3. SHARE AND REDUCE YOUR TIMELY COSTS
Unlike the working population from the 1890s through the 1940s, the present generation has not experienced a decrease in the workweek. During the first half of the century, the average workweek dropped from a seven-day, seventy- to eighty-hour week down to a five-day, forty-hour week with a gain in buying power. Since 1940, the workweek has remained the same and has been accompanied most recently by a loss of buying power.
The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics has tried since 1947 to track the "real, spendable earnings"--after federal taxes and inflation--of the average blue collar worker who represents about three-fifths of the work force.
Its figures say that a worker's purchasing power rose 23 percent in the 1950s and 13 percent in the 1960s but declined 2 percent from 1970 through 1979 and fell 5 percent during 1979 alone.
Compression will reestablish the trend of working fewer hours while enjoying an increase in buying power.
There are some who will not like the idea of a reduced workweek. For some business management, the idea of a reduced workweek means more bodies and overhead for the same amount of production. Such people are ignorant of the possibilities of telecomputation and NUSA Reforms, particularly the shift away from various, bureaucratic forms of indirect capitalism. * Among these inflationary, time-wasting, red-tape monsters are fringe benefits. Fringe services are an example of indirect capitalism, that is, an instance where the individual (caput) has lost direct control of his time.
Given the time, incentive and education, employees could manage more efficiently on their own. This shift to direct capitalism will eventually result in employees managing their own portfolios of pension, insurance, health, sick, and vacation time. They will use some of their free time to manage their future on an individual basis: direct capitalism. Or, if they choose not to manage their own well-being, they will pay an "ignorance" tax in addition to the cost of having someone else "serve" them. Eventually, the employer will record only the number of hours that an employee works and his hourly pay. Consequently, compression will not lead to more paperwork and overhead.
Basically, the ignorance tax will fine irresponsible people for the long-term cost of their behavior in addition to the cost of their basic requirements. Among these requirements are fringe benefits, social security, vacation, and sick pay. Presently, these non-individualized services punish the productive, responsible person for the shortcomings of his opposites.
The reforms would be simple. A person would be required to choose a bank in which he would open several accounts for the different areas of his personal well-being. In these accounts, he would have to put a different percentages of his wages comparable to the amounts that he presently pays in the form of fringe benefits.
The ignorance tax would be exacted upon those who did not put the required percentage of earnings into the accounts. In other words, if you won't save six percent of your wages for your retirement years, then you will be taxed twelve percent of your wages. Or, if you won't save three percent of your wages for health problems, then you will be taxed six percent for ignoring your personal well-being. People also presently pay a tax of six percent for retirement: Social Security. They are taxed a certain amount for forced health care in the form of foregone wages. In these cases of indirect capitalism--as always--the productive person is overtaxed because of the irresponsibility of those who otherwise ignore their future well-being.
One advantage of direct forms of capitalism is that people will be more responsible in these areas of human activity. A person won't feign sickness to the detriment of himself and others when he has to draw directly on the dollars in his personal sick account. The effect of some existing benefit packages is that many people take unwarranted sick days because they cannot be converted into cash like vacation days.
In the proposed fringe portfolios, time spans will be set on how long the money must remain in the account. A democratic process could no doubt establish how long the money must remain in a particular account before it can be drawn out and spent. For instance, one's sickness account might have a ten-year limit. If one has not been sick for ten years, the money can be drawn out and spent. In each succeeding sickness-free year, the person will be able to spend the money he put aside ten years ago.
The incentive to stay healthy is much greater in a system of direct capitalism than in existing fringe benefit plans. The pooled resources in present fringe services are nothing more than a form of communism. Communal fringe services reward deceit, dishonesty, and hypochondria. They are the embodiments of the communist maxim "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
Some businessmen will oppose workweek compression for reasons other than logistics. A few, well-placed individuals believe that they will benefit from enslaving the masses to as many hours of work as possible. A special ignorance tax should be enacted on their despotic thinking!
Forty-Hour Workweek: Sacred?
