to speed things up more. I may have triggered a small kidney stone into the bargain, but that's just another economic issue to deal with in this context.

So clearly if I could have spread out the job over two weeks, to a more manageable 36 hours per week, or even three weeks, which would approach the magical 21 hours, I would have enjoyed my time more. The money would remain the same, but the time-stretched 'hourly rate' would then seem paltry. But I suspect I would still have looked for other work to fill in the gaps - and produce more bio-survival tickets.

What I'm trying to point out is that when someone is self-employed, their sense of self-determination is massively increased, even when unemployed, as time-management and cash-grabbing are one's own issue, not one's employer's, and therefore any philosophical arguments about how LONG I should be working remain internalised and 'my own business'.

Lack of bio-survival tickets causes anxiety, as RAW often pointed out, and the possible restriction of those tickets can cause extreme panic. However, having the time to manage oneself, and the space to think, can allow all kind of other enterprises to emerge that could actually produce MORE income overall than previously possible in a 40-hour a week job. I can promise you if filling envelopes (or online DBs) were a full-time job, I wouldn't have been on £14.86 per hour...;)

A pertinent quote from Prometheus Rising by RAW (link below but buy it if you can) might also help to mollify some of the aggression displayed in some earlier posts...;)

"Now, obviously the third, semantic circuit works with and for these other antique circuits. The maps and models it makes are tools of adaptation, and what they adapt us to is social roles in domesticated primate society. Thus, a Midwestern Methodist is not "misusing his brain" as Arthur Koestler thinks in constructing a Midwestern Methodist tunnel-reality; that is precisely what his brain is for, to adapt him to the Midwestern Methodist tribal system—to impose the structure of Midwestern Methodist ideology upon the myriad of data-points he encounters in his lifetime. The Chinese Maoist, the Iranian Moslem, the New York Feminist, the Marin County Hedonist, etc. each has a similar, equally arbitrary, equally complex reality-tunnel. Each tunnel is also equally absurd when seen from outside.

The problems of the modern world arise from the fact that these reality-tunnels are no longer isolated from each other. Throughout most of human history and up to 100 years ago—up to 20 years ago, in some parts of the world—a man or woman could lead their entire life snugly within the cocoon of the local tunnel-reality. Today, we all constantly collide with persons living in wildly different tunnel-realities. This creates a great deal of hostility in the more ignorant, vast amounts of metaphysical and ethical confusion in the more sophisticated, and growing disorientation for all — a situation known as our 'crisis of values'."



The Sandman and Dr. Ruth have been quite "productive" since I last checked in...I'll try to address just one point. As the "doctor" states above "Throughout most of human history and up to 100 years ago—up to 20 years ago, in some parts ofthe world—a man or woman could lead their entire life snugly within the cocoon of the local tunnel-reality". Are you saying this was a good thing or a bad thing? If "Today, we all constantly collide with persons living in wildly different tunnel-realities. This creates a great deal of hostility..." What, unlike the hostility of hundreds of years ago? How fortunate they had a stronger infusion of religion and government hundreds of years ago to better address the metaphysical and ethical confusions and keep "crisis of values" at bay. Perhaps the nef would like to fill the vacuum? But does this have anything to do with how many hours we work? Maybe at least as much as it relates to Japanese banchi-go. BTW, any chance the two of you are living in a tunnel-reality of ignorance and confusion?

If you people want to work fewer hours, and it works for you, by all means do so. What is objectionable about this report is it's implication that the rest of us should make adjustments for your people, subsidize you people, or in the case of the UK taxpayers present, subsidize producing this silly endeavour.


So Sandwichman wants to work part time to be all free and creative and still end up no worse off than anyone else. Basically he wants to have his cake and eat it. And this is going to cost everyone else half their income. Because he's "not addicted to money".

Spiny Norman

"I'm also glad I don't carry around the huge burden of resentment that a lot of the folks here seem to endure."

That's pretty rich, coming from someone whose long-winded comments on this thread are an exercise in seething resentment.

"...not the million dollar bonus lifestyles of the plutocrats are what I would consider to be "the chaff."

Grow a brain, sweetheart."

Case in point.


As we’re being encouraged to look at this from other angles, maybe we should consider the psychology implied by the NEF proposal. The premise seems to be that despite reverting to a lifestyle measurably inferior to that of our grandparents, we’ll learn to find solace in the fact that everyone else is in a comparably bad position. We’ll be equal, more or less, and therefore happy and kind. We’ll swap our cars for bicycles and learn to make do without holidays and those decadent conveniences of modern life. And we’ll take comfort – perhaps even pleasure – in the lowered expectations of our neighbours.

