Students Against (Real) Work—French Edition Revised

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As all the world knows, students and union workers have taken to the streets of Paris to protest against a law that would allow French employers to fire young workers during their first 3 years on the job. These events reminded me of an encounter I had more than a decade ago when I was on a European vacation. While traveling in Greece, I met a 20-something Spanish guy who had just been hired by Guinness for their Asian office. He frankly told me that it had taken years for him to finally get a "real job." Why? Because he explained, employers can't fire people after they hire them, therefore they are very careful about the few people they choose to employ. He laughed and predicted, "I'm the last European that my division will ever hire."

Claire Berlinsky, writing in the Washington Post's Outlook section yesterday, cites a wonderful and telling line from one of the young protestors:

[T]he students on the streets today espouse economic views entirely unpolluted by reality. If the CPE [the new law] is enacted, said one young woman, "You'll get a job knowing that you've got to do every single thing they ask you to do because otherwise you may get sacked."

Imagine that.

Indeed, just imagine.

Berlinsky concludes:

The fear of the mob has created a cadre of politicians in France who are unable to speak the truth and thereby prepare French citizens for the inevitable. No one in France–not one single politician, nor anyone in the media–is willing to say it: France's labor laws are an absurdity, and if they are not reformed at once, France will go under.

Whole thing here.

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  1. Is the weather in Paris particularly nice right now? The need for a day off during good weather is the ONLY remotely rational explanation I can find for this particular protest. If there is a dumber law in Europe than this one, I’d love to see it. And the quoted article deserves the Pulitzer for describing the protester’s opinions as “entirely unpolluted by reality.” I want that writer to publish a book about this, soon.

  2. Could anti-business laws like this possibly have something to do with the 10% plus unemployment rate in France?…..Nah.

  3. As I (mis?)understand it, it’s 10% plus among 30+ year-old white people. It’s 20% plus among young and brown people and somewhere around 50%ish among people with Islamic sounding names.

  4. When I was in college, I did a little study. I adjusted work hours from the time of modern labor laws (thank God America was once a progressive nation) and the forty hour work week in 1912 to the time I returned to college back in ’92. What I discovered was that, adjusted for inflation and productivity per capita, over that 80 year period, the forty hour work week should be 10. TEN HOURS (it’s probably about 7 hours now). All the extra productivity goes into the pockets of the .5% of the population at the top of the ladder.

    Unlike dummy American sheep, these French kids know this.

    JMJ

  5. Jersey: You’re being especially ironic, right? I am sure that it work just 7 hours per week you can live much closer to the same level of poverty as most people did in 1912. You know most people didn’t have phones, refrigerators, cars, central heating, no air conditioning–the list is endless. Please tell me that you’re joking.

  6. I am happy to see that Karen & JMJ have joined the cause I inspired.

    Vive la France!

  7. Jersey,

    So open your own business and have all your employees work a 10 hour week. Let me know how that works out for you.

  8. Ten hours a week sounds a bit unreasonable, but I AM wondering when this much-vaunted “increased productivity” we keep hearing about will result in people having to work less.

    Of course, I still think that without the labor laws passed in the 20th century, six-day workweeks of 12-hour days would still be the norm.

  9. Jersey,

    So open your own business and have all your employees work a 10 hour week. Let me know how that works out for you.

  10. Jersey:

    I surely hope that you’re purposefully omitting the facts that Ron points out in order to make a point about the absurdity of the argument that you put forth. I’ve never known you to be that ignorant.

  11. “Ten hours a week sounds a bit unreasonable, but I AM wondering when this much-vaunted “increased productivity” we keep hearing about will result in people having to work less.”

    As the baseline of the quality of living rises, so do the requirements to keep this quality up and running. As Ron notes above, I’m sure you could work only 20 hours per week, and maintain a standard of living that was more common 50 years ago.

    In other words, if the quality of life stays static, then you can have a corresponding decrease in work hours as productivity increases. But if the quality of life is constantly increasing, then it must offset any gains in time that are created by increased productivity. Until we hit a major landmark era in artificial intelligence, this will not change.

    But, by all means, you are completely free to work for 20 hours a week, and live at the quality of life that was standard in 1945.

  12. “without the labor laws passed in the 20th century, six-day workweeks of 12-hour days would still be the norm.”

    So, Jen, if it worked so well the first time, why not just pass some more labor laws that restrict the workweek to 3 days, 4 hours per day? Sure would free up a lot of time for us all.

  13. Actually, the productivity gains are lost to monetary inflation. The government prints out enough money so prices go up a few percent a year. If they weren’t doing that, prices would actually decline every year.

    Say productivity gains would have made things 25% cheaper overall and the federal reserve increases the money supply so that prices actually increase 3%. The financial press then praises Greenspan and the fed wildly for “keeping inflation under control”. As if inflation is something that just spontaneously happens and the fed is there to protect us.

    So actually Jersey is right. The people who are at the top of the ladder benefit: those that recieve the new money first. The government, large banks, etc.

    Unfortunately, the people in France want to blame everything on capitalism and want more government.

  14. France will go under.

    I’ve seen assertions similar to this before, that France is on the edge of financial collapse. How accurate it this? How close, if at all, is the end? And, if it does happen, will they accept absentee bids at the national bankruptcy auction?

  15. We have a German exchange student at my workplace who had been begging for an internship while she was here. She’s a smart, eager kid who knows this will give her an advantage in the European job market which has a ridiculous amount of entry barriers for the reasons stated in the Paris piece. But the practically non-existent jobs offer lots of time off, so it’s all good.

  16. I AM wondering when this much-vaunted “increased productivity” we keep hearing about will result in people having to work less.

    “Increased productivity” doesn’t necessarily have to mean we will work less. It can also mean that we can have more. This is apparently the route most of our society has chosen.

  17. Sure would free up a lot of time for us all.

    the adoption of creative workweek reorganization and flexibility does not allow for more free time in total, but by providing the same amount of free time in more meaningful blocks gives employees more usable personal time to attend to their lives while not denying their employer the amount of work they are accustomed to receiving.

    i’m thinking specifically of condensed (ex: 4/10 hour days) forms of scheduling.

    employers have been adopting these without new laws and i hope that trend continues until it is the norm. it seems to me that everyone wins.

  18. Well, these protests are what you get when you expect everything to be handed to you on a stick by the government. I’m not sure any modern, first world nation exemplifies this more than France.

    “France’s labor laws are an absurdity, and if they are not reformed at once, France will go under.

    Other than the fact that the world economy would slightly and briefly suffer, what’s wrong with that?

  19. Of course, I still think that without the labor laws passed in the 20th century, six-day workweeks of 12-hour days would still be the norm.

    Yes, because we know that those strict labor laws in India have eliminated child labour, and garanteed that all people only work 40 hours a week for a living wage. After all, it IS the labour laws that allow us a short working week, right? It can’t have anything to do with worker productivity, capital investment, or competitive labour market, can it?

    Geez, think how great it would have been if they would have implemented a minimum wage and 40 hour work week in the neolithic period! They would have jumped right from the stone age, to living in a suburban gated community! Government labour laws are truly the fantastic invention of our times!

  20. Evan: “So, Jen, if it worked so well the first time, why not just pass some more labor laws that restrict the workweek to 3 days, 4 hours per day? Sure would free up a lot of time for us all.”

    Are you saying it didn’t free up a lot of time? Are you saying she’s arguing in favor of more vacation time? Is this something nonsensical or am I just not getting it?

  21. I don’t know what to make of that 10-hour-workweek thing, but it’s probably worth mentioning that

    (1) refrigerators were just an improved iteration of the icebox, which was in common use in 1912,

    (2) cars haven’t necessarily improved living standards in the aggregate, since in 1912 cities, towns and neighborhoods were laid out in a way that accomodated living on foot very nicely, with one’s daily shopping needs met within walking distance, and vastly more extensive and usable public transportation in and between places that no longer have it.

    (3) hey, I like air conditioning and electronic thermostats as much as the next guy, but in 1912 very few people in the developed world opted to live in places where it gets unbearably hot (e.g. too hot to fall asleep) for more than a couple of weeks a year. I’ve been through New York and New England summers without A/C and I’d prefer not to again, but civilization managed to function pretty well without it and its importance in the U.S. might be overstated since without it the human and economic activity in today’s metropolis-sized Miami, Houston and Phoenix would have taken place in more temperate places instead.

    (4) the telephone, like air conditioning and refrigeration has indisputably been an engine behind all sorts of economic activity, enabling businesses to be more agile, just as refrigeration has made affordable fresh strawberries available all year and air conditioning has transformed summer months from peak vacation and leisure time into two more months of 24/7 productivity. But as much as I enjoy talking to my two-year-old niece who lives several states away, the personal phone is probably not that substantial an improvement to a household’s life when you factor in the how much closer to their friends and family most people lived on average in 1912. The fact that my DC-area niece’s cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents live in Boston, Vancouver, Syracuse and Fort Lauderdale, all of their good friends of ten years ago are even more dispersed than that, and not a single one of them lived anywhere near any of these places five years ago would have seemed insane in 1912 unless they all despised one another. That the telephone and air travel can keep them tenuously in contact probably isn’t as big a win as it might first seem.

  22. That little study I did all those years ago did take inflation into account. Also, even though we have far more expensive amenities in our lives today, back in those days people had horses and carraiges instead of cars, and they did have early versions of most of the amenities we have today that adjusted for inflation were just as expensive. The point is that we have a record number of millionaires and aboe today and that is not good, though it may seem good on the face of it. There is only so much money (though Bush keeps pushing to print more) and so if there are too many millionaires there will be exponentially too many poor – and most of the poor work.

    JMJ

  23. “metropolis-sized Miami, Houston and Phoenix would have taken place in more temperate places instead.”

    Can you imagine how expensive California would be if there weren’t a lot of other places to live, made possible only by central heat and air? Houston and Atlanta didn’t really exist until the 1960’s.