Some businessmen, however, are aware that the forty-hour workweek is not compatible with modern society. They have already begun restructuring their work environment to flow with the developing attitude that less may be more. They give impetus to the idea that the "regular 40-hour workweek is a relic of history for more than one fifth of the U.S. work force, and the proportion may grow rapidly."
The rapidity with which the workweek shortens will depend on comfortable businessmen seeing the light. Liberation from the forty-hour workweek depends on the awakening of workers to the advantages of compressing the workweek: buying power and free time. Employees in the late 1800s knew this, and they struck and rioted for a shorter workweek.
On May 4, 1886, a riot occurred in Haymarket Squire in Chicago. People protesting for an 8-hour day clashed with police. Seven police and four workers were killed when a bomb exploded. Progress, however, marched on. Both the police and the workers benefited from the eventual reduced workweek with more buying power. Hopefully, the next major round of compression can be accomplished without a clash between the two sides that benefited from the last major reduction. Hopefully, the police in union with teachers and firemen will be in the front ranks of those marching for a shorter workweek and more buying power.
Before examining contemporary precedents such as "work-sharing" or military parallels (brevetcy), consider why the workweek was not compressed after the Second World War. Compression failed to continue primarily because of the Depression. The Depression altered people's sense of wealth. People went from balancing material comfort and free time to amassing material wealth. During the Depression, Americans sought any work and worked as many hours as possible.
This attitude became a cornerstone of post-war union demands: more money for the same amount of time rather than fewer hours. Another cornerstone was seniority as a means of avoiding unemployment. Seniority generated a class of workers that continued to support the production of nonessential goods and services while the unemployed could not afford essentials.
In the end, seniority is a losing proposition. The employed lose income because of inflation which occurs in the understimulated essential industries. Seniority, along with other employment factors, imbalances production. Seniority burdens a system with increased unemployment costs and inflationary prices that reflect the shortage of essential goods caused by understimulation. This is happening today: Look our unstable economy, see what industries are suffering, and notice where the highest price rises are. (See "Coflation" in NOBILIS.)
Today, the imbalance of production has reached the point where the imbalanced system can no longer support the unnecessary burden of unemployed people. The solution? Compress the workweek.
Compressing the workweek will not only prevent the next global depression but could have prevented the last Depression. The last Depression--as well as the present global depression that began elsewhere in 1965--is marked by the employed "haves" and the unemployed "have-nots." A depression is exacerbated when the employed continue to stimulate the less essential industries while the more essential industries suffer from a lack of stimulation. The latter reflects how a growing number are unable to afford essentials because of no income. This disparity imbalances the system of production: essential production collapses while less essential continues to boom for a fewer few.
As essential production collapses, prices escalate in response to developing shortages. Is this happening in America today? Consider two headlines only a week apart in one publication: "There's No Recession In the Luxury Market" and "Companies Going Broke--How Big a Danger?" The ailing companies manufacture essentials: "Chrysler Corporation, International Harvester and other major companies are just the tip of the iceberg."
Depressions can be stopped by compressing the workweek. If the amount of work is divided up among the able-bodied, the stimulation of essential industries continues. This stimulation prevents shortage inflation.
NUSA Reforms is not a call for everyone to be paid the same. Compression of the workweek will not erase levels of payments based on the quality of one's production or effort. With compression, all capable persons have the same number of hours to be rewarded for their effort. Without compression, fewer and fewer people will the opportunity to perform, and the rest of us will lack the goods or services that might otherwise exist. For pragmatic reasons, compression means an end to people hogging the available production time for an elevated standard of living in a dying economy.
The validity of compression preventing or stopping a depression can be seen in the end of the last Depression. This position can be understood if one recognizes that
taxes are a form of collecting time from a worker, in a sense, shortening the actual workweek that he works for himself.
That is, taxes represent an increase in the time that one works for public problems and a decrease (compression) of the time that one works for himself.
During the 1930s, the government funded work projects and war expenses through present or future taxes (the National Debt). This taxing of the working people effectively reduced the private workweek that the employed persons actually worked for themselves. This time, taken from the employed, was given to the unemployed. By taxing the employed to help the unemployed, the government proceeded to rebalance the economy.