It’s the psychology of socialism, people. Just don’t get it on the rug.

Spiny Norman

As someone noted at the beginning of the thread about the old Soviet system:

"We pretended to work, and they pretended to pay us!"

Sammich and the good Dr probably see that as genuinely Utopian.

Dr. Westerhaus

I haven't actually stated that I will work less, just that it seems an ideal to aim for. As I mentioned above, I worked 73 hours last week.

And I think the hostility referred to in the quote I posted (not mine) in the impinging of different reality-tunnels is clearly illustrated here, and the automatic assumption that I'm a 'socialist'. Dr. Ruth? Soviets? So this really is nothing more than a glorified 'Reds under the bed exercise'?

Andrea Harris

Mr Sammich seemed to take my criticism of him well. Moving on...

Is a "reality tunnel" what we'll all be living in when we can't afford the rent?


"So this really is nothing more than a glorified 'Reds under the bed exercise'?"

'fraid so.

Horace Dunn

Reds under the bed? Hardly. These reds have their own website to proclaim publicly their authoritarian mission. And they are by no means marginalised by a suspicious society, as the generous subsidies they receive from the taxpayer show. I think that's the main point here, clashing reality tunnels notwithstanding.



“Reds under the bed? Hardly.”

Heh. It’s going to take days to sweep up all this chaff.

Sandwichman’s position, such as it is, seems to hinge on a belief that the rest of us “don’t understand” the “alternative economics” supposedly outlined by the NEF. Much as his earlier position hinged on a belief that we couldn’t possibly have read the report because we found it comical. (Perhaps because of the authors’ disdain for “cars, holidays and multiple items of clothing.”)

One of the problems with this position is that it seems the NEF don’t understand “alternative economics” either, or conventional economics. (See, for instance, the Tim Worstall links above, or the curious omission of any global and demographic implications, or the dissembling about their own funding.) Nor do they appear to have much interest in democratic proprieties and the preferences of the electorate. Much of what the report says is woolly and fanciful, and much of what it omits invites suspicion. (We get a one line reference to civil liberties, despite the obvious logical tension between such liberties and the premise of the proposal.)

The authors refer repeatedly to some vague “well being” that will, they say, flourish once we’ve been made more equal and freed from our materialist ways. This strikes me as a laughably naive view of human psychology and at odds with history. That, or it’s simply dishonest. It seems more likely that any appeal would at some point involve less edifying urges. Yet to raise basic objections, or simply to laugh at the NEF’s assumptions, is apparently a failing of ours, and not of the actual authors of the report.

Karen M

Even Guardian readers have their doubts...

"Can someone from the NEF explain to me how they are raising £2.65 million a year for their 'research'. You seem to be employing 40 people and yet I can't see where the money from it is coming from. You're a registered charity, I've looked at the accounts and only £250,000 is clearly shown. Who's giving you the better part of £2,500,000 for your 'research' and who gave you the £1m building you work in?"



NEF now say we need to copy the US



Sorry "doctor" (of what? my guess is either psychology or sociology) for misattributing the words of a flake like Robert A. Wilson to yourself. This is a source of your enlightenment? The few socialists I know may be suckers for a dead end economic philosophy but even they don't take such nonsense seroiusly. You might want to consider adopting socialism as a step up the ladder. "Reds under the bed"...more like "bats in the belfry" on your end.


"NEF now say we need to copy the US"

Actually, ACI raises a good point (without realizing it). Americans work longer hours than Europeans and what does it get them? Obesity, TV watching and aversion to exercise. nef, of course, is saying exactly the opposite of "copy the US".


Maybe they like all those things?

It's NOT for you to decide how other people choose to live.

Can't you get that through your narcissistic personality disorder?


Working long hours equates to laziness. Do you actually believe every fleeting thought that passes through your head, Sammyboy?


By coincidence the library notified me today that the book I had placed a reserve on, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, by Josef Pieper was available. Much to my surprise (and delight) the publisher of this reprint of a 1947 classic was Liberty Fund, the libertarian organization that runs the Online Library of Liberty http://oll.libertyfund.org/

Pieper makes some excellent points in discussing the contrast between Max Weber's analysis of capitalism in which, "one does not work to live; one lives to work" and the opposite view of Aristotle that "we work in order to have leisure."

It's fascinating to think that when a left-wing organization latches on to a classic libertarian idea, right-wing critics denounce it in terms that would have warmly embraced some 60 odd years ago by another Josef -- Stalin.

