Something that I’ve found over and over again when considering the arguments of “the left” is their incredible disconnection from reality. One only needs to cast a brief eye on the utterances of any Labour politician to get a feel for what I mean, but it’s even more disturbing when it comes from a group of people who laughably describe themselves as a “think tank”.
Yet here we have the amusingly named new economics foundation (all in eye-catching lowercase, natch!) who feel that the answer to unemployment is that we should all work less, so that everyone can have a fair slice of the employment pie:
According to nef, there are several forces pushing us towards a shorter working week: lasting damage to the economy caused by the banking crisis, an increasingly divided society with too much over-work alongside too much unemployment, and an urgent need for deep cuts in environmentally damaging over-consumption. These combine with a growing interest in people spending more time producing and delivering a share of their own goods and services – from co-produced care and neighbourhood-based activities, to food, clothing and other necessities.
I hardly know where to start with this rubbish, but I’ll have a go anyway: the lasting damage to the economy was actually caused by the Labour government’s reprehensible corporatist response to the banking crisis; people are not overworking for fun, but are rather just struggling to make ends meet in a country where the pound has collapsed against all other currencies; and it’s clearly bypassed the mental giants at nef that in a recession, people aren’t indulging in “environmentally damaging over-consumption” any more. The idea that people want to revert to a subsistence agrarian economy again is clearly stupid and inevitably the product of woolly-minded Islington residents who have overindulged in Polly Toynbee columns.
“So many of us live to work, work to earn, and earn to consume. And our consumption habits are squandering the earth’s natural resources”, says Anna Coote, co-author of the report and Head of Social Policy at nef. “Spending less time in paid work could help us to break this pattern. We’d have more time to be better parents, better citizens, better carers and better neighbours. And we could even become better employees: less stressed, more in control, happier in our jobs and more productive. It is time to break the power of the old industrial clock, take back our lives and work for a sustainable future.”
Ahhh, Ms Coote, Ms Coote. Perhaps in your social circles, too many people “live to work, work to earn, and earn to consume” – after all, you do want to get those divine olives from the local deli before the proles head in, they never appreciate it anyway! As a parent myself, 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 who’s 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 rest of the report is so fatuous, I can scarcely bring myself to read it. I suppose that when you’re stealing £250,000 a year of tax-payers’ hard-earned, it’s easy to argue for a 50% wage cut. I wonder how someone scraping by on the minimum wage would feel about some jumped-up condescending know-it-all, who, after a 50% pay cut, is still in the top 1% of earners in the country, telling them that it’s in their best interests to starve.
Or perhaps it’s only the “proles” who are supposed to job-share, while our lords and masters continue to selflessly work themselves to the bone on our behalf.