The compression of the workweek within the "New Deal" provided stimulation to essential industries and inhibited less essential production by reducing disposable income for the employed. Importantly, it renewed wealth flow, that is, the creation of the wealth at the bottom which eventually trickled up for the more industrious individuals (or the legal thieves, unfortunately).
Compression has worked. It will work again. Will it be instituted before the next financial collapse or afterwards?
Precedents: Military Bust/Booms and Work Sharing
Other precedents exist besides the historical compression of the workweek which halted in the 1940s. One example has been around, on and off, during every military conflict. With each war, the military blossoms and booms with rapid promotions into higher positions of management for the regulars. Non-coms become officers. At the end of the war, whether Civil, First, Second, Korean, or Vietnam, the wind-down involves a deflation of the ranks. As the temporary citizen soldiers return to private life, the bootstrap officers are demoted to their original ranks.
Similarly, the civilian work force should expand or contract based on the number of unemployed. If unemployment rises due to gains in technology and productivity, the workweek can be further compressed with a gain in buying power as a result of productivity gains.
Contemporary examples of compression are increasing, but not fast enough. The following quotations sum up the benefits of compression, especially an increase in productivity and the enriching effect of more heads on the same job.
As an alternative to layoffs, job sharing is becoming increasingly popular. Under this arrangement, two people voluntarily share one full-time position--responsibilities, salary and benefits. Both are part-time employees.
The above summary on worksharing is correct except for one claim: the workers do not "take proportionately less pay." If the total impact of unemployment is considered on the human environment, no one takes a cut in pay when work is shared.
Sadly, senior workers demand seniority privileges that are self-defeating; full-time employment for them forces full-time unemployment on junior workers. The senior workers' pay is not really preserved. Increased taxes and inflation due to rises in unemployment cut into their buying power. Inversely, they could directly reduce the total number of hours that they work in order to retain increased private employment. This reduction would prevent the increased taxes and inflation that would otherwise reduce their pay.
Organized labor objects to work-sharing because it is considered unfair to senior workers. If labor officials understood how increased inflation and taxation from unemployment shortens the personal workweek anyway, they would not so readily object to compression of the workweek. Their present course of "paybacks" ignores and clouds compression as the viable alternative to increased unemployment.
The following quotations describe the short-sightedness of union officials. The present seniority system forces full-time unemployment and shortage inflation. In their ignorance, union officials are forcing senior workers to face higher taxes and inflation (in the essentials) when they become senior, retired citizens.
But, presently, seniority actually generates hardship for the senior workers and senior citizens.
Nothing is gained by hogging production time until age 65. This hoarding of time generates the rising crime, inflation, and taxation that haunt the aged. As a retired senior worker, do you want higher taxes and inflation? Do you want unemployed, unskilled and resentful youth in your world?
The overtaxation and inflation affecting the senior citizens' savings (time) is simply economic reality taking back the production time that they hogged during their working years. The savings of the aged is not merely a savings of currency. Savings signify the hours of production that a person salted away for those later years when one cannot work. With one's savings of the current symbols of time, one expects to buy the time of the workers who follow. However, if one hogs the time and opportunity to work, one should not expect a productive generation to follow.
Inflation due to low productivity results when the total workweek is not reduced during unemployment. Regardless of whether the total legal workweek is reduced or not, the personal workweek is going to be compressed. If unemployment goes unchecked, inflation, taxes and crime reduce the number of hours that one privately works for oneself. Compression is logical. Legally and officially implemented, compression will prevent necrotic compression: higher taxes, crime, and inflation.
Worklife: Spread of Hours
The forty-hour workweek should be a relic of the past for more reasons than just the ones given above. Another rational reason is the total number of hours you will work during your life. Should the work hours of your "worklife" transpire in a consolidated block of forty-five years (ages 20 to 65) or be spread out over a longer, more leisurely period?
Presently, the average person will work 90,000 hours during his worklife based on a work span of 45 years (age 20 to 65) and an average of 2,000 hours per year (50 weeks x 40 hrs). Why does this 90,000 hour worklife have to occur in such a chunk, especially in light of high teenage unemployment and unwillingly retirees? America would be better off if the work life was stretched to a 65 year span by reducing the number of hours of employment per week.
