Civil Liberties

Poor Little Rich Man


Maybe it's true that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. But the poor are also getting a lot more time to enjoy "our friends, our hobbies, and our favorite TV shows." While people in the top 10 percent have about the same amount of leisure time now as their counterparts did in 1965, the bottom 10 percent have gained about 14 hours a week in free time.

Over at Slate, Steven E. Landsburg offers some musings on these surprising facts:

First, man does not live by bread alone. Our happiness depends partly on our incomes, but also on the time we spend with our friends, our hobbies, and our favorite TV shows. So, it's a good exercise in perspective to remember that by and large, the big winners in the income derby have been the small winners in the leisure derby, and vice versa.

Second, a certain class of pundits and politicians are quick to see any increase in income inequality as a problem that needs fixing—usually through some form of redistributive taxation. Applying the same philosophy to leisure, you could conclude that something must be done to reverse the trends of the past 40 years—say, by rounding up all those folks with extra time on their hands and putting them to (unpaid) work in the kitchens of their "less fortunate" neighbors. If you think it's OK to redistribute income but repellent to redistribute leisure, you might want to ask yourself what—if anything—is the fundamental difference.

Read the original study here.