    What if you had to live within walking distance of work?

    If it’s not blindingly obvious that our standard of living is remarkably better than 1912, then wow.

    12 hour days, 6 days a week? You just desribed a typical CEO, sucking the marrow from all those 40 hour a week indentured servants.

    I will also postulate that the 40 hours of work we endure today, is a lot more pleasant than the 40 hours of 1912.

    We will always work approximately 40 hours, because that’s the point at which we start deciding our remaining free time is worth forgoing a wage. Note that Executives usually work MORE than Admins, despite being paid very much better.

  24. I will also postulate that the 40 hours of work we endure today, is a lot more pleasant than the 40 hours of 1912.

    We didn’t work 40 hours in 1912; 72 hours was still the norm back then.

  25. Ron, I can’t help but wonder if what first caught your eye about that story was the neat turn of phrase “entirely unpolluted by reality.”

  26. If there is a dumber law in Europe than this one, I’d love to see it. And the quoted article deserves the Pulitzer for describing the protester’s opinions as “entirely unpolluted by reality.” I want that writer to publish a book about this, soon.

    Comment by: Karen at March 27, 2006 11:02 AM

    Karen, there are many many dumb laws to choose from in Europe. My favorite…there is no such thing as “free speech” in France, Germany, Austria and now, sadly, England. The great thing about these moronic frnech labor laws is that they are destroying the french, everyone with 1/2 a brain knows it, and yet the idiot french people still demand more “protective” labor laws.

    The unemployment rate in France is about 13% overall, and that moron Chirac’s biggest problem is that his Labor Minister spoke English at a UN Summit. Vive la Morons!!!

  27. Mr. Koppelman: And should you choose to eschew these modern amenities, I suspect you could live in one of many small towns and work 10 hours a week. You could even grow your own food! The thing is, people have more choices now that they used to, and most people choose to take advantage of some or all of the developments that you’ve mentioned. I do know folks who choose to do withour a car, or a/c, and that’s fine for them. Obviously, given the chance, many people like to travel and stay in contact with friends and family. Your mileage may vary.

  28. “…back in those days people had horses and carraiges [sic] instead of cars, and they did have early versions of most of the amenities we have today that adjusted for inflation were just as expensive.”

    Yes, even back then good servants were hard to find.

  29. JMJ says: “The point is that we have a record number of millionaires and aboe today and that is not good, though it may seem good on the face of it. There is only so much money (though Bush keeps pushing to print more) and so if there are too many millionaires there will be exponentially too many poor – and most of the poor work.”

    That about sums up your ignorance of economics. I’m sure you think the world would be a better place if everyone worked a lot less, slowed down and didn’t work so hard, where no one was rich. Of course you have no clue as to what kind of world that would be like — my guess is that the Dark Ages were pretty close to that.

  30. Actually, I could probably do about 2-4 hours work a week, and live pretty good compared to the average standard of living in 1912.

    Why do I work longer then? Well, I enjoy to travel to different places in the world by jet plane. I like to purchase digital recordings of music and listen to it in crystal clarity on my stereo. I like to purchase video games for my Xbox. I enjoy to eat exotic vegetables and fruits that have to be shipped in from places in Asia, Africa, South America. I like to recieve modern medical treatment that can give me a blood transfusion, or antibiotics. I enjoy having my home being a comfortable 22 degrees in the winter time and summer time. I enjoy hopping in my car and seeing my family who lives 4 hours a way by automobile (and, according to a historical reenactor at Henry Ford’s Greenfield village, it took about 3 days to make the journey in 1900).

    In short, yes, we could all be working 10 hour work weeks, if we wanted to live a lifestyle that most people would consider third-world.

    But noone answered my question: What would have happened in they implemented 40 hour work weeks, and minimum wage in the neolithic period. Obviously, if labour laws are the defining factor in our prosperity and quality of life, the cave men would have jumped to an almost modern standard of living. Somehow, I doubt neolithic history with labor law restrictions would have worked very well though.

  31. Please tell me that you’re joking.

    Ron, don’t even try. He’s got a Kaufman-grade straight face when it comes to this.

  32. (1) refrigerators were just an improved iteration of the icebox, which was in common use in 1912,

    What a stupid comment, the two machines are so vastly different! The ice melts, the electricity is pretty reliable.

    (2) cars haven’t necessarily improved living standards in the aggregate, since in 1912 cities, towns and neighborhoods were laid out in a way that accomodated living on foot very nicely, with one’s daily shopping needs met within walking distance, and vastly more extensive and usable public transportation in and between places that no longer have it.

    And you needed to be home when your ice was delivered and your coal was delivered and… not to mention there was no “public” transportation back then being that all the street car and other rail lines were privately operated. Big difference between “mass” transit and “public” transit.

    (3) hey, I like air conditioning and electronic thermostats as much as the next guy, but in 1912 very few people in the developed world opted to live in places where it gets unbearably hot (e.g. too hot to fall asleep) for more than a couple of weeks a year. I’ve been through New York and New England summers without A/C and I’d prefer not to again, but civilization managed to function pretty well without it and its importance in the U.S. might be overstated since without it the human and economic activity in today’s metropolis-sized Miami, Houston and Phoenix would have taken place in more temperate places instead.

    I’ll bet you never shoveled any coal during those New York and New England winters. Probably never lived in a house where the only heating was a pot-bellied stove nor a house without indoor plumbing. Must be nice to be rich.

  33. I work twenty to thirty hours a week at an unspectacular job and am able to live very comfortably. The only things I feel the lack of are health care and a retirement plan. It seems to me that if we didn’t have an absurd health insurance system I’d have access to medical care and advice, and if I had all my SS taxes back I’d have the beginnings of a retirement plan.

  34. Coachacola,

    I may be ignorant, perhaps, but you aren’t showing me where. Prove your point and I’ll respect that. CAll me ignorant and look like an ass with northing to add. 😉

    JMJ

  35. So…JMJ. How many hours do you work each week? Or are you going to say, “None, I have a government job!” 😉

  36. “It seems to me that if we didn’t have an absurd health insurance system “

    I’m pretty sure you can get 1912 era medicine dirt cheap nowadays. I like this argument because people say “health care has gotten so expensive these days” acting as if it hasn’t changed in the last 100 years. If you get cancer then just do what they did back in those days, go home and die. That doesn’t cost much. Added bonus is that with that health care, you don’t have to worry about retirement, you won’t live that long.

    (at no point in this post did I say that the health care system is perfect or ideal)

    I’d like to have my SS taxes back too. I could do a lot more with it than the government.

  37. “You’ll get a job knowing that you’ve got to do every single thing they ask you to do because otherwise you may get sacked.”

    I have a Canadian “anarchist”* acquaintance who has that sort of scowling reaction to the way Americans in service jobs work – as if they had to do it right. The horror.

    (* You know, anarchists – against government when it’s not giving handouts and against any private group performing functions of government in a consensual manner.)

  38. Eric, I work 37.5 per week, sometimes more. I do not work for the US gov’t. I have worked 80 hour weeks and I have played gigs for a living and everything in between. I do okay, make pretty good money and benefits and have little to complain about myself. My only concern is for the future my country.

    JMJ

  39. But why not work only 7 or ten hours? Aren’t you being exploited, man?

  40. I could do my job in 20, actually. 😉 It’s old business culture, I guess.

    JMJ

  41. France’s labor laws are an absurdity, and if they are not reformed at once, France will go under.

    Let them. Democracy, rule of the people, their own country and all that. And I will avoid saying “I told you so” to my Communist friend who just smirked at the objections of employers to the last work-week shrinkage there.

  42. Eric,

    Here in Canada, the “Anarchists” means “Communist”. Communists don’t call themselves Communist for some weird reason, they all call themselves “Anarchists”, even though they all believe in strict Marxism and a totalitarian dictatorship of the proletariate. I could never get a straight answer why. So, it is probably less than the “Anarchists” are hippocrites, and more that you are just expected to know that when they call themselves “Anarchist”, they really mean Communist.

  43. I could do my job in 20, actually. 😉

    Wait a second, you just went on about the productivity gains and how we could get all our work done in 10. Are you saying you would take twice as long?

  44. Here in Canada, the “Anarchists” means “Communist”.

    He never struck me as particularly Marxist (as opposed to generally leftist) and always said he didn’t like various communist groups (and liked to call me a “statist” between demanding increases in the welfare state or regulation), but Hell, I never actually just thought to ask him if he was a Communist.

  45. AntiDC — Thanks for the reminder. I’m ashamed that I had forgotten all those laws banning wrong opinions.

    General comment: My husband is an employment lawyer and I used to do that stuff. (I am a civil fraud prosecutor now; I get to beat up on the smarter forms of con artist.) The original article was about French college students protesting a perfectly reasonable change in their law that would allow employers to fire people at all. It is not necessary to eliminate all wage and hour legislation in order to avoid the risible French system. The merits of American employment law are an interesting subject for debate, but they really don’t shed any light on this particular topic.

  46. What does amuse me is the fact we think its news to show French riots. To those of us in the UK & the US riots are a bit deal; in France they are fairly common. There are young idiots who are basically full time rioters. This ain’t new its just France.

  47. If you could do your job in 10 hours, then they’d probably ask you to work 40 hours and not hire the other 3 people. Geez, is math that hard?

  48. If you could do your job in 10 hours, then they’d probably ask you to work 40 hours and not hire the other 3 people.

    Then obviously, they need to be doing some other job than the one I can do better than all three of them put together.

    *looks around*

    So, uh, where is this job? 😉

  49. There is only so much money (though Bush keeps pushing to print more) and so if there are too many millionaires there will be exponentially too many poor – and most of the poor work.

    JMJ,
    This is one of the bases of your economic ignorance. Their is a signifigant difference between wealth and money (and for real economists forgive my botching up the descriptions).
    Wealth, is holding an object that imparts economic value, such as property. Newer definitions of wealth also includes intangibles such as your level of literacy, education, job experience, the soundness of your society’s structures.
    Money, is more-or-less the unit of exchange for that wealth.
    You would imagine how hard it would be to trade, say, my wealth of 20-century literature for your cow, but with money, I can trach your kids and have an objective means of buying your cow.