There's even the foundation in Pieper's essay of a much more trenchant critique of the nef position. Pieper argues that Humanism doesn't provide an adequate ground for a move to leisure. Instead, true leisure requires a theological grounding in worship of the divine.

I'm not about to pass judgment on Pieper's verdict regarding leisure and worship but I certainly would recommend to self-styled libertarians that they read Pieper's views on the "totalitarian work State" before shooting off too many more of their ideological toes.


"Working long hours equates to laziness."

You might find Pieper's analysis of just that idea (pp. 23-26) of interest.


Description [from http://www.libertyfund.org/details.aspx?id=1687]

In this elegantly written (and produced) work, Josef Pieper introduces the reader to an understanding that leisure is nothing less than "an attitude of mind and a condition of the soul that fosters a capacity to perceive the reality of the world." Beginning with the Greeks, and through a series of philosophic, religious, and historical examples, Pieper demonstrates that "Leisure has been, and always will be, the first foundation of any culture." Of the frenetic contemporary clamor for things, entertainment, and distraction, Pieper observes, "in our bourgeois Western world total labor has vanquished leisure. Unless we regain the art of silence and insight, the ability for nonactivity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture—and ourselves." For, to Pieper, slavery is a state of mind and soul into which entire peoples descend when mental, moral, spiritual, and political independence is corrupted by a preoccupation with material well-being. Long unavailable, this reprint of the original edition of 1952 includes a renowned introduction by T. S. Eliot.

Josef Pieper (1904–1997) was an influential German Catholic philosopher, scholar, and author.

Table of Contents
Introduction by T.S. Eliot xi
Author's Preface to the English Edition xix

Leisure the foundation of Western culture--'We are "unleisurely" in order to have leisure'--Aristotle--The claims of the world of 'total work' 1
'Intellectual work' and 'intellectual worker'--Discursive thought and 'intellectual contemplation'--Kant and the Romantics--Ratio and Intellectus:the medieval conception of knowledge--Contemplation 'superhuman'--Knowledge as 'work': the two aspects of this conception--'Unqualified activity'--Effort and effortlessness--Hard work is what is good--Antisthenes--Thomas Aquinas: 'it is not the diffiiculty which is the decisive point'--Contemplation and play--Willingness to suffer--First comes the 'gift'--'Intellectual work' as a social function 6
Sloth (acedia) and the incapacity to leisure--Leisure as non-activity--Leisure as a festive attitude--Leisure and rest from work--Leisure above all functions--Leisure as a means of rising above the 'really human' 23
The influence of the ideal of leisure--'Humanism' an inadequate position?--Excursus on 'proletariat'--The philosopher and the common working man--Man 'fettered to work'--Lack of property, State compulsion and inner impoverishment as the causes--'Proletarianism' not limited to the proletariat--artes liberales--Proudhon on Sunday--'deproletarianization' and the opening of the realm of leisure--Leisure made inwardly possible through Divine Worship--Feast and worship--Unused time and space--The world of work and the Feast day--Leisure divorced from worship becomes idleness--The significance of Divine worship 33


4 days work weeks or equivalent are the sensible path, only the current socialist/conservative mind makes that impossible. If we look at useless Government jobs and even some business jobs -not shafted because it is less expensive to not fire in this jobs obsessed culture even if people aren't making anything useful- the unemployment could grow to 30% or more. Doesn't make sense to have 60-70% of people working their asses to pay 30% or more to make nothing useful, it is a giant burden. The crisis we are in happens in part because of that inflexibility. To have jobs and pay for the increasing giant state the economy was put in overdrive. Now that whole thing is found to not be sustainable the imbalance between State giant size and the shrinking Private sector size is shown in taxes receipts. The fake jobs have to die and that will show that we can have much better live.

If all things start to be efficent like Ryanair we don't need to make so much money and work so much. It is mindblowing inefficient things - like hundred thousands of Governemnt jobs- we have that prevents a 4 days work week.



“Even Guardian readers have their doubts...”

Thanks, I saw. Ms Coote says nothing new of course and leaves unacknowledged all of the problems mentioned above. We get the same non-specific waffle about “changing people’s expectations,” as if the electorate were some passive recipient with no preferences of their own to be taken into account.

What’s interesting though are the positive reactions, not least from self-styled drop-outs with a flair for condescension. Some openly disdain democracy as an obstacle to utopia. Others sneer at the “selfish majority” - i.e. people who wish to retain their current hard-earned living standards for themselves and their children. This “selfish majority” is apparently duped by advertising and is devoid of mental autonomy, unlike those making such comments, whose mental clarity is uncanny.

