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Monday, 07 February 2022 00:27

Social Credit and the Four Day Work Week

Written by Arindam Basu
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I.) Introduction: The Radical Prediction of Richard Milhous Nixon

     Long before the Industrial Revolution, man had managed to secure for himself the necessities of life without consuming all his waking hours in the process of doing so.

'In his book, [Stone Age Economics] Marshall Sahlins quotes a 1960 study by Frederick D. McCarthy and Margaret McArthur of aboriginal communities in Western Arnhem Land, Australia. The researchers added up all the time spent in all economic activities - plant collecting, food preparation, and weapon repair - over a span of several months, finding that the average male worked three hours and forty-five minutes per day, while the average female worked three hours and fifty minutes per day.'

- Jerry Mander, In the Absence of the Sacred, page 248.

     Such leisure was by no means unknown in the Middle Ages either.

'...Before capitalism, most people did not work very long hours at all. The tempo of life was slow, even leisurely; the pace of work relaxed. Our ancestors may not have been rich, but they had an abundance of leisure. When capitalism raised their incomes, it also took away their time...

     All told, holiday leisure time in medieval England took up probably about one-third of the year. And the English were apparently working harder than their neighbours...'

- Juliet B. Schor quoted in K. Bolton, The Banking Swindle, page 168.

     Memories of the leisure ages of the past lingered among the factory workers who suffered hideously long work weeks in the nineteenth century, and spurred resistance to conditions that are almost unimaginable today:

'Some of the worst working conditions revealed by the various factory investigations existed among these "apprenticed" pauper children. Hours of work in the factories were excessive, and the wages paid ridiculously low. Sixteen- and eighteen-hour days were not uncommon for children under fourteen years of age. From fourteen to sixteen hours constituted a normal working day.'

- Harry Elmer Barnes, Living in the Twentieth Century, page 142

     Miners faced similar hours:

'Labor conditions in the mines of England at this time were even worse than those which prevailed in the factories. Women and children were extensively employed in underground pits from twelve to sixteen hours per day.' - ibid, page 145

     Perhaps reflecting their attachment to the pre-industrial age - but more likely as a measure against their liberal rivals, Conservative governments acted to curb the worst of the abuses:

'At the outset, really significant factory legislation in England was born of economic, class and political rivalry. The new industrialists, by their efforts to secure fair political representation and free trade for their new commerce, challenged the interests and class pride of the Tory landlords. The free-trade movement, beginning in the 'twenties of the nineteenth century, and the Reform Bill of 1832 illustrate this bourgeois trend. The Tories retaliated by attacking the industrialists at their weakest point, namely, the factory conditions. They launched a movement for factory reform, enforced by adequate legislation, that by 1847 had borne fruit to the extent of a ten-hour bill. The leaders of this "Tory socialism" were Anthony Ashley Cooper, seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, Michael T. Sadler, Richard Oastler and John Fielden, the latter an enlightened manufacturer. We would not deny altruistic motives to these reformers, but their support grew chiefly out of class rivalry.' - ibid, page 148

     Furthermore, workers themselves banded into unions and pressed for shorter hours. Such campaigns were not limited to Europe: across the Atlantic, it was one such protest for an eight-hour work day that culminated in Chicago's Haymarket riot of 1886 - the origin of May 1st as a labour holiday. Their efforts would soon be assisted by technical change.

     In the early twentieth century, the increasing use of inanimate sources of power, facilitated by the Electrical Revolution - reduced the need for human labour in production, and increasingly make it possible to generate more in less time. Reductions in working time reflecting this development followed, with Henry Ford pioneering the forty-hour work week, and French legislation in the 1930s mandating a five-day work week. With technological advance even more in evidence after the Second World War, even a stolid conservative like Richard Milhous Nixon predicted a further shortening of the work week:

'Our third goal is to promote a new way of life in the United States- better than we have ever had before. We will do this by unleashing the research facilities of our scientists and technicians so that new forms of production will evolve. Back-breaking toil and mind-wearying tension will be left to machines and electronic devices. We want man's work to be pleasant so that he can go home each day with abundant energy for enjoying the comfort and friendliness of his family. We see the time not too far distant when we can have a four-day week and family life will be even more fully enjoyed by every American.'

