Reviving an Economic Argument in the 21st Century
Information and Writings that favor government action to reduce work time
by William McGaughey, Jr.
Click here for links (more details at the bottom of this page) Click here for links (more details at the bottom of this page) 1 The Numbers (labor statistics) 33 How shorter working hours and international trade are related 2 Leisure and Economic Growth 34 A proposal for work sharing to lick unemployment 3 International Comparison of Vacation Time 35 The end of a long cycle 4 An Interview with Henry Ford 36 Why Christians should support shorter-workweek legislation 5 A Letter from Henry Ford II 37 A society of leisure is richer than one devoted to financial growth 6 What Politicians and Other Notables Have Said 38 Is more education the answer to job creation? 7 Historical Note 39 An attempted dialogue with persons at the 2011 Netroots Nation conference in Minneapolis 8 Motivations for Supporting Shorter Work Hours 40 The mechanics of cutting work hours and creating jobs 9 Several Economic Theories 41 2012 and beyond: A political fantasy 10 What is the Quantity of Labor? 42 1957 article on four-day workweek 11 The Alleged Lump-of-Labor Fallacy 43 Whether tax cuts for the rich create jobs 12 Economic Effects of Shortening Work Time 44 Samuel Gompers' own account of the fight for the 8-hour day 13 A Chinese Hotel Manager's Response to Shorter Work Hours 45 The presidents of Taiwan and South Korea both propose shorter workweeks 14 Op-Ed Piece in the New York Times 46 What is an economy? 15 Opinion Article in the Los Angeles Times 47 A shorter workweek in South Korea, 2001 to 2011 16 Henry Ford's Model of Industrial Development 48 Work and Leisure in a Knowledge-Based Economy 17 The Origin of May Day 49 Government as regulator of the labor market 18 New Priorities for Japan 50 LEISURE An essay by Agnes Repplier 19 A Model of Trade Oriented toward Labor and the Environment 51 EUREKA! The shorter workweek is here 20 A Search for Labor-Standards Auditing in International Trade 52 A letter to the chair of the Federal Reserve Board 21 Government Mechanisms to Reduce Work Hours 53 ILO Report Spurs Movement toward Four-Day Workweek in the Philippines and in Russia 22 How to Persuade Government 54 On the need to raise the salary threshold for overtime eligibility 23 We Need to Unlearn the Economic Lessons of the Great Depression 55 How the 30-hour-workweek bill was sidetracked in 1933 24 What Needs to be Done to Create Jobs in the United States 56 An Economic Proposal 25 Britain needs a shorter-hours culture 57 Shorter Work Hours: New Priorities 26 History & arguments 58 The New Overtime Income Threshold Could be Only the Beginning 27 An Attempt to Raise the Subject in 2009 59 Sketch of a new trading order 28 For the President’s summit on employment 60 The Story of Bill McGaughey’s Involvement with this Issue 29 AFL-CIO Resolution for a 35-Hour Workweek in 1958 61 Iowa City Declaration 30 A Short History of Shorter Working Hours 31 What is given up by working less? 32 Behind-the-scenes opposition to the shorter-workweek proposal 70 Links and Contacts
1. numbers The Numbers -- Statistics pertaining to work hours in the United States of America 925 words (2007) This section presents statistical tables relating to the average workweek in the United States in several periods of years. It also brings in information about the gain in leisure in various forms between 1940 and 1979 and information about daily hours devoted to various purposes in personal life as reported in time-diary studies.
2. econgrowth Leisure and Economic Growth -- Leisure time is not a waste but a vessel for a fuller and richer life 2159 words (late 1980s) This theoretical article foreshadows arguments developed more fully in the book, Nonfinancial Economics: The Case for Shorter Hours of Work. The main idea is that the economy should develop to satisfy real human wants and needs (often stimulated by more leisure) and not tailor policies to artificial measures of growth denominated in dollars.