(See also our friend Sandwichman, who equates an *aversion* to authoritarianism with the rhetoric of Stalin and dismisses those who disagree as “willing slaves suckled on the teat of TV adverts,” before inviting them to “join us when you awaken from your dream.” I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone wheeled out a variation of “false consciousness,” which never requires evidence and always flatters the proponent. That being the bit that matters. Those of us who mock the NEF report and state our reasons for doing so are apparently “drones,” “slaves” and “sots,” – conformist, dreaming and hypnotised by TV. But he, our Gnostic hero - he done seen The Light. Egalitarian condescension is such a joy to behold, especially when given a twist of messianic zing.)

Other Guardian commenters share their insight with claims that, “It’s only fun being rich if you know that thousands of others are harassed and stressed and have lousy lives as a consequence.” Yes, of course, that’s why most people strive for a better life – to savour the misery of others. Is this the kind of constituency to which the NEF hopes to appeal? Given the air of default paternalism and the apparent disregard for what voters might actually want, one has to wonder what kind of motives might come into play if the proposal were ever realised. Authoritarian systems often offer their victims a trade-off, with freedoms surrendered in exchange for schadenfreude or sanctioned resentment of some kind – perhaps aimed at the wealthy or bourgeois, once suitably humbled. See, for instance, the Guardian’s Zoe Williams, who serves as a particularly vindictive example of this mentality:


Dr. Westerhaus

WTP - my 'nickname' is nothing more than that (like yours), and was given to me by our gracious host, so you'll have to ask him about 'what it all means'. Extrapolating an imaginary personality based on an internet nickname is a basic error that I assumed we would have transcended long ago, but it appears not. But it kind of fits with the overall tenor of hostility here - you're imagining I'm disagreeing with you, and therefore need to be insulted into the bargain too.

I'm self-employed, with a limited company, and can assure you, am not a socialist. I thought socialism died out over ten years ago personally, but it appears that revisionist societies such as this just can't let it go.

I would point out that I have not actually advocated any of the NEF's proposals, just tried to open out the discussion in the general area of future employment, and yet I'm patronisingly called a 'socialist' (or even pre-socialist), which is so laughable as to be barely worth a reply. A few years ago, I defended David on Melanie Phillips' website in a similar heated discussion and was immediately called a 'militant homosexual' and told to back off in no uncertain terms - again, a complete mystery to me, but it seems to be happening again, which is doubly ironic, given where we are this time.

After watching the news and Question Time last night, it seems that creeping large-scale unemployment could well become a major issue over the next ten years, and yet I'm still unable to find a single alternative solution to what's being discussed here - clearly full-time employment for all is an impossible dream, but no-one seems capable or willing to address THAT issue.

Anyway, I'm afraid I have to get back to work again and rack up more hours (50 this week so far) - us socialists have a lot of flags and red velvet uniforms to buy, after all


DW, wow my mistake. Dr. Westerhaus, kinda like Dr. Love or Dr. J. Got it. You use a nic of doctor, but you're not a doctor. You pick your nic, but someone else gave it to you. You like the idea of 21 hour work weeks partly because it will allow more time for more work. You spew a lot of verbiage and yet say nothing. You are not a socialist, you stand for nothing, and this discussion is a waste of time. Got it.


I don't know what have the days or hours worked have to do with socialism if the wages are proportional to the time worked. No free launches there.
It is to be expected by capitalism efficiency and better product quality that sooner or later there are a tipping point and the 4 day work week for many will be a significative victory of free market.



It's the forced equality bit -the point of the 21 hour week- that's the socialism. Plus the NEF freeloading on taxpayers backs, the state control, the social engineering, the massive bureaucracy you'd need to run it all (badly), the sheer bloody arrogance of it... that's the socialism too.

meme machine

In 2005 I sat on a UK Govt scenario planning session that focussed upon 'Digital Living in 2022'. We were asked to look at a vector that posited the prospect of a UK workforce of which 80% would be self-employed. In all likelihood this will prove to be a massive exaggeration but nevertheless, it was one of three possible first order consequences that flowed from a deep large-circle economic analysis.
I have noted the strong anti-nef feelings demonstrated by the majority of people who've posted as part of this online debate and would like to ask all of you how you think we can ensure that positive elements of the UK's social and material culture are not denuded during future strategic labour market change? Do you favour a 'leave it to the markets approach'? If so, what might the positive and negative effects be if this were deployed? I haven't seen much that addresses these issues in your exchanges so far... ...I've noticed that there are some of you who want to debate with socialists, but surely that's not the only point to this site. This discussion is not a waste of time...


"It's the forced equality bit..."

