In Defense of the Three-Day Work Week

Has “the job” as we now know it become obsolete?

Unemployment metrics have become the best proof that our economic recovery is incomplete. Free market advocates are using high unemployment figures to show that Keynesian-style government spending doesn’t really move the needle. Leftists use the same figures to argue that corporate capitalism has reached its endpoint: Investors make money in the stock market while real people earn less income, if they can find jobs at all. But what if joblessness were less of a bug than a feature of the new digital economy?

Don’t get me wrong. I feel the pain of those whose livelihoods have been replaced by computers and robots. In fact, we may be reaching a stage of technological efficiency once imagined only by science fiction writers and early cyberneticists: an era when robots can till the fields, build our houses, and even revive the sick. It’s an era that was supposed to be accompanied by more leisure time. If robots are doing all the work, shouldn’t we get to lie back and enjoy some iced tea?


But something is standing in the way of the prosperity we all deserve. The toll collector whose job is replaced by an RFID E-Z Pass doesn’t reap the benefit of the new technology. Instead, he’s out on his ass, looking for a new job in an economy where everyone else’s jobs have been replaced by one technology or another. The newspaper tells him to learn new programming skills so that he can be the one programming the E-Z Pass—but there are far fewer people required to program a toll collection computer than to collect the tolls manually. Nine out of 10 unnecessary workers are still without a path to gainful employment.

That is, if gainful employment is really the objective here. But is it? Who really wants a job, anyway? We may want money and security, but is that the same thing as a job? It hasn’t always been. In fact, hourly wage employment didn’t really appear until the late Middle Ages, with the rise of the chartered corporation. Until that time, people were craftspeople, service providers, and farmers who would bring their products to market. They traded, bartered, and used local currencies in order to provide and receive what they needed. The marketplaces of this period worked so efficiently that people actually worked a whole lot less than they do today. Three-day workweeks were common, and people ate four or five meals a day.

The problem with this thriving economy was that it left out the ultra-rich. When people make money by creating and exchanging value, it makes it awfully difficult for the wealthy to exploit them. So the wealthiest families of the time made deals with fledgling monarchies to gain exclusive dominion over particular industries. Craftspeople were no longer allowed to make and sell goods; they had to work for the chartered monopolies—the proto-corporations—that had the authority to make those products.

So people who once worked for themselves now had to go and find what became known as “jobs.” They no longer sold what they made. Instead, they sold their time—a form of indentured servitude previously only known to slaves. The invention of the mechanical clock coincided with this new understanding of labor as time, and made the buying and selling of human time seem more regulated and verifiable.

The time-is-money ethic became so embedded in our culture that few today question the importance, even the integrity, of getting a job. But we should. Not only are jobs an artifact of a very particular moment in history, and not only were they invented by an elite who had only their own best interests at heart, but they are obsolete in an era when machines can do so much more, and so much faster, than people can. It’s time we accept the dark truth that we don’t really need everyone to work 40 hours a week anymore. We have to wind down the clock, and remap our time and labor in a way that’s appropriate for a post-industrial society.

Those who want to live in luxury can work for a living. They can start by solving the real problems of our society: topsoil depletion, global warming, renewable energy, and so on. Some of these problems will be mitigated simply by taking our emphasis off the relentless quest to employ even more people the old way; others, like global distribution of resources or the lifting of stultifying trade agreements and debt on developing nations, will become more clear once we’re no longer worried about growing the economy to create more jobs. To begin with, we have to look at employment for what it is, remember where it came from, and treat it less like a goal than a relic.

Features

We've all felt lonely at some point in our lives. It's a human experience as universal as happiness, sadness or even hunger. But there's been a growing trend of studies and other evidence suggesting that Americans, and people in general, are feeling more lonely than ever.

It's easy to blame technology and the way our increasingly online lives have further isolated us from "real" human interactions. The Internet once held seemingly limitless promise for bringing us together but seems to be doing just the opposite.

Except that's apparently not true at all. A major study from Cigna on loneliness found that feelings of isolation and loneliness are on the rise amongst Americans but the numbers are nearly identical amongst those who use social media and those who don't. Perhaps more importantly, the study found five common traits amongst those who don't feel lonely.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

He risked his life to leave a "historical record of our martyrdom."

via Yad Vashem and Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007

In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. By April 1940, the gates closed on the Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in the country after Warsaw.

Throughout the war, over 210,000 people would be imprisoned in Lodz.

Among those held captive was Henryk Ross. He was a Jewish sports photographer before the Nazi invasion and worked for the the ghetto's Department of Statistics during the war. As part of his official job, he took identification photos of the prisoners and propaganda shots of Lodz' textile and leather factories.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities
WITI Milwaukee

Joey Grundl, a pizza delivery driver for a Domino's Pizza in Waldo, Wisconsin, is being hailed as a hero for noticing a kidnapped woman's subtle cry for help.

The delivery man was sent to a woman's house to deliver a pie when her ex-boyfriend, Dean Hoffman, opened the door. Grundl looked over his shoulder and saw a middle-aged woman with a black eye standing behind Hoffman. She appeared to be mouthing the words: "Call the police."

"I gave him his pizza and then I noticed behind him was his girlfriend," Grundl told WITI Milwaukee. "She pointed to a black eye that was quite visible. She mouthed the words, 'Call the police.'"

Keep Reading Show less
Good News


Rochester NY Airport Security passing insulting notes to travelers caught on tape www.youtube.com

Neil Strassner was just passing through airport security, something he does on a weekly basis as part of his job. That's when a contract airport security employee handed him a small piece of folded cardboard. Strassner, 40, took the paper and continued on his way. He only paused when he heard the security employee shouting back at him, "You going to open the note?"

When he unfolded the small piece of paper, Strassner was greeted with an unprompted insult. "You ugly!!!"

According to Strassner, and in newly released CCTV of the incident, the woman who handed him the note began laughing loudly.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Facebook: kktv11news

A post on the Murdered by Words subreddit is going viral for the perfect way a poster shut down a knee-jerk "double-standard!" claim.

It began when a Redditor posted a 2015 Buzzfeed article story about a single dad who took cosmetology lessons to learn how to do his daughter's hair.

Most people would see the story as something positive. A dad goes out of his way to learn a skill that makes his daughter look fabulous.

Keep Reading Show less
Lifestyle