Letters to the Editor
Don't Starve The Horses
'WHY WORK?' asks Leilani Clark (Cover Story, July 7). Why not just cut the 40-hour workweek in half, and everyone will be happier?
A basic law of economics is that our standard of living depends on our output of goods and services: we can only consume what we produce. Right now, the reason so many of the world's economies are in trouble is that people are trying to consume more than they produce. Arguing that things like health care and universal education and cheap housing are extremely desirable is moot. If we are not producing them, we cannot have them.
Reducing by half the hours we spend producing useful things will halve the number of useful things for distribution. That will halve the standard of living for everyone. There is just no getting around that. To even maintain our present standard of living, we need to increase production, not decrease it. And no, we can't make everyone work harder and do the same job in half the time. That is not realistic; that is not human nature.
If going from 40 to 21 hours will work, why stop there? Let's have a 10-hour workweek! I am reminded of the old folk story about the farmers who one day forgot to feed their plow horses. They were worried, but lo and behold, the horses did the same amount of plowing that day. So they tried it again the following day. Again, the horses did exactly the same amount of work. The farmers thought that they were really onto something. This went on for a while, until one morning they found the horses all dead. They couldn't figure out why.
I FOUND Ms. Clark's article to be short-sighted and borderline offensive. She writes as though it is news that a 21-hour workweek would improve our lives and make us all more "sane and healthy." I don't think anyone's going to disagree that it would be nice to spend more time with our families, riding our bikes and growing our own food. Except maybe those of us for whom Ms. Clark's personal lifestyle choices are (1) uninteresting or (2) unattainable due to our immigration status, education level or disability.
I'm pleased to see that the author remembered issues of health care and age. Perhaps the next article she writes will enlighten me on how my husband and I (collectively we work over 90 hours per week) can move out of our shitty apartment and afford cable television.
In last week's article about PG&E's smart meters ("Meter Cheaters," Currents), we incorrectly identified San Francisco's governing body as a city council. San Francisco is governed by a Board of Supervisors. We regret the error.
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