Of course that's not what the nef report says. But perhaps it would be more understandable if you simply said you don't TRUST the nef and what they stand for. Because you don't trust them, when they say one thing you assume they mean the opposite. Or, you simply ignore what they say and make up stuff about their real plans and motives.

Let's accept your distrust as a given, then. So, if you don't trust nef, who do you trust? If you say "nobody", you are spiritually dead. No point trying to talk you out of your private Hell. If you say, "people who like me also don't trust the nef and their ilk", then you are what confidence men refer to as a "mark" -- giving your sacred trust to punters who CLAIM they share your distrust.

Who do you trust?



It's a 10 year 'plan' to level productivity and incomes –"As work gets redistributed, incomes will become more equal"– it's "inevitable". Says who? I can't see this 'plan' working if people can opt out and work as long as they choose– so maybe that's why there's no mention of what people WANT to do with their lives. Read the interviews -Coote acts as if people will do as they're told. They'll all be "satisfied as long as they've got enough to live on" and "change their idea of how much is enough,"

Says who?

David: "We get the same non-specific waffle about “changing people’s expectations,” as if the electorate were some passive recipient with no preferences of their own to be taken into account."

That doesn't sound fishy to you? You're telling me they wouldn't have to force people to 'do the right thing'? You think businesses and wealth creators won't just go somewhere else?

Dr. Westerhaus

WTP - if you talk to strangers in the street like you post here, it wouldn't suprise me at all to find out you had no teeth left. It seems clear that rational discussion isn't your strong point, and abusing strangers trying to have a discussion is one of your favourite occupations. Isn't that was this site is for? After all, my 'verbiage' has mostly been trying to ask folks like to you to actually put forward an idea, rather than abuse me, but it seems impossible for you to actually formulate one, other than that I'm some kind of chimera.

I also seem to be the only one willing to actually identify myself, and put forward actual data for comparison, rather than relying on hoary old cliches. Not surprisingly, I will be leaving this 'debate' at this point as I have work to do, and I've got the mesaage loud and clear. Don't rock this boat, thank-you. So bon voyage...


"That doesn't sound fishy to you?"

No. It sounds like David lifting a three-word phrase out of context and portraying its vagueness as sinister. His "as if" is a non-sequitur. Such rhetorical sleights of hand are fine for scoring debating points but they get a bit tired when they're not backed up by substance. I can find lot's of discussion in the report that puts much more specific "meat" on the "changing people's expectations" bones. They may be points you or David disagree with, Anna. But rather than addressing real points of disagreement, the "as if" allegation is simply a straw man.

"You're telling me they wouldn't have to force people to 'do the right thing'?"

No. Who is this "they" who you suspect would would be forcing people "to do the right thing?" The omnipotent nef central committee? The Archfuckingbishop of Canterbury?

"You think businesses and wealth creators won't just go somewhere else?"

No. By "wealth creators" I assume you mean bailout bonus bloated bankers. I
suppose that's a kind of wealth creation -- for themselves.

But those where rhetorical question, weren't they? I realize that I risk being "condescending" by insisting on substance rather than kowtowing to attitude but I'll just have to live with that.



"No. It sounds like David lifting a three-word phrase out of context and portraying its vagueness as sinister"

Now you're just bullshitting. The NEF isn't saying *if we wanted to* we *could* all work 21 hours and make do with less. It's saying its "an inevitable consequence" and we'll *have* to do it because of "overconsumption" and "entrenched inequalities".

"The last two years revealed many to be consuming well beyond our economic means and beyond the limits of the natural environment, yet in ways that also fail to improve our well-being. Meanwhile many others suffer poverty and hunger. Our research shows that moving to a shorter working week could be the only way left untried to square this seemingly impossible circle... As work gets redistributed, incomes will become more equal, thus reducing the vast range of social problems associated with inequality."

Who's going to be in charge of this 'redistribution'? What if people don't want their working hours and income 'redistributed'?

"With a 21-hour working week, some people would find themselves earning less, but with a lot more time on their hands. This means that instead of relying on consumer goods – many of which are currently purchased for the sake of convenience in a busy life – people will be able to start doing things for themselves: growing their own food and cooking it rather than buying ready-meals, walking and cycling rather than using motorised transport, mending and repairing things that break rather than throwing them away. Living life at a slower pace, with more time to do everyday tasks, would cut carbon emissions and improve life satisfaction. A more egalitarian culture would also reduce the need for conspicuous consumption driven by people's anxiety about where they stand in the social pecking order."

What if some of us don't want dig our own potatoes like Barbara Good? What if I don't want any of this hippy crap? How can any of it work if people can opt out and live AS THEY CHOOSE?

