Bertrand Russell on Economics and Finance
|January 9, 2007||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Shorter Workweek or Higher Unemployment?
Bertrand Russell on Work Weeks
Here is a quote from Bertrand Russell, who was a top philosopher and thinker of the 20th century.
Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working, say, eight hours a day.
Someone makes an invention by which the same number of people can make twice as many pins as before. But the world does not need twice as many pins. Pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacture of pins would take to working four hours in stead of eight, and eveything else would go on as before.
But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The people still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the people previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the people are totally idled while half are still overworked. In this way it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?
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