    While we use money as an everyday object to stand in for our current wealth, printing money does nothing to dilute objects that are actually wealth.
    Furthermore, just because I have one million dollars while you have 50,000 does not mean that I have arbitrarily taken 950,000 from you. The great thinkg about wealth is that it is something that can be generated, and furthemore, is not a zero-sum game because by optimizing the trade of wealth between people (my knowledge for your cow via money) wealth is more optimized and therefore more wealth is generated.

    This is very crude representation of economics, but basically JMJ, best thing to do is read Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson:
    http://www.fee.org/pdf/books/Economics_in_one_lesson.pdf

  50. “You’ll get a job knowing that you’ve got to do every single thing they ask you to do because otherwise you may get sacked.”

    The quote does look ridiculous at first glance. But I wonder if what she meant by her complaint was that employees could be asked to do things beyond what they should be required to do as part of their job, and can therefore be dumped easily if they refuse to do so. I don’t know; perhaps I’m giving this quote too much leeway.

  51. “There is only so much money”

    Whoa! Only 2:20 pm and we already have a winner for most idiotic statement. Jersey, I recommend Henry Hazlitt’s Economics In One Lesson, an excellent primer for the likes of you. Read, and be enlightened.

  52. I don’t know; perhaps I’m giving this quote too much leeway.

    Going by the international reputation of French service workers, I think you are. 🙂

  53. Wise Ass (apropo!)

    What is it about that statement that you disagree with?

    JMJ

  54. Excellent suggestion, Frank. 🙂

  55. If you could do your job in 10 hours, then they’d probably ask you to work 40 hours and not hire the other 3 people. Geez, is math that hard?

    It depends on the goal of the institution/business. When I went back to graduate school at the University of Alabama (where they worked those 37.5 hour schedules too) it was obvious that they were over staffed (not talking faculty here). The employees however get paid crap. So you had 2 clerical people in a department making $18,500/year, while one of them could do the job and make $35,000. That would save the university money, the employee would probably be much more motivated and you would get better applicants. However, being located in a college town, the administrators prefer to point to how many people they employ not how well they are paid.

  56. Jersey,

    That your statement implies wealth creation is a zero sum game (in your view).

  57. No, it’s just that the fiat dictates that there is a relatively finite volume of money (amd/or wealth) at any given time. I’m not an idiot. 😉

    JMJ

  58. Is the weather in Paris particularly nice right now?

    It’s quite nice, the first days of spring are finally here…

    People (including the French) have been talking about the decline of France for years now. I bet France will not “go under” in any sense of the term in the next half century. Any takers?

    The french have made the (possibly unconcious) choice to have excellent job security at the cost of high unemployment, which is in turn subsidized by high taxes on those who work (unemployed people in france have unreal, by american standards, unemployment benefits).

    You can consider that choice ridiculous if you like (and I do), but hey, that’s how it is. Labor laws will definitely change in the next few years, but they will change within the tradition of job security and support for the unemployed.

  59. >>If you could do your job in 10 hours, then they’d probably ask you to work 40 hours and not hire the other 3 people.

    Then obviously, they need to be doing some other job than the one I can do better than all three of them put together.

    *looks around*

    So, uh, where is this job? 😉

    • One of them works in the media industry, which provides you 199 varieties of entertainment 24 hours a day.
    • One of them works in the health care industry that keeps you healthy for 80 years instead of 35.
    • One of them works in the transport industry that allows you to order any legal product from anywhere in the world and have it delivered in less than a week.
    • One of them works in the financial industry that allows you to travel anywhere in the world carrying a small plastic card instead of a bag of gold coins.
    • One of them works in the data industry that places 90% of the world’s unclassified information at your beck and call.
    • One of them works in the communications industry which allows our nerd children to make more friendly contacts with people in other countries than the U.S. Department of State.

    Anyone who believes owning a horse and carriage is equivalent to owning an automobile hasn’t cleaned enough stalls.

  60. Two Words: Polio Vaccine.

  61. Does anyone else find it ironic that unskilled and unemployed French workers are taking to the streets to protest government polices that would, effectively, make more jobs available even as well employed Latino workers are taking to American streets to protest legislation they fear will prevent their access to unskilled jobs? …anyone?

    I’d really like to ask some anti-immigration people what they think of guest worker naturalization policy in light of assimilation problems with guest workers in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere, but I’m yet to come across an anti-immigration someone who’s bothered to give it enough thought to even recognize a link.

  62. JP,

    My feeling is that France is looking at a cyclical period of civil unrest that will last several years: immigrants and non-white French rioting over high unemployment followed by white French rioting over any reforms attempted to remedy the former. I don’t think it will be civil war but I suspect the result will be the same — falling productivity, resources spent repairing damaged infrastructure, and a lack of investment. How say you? Or have I seen one too many photos of burning cars?

  63. Okay, I goofed, I didn’t even try explaining inflation, sorry 🙁

    From what I understand, when you print more money, wealth does not expand. What does expand is the marker that signifies wealth, and therefore more of the marker, the less able it is actually able to signify wealth, and therefore loses value.
    Now, these effects are not truly known until this money has exchanged several hands, so the people who first received the money (the banks who traded with the Federal Reserve) will capitalize on this primarily, and everyone else down the line will capitalize less and less unitl Joe Schmoe realizes that while he’s making $100 more per week, he’s only able to buy 1/4 the groceries he used to because prices have gone up.

    Yes, I am sure that I have bungled this up, so JMJ, still the best thing to do is to read Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson…

  64. “Russ 2000”:

    Thanks for reminding me of shoveling coal. As a matter of fact, when I was a kid, my dad responded to the early-’80s oil crisis and the attendant huge heating oil bills by getting a coal furnace. We had a bin of coal next to the driveway, under the basketball hoop. It might have also burned wood. I can’t remember, but I do recall we used to get a whole lot of wood most winters and I had to split a fair amount of it.

    I totally forgot.

    Hauling and shoveling coal was a pain in the ass.

    But as obviously convenient and clean as oil and gas heat are vs. coal and wood, they weren’t as revolutionary as the reciculated-steam/water radiators fed by the furnaces, coal, oil and otherwise.

    To me, more revolutionary inventions that changed living standards and not just lifestyle and patterns of human settlement in the already-developed world were the washing machine and clothes dryer, the flush toilet, the dishwasher, the hot water heater, and the radiator.

    I’d say air conditioning was more revolutionary in hot countries that were already densely populated; in places where it enabled mass settlement where it didn’t already exist, I’d prefer simply to call it disruptive rather than an overwhelmingly positive technology. Same goes for the car, only more so. The technology sparked massive societal changes and changed the way we live our lives, but it’s not at all clear that mass car ownership and the changes to the landscape that made it usable are a net positive, especially when you think of a car as a new, substantial living expense virtually nobody had in 1912. Given the huge subsidies that go into both roads and a great deal of mass transit, it’s not easy to do a quick comparison but I’ll betcha the average middle-income household’s car expenses take up a significantly higher proportion of income than streetcar, trolley and train fares did for a familyof comparable stature in 1912.

  65. Thanks wise ass 🙂

  66. Thanks wise ass 🙂

  67. Feh!
    Double posting…
    Sorry 🙁

  68. [T]he students on the streets today espouse economic views entirely unpolluted by reality. If the CPE [the new law] is enacted, said one young woman, “You’ll get a job knowing that you’ve got to do every single thing they ask you to do because otherwise you may get sacked.”
    Imagine that.

    Isn’t this what is wrong with libertarianism? If liberty means the liberty to be fired and end up penniless for a single mistake by some jerk who probably inherited his company, then I, and most people, will pass thank you.

  69. “Given the huge subsidies that go into both roads and a great deal of mass transit, it’s not easy to do a quick comparison but I’ll betcha the average middle-income household’s car expenses take up a significantly higher proportion of income than streetcar, trolley and train fares did for a familyof comparable stature in 1912.”

    Are you factoring things in like the fact that owning a car makes you more productive seeing as how you are able to do things on your own time rather than planning your schedule around a bus/train schedule? Not to mention getting to your destination faster. And not to mention being able to more easily and safely handle emergency situations that would require you to rush to a hospital or other similar situations.

  70. Does anyone else find it ironic that unskilled and unemployed French workers are taking to the streets to protest government polices that would…

    Actually as I understand it the ones rioting now are the privileged college and Grands Ecoles students who are pretty much guaranteed good jobs after completing (mostly) unpaid internships (during which employers pretty much have the opportunity to weed out the duds).

    Unfortununately Mohammed and Abdul in the banlieus don’t have parents who can support them through six months or a year of unpaid internship, even if they can find anyone who will give them the time of day.

    Those who rave about “social justice”, “equality” and “civil liberties” in Europe would do well to learn some facts about the place.

  71. “I’ll betcha the average middle-income household’s car expenses take up a significantly higher proportion of income than streetcar, trolley and train fares did for a familyof comparable stature in 1912.”

    And it provides them with much more freedom, much more opportunity, much more ability to respond to emergencies, much more convenience, than those streetcars, trolleys and trains ever did. Not to mention a much, MUCH more clean, comfortable, private ride. When you think about the difference between riding to work in a crowded, smelly, unconditioned trolley car, and speeding down the highway with cruise control, digital audio, heated & ergonomically designed leather seats, and the ability to set the temperature to exactly what you want…well, you know, I think the increased proportion of expenses just might be worth it.

    But none of that is really relevant to the discussion when you remember that, if you really wanted to, you could all but eschew your car expenses today. I know lots and lots of people who do just that. They live in Manhattan.

  72. Isn’t this what is wrong with libertarianism? If liberty means the liberty to be fired and end up penniless for a single mistake by some jerk who probably inherited his company, then I, and most people, will pass thank you.