3. vacations Paid Vacations and Holidays in several Countries -- Statistics to show how little vacation and holiday time American workers receive compared with workers in other industrialized nations 368 words (2007) Paid vacations and holidays offer additional free time at particular times of the year. The ILOs Holidays with Pay Convention adopted in 1970 calls for workers with one or more years of service to receive a minimum of three weeks of paid annual leave. Thirty-five years later, the United States still does not meet that standard.
4. ford The 5-Day Week in the Ford Plants -- An interview with Henry Ford when he introduced the 5-day workweek at his automobile factories 2734 words (1926) This section reprints an interview of the automobile manufacturer Henry Ford that appeared in Worlds Work in October 1926. Ford argued that a modern industrial economy must ultimately give its workers more leisure to remain profitable.
5. ford2 Grandson throws cold water on the idea of shorter-workweek legislation -- Henry Ford II responds to a letter urging support of shorter work hours 577 words (1983) This is a letter written by Henry Fords grandson, Henry Ford II, long-time chairman of the Ford Motor Company, to William McGaughey, Jr., who had sent him a book and other materials arguing for a shorter workweek. Mr. Fords reasons for opposing this idea have to do primarily with the alleged tradeoff between leisure and income.
6. notables What Politicians and Other Notables Have Said of this Idea -- Most expressed a willingness to listen 639 words (1972-1991) Four letters quoted here in excerpts are addressed to William McGaughey. Economist Milton Friedman is opposed to a shorter workweek because of experiences in the Great Depression. With varying degrees of enthusiasm, Hubert Humphrey, Bob Dole, and Bill Clinton are receptive to the idea. The fifth is a Dear Colleague letter written by Rep. John Conyers as he introduced a shorter-workweek bill, H.R. 1784, on March 2, 1983.
7. historical Historical Note -- How American politicians abandoned the proposal for shorter work hours 797 words (2007) This narrative traces the growing unwillingness of U.S. government officials to support shorter-workweek proposals. The government may have felt it needed to keep Americans working long hours to provide the material resources for its ambitious programs, especially in the military area. The lone exception was Senator Eugene McCarthy, chair of the 1959 Senate Special Committee on Unemployment, who always regretted the committees failure to support shorter work hours.
8. motivations Some Different Motivations for Wanting Shorter Hours of Work -- From overworked factory workers to social visionaries and the technical elite 2478 words (2007) Over the years, the motivation for supporting shorter hours of work has changed. Orginally, factory workers needed relief from fatigue. In economic recessions, shorter work hours are sometimes proposed to spread employment opportunities to more people. Recently, social idealists and well-paid professionals have sought relief from full-time work to improve quality of life. Shorter hours may offer a way out of the dilemma of providing employment to a growing number of people in an era of finite material resources.
9. theories Several Economic Theories -- Different strategies to meet the challenge of industrialization 3420 words (2007) This article looks at some of the theories that have influenced U.S. economic policy since the 1920s. The theories fall into two categories: (1) those that advocate fiscal stimulus either through increased government spending or tax cuts, and (2) those that deal with the employment consequences of labor-saving capital investment. Shorter work hours and appropriate technology are alternative ways of addressing labor displacement.
10. labor What is the Quantity of Labor? -- Work can be measured in several different ways 1477 words (2007) The shorter-workweek argument assumes that labor is a commodity with a certain quantity expressed in terms of worker-hours. That may not always be the case. This article finds that skilled labor has a knowledge component whose quantity is divorced from time. Likewise the labor of lobbyists and entertainers depends upon a recognized personal identity. In other words, labor has a fixed-cost dimension which contradicts the variable-cost concept implicit in arguments for reducing work hours to affect labor supply.
11. lumpoflabor The Alleged "Lump-of-Labor" Fallacy -- Which view is fallacious? 1280 words (2007) Academic experts, echoed by the media, claim that the shorter-workweek argument is based on a fallacy which they call the lump-of-labor fallacy. Theirs is, however, a straw-man argument. No one claimed that structures of employment are static. This shows how economic issues become perverted as the big media let academic reputations trump conclusions reached in reasoned discussions. In this case, Paul Samuelson, winner of a Nobel prize, was ignorantly parroting a concept originated by a public-relations flak.