"There is a danger that reducing the official number of hours people are supposed to work each week will simply increase the amount of overtime they put in. Some people work long hours because they find it personally satisfying, because they are anxious to safeguard or increase their social status, or because they want to get away from home. If a key aim of moving towards 21 hours is to help redistribute paid and unpaid time more evenly across the population and between women and men, it won't help if those who already have jobs just do more overtime to make up the difference... We want to overturn current assumptions about work and time, and change what is considered 'normal'... The way work is managed in any organisation can be adapted to discourage overtime, so that hours released from the existing workforce are taken on by new employees."

I'm one of the people who works long hours because I enjoy my job and I'm good at what I do. I worked hard for this. So who's going to overturn MY assumptions and tell me how many hours I can put in and much overtime I can do –the state?

"By "wealth creators" I assume you mean bailout bonus bloated bankers. I suppose that's a kind of wealth creation -- for themselves."

I run a small business (6 people) and I'm a wealth creator. Looks like it's your assumptions that need looking at.

"Who do you trust?"

Not you for a start.


"It's the forced equality bit -the point of the 21 hour week- that's the socialism. Plus the NEF freeloading on taxpayers backs, the state control, the social engineering, the massive bureaucracy you'd need to run it all (badly), the sheer bloody arrogance of it... that's the socialism too."

Why it is necessary to have bureaucracy, taxes or whatever when there are many persons that work part-time without it?

I am not for enforcing anything. I can advocate something without trying to enforce it.
I am just against what appears to be pavlovian reaction every time someone talks about 4 days work week. It is that inflexible and sclerotic thinking that makes impossible to have a more free society and makes impossible to get all that capitalism can offer. Every year the car industry slashes thousand of workers, Ryanair can have 6000 passengers for every worker while old airlines are into 100's. All that is to be welcomed not shunned and be afraid. But for that to happen work culture must be much more flexible.


You know people what people who don't their own time are called?


Hypothetically, an Authoritarian dictator tries this NEF Plan (there's no way this could happen by choice) I wonder how long it is before they start telling you WHAT to do in those 21 hours of your work ration to try and fix the disastrous drop in productivity.


I'm very similar to you. I work an 80ish hour week and employ around 5 people in a small business.

Some of my contractors work short weeks, some work once a month, some work 5 days a week but 6 hours a day.

It works very well. I'd probably have to move my business abroad and sack a few people if work rationing came in.


"I am just against what appears to be pavlovian reaction every time someone talks about 4 days work week."
The base issue here isn't a discussion about how many hours we work. Personally, I would welcome something less than 40 hours myself. But that's a decision for me to make and an employer to offer. This discussion isn't even about "socialism", a friendlier word that implies that all the "communists" just disappeared. This is about egos and control. I'm sure that if the same sort of report using the same sort of language came out of a so-called "conservative" organization merely "suggesting" that people ought to attend church regularly or join the armed forces, and that organization was supported in any way with public tax dollars (and possibly more likely even if it wasn't) all of the subtle "suggestive" language would be interpreted by the left as "threatening" just as it is by people here. This report implies coercion in its very existence. Especially given the rather extreme idea of 21 hours. No, it's the egos of those who "know better" and who have designs on implementing their ideas for the nefarious "common good" that spur what you refer to as Pavlovian responses.

Karen M


Scalped. :)


"This report implies coercion in its very existence."

I think that about sums of the attitude here. I read through the report cover -to-cover yesterday and, if anything, it is one long disclaimer against the notions of coercion or uniformity. The report simply invites (or provokes) people to imagine a different scene. Twenty-one hours was chosen because it is close to the average currently worked by those 18-65 (for men) and 18-59 (for women) including the unemployed and those not in the labor force. The notion of "redistributing" hours so that they are more even may be fanciful. But when you're simply trying to start a conversation there's nothing evil about posing a somewhat unrealistic hypothetical.

"Now you're just bullshitting."

So if the weatherman tells you it's going to rain tomorrow, it's his tyrannical plot to force you to wear rubber boots and carry an umbrella? The nef's "inevitable consequence" is based on their analysis of 1. the current economic crisis 2. environmental constraints imposed by climate change and peak oil and 3. growing social inequality. Now let's suppose that the nef is WRONG about those things. In that case their prescription is also wrong. But that doesn't mean it is BAD.

When someone tells me the "very existence" of a report "implies coercion" that says to me that the issue for them is not evidence vs. error but good vs. evil. Because I'm defending the nef report, I'm perceived as evil. Well folks, you can't have a dialogue with evil (actually, though, evil will agree with everything you say right up to the point where he slits your throat and takes your wallet).