    Funny, we’re a lot close on the spectrum to that than anything like France’s system. What country are you posting from?

  73. Isn’t this what is wrong with libertarianism? If liberty means the liberty to be fired and end up penniless for a single mistake by some jerk who probably inherited his company, then I, and most people, will pass thank you.

    As if the alternative–paying workers, across the board, for more than whatever they manufacture will justify–was really an option.

    If liberty is living in a society where huge chunks of my labor go to pay for idle buggy whip factory workers, then I’ll say no thank you.

  74. If liberty means the liberty to be fired and end up penniless for a single mistake by some jerk who probably inherited his company, then I, and most people, will pass thank you

    Actually, liberty means you get another job quickly due to the ease with which your employer can fire you if you suck. It also means that that jerk has a good chance of destroying his company, which is one reason why such father-to-son passing down of companies is much more rare in the more libertarian US than in less libertarian Europe. It also helps explain why the French government is currently fighting all kinds of takeovers which might make their businesses more efficient.

  75. “Isn’t this what is wrong with libertarianism? If liberty means the liberty to be fired and end up penniless for a single mistake by some jerk who probably inherited his company, then I, and most people, will pass thank you.”

    Ken, that just might be the most ignorant statement I’ve ever heard. Take intro to econ 101, then come back and try to contribute something useful to the conversation. Until then, the only thing I think I need to say is this:

    Look at the other side of the coin: YOU are the boss. YOU own the company. You’ve hired a bunch of folks to work at your company. After awhile, profits wane. Productivity goes down. Some workers just suck. You don’t make enough money to cover overhead. The government prevents you from letting any of those workers go. The government prevents you from paying them any less. The government prevents you from shutting your business down. And so you end up eating peas from a can every night for dinner.

    Oh, yes, let’s all sing the joys of centralized economic planning! Goddamn, that’s a serious case of ignorance you got there, Ken.

  76. Look at the other side of the coin: YOU are the boss. YOU own the company.

    Or maybe not even that, you’re just stuck working with some idiot who needs firing.

  77. It also sucks if you are stuck at a lousy company cause no one is hiring, and the reason they won’t hire is they can’t fire jerks, and why take the chance?

  78. I think the increased proportion of expenses just might be worth it.

    I think just about everybody came to that same conclusion, which is why I have to listen to other people’s stories about 3 and 4 hour commutes, road rage, and relatives killed in car crashes. “Freedom” indeed.

  79. Evan, why are you lecturing me about the evils of central planning?

  80. Is it something I said?

  81. Reading these comments points out most people have no idea just how harsh life between 1900 to 1930 was. People who lived then had absolutely none of the daily conveniences we take for granted. Things like indoor plumbing, indoor water supply, indoor hot water supply, being able to cook without out having to haul in wood, vaccines, antibiotics, effective surgical techniques, effective drug treatments for numerous diseases, joint replacements, indoor lighting without having to use candles or kerosene lamps, and so on.

    The good old days generally weren’t. Those who think they were have not read much history or don’t know anybody who lived then.

  82. As I (mis?)understand it, [unemployment in France is] 10% plus among 30+ year-old white people. It’s 20% plus among young and brown people and somewhere around 50%ish among people with Islamic sounding names.

    You’d think these statistics alone would convince the French that overregulating employers, and butting in on their hiring/firing decisions, just plain ain’t working. If these stats are accurate, it’s obvious French employers find ways not to hire people they don’t want to hire anyway.

    I understand women of childbearing age have more difficulty finding work in Europe now, because employers know that as soon as Girlfriend starts breeding, she’s basically hit the jackpot: 6-18 months of paid leave with a guaranteed job on her return, if she actually does return. And European countries didn’t think employers were going to find their ways around that one?

  83. I’ll tack on to TJIT’s comment earlier that after watching “Frontier House” a couple of years ago, and listening to the women participating in the show complain that they spent every waking moment of every day, seven solid a week, in the kitchen, doing ghastly drudgery without even having the benefit of listening to recorded music to pass the time, I’m convinced we’re better off now. I’ll take my chicken pre-dead, pre-plucked, and plastic-wrapped onto Styrofoam the way God intended, thanks very much.

    However, I think early employment regulation actually contributed to the development of economies rather than stifled them. When you don’t have to work 6 days a week, 12 hours a day, you’ve got a lot more free time to spend what you earn. I’m guessing discretionary spending and mass production of consumer goods exploded after the imposition of the 40-hour work week.

  84. People (including the French) have been talking about the decline of France for years now. I bet France will not “go under” in any sense of the term in the next half century. Any takers?

    France, has already collapsed in my opinion. The people haven’t died out, and it isn’t Mad Max or anything. But France was once the economic, technological, and cultural center of the world. Only, perhaps Victorian England could rival it. In a few more years, France will be like Portugal.

    unemployed people in france have unreal, by american standards, unemployment benefits

    Actually, France doesn’t have unreal unemployment benifits… they are quite comparable to the United States… but when a country has double the unemployment of the U.S., you need to say something to justify why your economic policies are working. (“Oh yes, we have double digit unemployment, but being unemployed is so much better here!”… sure Jacque, anything you say!).

    But besides that, ONLY 43% OF THE UNEMPLOYED DRAW UNEMPLOYEMENT BENIFITS!!!! See, you only get unemployment, if you have had a job! And since it is impossible to get a job, you get no benifits! Immigrants and poor people and young people get totally screwed, and the white upper-class university kids will get a cushy job as a birthright. So, the vast majority of French workers are closer to what illegal Mexican workers are here… except Mexican illegals have the ability to become citizens one day… where as Mohommed living in the housing projects will never be considered “French”.

  85. If liberty means the liberty to be fired and end up penniless for a single mistake by some jerk who probably inherited his company, then I, and most people, will pass thank you

    And to quote “The Road to Sefdom”, when you get fired it will probably be from the barrel of a gun. You can’t have JUST economic totalitarianism… because economics effects everything, government central planning of the economy means government central planning of everything.

    Everyone was garanteed lifetime employment under Stalin, or Mao, or even Hitler… but you could find your employment transfered to a work camp, where your lifetime employment wasn’t expected to last very long.

  86. “To paraphrase Winston Churchill: “Capitalism is the worst economic system… except for all the rest.”

    Are you sure he said that? I thought he said “Democracy is the worst economic system. . . except for all the rest.”

  87. People can’t imagine that the 40 hour work week came from worker productivity, and a competitive labor market, than from government edict.

    No, it was in fact a government edict that made the 40-hour week a reality. Greater productivity may explain why the economy didn’t collapse after that, but before the 40-hour laws employers still expected people to spend almost all of their waking hours working.

  88. but I’ll betcha the average middle-income household’s car expenses take up a significantly higher proportion of income than streetcar, trolley and train fares did for a familyof comparable stature in 1912.

    I could list gobs of pros and cons of automobile ownership, but it still winds up being a personal choice. I won’t argue that owning a car is more costly than the transportation options of 100 years ago, but looking at it in a vacuum doesn’t reveal anything. Transport costs may be higher, but the costs of food, heating, etc. have gone down to offset that. We’re also forgetting the FHA which did a lot to change development patterns by socializing mortgage risks.

  89. Are you sure he said that? I thought he said “Democracy is the worst economic system. . . except for all the rest.”

    OK, true that. But he probably would have agreed with my statement. Or even if he didn’t, I do.

  90. “Greater productivity may explain why the economy didn’t collapse after that, but before the 40-hour laws employers still expected people to spend almost all of their waking hours working. ”

    Care to cite to something? I don’t have Economists and The Historians handy, but I could have sworn Hayek painted a much different picture of that era in that book. Not that i don’t believe you. I’m just curious as to what you’re basing your statement on.

  91. Maybe this explains the behavior of the French?

    http://www.physorg.com/news12138.html

  92. “Economists and The Historians handy”

    I meant Capitalism and the Historians

  93. “Maybe this explains the behavior of the French?

    http://www.physorg.com/news12138.html

    Well then explain how the Germans fell for Hitler’s bullshit.

  94. Not that i don’t believe you. I’m just curious as to what you’re basing your statement on

    You are uncertain whether there are laws mandating a 40-hour week, and that beforehand workweeks were considerably longer?

  95. I AM wondering when this much-vaunted “increased productivity” we keep hearing about will result in people having to work less.

    Let’s see. This thread was started by Mr. Bailey’s post, at about 11AM Eastern Time/8AM Pacific Time. It’s a non-holiday weekday in the US, and now, at about 5PM Eastern/2PM Pacific – a period covering “business hours” throughout the US since Mr. Bailey’s original post, we have ninety comment posts comprised of about 8,000 words. Multiply this by a number of other threads on this board, with varying numbers of responses.

    I’m guessing that *most* of the posts are *not* from folks who are (a) retired or otherwise unemployed and posting from home or (b) posting from the Eastern hemisphere where it’s not “business hours” or (c) professional night watchmen. Therefore, my answer would be: *There’s* where your “increased productivity” went.

  96. No, it was in fact a government edict that made the 40-hour week a reality. Greater productivity may explain why the economy didn’t collapse after that, but before the 40-hour laws employers still expected people to spend almost all of their waking hours working.

    Absolutly false. The 40 hour work week was largely reality before the government ever got involved in enforcing it. One of the unfortunate products of having education performed by the government is that people learn this kind of pro-government mythology. GOVERNMENT DIDN’T END CHILD LABOR, OR GIVE US THE 40 HOUR WORK WEEK! The government swooped in, passed a law after the fact, and after a while took credit.

    I mean, come on, do you really believe that if most people were working more than 40 hours a week at that time, than a law could ever pass making it otherwise? Do you think it would be politically viable for Washington, even back then (or especially back then), to pass a law that would totally screw with every factory owner in the country?

    And why doesn’t the 40 hour work week, work in India? I mean, like I said, they have even more strict regulations than we have here. It doesn’t seem to be working though! Most employed people in India work more than 40 hours a week.