While certain restrictions would be made on the type and extent of employment at the start, there is no reason why children could not begin working at the age of 10 after or before school for a limited number of hours. This happens already in the form of babysitting, paper routes, and grass cutting. On the other end, the useful worklife can be justifiably extended to 75 years thanks to the miracles of modern medicine. Under these conditions, the work life would be 65 years which, for a level of 90,000 workhours, would mean 1384 hours per year or 27 hours per week.
Realistically, this 27-hour workweek is an average. Restrictions would be put on how many hours a person could work up to a certain age. For instance, children between the ages of 10 and 12 could only work 10 hours in certain occupations. At age 13, their allowable workweek could be extended to fifteen hours with an expansion of the allowable occupations. At sixteen, the week could go to twenty hours; at eighteen, the person would be allowed to work the full-regular workweek of 30 hours. A condition of employment would be enrollment in educational courses at a passing performance; otherwise, restrictions would be placed on how many hours persons could work because of their failure to educate themselves. Or an ignorance tax could be exacted.
Compared to the present work and educational time spans, the above worklife has several advantages. The work starts earlier and grows gradually instead of a sudden jump from zero hours to forty hours. People could become acclimated to holding a job and would recognize the benefits. There is probably no better teacher of responsibility than a paying job and a savings account. If one is not participating in general education, the above restrictions on earnings will eliminate the present mess, e.g., sixteen-year-olds who quit school to buy a car and some clothes to show their former classmates that they "made it."
Similar to the worklife, the educational span should be stretched. What is so sacred about a block of forty-hour school weeks for twelve years? Presently, education ends suddenly when the student drops out, finishes high school, or completes college. Education would be better if it peaked during the mid-teens and tapered down to a few hours a week by the mid-twenties for the rest of the worklife. Ideally, people and their nation progress faster and farther if a little time is continually devoted to self-improvement.
Enforcement is simple: restrictions on how many hours an individual can work will prompt continued education. In other words, if you don't successfully continue your education, your pay is taxed at a higher rate.
People should be directly taxed if they ignore educating themselves as problem-solvers. This direct tax on ignorance will prevent the greater taxation caused by ignored problems which surface as inflation, unemployment, and crime. (The moral: a stitch in time ....) The courses of education will be within the existing educational settings with the freedom to choose academic pursuits. No blackshirts or brownshirts will despotically try to shape people's thoughts.
This paragraph is an appeal to the people in education. The writing is on the wall--existing political parties are willing to write off education. Reaganites allowed the Department of Education to deteriorate significantly. As all the NUSA/AESOP writings show, NUSA is devoted to improving education in quantity and quality. The future of education is dead under the Democrats and Republicans; under the Democratic Capitalists (Demcapu for short), the golden age is before you.
Parallels and Parables
Before providing specific details on the implementation of compression, a number of parallels--or parables, if you will--will be offered. These will provide insight into why one should not work overtime when there are able-bodied people without jobs.
"Overtime" is not a matter of working more than a prescribed, arbitrary number of hours, e.g., more than the traditional forty. Overtime is relative. Overtime is when a fully employed person works hours that should be worked directly by the unemployed. As such, overtime fuels the fires of inflation and violence. Higher taxes fund the defense against elevated domestic or foreign violence brought on by chronically unemployed people.
In the following parallels or parables, consider how the person who works overtime (instead of compressing his work schedule) ends up with both lost work and gained violence.
If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime--if you provide him an opportunity to fish. If you hog the fishing pole, hole, or boat, you must expect to give some of your catch (i.e., your time) to those whom you have denied the opportunity to fish. Or, if you plan on hogging the catch as well, plan on spending more time guarding yourself, both on and off the job. The rising hunger and anger will make your life worth less and less.
Wouldn't it be better to share the fishing time? You'll have more leisure time, and your leisure time will be carefree. Or do you measure your wealth solely in fish rather than in time? Of the two, which is the commodity of your very existence?