12. econeffect The Economic Effect of Shorter Working Hours -- What happens to productivity and employment when work time is reduced 1828 words (2007) Opponents of a shorter workweek claim that workers need to choose between higher incomes and more leisure. The historical record belies such claims. This section includes various reports of the impact on wages, employment, national competitiveness, productivity, price levels, and consumption of energy when working hours are reduced.
13. chinesehotel A Chinese hotel manager's response to shorter-workweek legislation -- Changed work schedules and student interns helped to avoid additional hiring 315 words (2007) The Chinese government adopted a 40-hour workweek in 1995. What was the impact on Chinas economy. At a personal level, this web page describes how a hotel manager adjusted work schedules and engaged student interns to keep labor costs under control.
14. nyt Full Employment for All -- An Op-Ed Piece written for the New York Times 723 words (1979) The New York Times published this opinion article by William McGaughey in November 1979 when the U.S. House of Representatives held hearings on a shorter-workweek bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers. Its thesis was that continued advancements in labor productivity combined with a failure to cut work hours had created a stagnant market for newcomers to the work force which came at an inopportune time for women and minorities.
15. latimes It's Time to Share the Work and Pie -- Whether work-sharing leads to poverty or wealth 808 words (1982) The Los Angeles Times published this opinion article in a period of economic recession (which, this time, was cured by tax cuts rather than increased government spending.) William McGaugheys article looks at the shorter-workweek proposal in light of the Great Depression. In the long run, it suggests, shorter work hours increase consumer demand, production, and incomes. Only in the short run is there a tradeoff between leisure and incomes.
16. csm Henry Fords Productivity Lesson -- A need to offset increased productivity by increased wages and reduced hours of work 846 words (1982) This article which was published in the Christian Science Monitor expands Henry Fords scheme (expressed in the 1926 interview) into a theory of industrial development. It suggests an orderly process by which business firms first earn increased profits from this foreign investment. Next, factory workers agitating through unions earn increased wages. Finally, to preserve employment opportunities in the society, working hours are reduced. Unsuccessful development features a breakdown at any stage.
17. mayday Let's Recapture May Day -- This holiday originated in America as fight for eight-hour day though no longer celebrated here 1171 words (1985) The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published this short history of May Day on the eve of the 99th anniversary of the May 1st strike for the eight-hour day that took place in the United States and Canada in 1886. May Day, the labor holiday, originated in this event. Despite its American origin, this holiday is no longer celebrated in the United States. It is a major holiday in other countries.
18. japan New Priorities for Japan -- Government planners envision a society of greater leisure 726 words (1990) This is an opinion article written for the Christian Science Monitor by Motoyuki Miyano and William McGaughey. Miyano was managing director of the Leisure Development Center, an agency within the Ministry of International Trade and Industry charged with planning for increased leisure in Japanese society. The Japanese government had set a goal of reducing average work hours to 1,800 hours per year to improve quality of life and be a more responsible trading partner with other nations. The plan also called for the creation of new recreational facilities and cheaper transportation.
19. trade1 A Model of Trade oriented toward Labor and the Environment -- Employer-specific tariffs as an alternative to free trade 3178 words (1993) The Green Party publication, Synthesis/ Regeneration, included this article by William McGaughey in its sixth issue, devoted to international trade. It outlined an alternative to free trade. McGaughey proposed that tariffs be retained as a mechanism for promoting certain behavior by business firms engaged in international trade. The author used reprints of this article as the principal position paper during his campaign in Louisianas 2004 Democratic presidential primary.