    The government could pass a law against setting yourself on fire and dancing in the streets, and then claim that since the law was passed there have been virtually no incidents of people setting themselves on fire and dancing in the streets. But that doesn’t mean that the government law was what stopped people from setting themselves on fire.

  97. “You are uncertain whether there are laws mandating a 40-hour week, and that beforehand workweeks were considerably longer?”

    No, I’m not uncertain as to whether we have 40 week laws. Which is why i did not copy that part of your comment.

    “but before the 40-hour laws employers still expected people to spend almost all of their waking hours working. ”

    I’m talking about the “all of their waking hours” comment. Hence me cutting and pasting it earlier.

  98. “we have 40 week laws”

    forgot the hour in between 40 and week.

  99. The 40 hour work week was largely reality before the government ever got involved in enforcing it.. . .GOVERNMENT DIDN’T END CHILD LABOR, OR GIVE US THE 40 HOUR WORK WEEK!

    Quote from TIME Magazine article, March 10, 1923: “The twelve-hour shift in industry will not stay out of the news. Every week some new organization declares the twelve-hour day dangerous, inhuman and unnecessary, and at least every other week Judge Elbert Gray [head of U.S. Steel] or one of his technical experts denies the charge.

    March 17, 1923: During the debates in the Senate on the sugar tariff, The New York World charged sugar producers with extensive employment of child labor in the beet sugar fields. These charges have no been fully substantiated according to reports made by the National Child Labor Committee.

    If forty-hour workweeks were the norm and child labor had ceased to exist, somebody forgot to tell the people who wrote for Time Magazine in 1923. Unless they, of course, were shilling for the government.

  100. I’m talking about the “[almost]all of their waking hours” comment. Hence me cutting and pasting it earlier.

    Well, let’s see–12-hour days six days a week is 72 hours. One week contains 168 hours. An average of fifty-six of those hours is spent in sleep. Et cetera.

  101. “These charges have not been fully substantiated according to reports made by the National Child Labor Committee.”

    From your own source.

    Read this article. Contains numbers from Census of Manufacturing amongs other sources.

    http://www.eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us

  102. “Well, let’s see–12-hour days six days a week is 72 hours. One week contains 168 hours. An average of fifty-six of those hours is spent in sleep. Et cetera.”

    I’m not trying to get into a pissing match with you so there’s no need to act like a dick or a smart-ass. I simply asked you where you were getting your information.

  103. I simply asked you where you were getting your information.

    That little bit I quoted was from contemporary issues of TIME magazine. I’m more interested in here Rex got HIS information that child labor had vanished and 40-hour weeks were the norm before any laws to that effect.

  104. Permit me a pedantic point: it’s perfectly okay for an employer to require workers to spend more than 40 hours/ week at work, but the employer has to pay said workers time and a half for every hour over 40 during that week. The 40 hour week was a side effect of a law that required higher wages for more time. The reason the law worked is because employers found it cheaper to hire extra people, which was the main point of the law in the first place. (And opposing mandatory overtime is a big organized labor push right now.)

  105. “I’m more interested in here Rex got HIS information that child labor had vanished and 40-hour weeks were the norm before any laws to that effect”

    Didn’t you read the article I pasted? Fair Labor Act was enacted in 1938. Depending on what source you look at the average work week in manufacturing was between 48 and 50 hours a week as early as 1919. Might not be 40 hours a week but it sure as hell isn’t no 12 hour work days.

  106. “The swift reduction of the workweek in the period around World War I has been extensively analyzed by Whaples (1990b). His findings support the consensus that economic growth was the key to reduced work hours. Whaples links factors such as wages, labor legislation, union power, ethnicity, city size, leisure opportunities, age structure, wealth and homeownership, health, education, alternative employment opportunities, industrial concentration, seasonality of employment, and technological considerations to changes in the average workweek in 274 cities and 118 industries. He finds that the rapid economic expansion of the World War I period, which pushed up real wages by more than 18 percent between 1914 and 1919, explains about half of the drop in the length of the workweek. The reduction of immigration during the war was important, as it deprived employers of a group of workers who were willing to put in long hours, explaining about one-fifth of the hours decline. The rapid electrification of manufacturing seems also to have played an important role in reducing the workweek. Increased unionization explains about one-seventh of the reduction, and federal and state legislation and policies that mandated reduced workweeks also had a noticeable role.”

    The article states that the most comprehensive treatment of the shortening of the work-week comes from Robert Whaples.

    Whaples, Robert. “The Shortening of the American Work Week: An Economic and Historical Analysis of Its Context, Causes, and Consequences.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1990a.

    Whaples, Robert. “Winning the Eight-Hour Day, 1909-1919.” Journal of Economic History 50, no. 2 (1990b): 393-406.

    Whaples, Robert. “Where Is There Consensus Among American Economic Historians? The Results of a Survey on Forty Propositions.” Journal of Economic History 55, no. 1

  107. My feeling is that France is looking at a cyclical period of civil unrest that will last several years: immigrants and non-white French rioting over high unemployment followed by white French rioting over any reforms attempted to remedy the former. I don’t think it will be civil war but I suspect the result will be the same — falling productivity, resources spent repairing damaged infrastructure, and a lack of investment. How say you? Or have I seen one too many photos of burning cars?

    well, this is france, if there wasn’t civil unrest, that would be the news.

    it’s worth noting that there have been riots in the banlieue very regularly for the last few years, and student protests against new labor laws just about every time a new labor law is proposed. But eventually the students and labor will give in. There’s no other option for them. People are already saying (as an argument against the new law), “Why single out under-26 year old people for this law. it’s not fair”, which implicitly admits that it’s not a question of eficacity, but rather some strange concept of “fairness”.

    The prime minister has taken a lot of shit for saying that he “hears the people in the streets, but also hears the people not in the streets”, but it’s true: certain sectors are making a lot of noise, but even if they kill this law they won’t hold out for much longer.

    In a few more years, France will be like Portugal.

    alright, you’re on (assuming you mean portugal pre-EU, and not the portugal of 10 years from now). see you back on hit and run on march 28, 2056. what are we betting?

    But besides that, ONLY 43% OF THE UNEMPLOYED DRAW UNEMPLOYEMENT BENIFITS!!!! See, you only get unemployment, if you have had a job!

    false. see this site

  108. What kind of “liberty” is found in the liberty of the small percentage of folks who own the means of production having the power to order around the large percentage of folks who do not endlessly? At least with government power the majority has a say!
    Oh, I feel so sorry for the factory owner eating peas, with his healthy store of wealth to fall back on. For every one of him there are about 30 workers that he fired because he did not like their looks or such. And why did this guy have ownership of the factory? The libertarian myth is that they, or their forefathers, just provided the customers with what they want the most. Hilarious! Perhaps their forefathers paid the government for the right to a special government railroad grant. Or they got a government backed monopoly (in the US, or maybe in England with the East India Company). Sorry, but a great deal of folks start off WAY ahead of others, with , ahem, more power over others lives (so much for liberty), for no good (or just) reason.
    As for Hayek, he is an interesting fellow. And he wrote about total planning and how it has to effect civil liberties. But France is not “total planning” and has plenty of civil liberties. Sorry folks, but Hayek was a neat guy, but his theories must bow to empirical reality.

  109. As for Emme, Jen is right. One can always find an economists who argues for some silly libertarian dogma: the Depression was REALLY caused by restrictions on capitalism,not capitalism (interesting that it happened in a very laissez-faire series of administrations), the work week REALLY went down because of laissez-fair economics. One is reminded of J.Q. Wilson’s statements about crime and the Great Society: liberals still insist that the crime was caused by NOT ENOUGH liberalism but what about the RISING crime during a time of MORE liberalism? The reality is that business fought work week restrictions tooth and nail, labor fought for it. When it was passed the work week got shorter. Anyone here like 72 hour work weeks? Then vote libertarian. End of story.

  110. Hey Ken, it’s funny when you accuse Hayek of ignoring empirical reality.

    When it comes to “empirical reality”, the economies with a more flexible workforce (the kind of thing you dislike) always outperform the likes of France. Or perhaps nobody told you that France hasn’t seen real economic growth for more than a decade.

    And yeah, the asewome democracy. Let me tell you how a “democracy” works.

    Three people sitting at a table. Two of them blind, the third with perfect eyesight. The blind men tell the other : “We have DEMOCRATICALLY decided to take out your eyes”. Does this seem fair to you?

    And yeah, some people start off way ahead of others. But in a competitive world, they have to be competent to maintain their position.

  111. Ken makes me wonder. Have most Continental liberals not moved beyond Marx, or is this an outlier argument.

    Answer to Ken: A policy that contributes to massive unemployment is stupid irrespective of owenrship of the means of production.

  112. Ken,

    In your world the population seems to be divided between robber barons and peasants. Most of us are in between. There is such a thing as middle management, for instance, and most middle class households have investments making them part of those who own “the means of production.”

    And what percentage of this mythical ordering around class came from wealthy families whose wealth was supported by governmental favoritism? I’m skeptical it’s such a grave issue. Either way, is there any benefit to makinig an implicitly unfair situation more unfair? Robert Mugabe kicked white farmers off their farms to adddress past injustices and what did Zimbabwe reap? Mass starvation. Plus, a fortune can be lost pretty easily. Any lineage that maintains its fortune several generations past the original act of favoritism is doing something right, even if the original favoritism was wrong.

  113. OK Ken lets think about this. You said:

    “At least with government power the majority has a say!”

    Then you contradict yourself with:

    “And why did this guy have ownership of the factory? The libertarian myth is that they, or their forefathers, just provided the customers with what they want the most. Hilarious! Perhaps their forefathers paid the government for the right to a special government railroad grant. Or they got a government backed monopoly (in the US, or maybe in England with the East India Company). Sorry, but a great deal of folks start off WAY ahead of others, with , ahem, more power over others lives (so much for liberty), for no good (or just) reason.”