Company in a Small Town
If a depression on the scale of the 1930s depression returns, do you think that people will be as quiescently accepting as they were in the 1930s? No. Even if people do not lose some sense of community in the face of hardship, would you really want to be one of the few people working in a company-owned town where your friends and relatives come begging food? Or would you rather let them work the very hours you spent earning the money to buy the food that you "must" share with them? Worse, are you going to deny them some of your food and time so that your friendship vanishes? Will you become a roadblock to their employment? After all, if you hog a job and don't share your earnings, your death would create a job opening for someone who might be more humane. Wouldn't the most productive action be to work less, rather than have the value of your workweek cut down by unnecessary charity or demise?
Seniority: An Ignorance Tax?
During times of unemployment, every hour of overtime or seniority stokes the flames of inflation, taxes, and violence. These fires of inflationary suffering haunt the elderly more so than the young. Hardship also from within the family; abuse of all kinds--aged, spouse, and child--rises as unemployment does. In a tragic sense, many senior citizens brought on their feared problems by trying to beat inflation in the wrong way. Without animosity, one must sadly state that their punishment is an ignorance tax: Ignorance is bliss ... only for a while.
Wouldn't the most productive path be worksharing? If work is shared, the younger generation won't turn to violence and prey on the old. If the young are given the opportunity to learn and to produce, the aged will have less to fear. They will have needed goods and services at lower prices.
Clearly, it is counterproductive for a union to defend seniority privileges. Do union officials really believe that they can continue to draw fat salaries while the rank and file are reduced by unemployment? Seniority and overtime abuse is no good to anyone.
Would the allies have won the Second World War if the career personnel had decided to fight the whole thing alone, provided they were given all the wages that would otherwise have gone to hire a larger army? Imagine where we would be today if the career military personnel had argued that they were more productive per worker than an army of trained civilians! What if they had argued that the way to win the war was to have the highest productivity per worker, even if it meant an army of one person?
Similarly, the war against inflation, unemployment, taxation, and violence cannot be won by fewer and fewer senior workers thinking that they can beat inflation and turn the economy around. And a group of habitual politicians cannot turn the country around by increasing their salaries and expense accounts.
The available work, whether in war, factories, or policy-making must be optimally divided among the able-bodied, able-minded citizens. We need higher productivity per capita in all these endeavors.
A growing global friction exists between the "have" and "have-not" nations. Behind the material wealth is employment opportunity. What are the results if the "have" nations do not directly share the available workhours? A loss of the workhours through futile combat will certainly be one result.
International tension and violence will increase with global unemployment. If the people and the politicians of the Northern Hemisphere do not directly share the opportunities to produce, the problem of chronic unemployment will continue to drain both hours and wages. If world-wide essential production lags, the stimulation of non-essential production by the "have" nations is nothing but momentary inequity. Time is running out; the imbalanced world economy will collapse. Compression can save it.
Ironically, the "haves" foolishly gloat over their abundant wealth. They do not realize how much wealth they would have if compression had started long ago. Even at this late date, compression would enable workers in the major industrial nations to work less and have more.
The United States stands alone in its ability to lead the world into compression. With global compression, the U.S. could be the managerial and educational center of the world. The U.S. worker would work less than 16 hours a week on the average. Our material wealth would double at the minimum.
Summary on Compression Concept
In times of unemployment, the employed must directly compress their total workhours or face indirect compression through inflation, taxes, and violence. Overtime is self-destructive.
The work that is available each week, month, or year should be consciously divided among the available, able-bodied persons. If there is enough work to keep all the work force employed forty hours per week, then the forty-hour week is fine. However, if there is only enough work to keep half the work force employed at forty hours, then a twenty hour workweek should be the maximum. If compression is not done in a conscious, peaceful and organized way, the workweek will be violently compressed as a result of rising inflation, unemployment, taxation, and tension.
A human system of production becomes imbalanced when people's time is not productively organized. An example of poor organization is full-time employment for some in the face of full-time unemployment for others. Presently, many workers put in forty-hour workweeks even though their personal workweeks are less than two-thirds of that total. Active compression of the total workweek will rebalance the economy. The active workers of today will gain buying power as the total number of workhours nears the number of hours that they work for themselves.
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