Technically, I already have.
If everyone drops to four, I’d probably end up living ‘the dream’ and dropping down to three. (I realise that sentence is probably somewhat offensive/insensitive to people who remember the three day week and the pain that bought to a lot of people, but I would advise that things are different now, and should be even more different in the future).
I’m no economist, so I probably haven’t looked into all the ramifications of this. But then as far as I can tell, economics is built on assumptions that don’t make real, practical sense, and don’t take into account the matters of ethics toward people and the world. If they did, our world wouldn’t look like it does out of the window.
Dropping to a four day week would have a good chance of giving everybody a job. You’ve just solved unemployment. Then everyone would be earning. Some people would be earning less, but there would be earning happening.
Feasibly, and debatably, at that point, the balance of power shifts some between employee and employer, and it becomes easier to unionise, or otherwise win battles with employers. This means that a living wage could easily be negotiated.
We’d probably all have to spend less money on stuff, but we’d also have more time to spend making our lives better for ourselves. Learning to sew or garden. Volunteering at local organisations.
The right mix of all of that, and quality of life for the worst off would improve immeasurably. The best off would probably notice a few priveliges shrinking. And the squeezed middle would probably initially feel a little squeezed. But everybody would be in it together, genuinely. People would be quite good at finding ways of making it work.
That’s what I believe, but then, I’m a lefty hippy.
The right (and possibly all of the less wafty) would probably tell me that companies would start making not enough profit and failing. Increased workers rights means companies fall apart. Small business can’t drive the economy. Share-holders suffer. The economy stagnates and dies.
They might be right. But actually, I think all of those things come down to expectation.
If businesses expect to have to treat their workers like people, and still make a profit, they’ll find a way of doing it. If people find they’ve got more time and less money, they may find ways to make up for this gap. They say time is money. I think time is much more valuable than the money you can earn with it.
An hour spent with a love one is worth more to me than my hourly wage.
I just can’t get over that bit of the equation. That bit that is missing from the economists equation.
The value of life is ignored.
This is only magnified when we switch to a global perspective.
We would have to buy less shit, but it is our buying shit lifestyles that is killing people, right now.
We need perspective.
Illustration by Jaime