    So perhaps a drastic reduction in government power will actually be beneficial to workers? True deregulation and free competition would likely spell trouble for the those politically-connected big businessmen you speak of.

  114. Good catch, Matt! We apparently need government intervention for redress of the injustices of past government intervention! The rallying cry of the statist-left should be: “This time, we’ll get it right!”

  115. Really Ken, are you really that ignorant or do you just enjoy telling lies?

    The Great Depression was caused by government intervention. Anybody who says otherwise is either lying or ignorant. Which one are you?

    Try reading this (that is if you can stand reading capitalist lies).

    http://www.futurecasts.com/Depression_mythology-I.html
    http://www.friesian.com/sayslaw.htm
    http://www.amatecon.com/gd/gdcandc.html

  116. Let’s do this one at a time!
    Daniel-Hardcore libertarian “scholars” try to work a historical “revision” to show that it was not laissez-faire but government that caused the Depression. Sadly though, since government intervened there has been no depressions, but back when government had MUCH less interventions it had much more depressions. Hmmmm.

    “Any lineage that maintains its fortune several generations past the original act of favoritism is doing something right, even if the original favoritism was wrong.”
    Sorry Fyodor, but who is to say that the original act of favortism was a one time thing? Those that inherit power (from injustices) are more likely to invoke government favortism, so the fact that big wealth maintains itself certainly has noting to do with anyone doing anything “right.” Even if there was only ONE act of government favortism then you have peson x with gobs of wealth from the favortism and person y with none, having to work for person x and obey his every whim. Even the biggest fool does not run his company into the ground (due to advertising and economies of scale the big company does not have to rationally outdo the lesser person and will still win). Wow, what “liberty!”
    Matt-if government intervention screwed it up in the first place we will need government intervention to fix it. Only they have the coercive monopoly to fix their screw up.
    And now the argument of “France does not have as good economic growth as us.” There are many indicators of a societies economy. In a lot of them France is doing just fine and we are not, thank you. If a nation is “growing” leaving the majority of its citizens unhappy, without health care, a reality of increasing inequality, increasing homelessness, etc., then “growing” might not be so good!

  117. Sorry Fyodor, but who is to say that the original act of favortism was a one time thing?

    Well hell, Ken, if it’s an ongoing thing, then we can address it directly, right? You’re the one who used examples from generations ago, i.e., railroad grants, East India Company. But when it comes to claiming this is as likely a recent phenomenon, the examples dry up, eh? Well, government still has its mitts in the economy more than it should, so I’m sure you can come up with some recent examples if you work hard enough at it. But methinks the number of people who have “gobs” of money due primarily to government largesse is rather small compared to the number of people who are successful due to their hard work and initiative. And anyway, utopia is not an option and there will always be things that you or I could call “unfair” in the world. The more important issue is what to do about it. Creating more unfairness is not a very good remedy.

  118. “As for Emme, Jen is right. One can always find an economists who argues for some silly libertarian dogma.”

    The problem with the following statement you made is that Robert Whapple is not a libertarian economist.

    His research in this particular area indicates that the short week has more to do with an increase in growth after world war one than anything else.

    Care to retract your statement?

  119. “if government intervention screwed it up in the first place we will need government intervention to fix it. Only they have the coercive monopoly to fix their screw up.”

    Ken, it appears you suffer from the “if we only had the right people in charge” disease which, unfortunately, does afflict upwards of 99% of the human population.

  120. There’s no point in arguing with you, Ken. You steadfastly refuse to acknowledge reality.

    After what happened in the 70’s (something that never should have happened, according to Keynes), you’d think people would stop viewing him as the saviour of anything… But no, why admit the truth when we can keep spouting our lies?

    As for me, I don’t worship anything. I just happen to know what I don’t like : statism. And I’m from Romania, I know statism more than you (hopefully) ever will.

    And I don’t remember saying the government shouldn’t do anything. There’s always national defense and various other things that a free market would have difficulty providing (yes, I just said it. The free market is not almighty, you heard it right).

    It’ just that the kind of goverment action you desire has been proven time and time again to be wrong. But the Left is like the Bourbons: “they have forgotten nothing and have learned nothing”.

    PS People work less in an era with bigger goverment because of a magical thing called technological progress, which increased workers’ productivity. Coincidentally, the government had ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with this increase in productivity. So it is the free market (hampered by your beloved government) that made a shorter working week possible, not some divine ruler. Not that this has any importance to you …

  121. “but here is something interesting: in an era with MORE laissez faire folks worked MORE, in an era of MORE government intervention, they worked LESS. Hmmm…”

    Well shit, then I guess the Soviet Union was a regular workers paradise. After all, they had plenty of intervention.

  122. Daniel
    You say
    “Just consider this: in 1929, when unemployment got to 8% in the USA, people were freaking out. The unemployment in France has been more than 10% for over a decade. France is like a starved man, consuming his own tissues (the same thing happened to the Communist block). If France does not change its absurd laws, it will collapse on itself. It is not a question of if, but of when.”
    That is very interesting, since the US, in an era of laissez faire created an unemployment rate of FAR greater than 10%. In fact SINCE government inervention the unempployment rate has never seen 10%… So how in the world your argument is against government intervention is beyond me…
    BTW-technological progress is nice isn’t it, much of it has been prodded by government subsidy (like R&D). Business, very short sighted, often misses that.
    As to Keynes I remember when his ideas led to unprecedented economic ruin. Oh yea, the 1970’s were NO WHERE NEAR the failure of the laissez faire 1920’s! So I’m afraid Keynes comes off looking pretty good…
    Matt-You too want the “right people” in charge, you just want business folks in charge. Perhaps you entrain the libertarian fantasy that “you can always quit and go work for a better boss.” Sadly there are a very limited number of bosses, none of which can be influenced by the majority, so we have a nice solid oligarchy. Liberty indeed…

  123. Damn it Ken, what’s wrong with you?

    It was not laissez-faire that caused unemployment in the US to go above 10%, it was active government intervention. You can bitch about this all you like, but you can’t change what actually happened. But you can always ignore it, it seems you’re pretty good at this.

    And yeah, business is short sighted and wouldn’t do R&D to save their lives… So the automobile, the locomotive, the telephone (and the list goes on and on) were all invented by the government…

    And yeah, Keynes was better than the morons who were in charge in the 20’s and 30’s. But he still is a lousy economist. Persuasive, but lousy.

    PS You’re not only ignorant, you think you know everything and refuse all contrary evidence, no matter how solid it is. I really hate arguing with the likes of you, and it’s really a mistery why you’re hanging out on a libertarian forum. What exactly do you hope to accomplish with your lies?

  124. That is very interesting, since the US, in an era of laissez faire created an unemployment rate of FAR greater than 10%. In fact SINCE government inervention the unempployment rate has never seen 10%… So how in the world your argument is against government intervention is beyond me…

    And then

    As to Keynes

    Actually, it is because Volcker had to kill the stagflation of 70’s, created by Keynesians, that we had the recession of 81-81 that had an unemployment rate over 10%. That hangover whittled itself down afterwards, despite the fact that women (re)entered the workforce in droves under Reagan. Perhaps you forgot the 30 million (net, actually 80 million were created and 50 million destroyed) jobs created under Reagan, or the total noncreation of jobs in France.

  125. er, 81-82, not 81-81. 🙂

  126. “It was not laissez-faire that caused unemployment in the US to go above 10%, it was active government intervention. You can bitch about this all you like, but you can’t change what actually happened. But you can always ignore it, it seems you’re pretty good at this.”
    Uhh, Daniel, you master of empirical reality, perhaps you can actually EXPLAIN why we had MORE unemployment in a laissez faire era (1920’s-early 1930’s) than we have ever had after the government intervened massively…Are we to believe that it was the rare government intervention in the 1920’s that caused more unemployment than eras with much more massive intervention? Who’s lying (though I would be more charitable, who’s more deluded by their ideology)?

  127. I presented you with some web pages explaining what went wrong in the 20’s and 30’s.

    And you dismissed them as being the works “revisionist libertarians”.

    Suit yourself. But really, do yourself (and the rest of the world) a favour and learn some REAL economics and some REAL history. Don’t limit yourself to Marxist crap.

  128. EXPLAIN why we had MORE unemployment in a laissez faire era (1920’s-early 1930’s) than we have ever had after the government intervened massively

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_depression

    Milton Friedman concluded, “I don’t doubt for a moment that the collapse of the stock market in 1929 played a role in the initial recession”

    Most historians and economists assign the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 part of the blame for worsening the depression by reducing international trade and causing retaliation

    Milton Friedman and Ben Bernanke stress the negative role of the Federal Reserve System. It cut the money supply by one-third from 1929 to 1932. There was much less money to go around, businessmen could not get new loans?and could not even get their old loans renewed. They had to stop investing. Not because they did not want to (as the Keynesian model said), but because banks could not lend them the money they needed.

    Ben Bernanke, by the way, is our new Fed Chairman, not some revisionistic kook.

    US unemployment rate: 1929 3.1; 1931 16.1; 1933 25.2; 1937 13.8; 1938 16.5; 1939 13.9

    So, in 1929 we had an unemployment rate of 3.1%, then we had a recession, then we had government intervention, then the unemployment rate skyrocketed and stayed high throughout the 30’s despite, or rather because of, government intervention.

    Your theory doesn’t fit the facts Ken.

  129. So I guess “Ken” doesn’t find it ironic that unskilled and unemployed French workers are taking to the streets to protest policies that would make more unskilled jobs available even while gainfully employed immigrants and their sympathizers take to the streets here in America to protest legislation they fear will restrict access to unskilled jobs.

    Other things being equal, does “Ken” recognize an indirect relationship between the costs associated with unskilled labor and the number of jobs available for unskilled workers?

