SACRED 40-HOUR WORKWEEK
As the traditional career bastions--government, business and military--downsize, where will discharged workers find work? Similarly, if these three primary employment engines are not hiring, where will young people find work, let alone find careers? Most foreboding are the career reversals in healthcare, financial service and information management: Aren't these supposed to be high growth fields for future career security?
Not only high school but college graduates have bleak employment statistics: 35% of college students won't (under our current employment laws) find jobs in their career field ever despite investing over four years and $100,000.
The problem is the sacred 40-hour workweek. Between exploding population and exploding technology, the average workweek should be imploding to fewer hours. In reality, the workweek is less than 40 hours after you subtract the time you work to pay taxes--16 hours. We really have a 24-hour workweek.
Our ancestors worked almost 80 weekly hours in 1900. From the time-savings and productivity gains of the agricultural and industrial revolution, they almost halved the workweek by the 1930's. We can have a shorter workweek with the time-savings from the information/management revolution. Or, if we continue to convert the time into unemployment, we face political revolution from social and economic collapse.
A 1% rise in unemployment causes 33,000 suicides. What's the rise in spouse/child abuse, drug abuse, D.U.I. deaths and stress illnesses. We can either share the available work through the timeclock or through crime and taxes.
De Facto Workweek
Most taxes can be tied to the problems of unemployment. In particular, unemployment or underemployment is the fertilizer of the expensive crime and violence in our lives. As taxes increase, one works less for oneself and more for others. Why not let others work for themselves directly rather than indirectly through the tax system? If we don't share work through the time clock, we will share through taxes and crime.
Underemployment: Fewer hours or lower wages
For both young and old workers, a large problem is underemployment. Trained college graduates can't find career jobs. Discharged older workers can't find jobs with good pay or benefits. The age gap between the two extremes is narrowing each year.
We can be underemployed in one of two ways. We can work 40 hours at low wages. Or, by sharing the work, we can have a shorter workweek at higher wages.
In both cases of underemployment, people have the same disposable income. One approach festers the stressed-out worker, fostering violence at work, home and in between. The other leads to a safer, saner world.
A Bathroom in Every Home
Our increasingly overpopulated world is like a growing family with only one bathroom. When the childless parents first moved in, there was no competition. With each new child, demand increases.
Rules are needed. "First come, first serve" and "Might makes right" are not the rules for domestic or social tranquility. Both bathroom and workweek time must be shared for each person to have an opportunity to meet their daily needs. Failure to share will pollute our nest as individuals use backporches or kitchens to relieve themselves.
Technology: A Double-Edged Sword
Where are all the kids coming from who want bathroom privileges in the workforce? Clearly, more are being born each year. Another factor is overlooked: Technology is cutting the time needed to produce the goods and services needed to support humanity. Computers have reduced or eliminated the need for, among others, receptionists, artists, architects, mechanics, conductors, printers and pilots.
In many cases, non-professionals can now do the job faster than professionals could a decade ago. A conscientious high-schooler with a wordprocessor and spellchecker can compete with the average 1970's secretary. Why pay middle-age, middle-class compensation when a machine and a kid will do the job? Not only are more family members wanting to use our limited bathroom resources but our neighbors are knocking on our door because their facilities have been eliminated.
Technology is reducing the number of opportunities to meet our natural needs. If we don't share the resources then our environment is going to be polluted as individuals meet their needs in whatever way they can. For processing human waste, wouldn't you rather share your bathroom than your bushes, porch, garage, sidewalk or kitchen?
Whether in the workforce or the bathroom, the sane and safe solution is to reduce the maximum time that a person has to fulfill his obligation to his personal well-being. Rather than letting a person take as much time as possible, we need to limit the time. Let's counsel people to fulfill hygiene functions smarter, not longer. Do you really need to put your mascara on in the bathroom? If you want more money, do a better job rather than look for more overtime or a second job. Educate yourself to use a razor instead of tweezers.
Taxes, Mandates and Regulations
Technology is not alone in reducing work opportunity. When bad government policies reduce profits, companies lay off employees. If laws did not force companies to evaluate "per employee" cost in taxes, mandates and regulations, they would hire more employees. In parallel example, if the homeowner did not face a tax on bathrooms, he might build another bath.
Don't laugh. Among the taxes against which we fought our war of independence from "taxation without representation" was a "room" tax. After the revolutionary war, it was a long time before houses were built with closets because King George III had classified closets as rooms. Many wardrobe antiques owe their existence to this tax. If they had existed, there would have been added taxes for each water closet.
Vicious Cycle of Decline
Unfortunately, the response of individuals and businesses to rising taxes is a self-defeating vicious cycle. In a world of declining work opportunities, employers discharge workers who become a tax-burden, in part or whole, temporarily or permanently. This causes higher taxes ... declining profit margins ... more taxes ... more layoffs ... ad infinitum. Similarly, the employee in the face of rising taxes and inflation seeks additional employment to maintain a standard of living.
Hogging the available work causes conditions that increase the taxes, crime and inflation. The vicious cycle repeats. More taxes, mandates and regulations--for employers and employees-from government simultaneously lock the bathroom doors and inducing diarrhea.