Anyway, thank you all for the stimulating conversation. I do hope there were some objective onlookers who learned something from the dynamics of the exchange here.


"if anything, it is one long disclaimer against the notions of coercion or uniformity."

Haha. That's funny.

"Because I'm defending the nef report, I'm perceived as evil."

No. You're perceived as a bullshitter. (See above.)

"I do hope there were some objective onlookers who learned something from the dynamics of the exchange here."

Right back atcha.


"...when you're simply trying to start a conversation..." this is typical of the lefty bs. Oh, we don't fully believe what our fellow-travelers are saying, we just think they are raising interesting points. But should you challenge those points, we take umbrage. "Help, help, I'm being oppressed." I think we've covered the Cheese Shop, the Dead Parrot, and now we're on to the Holy Grail...along with shades of the Argument. It all boils down to the ego, really. Egos that want to bend reality (the market) to fit their model. Socialism, fascism, 99.3% of religion, 95% of "liberalism", 80% of "libertarianism", and about 85% of "conservatism" (99.3% when even the "best" of them are in power). What any of these "isms" refuse to acknowledge is that the world is far too complex a place for any of them to be "smart" enough to control or manage it. This is why markets work. When any idea in a free market fails, it can freely and more easily be replaced when people take responsibility for their own decisions. You have an idea? Well implement it and let the rest of us decide if we like it or not of our own free will. We don't need no steeenking badgering from some think tank, empowered or not. Just shut up and play your guitar.


Will Henry Ford's five-day week, just put into operation in his plants, and now urged as ideal by labor leaders, be adopted generally by the industries of the country?

It will not!

For the following chief reasons:

1. It would greatly increase the cost of living.

2. It would increase wages generally by more than 15 per cent and decrease production.

3. It would be impracticable for all industries.

4. It would create a craving for additional luxuries to occupy the additional time.

5. It would mean a trend toward the Arena, Rome did that and Rome died.

6. It would be against the best interests of the men who want to work and advance.

7. It would be all right to meet a sales emergency but would not work out as a permanent thing.

8. It would make us more vulnerable to the economic onslaughts of Europe, now working as hard as she can to overcome our lead.

Mankind does not thrive on holidays. Idle hours breed mischief. The days are too short for the worthwhile men of the world to accomplish the tasks which they set themselves. No man has ever attained success in industry, in science, or in any other worthwhile activity of life by limiting his hours of labor.


The preceding was a public service historical announcement from the National Association of Manufacturers, published October 1926 in the NAM's Pocket Bulletin.

Eleven years later, the same National Association of Manufacturers erected 60,000 billboards across the U.S.A. celebrating "The American Way". One of the three billboards in the series claimed credit for the "World's Shortest Working Hours":



Henry Ford, guitar hero.


WTP i think we are talking past each other. My critique was more about an attitude in this thread than addressing the specifics of NEF.

Talked like a totalitarian Sandwichman.

" No man has ever attained success in industry, in science, or in any other worthwhile activity of life by limiting his hours of labor."

So you work 7 days a week? What are you doing here btw? shouldn't you be working? :o)
Btw read about Gioachino Rossini, if you want to know about limiting work hours...



“The base issue here isn’t a discussion about how many hours we work... This is about egos and control.”

Aye, that’s the nub of it.

“This report implies coercion in its very existence.”

Despite the protestations above, the prospect of coercion is implicit because of the obvious tension between civil liberties and the system being proposed. (Maybe that counts as an “error,” and maybe those authoritarian implications – and efforts to downplay them - are why the line about “simply trying to start a conversation” sounds not entirely convincing.)

In the Radio 4 interview Ms Coote says she’s “talking about freedom,” while telling us that what’s best for us – all of us – just happens to match her own egalitarian leanings. Whether naively or disingenuously, she claims, when pressed, that she “isn’t talking about a new law that says you must only work 21 hours a week.” Presumably because she imagines everyone in the country will see the benefits of the simple life before the decade is out and they’ll never change their minds back again. Oddly, the report she co-authored didn’t have room for an assurance that this “inevitable” transformation would – and must - be purely voluntary. And you’d think a detail like that might be worth at least one unambiguous mention. And despite “talking about freedom,” Ms Coote seems quite excited by the prospect of “introducing measures to reduce the gradient between high and low earners, as this will tend to lessen resistance to shorter working hours,” and because “people’s view of whether they are paid fairly, or enough, tends to be influenced by how they see themselves in relation to others.” So no prospect of coercion there.