  130. Ken and Daniel,

    You suffer from a common problem is discourse. You are each operating under different perspectives that so radically alter your interpretation of each other’s position that you can hardly communicate. The truth is going to be somewhere in between the positions each “interprets” the other as holding, and that truth will be closer to the reality that you both interact with daily than the fiction you attribute to your opponent in this debate (both of you are working with a different set of empirical facts, and both sets are correct).

    In fact both government intervention and technology are responsible for the current economy. In fact some technological inventions would not have occurred when they did without government encouragement, while some would not have occurred without private innovation and the motivation of greed. There is a synergy between the government and the economy that explains all of the issues being debated here. To take too hard a line on either side of the issue just makes one look dogmatic to your discourse partners. Econ 101 does not explain the economy any better than biology 101 explains the interaction between the environment and the genome, or English 101 explains the tension between grammaticality and rhetorical strength. Economics is a very soft science that attempts to explain a complex network of interacting elements. One of the big elements in that mix is the government. Another is the aggregate power of individual businesses. Both have played a significant role in the reduction of the work week, the increase in productivity, and our current definitions of “wealth.”

    Nice to see a debate about substantive issues on the boards :~]

  131. HappyJ:

    “So, in 1929 we had an unemployment rate of 3.1%, then we had a recession, then we had government intervention, then the unemployment rate skyrocketed and stayed high throughout the 30’s despite, or rather because of, government intervention.

    Your theory doesn’t fit the facts Ken.”

    You don’t really think it is that straight forward do you? Recessions and policy impacts play out over the course of longer cycles than you are implying (particularly because you are not taking the world economy into consideration). Your facts don’t argue causation. You know that, right?

  132. The revisionists would have you believe that the masses, so ignorant, did not see there was no problem with the laissez faire administrations and that FDR was bringing them a world of pain. Come one, they, and we, know better! Look at the unemployment rates reported: http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/Timeline.htm
    Of course FDR’s policies took SOME time to work, and you will see in this trend an ever GROWING unemployment rate (as well as a dwindling economic growth) under our beloved laissez faire administrations which is then brought UNDER control by FDR and his intervention…
    But why labor this point? SINCE FDR how many depressions have we had (none)? And BEFORE how many boom and bust cycles did we have? Plenty. It would be nice if reality reflected our ideology, but sadly it does its own thing!

  133. I think the strongest argument that it was not just business productivity and a competetive labor market that reduced work hours, is the reality that work hours have not decreased since the 40 hour work week was established (by means of mandatory overtime).

    Well, why haven’t they? Anyone who thinks that the 40 hour week is due just to increased productivity care to answer why increased productivity hasn’t decreased hours even more since the 40 hour week was established? Surely productivity has increased since!! I will grant that productivity may have increased even more with less government, but that is neither here nor there, as productivity has increased regardless. Why haven’t work hours decreased since?

    Is 40 hours some magic point after which working more becomes not worth the cost and before which it is? You’ve got to be kidding me. No real equilibrium point is so rigid. It’s the fact that laws exists that makes 40 hours the “expected” work week (and yes I am perfectly aware some people work more).

    By the way, I find it perfectly plausible that it’s not government benevolence that established the 40 hour week but rather a powerful and untamed labor movement. My point is that neither is it business benevolence or even profitability alone that established it. No way.

    I also find it perfectly plausible that a fairly wealthy and productive society is needed to sustain lesser work hours. Both a wealthy society and labor power (a labor movement ideally – if not that then laws) are necessary but insufficient conditions for reduced work hours. Without both of these factors it won’t happen.

  134. Ken:
    “SINCE FDR how many depressions have we had (none)? And BEFORE how many boom and bust cycles did we have? Plenty.”

    It’s my take that they just don’t call them depressions these days. Were the boom and bust cycles then (excluding perhaps 1929) any worse than the periodic recessions now?

    I do find it interesting to note that the federal reserve was established before 1929 (yea you know the federal reserve that thing that’s supposed to moderate the business cycles)

  135. Jersey=
    “”The point is that we have a record number of millionaires and aboe today and that is not good,”

    i dont know whether to laugh or cry my friend.

    JG

  136. “Emme-Not affiliated with libertarianism officially, OK, but here is something interesting: in an era with MORE laissez faire folks worked MORE, in an era of MORE government intervention, they worked LESS. Hmmm…”

    No actually what the article says is that the shortened work week was created by growth in the economy. The study shows that state and federal legislation actually played a pretty minor role. The growth of the economy is what played the biggest part in creating the shortened workweek. So actually, according to the article I linked, government intevention had very little to do with the shortened workweek. Make of it what you want.

  137. “I’m pretty sure you can get 1912 era medicine dirt cheap nowadays.”

    Not legally.

  138. “You too want the “right people” in charge, you just want business folks in charge.”

    Please tell me where I said that I want _anyone_ in charge, Ken. In case you have yet to figure it out, I prefer not to be ruled at all.

    And calling the 1920’s a “lassiez-faire” atmosphere is just flatly untrue. I’m not sure that a true laissez-faire economy ever existed in the U.S., and it damn sure wasn’t in the 20th century.

  139. Damnit this thread is depressing. Don’t feed the trolls, please.

    Js, that’s a pretty good point. I think there are a few explanations, though.

    First, the law discourages companies for hiring people for more than 40 hours a week. At the same time, jobs are considered full time only if they’re over, IIRC, 36 hours a week. So right there, we’ve explained why almost all full-time jobs are between 36 and 40 hours a week 🙂

    Second is that the 40-hour rule creates a sort of de facto floor. Once we legislate that 40 hours is the ‘appropriate’ workweek, we kind of accept that. On a similar note, forty hours seems to be a workweek that works pretty well for people-we’ve found an area around the amount that lots of people are content to work. Remember that jobs don’t actually all go 40 hours, and we have a lot that are 36 hours or 37.5 hours a week. Plus all the part-time jobs, even though they’re discouraged by the state of labor law.

    Finally, the other important point (beyond Emme’s very interesting-looking study that I’m not about to read when I’m this sleep-deprived) is that those laws couldn’t possibly have worked before productivity increased to support them. In a developing country, if you pass laws against child labor, the amount of child labor is almost unaffected. It just gets hidden. At the same time, as soon as parents’ incomes increase enough that they can afford to send their children to school instead, they do. By the time the laws were passed, they had an effect, but it wasn’t dramatic and they weren’t critical.

  140. (like honey attracts flies)

  141. Not that anyone is reading down this far in the thread but… Students and unions in France are protesting their parent’s generation, not capitalism. I’m sure they recognize the need for reform, but the young aren’t willing to shoulder the burden alone and shouldn’t have to. If French students are being asked to give up some saftey-net benefits, then the older workers should too. Reforming the French system will be incredibly difficult for this reason and might be politically impossible (which is why I’m investing in companies that make guillotines). By the way, the French drama is prologue to that American invention called Social Security.

  142. Which is to say that things still have to get a lot worse in France before they get better.

  143. Come one, they, and we, know better! Look at the unemployment rates reported:
    http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/Timeline.htm

    Come on Ken… If you look at the timeline on the page you provided, you will see that there was all sorts of interventionist government policies taking place well before 1929.

    Anyone who thinks that the 40 hour week is due just to increased productivity care to answer why increased productivity hasn’t decreased hours even more since the 40 hour week was established? Surely productivity has increased since!!

    There are several reasons. First, the cost of compliance with government regulation is higher, as well as taxes. A lot of the extra productivity we have had is consumed by widely successful government programs such as the war on poverty, war on drugs, war on terror, war on smoking and big scary dogs, etc., etc… The government consumes around 50% of GDP, and that doesn’t include the extra cost of compliance with regulation, lawsuits, etc. It is not unreasonable to estimate that at least 60-70% of GDP is consumed directly by, or indirectly because of the government. You spend 9 months out of the year paying for all these wonderful services and protections the government gives you. You want families to get up to 100 days of paid vacation if they have a child? That is going to cost everyone. You want everyone to follow strict OSHA standards… the safety equipment, training, loss of productivity, is all going to cost something. You want to throw the neighbor kid in prison for the rest of his life for selling pot, and you want a police force than can carry out the survalence and under cover work to spot the $1000 of week growing in his back yard and his intent to sell, that kind of wonderful stuff cost us!

    Second, you are assuming that people will always choose free time over consumer items. 40 hours a week seems to be, in general, the amount of time people can work to buy a lot of consumer items, and have a lot of time to enjoy them. I could easily afford to live working less than 40 hours a week, but I would have to give up certain luxuries that I enjoy. People nowadays have a lot more consumer goods than 100 years ago.

    Third, we live a lot longer now. We will probably spend a third of our lives, possibly more, retired. We need to earn enough to support ourselves not only now, but after we retire.

    Fourth, we are entering the labor market later. Gen-X Billy doesn’t go to work at the plant at age 16. Gen-X Billy will probably go to University, spend a few years in a rock band trying to be a pop star, spend a few years working on an internet startup that never pans out, spend some time traveling. It might be the government that supsidizes it, or Billy’s rich parents, or whatever, but all that consumes resources that Billy isn’t producing.

    If you believe the Marxist propoganda, that the capitalists are stealing our “surplus value”, and that is why work weeks haven’t gone down, you are mistaken. A strict Marxist analysis would show that government takes far more suprlus value than the Capitalists nowadays. At least 30-40% of our surplus value goes to the government in taxes, where as a corporation takes maybe 1-5%, on average, of our surplus value (and that gets taxed, so some of that is really government suprlus value).

  144. Mo Money,

    “Not that anyone is reading down this far in the thread but…”

    I assure you, some do read this far in the thread. I’ve read the entire thing and it has been very interesting.