20. trade2 A Search for Labor-Standards Auditing in International Trade -- Enforcement of standards through auditing rather than legal action 1829 words (1996) A companion piece to the 1993 article in Synthesis/ Regeneration, McGaughey here focused upon the enforcement of standards for labor and environmental protection that are implicit in his scheme of employer-specific tariffs. He proposed that an accounting approach rather than a legal approach be taken. Professional auditors would inspect foreign factories to determine and certify levels of wages and hours in producing goods for export.
21. mechanisms Government Mechanisms to Reduce Work Hours -- Provisions of Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 plus possible trade-related enforcement 1069 words (2007) How would government implement a shorter workweek if its policymakers chose to do so? How would government work with other governments to coordinate a worldwide reduction in hours? This section identifies mechanisms of government regulation - principally the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and McGaugheys own scheme of employer-specific tariffs - that would create financial incentives for employers to reduce work hours. For instance, the legislation introduced by Rep. John Conyers in 1979 and 1983 proposed to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act.
22. convincegovt How to persuade government of this plan -- It may take a political revolution. 835 words (2007) This addresses the most difficult question of all: how to persuade officials of the U.S. Government to support reductions in working hours when labor unions in the United States have abandoned this goal, the business community remains firmly opposed, and government itself has developed a voracious appetite for the wealth which it thinks will be maintained or increased when workers are kept working long hours. It will take grassroots citizen participation in politics to change the priorities of government. The Seattle-based Take Back your Time movement, now advocating federal legislation for minimum vacations, is one example of what might be done. There is also a link to another web site, http://www.goldparty.org, which envisions creation of a new political party to take back government from the well-heeled special interests controlling both the Republican and Democratic Parties and to push for a new trading order and a new type of society that serves peoples needs.
23. new dealWe Need to Unlearn the Economic Lessons of the Great Depression 5350 words (2009) Less emphasis on financial mechanisms and more on the physical basis of production
24. jobsagenda What Needs to be Done Now to Create Jobs in the United States 5350 words (2009) Create more jobs by cutting average hours of work
25. economist Britain needs a shorter-hours culture 619 words (2009) So far, the government has just thrown money at the economic crisis. But another Keynesian remedy may be required.
26. history&arguments Shorter Workweek: History & arguments for and against 107 words (2009)
27. catholicharities An Attempt to Raise the Subject in 2009 1194 words (2009) It leads to a chance to talk with a security guard.
28. summit It’s time to reconsider shorter work time 3680 words (2009) We need to think outside the box on employment.
29. AFL-CIO AFL-CIO Resolution for a 35-Hour Workweek --Adopted by the American central labor organization in 1958 1222 words (2009)
30. SWWhistory A Short History of Shorter Working Hours - The struggle to reduce work time from antiquity to the present day 10,557 words (2009)
31. leisuretradeoff What is given up by working less? --Not much except for dollar-denominated waste 3642 words (2010)
32. behindscenes Behind-the-scenes opposition to the shorter-workweek proposal --Advisors get labor to abandon its traditional goal 3580 words (2010)
33. hoursandtrade How Shorter Working Hours and International Trade are Related -- A closed system is needed to make free-market adjustments 2969 words (2010)
34. kurzarbeit A proposal for work sharing to lick unemployment --Amend Fair Labor Standards Act to create four-day week and tax away the overtime premium 603 words (2010)
35. longcycle The end of a long cycle --The New Deal detour into deficit spending 833 words (2010)
36. Christian Why Christians should support shorter-workweek legislation --An end to serving the empires of money 2109 words (2010)
37. leisuresociety A society of leisure is richer than one devoted to financial growth --It affords a more complete pursuit of an attractive personal identity 4170 words (2011)
38. moreeducation Is more education the answer to job creation? -- A response to President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union message 1406 words (2011)