Businesses don't benefit from technology's savings in time and dollars by laying off people. The laid off people have to be supported. The tax-supported are not tax-payers. Their former employers pay the taxes. Short-term savings from technology gains are long-term losses if the savings are converted into longer unemployment lines instead of shorter workweek jobs.
Eliminating the hidden costs of unemployment (taxes, crime and inflation) from America's products will make them more competitive on global markets--our import/export problems will disappear. To benefit from the time-savings of technology, we need to reduce the average worktime. Productivity gains should result in shortened workweeks not increased unemployment, crime and taxes. The problems that come from people being locked out of the bathroom are many and unavoidable. It takes less time to share the water closet than to clean up soiled houses and grounds.
Individual Rights or Human Wrongs
Are your individual rights violated when someone tells you that you can't work more than 24 hours each week? Actually, it depends on how you are told. What if you couldn't work more than 24 hours without getting paid overtime?
Will your boss agree to starting overtime at 24 hours instead of 40? Motivating businesses to pay overtime sooner requires two things that go hand-in-hand.
First of all, businesses are paying overtime at 24-hours like the individual who only works 24-hours for himself out of 40 hours. In both cases, it is called taxes. Because many people cannot find gainful employment in private enterprise, politicians have metastasized an unending collection of bureaucracies. (Recall list of tax programs in the Foreword.) The bureaucrats collect taxes to fund the payrolls of the productively unemployed from welfare to regulators.
In essence, a welfared person is on a private company's payroll. Phantom employees are indirectly supervised by government bureaucrats. They do nothing or, worse, get pregnant. By shortening the workweek, business can directly supervise all people on their direct and indirect payroll with more productive results than more mouths to feed or more toilets to clean.
Secondly, businesses won't pay overtime sooner unless they get something in return for directly managing more people: fewer taxes, mandates and regulations. What businessman wouldn't trade a tax obligation and mandate for a new employee. Government, in fact, is trying to do this with tax credits and earned income credits.
Is it altruistic to shorten the workweek to share the available, dwindling work? No. When one works more than the ideal workweek length, one ends up working through taxes, crime and inflation for those who can't find work. Is it smart to work unnecessarily for others? Is it smart to be the ultimate cause of the crime that you feel?
It's too late to offer work to the jobless after robberies, rapes, murders and riots. An enlightened person initiates and supports reforms to prevent crime. Shortening the workweek is a win-win situation for both victims and victimizers.
Ideal Workweek Length
There is an ideal workweek for a given population: total workhours divided by able-bodied workers. Anyone working beyond the ideal workweek (overtime or second job) licenses the unemployed to respond in kind, "You can't work as much as you want." And, the unemployed are saying this all the time ... and, it's called crime as well as taxes and inflation.
On moral and practical grounds, does someone have the right to say you can't work more than a certain number of hours each week? Yes. When you work more than an ideal number of hours each week then you are telling someoneelse that they can't work as much as they want to or need to work.
Suppose you declare that because you get up first that you are going to camp out in the bathroom. By virtue of your denying others the right to use the bathroom, or to work, you have given them a practical, self-initiated license to return in kind. An insane Abbot and Costello routine would ensure, "Who gets up first?" Can sanity and sanitation rule when people become obsessed with toilet time?
How do the unemployed use this license? It's called crime and violence. Time is money. When an unemployed person burglarizes or robs, he equalizes the workweek. By taking something for which you worked, your workweek is being proportionally reduced.
If you are murdered, then your worklife has been rendered useless as you rendered useless others' lives by monopolizing the available work beyond the ideal workweek length. While they may not be conveying this sentiment in these words, unemployed criminals exercise the license you gave them, "You're working too much, give me some of the work."
The real civil rights movement was and is one of shared work opportunity. The U.S. Civil Rights movement is a part of a larger human problem. Unfortunately, minorities who "make it" turn their backs on those who still haven't made it. They work overtime and second jobs.
The real civil rights movement is sharing the available work. The benefits will be a safer, saner world. If we do not do what is right then we will suffer what is wrong.
Work Ethic, Family Values and Societal Safety
If you give a man to fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime ... if you allow him to fish. Otherwise, you force him to steal fish.
If we don't share the work then we should not be surprised at the demise of the work ethic. If we don't share the work then election-seeking politicians formulate the family-destroying welfare programs. The societal safety nets are really hangmen's nooses. We ultimately cause the conditions we deplore.
Summary and Solution
The sanctity of the 40-hour workweek has made life on earth a hotter hell for more human beings. Employment reforms can initiate a 24-hour workweek in 4 years with less crime and taxes and more time and money for self, family and community.
The solution is to convert the money wasted on the programs for unemployment problems (crime, welfare, foodstamps, etc.) into refinancing loans of current workers. In exchange for lower interest payments, current workers will reduce their workweek by having overtime start earlier for them. Business, of course, will benefit from a reduction in taxes, mandates and regulations.
A 1-hour reduction in the average workweek creates a 140,000,000 workhour pool: 3.5 million real jobs! The solution to the problems of unemployment is an enlightened reduction of the workweek.
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