  145. To throw out a few points –
    a. Writing from the world’s largest exporting economy, it sure seems like the decline of the German economy is as much a slam dunk as many other American truisms – after all, being the world’s leader in exports is always a sign of a decling economy – just read any American article about Europe’s tragically slow growth and high unemployment (www.cepr.org might be a good place to read how the American media distorts German unemployment figures). Luckily, America’s dynamic powerhouse economic miracle doesn’t have the problem of exporting more than it imports.

    b. As a Dutchman remarked to me, Americans think Europe is France. (He is banned from America due to actually telling the truth about doing 3 weeks of translation talking to the people who wrote the documentation – they deported him, of course, because America is such a free market.) The Post writer does have a current book out, and she believes younger Germans just want to feel the rumble of a tank motor again – what an amazingly stupid thing to write seriously. But then, she also writes how Europe is completely secular – this with Germany being run by the CDU (C for Christian) and with mandatory religion classes in public schools. This may give you an idea of what a fool she is, a really amazing example of Americans not actually being able to go beyond Paris when talking about the roughly 300 million Europeans who don’t speak English or French.

    But please, don’t let me stop anyone from learning about the truth of how Europeans live from her. Just another truly well-informed American doing her best to have other Americans become as well-informed as she is.

    But remember –
    Germany – world’s largest exporter
    USA – world’s largest debtor and envy of the world.

    Love to see a few reactions to the facts, except that part about ‘envy of the world?’ That isn’t a fact, it is just something the American media keeps repeating endlessly.

  146. Hey export, I’m Romanian and even in Romania you hear about German unemployment and lagging economy. So it’s not just the Americans that hear those news.

    And you say the media distorts German unemployment figures.You mean unemployment is not above 10%?

    Now I’m not an economist, but I have read books on the subject. And frankly, importing more than you export does not seem to be an issue.

    But if you want to fret about trade balance, what’t the trade balance between the various regions of Germany? Some of them must have what you would call a “trade deficit”. Shouldn’t you be worried about that? If yes, what do you think should be done about it?

    If not (and I think this is the right answer), why should the Americans be worried?

  147. Hello Daniel,
    German unemployment is all over the place – a disaster in the East, and in places like Bavaria or Baden-Wuerttemberg, under American standards. For example, American unemployment statistics don’t count anyone who worked any amount of time in the period being measured – in Germany, if you work less than 15 hours a week and wish for full time employment, you are counted as unemployed. When comparing OECD stats, and allowing for East Germany being a disaster, Germany has slightly higher unemployment than the U.S. – about 1% to 2% higher, not 10% or more. And I think a regional comparison is fair enough – no one talks about Detroit’s unemployment rate as being an indication of American manufacturing prowess (I can’t believe I could type that without laughing out loud). And don’t even begin to ask about the military, or the fact that something like 1.5% of Americans labor force isn’t counted, being in jail, and the people guarding them are counted as being gainfully employed – if Germany had comparable rates, German unemployment would definitely be under American.

    Germans are the worriers, not Americans. Americans are currently running a trade deficit of something like 7%, and growing on a nice curve like that of any 3rd World debt disaster of the past. I have read, through Roberts I believe, that currently America is only capable of producing 85% of what it consumes – but nobody in America seems to be worrying about that. Think of it this way – borrowing yourself rich is the sort of thing America can’t really export, but which Americans really do seem to believe in. Though that poppping sound was likely the housing bubble – payback is not a bitch, it is a contractual obligation. And no, you can’t pay it back in Chinese junk manufactured by semi-slaves – that’s how the Chinese pay their bills, not Americans. Or by pointing out how shiny the granite and stainless is in the flop house you now will lose. As for unemployment in this regards – check American statistics in 6-12 months – somehow, I doubt too many real estate/construction jobs will be around then.

  148. Nice to see I am finally getting a civilised reply, with actual arguments (something Ken had trouble with)

    I am aware of the economic differences between the East Germany and West Germany. The unemployment figures in the West are reasonable, I know that.

    But the way I see it, when a bad situation fails to improve, there must be a fault in the system. Unemployment in East Germany has been high for more than a decade, don’t you think there is a fault in the German system that keeps it that way?

    As for the Americans borrowing themselves rich, I think we shold make a difference.

    When a government borrows money to finance its pipe dreams, it’s bad. That is an actual problem.

    But when a private individual makes a conscious decision to borrow some money for his (or her) project (whatever it may be), I don’t see how that can be wrong.

    And when you complain of American media distorting European reality, I think you should be fair and acknowledge that European media distorts American reality.

  149. JMJ

    You seem to assume there is a fixed amount of wealth in the world and that the economy is a zero-sum game. Essentially, you view one man’s wealth as another man’s ruin.

    That is simply not true.There is much more wealth in the world (the civilised world, at least) than there was a century ago.

    A car is better than a horse cart, the phone and the internet are better than written mail, computers are something unimaginable to someone living in the 19th century.

    Face it, the life of the American middle-class nowadays is better than the life of many rich people in the 19th century.

    So the rich get richer, and the poor get richer. That’s how it works in capitalism (of course, there are exceptions).

    Having a record number of millionaires is not bad in itself. It is bad if they made their money through government favours.

    But if they managed to get rich through their own labour (and luck), what’s wrong with that? Don’t forget that in order to get rich, you have to provide something valuable to many people. So essentially a rich man is someone who has been of help to many other people. Just think of Bill Gates and the Windows operating system, or Henry Ford and his cars. These people offered something very valuable, and it improved the quality of life.

    THAT is why your statement is ridiculous. Remember, wealth is not a fixed amount, it is created through labour. And if you create something very valuable, then you deserve being rich.

  150. Daniel-I’m not sure that your yelling “Liar, liar” is much of a civilized argument.
    Perhaps we can drop the tired archaic libertarian refrain “We’ve never had a really laissez-faire government!” This is the flip of how Marxists tried to ignore their theories failures by saying “We’ve never had a really Marxist government.” These are ideal types that do not exist in reality except among a continuum. Now having said that, are you going to argue (lie?) that there was MORE government intervention in the 1920’s than in the 1930’s, 40’s, 60’s etc? Of course there was LESS intervention in the 1920’s and it made a real mess.
    Now lets, as they say on NPR, do the numbers.
    FDR was elected in 1932 but did not take office until 1933. He inherited a big fat unemployment rate from his MORE laissez faire predecessor of 23.6 and 24.9%. After he took the reigns unemployment started to go down, by 1939 to 17% (nothing to brag about for sure, but certainly better). Then, as you say, we have the War, which saw massive government intervention, and not just directly military related. The tax rate on the wealthy was much steeper than today and industries were nearly nationalized, collective bargaining was institutionalized, etc. And guess what? The sky did not fall, indeed America prospered. Keynes saved capitalism from its worst excesses without resorting to a failed system like Marxism.
    As for France and Germany-there are numerous indicators of economic well being. On some of them the US outdoes France and Germany, on some they do not.

  151. js,

    I work a 36 hour week.

    FWIW, I don’t doubt for a moment that the law that mandates time and a half for more than 40 hours of work for hourly workers has a not insignificant effect on the exactly 40 hour work week being so typical.

    But the only reason that the law doesn’t have a massive detrimental effect on the economy is that it’s not far off from what we’d see without the law in effect.

    It’s ridiculous to think that productivity could lower the work week to 10 hours or some such. Who would only work 10 hours when they can make so much more from 30 or 40 hours?? There’re plenty of part time jobs out there, and even if they don’t include benefits, you could probably work 20 hours and pay for your own health insurance and still have a lot more materially than most people did a hundred years ago. But you’d rather have even MORE, right?

    In switching to a 36 hour week, my company’s CEO cited polls that stated that people in most states would prefer more money than more time off, but it was the other way around here in Colorado!

    If more people were like that, you’d see more sub-40 hour work weeks.

  152. Allow me to explain further.

    The preferred hours worked operated as a bell curve, not in a straight line. Most people are interested in maximizing both their earning potential AND their time off. On one extreme is working every hour of your life, which would maximize earning potential (and there are people who are exempt from the time and a half rule, and one could take multiple jobs, so laws cannot be the ONLY reason people do not do that). On the other extreme is not working at all, which would maximize time off. The former creates the problem of not having any time off to enjoy one’s earnings. The latter creates the problem of not having any money to make good use of one’s time off. Therefore, we choose a level of work time that falls somewhere in between, that gives us plenty of time for both earning and time off.

    Now, the richer a society is, the more likely it will turn to time off rather than earnings, since it needs to spend less time on earnings for necessities. However, this is only going to go so far, for a variety of reasons. One is that our perception of “necessity” changes such that what was once a luxury is now considered a necessity. Plus, as I pointed out in my last post, the more money you can make, the more tempting it is to work more hours to be able to attain greater and greater material wealth.

    A lot of this has to do with the law of diminishing returns. Most people just don’t have that great a need to work less than 40 hours. Some people prefer work to their families!

    Anyway, I would expect the work week to slowly shrink from increased productivity, and my own 36 hour week is a fine testament to the fact that that is possible and is indeed going on. But just don’t expect it to be immediate or to directly correlate to productivity increases. Very little in the world is that simple. And perhaps that’s why people often find it so easy to ignore what economics clearly tells us, because it sometimes takes a little digging beneath the surface to see all that’s going on. There’s never just one or two factors at play in the real world, but rather a myriad. It’s like the weather. It’s tough to predict the weather because there’s so many factors affecting it. But that doesn’t mean that physicists are wrong about the basic building blocks. More energy makes things hot, less energy makes things cold. But does that mean tomorrow is going to be in the 40’s or the 60’s? Similarly, it’s easy to predict that increased productivity will lead to shorter work weeks, but predicting how quickly that will happen is almost infinitely difficult.

  153. He inherited a big fat unemployment rate from his MORE laissez faire predecessor of 23.6 and 24.9%.

    Heh, heh, that’s like saying a 7-11 robber is less of a criminal than a bank robber.

    Remember all those land grants gov’t gave railroads? Ooh, robber barons.
    But is you want to get to the root of government intervention in the economy, you must examine the history of money and banking.

    Oh, oh, it’s all the businessmen’s fault. Never the system of political government.
    Except, there was corruption all through the USSR experiment, even though the economy was nearly all under the control of the government and there were no private businesses to speak of.

    Gosh, where does corruption come from?

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