39. netrootsnation An attempted dialogue with persons at the 2011 Netroots Nation conference -- Picketers not welcome on the sidewalk outside the Minneapolis Convention Center 3341 words (2011)
40. createjobs The mechanics of cutting work hours and creating jobs -- Amending the Fair Labor Standards Act in several respects 7,092 words (2011)
41. fantasy 2012 and beyond: A political fantasy -- How Americans learned to cope with life after big government collapsed 3,741 words (2011)
42. parade 1957 article on four-day workweek -- Parade Magazine reporters interview people on the consequences of leisure 1,941 words (2011)
43. catwalk Whether tax cuts for the rich create jobs -- Job creation in political fantasyland and the real world 781 words (2011)
44. Gompers Samuel Gompers' own account of the fight for the 8-hour day -- The inside story of May Day and organizing for the eight-hour workday 6,473 words (2011)
45. Asianpresidents The presidents of Taiwan and South Korea both propose shorter workweeks -- Continued progress in Asia as the United States languishes in imagined financial solutions 1,398 words (2012)
46. economy What is an economy? -- A device for exchanging useful goods and services 3,810 words (2012)
47. southkorea A shorter workweek in South Korea, 2001 to 2011: the economic impact -- How employment has increased as this national economy moved from a six-day to a five-day workweek 647 words (2012)
48. knowledgeeconomy -- Work and Leisure in a Knowledge-Based Economy -- Away from the time-based model of work 5,078 words (2013)
49. regulator Government as regulator of the labor market -- A way out of the jobs crisis now that increased government spending is blocked 2425 words (2013)
50. repplier LEISURE -- An essay by Agnew Repplier (1893) 3642 words (2013)
51. obamacare EUREKA! The shorter workweek is here -- Obamacare persuades employers to cut work time to 30 hours per week 821 words (2013)
52. yellen A letter to the chair of the Federal Reserve Board -- Monetary policy may not be the best approach to job creation in today's situation 1523 words (2014)
53. ILOreport ILO Report Spurs Movement toward Four-Day Workweek in the Philippines and in Russia-- Advantages cited in improved health, happiness, and employment 1,795 words (2014)
54. hanauer On the need to raise the salary threshold for overtime eligibility-- Only 11 percent of American workers qualify for overtime pay 4,138 words (2014)
55. Blackbill How the 30-hour-workweek bill was sidetracked in 1933 -- Labor traded it for the right to collective bargaining 1,500 words (2015)
56. Proposal An Economic Proposal -- Amending the Fair Labor Standards Act in several respects 4,812 words (2015)
57. newpriorities Shorter Work Hours: New Priorities -- Tax away the half-time overtime premium and cover managerial and professional employees 1,677 words (2015)
58. overtimethreshold The New Overtime Income Threshold Could be Only the Beginning -- Finally, real movement toward shorter working hours 8,049 words (2015)
59. newtradeorder Sketch of a new trading order -- Tariffs used to encourage more humane production practices 1,068 words (2015)
60. biography The Story of Bill McGaughey’s Involvement with this Issue -- A “new wave” advocate of shorter working hours 7,440 words (2016)
61. iowacitydeclaration Iowa City Declaration -- It set a goal of a 32-hour workweek in North America by the year 2000 867 words (2016)
70 links Links and Contacts -- Email contact and links to related sites 2655 words (2007)
See: Bill McGaughey, proponent of shorter work hours and humane trade regulation.
The time is right, if not long overdue. At the Short Work Time conference in Seattle in late August, we will launch a campaign for federal legislation to establish a 32-hour standard workweek in the United States using this web site and other resources to coordinate efforts. The campaign will involve mass mailings and compiling lists of persons who might want to participate. If you’re interested in such an effort, please send an email to the following address giving your name, address, telephone number, email address, and other information that you care to share. Now is the time for action. Major changes in the way we approach and organize our lives may lie ahead. Send email to mailto: email@example.com
The book that started it all -
a classic long out of print, brought back online here
A Shorter Workweek in the 1980s (table of contents and chapter text)
a book that continued the fight, associating long hours with economic waste -
Nonfinancial Economics by Eugene McCarthy and William McGaughey (table of contents only)
CHILD LABOR - A recent addition to the McGaughey household, two-year-old Dale Foresta helps his grand mother clean up the vacant lot across the street.
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