And a voluntary model doesn’t ring true. It jars with the tenor and assumptions of the report, and with the NEF’s track record. If the NEF proposal were to be realised in anything like the way Coote and Simms advocate and on the timescale they advocate, it’s very hard to see how it could hope to work on a non-coercive basis. Without some kind of collective penalty and formal pressure, doesn’t the ten year blueprint just fall apart? Could the nationwide rationing of employment operate on a voluntary, piecemeal basis? Isn’t that at odds with how human beings are? What if some sympathetic government liked the premise and saw the need for more than just “encouragement”? What would it imply for our interactions with other economies, or for emigration, or democracy? These basic questions are unaddressed by the authors, and hence the mockery and suspicion.

Ms Coote may give lip service to “freedom,” as she conceives it, but just pause for a second. Consider the kind of freedom she appears to have in mind - and the casual collectivist arrogance of her claims: “Living life at a slower pace, with more time to do everyday tasks, would cut carbon emissions and improve life satisfaction.” Is Ms Coote a mentalist and using her third eye, or is she just hugely presumptuous? How does she know what would improve my life, or yours? When did I sign up for this “slower pace,” “freed” from the “dispensable accoutrements of middle-class life”? Maybe I was horribly drunk at the time.

Then there’s the assumption that “instead of relying on consumer goods... people will be able to start doing things for themselves,” which apparently entails “growing their own food, walking and cycling rather than using motorised transport” and “mending and repairing things.” And note the disingenuous framing throughout the entire report: People will “be able to” do lots of unpaid labouring - they’ll be “free” to dig their own potatoes and darn their old socks. What the authors actually mean (and have chosen not to say explicitly) is that most people would probably *have* to do these tasks in order to survive. As Anna noted earlier, it sounds like a certain 1970s sitcom, but without Margo and Jerry.

And what about the claim that modern society leaves “us” unhappy and “fails to improve our well-being”? Again, who’s the “we” here? This doesn’t describe my experience or the experiences of most people I know. It’s straight from the Madeleine Bunting playbook of ostentatious hand-wringing. These assumptions are the ideological basis of the report and they’re aired several times, as if repetition made then true – true for everyone. But does it sound like your experience? And does all that unpaid manual labour sound much like freedom? The assumptions above sound more like the musings of a pretentious teenager; but they’re coming from adults who hope to influence government policy and determine the shape of our lives.

Chris S

You decadent bourgois, you ivory towered elitist, look at the peasant, see how he finds simple joy in the day to day labours. This is what you will want, and what you will be required to have. Rejoice in your new freedom.

"How people are encouraged to change has implications for civil liberties."

If it truely is the superiour way, it will need no encouragment. If it is more effecient and cost effective, it will become the new standard. What the NEF needs to do is get some like minded folk to run some companies in this manner, and then allow them to succeed or fail. Get a little real-world testing under their belt, you know, BEFORE they start fiddling with "civil liberties".


One for the man short of a picnic.


John Skookum

"We could save ourselves the time and inconvenience by burning down the offices of the NEF."

I like that idea. Even more, I like the idea of a mob storming the building, seizing anyone inside who has his name on an office door, dragging them into the street, and hanging them by their necks from lampposts until they are quite dead. To be followed by an even larger mob marching up Whitehall to put the rest of the poltroons on notice that if they spend one more farthing of taxpayer funds on such foolishness, they will share the same fate.

I don't think we can get rid of socialism until we get rid of the socialists, especially the academics corrupting our youths.


From David: "Ms Coote may give lip service to “freedom,” as she conceives it, but just pause for a second. Consider the kind of freedom she appears to have in mind - and the casual collectivist arrogance of her claims: “Living life at a slower pace, with more time to do everyday tasks, would cut carbon emissions and improve life satisfaction.” Is Ms Coote a mentalist and using her third eye, or is she just hugely presumptuous? How does she know what would improve my life, or yours? When did I sign up for this “slower pace,” “freed” from the “dispensable accoutrements of middle-class life”? Maybe I was horribly drunk at the time. "

Bingo. If there's one thing I don't get about the arrogant lefty types like Ms. Coote, it's their assumption that human beings do not want to work, and would be happier if they had to do less of it. Perhaps the people in her immediate circle fit this bill, but not the people I know. I come from a family of people who love work. I have a full-time job, a part-time teaching gig, and a consulting gig that I'm doing for free to build my credentials. I was raised to believe that people should be self-sufficient and hardworking, and that we are here to use our big brains to produce, create, inform, inspire, invent, change, and so on. Human beings are not means to sit around and live a slow pace of life, focusing on little other than our biological needs and trying to consume as few resources as possible. We evolved past that many years ago, thanks.

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