- Richard Nixon, Speech on September 22, 1956.i

John Maynard Keynes went even further:

'For many ages to come the old Adam will be so strong in us that everybody will need to do some work if he is to be contented. We shall do more things for ourselves than is usual with the rich to-day, only too glad to have small duties and tasks and routines. But beyond this, we shall endeavour to spread the bread thin on the butter - to make what work there is still to be done to be as widely shared as possible. Three-hour shifts or a fifteen-hour week may put off the problem for a great while. For three hours a day is quite enough to satisfy the old Adam in most of us!'

- J. M. Keynes, Economic Possibilities of our Grandchildren, 1930.

Yet for the most part, by the early 21st century, these predictions had not come to fruition. An explanation is required.


II.) Natural Versus Artificial Work

'Work, in its economic meaning, is really a very ambiguous term. For when we have defined it as involuntary or forced activity (hence requiring “inducement” in the form of wages or goods to evoke), we have still to distinguish between an activity forced on men by Nature and an activity forced on men by other men. There are, in fact, two kinds of forced work; that is to say, of activity not freely chosen. There is the work forced on Man by Nature—the work God referred to when he told Adam that, outside of Paradise, Nature would yield him bread only in the sweat of his brow. And there is the work forced on man by other men—slaveowners and bankers, for example—who declare from their high throne that men shall not eat, not without Nature’s consent, but without their consent. Let us call them respectively Natural Work and Artificial Work, and understand that both forms of work are forced—that is to say, neither is the voluntary, freely chosen, self-initiated activity of which complete Leisure is the condition and state.'

- A. R. Orage, The Fear of Leisure.

     Given that the word 'work' covers a wide variety of activities, it is most useful to distinguish between different types - such as between manual and mental work, subsistence labour and surplus labour, or indeed, compulsory and voluntary toil. However, for the purpose of understanding the evolution of working hours, it is Orage's distinction between natural and artificial work that provides the key. For whilst technological and organizational progress reduces natural work, it need not have the same effect on artificial work, since the latter, by its very nature, is arbitrary.

     The implication of this is stark. If natural work is decreasing (as it must due to technical progress), yet the work week remains unchanged - or decreases at a slower rate - then it follows that artificial work is rising. Orage went on to make another crucial distinction:

'Liberty we can define as freedom from Servile Labour [the performance of artificial work]; and it is obviously mainly individual. Progress, on the other hand, we can define as increasing freedom from Nature forced Labour; and this, equally obviously, is mainly a collective affair. ' - A. R. Orage, ibid.

     Thus, the implication of the static work week in an age of technical progress is increased servile labour - i.e. the denial of liberty. In other words, the growth of meaningless work, performed not for the sake of meeting genuine social and personal needs or desires, but merely for securing an income by serving those who have been selected by the monopolists of financial credit as best suited to further their own interests. The psychological consequences of such activities are, unsurprisingly, entirely negative:

"For the many there is hardly concealed discontent... 'I'm a machine,' says the spot welder. 'I'm caged,' says the bank teller, and echoes the hotel clerk. 'I'm a mule,' says the steel worker. 'A monkey can do what I do,' says the receptionist. 'I'm less than a farm implement,' says the migrant worker..... Blue collar and white call upon the identical phrase: 'I'm a robot.'" -S. Terkel, quoted in J. Weizenbaum, Computer Power and Human Reason, pages 258-9.

     We shall now consider how Social Credit addresses this issue.


III.) Social Credit as the Liberator of Time.

'I know, not from theory but from practice, that you can live infinitely better with a very little money and a lot of spare time, than with more money and less time. Time is not money, but it is almost everything else.'

- Ezra Pound, The ABC of Economics.

     The increased provision of leisure is one of the key aims of Social Credit - with Major Douglas regarding it as both necessary and desirable for the further development of both society and the individual. It is a tribute to the internal consistency between the core philosophy and key proposals of Douglas Social Credit that the latter - namely the Three Fundamentals, all facilitate increased leisure.

     The first of the Three Fundamentals, the National Dividend increases both the quantity and quality of leisure. It does so by not only raising the scope for leisure by reducing financial stress, but also by amplifying the bargaining power of the workforce, since the provision of an income outside work, enables them to push harder for fewer hours. This in turn is likely to propel firms to accelerate mechanization and automation, thereby further shifting work from men to machines, thus paving the way for even more leisure. The second of the fundamentals, the National Discount, by reducing prices and upholding purchasing power, reinforces the National Dividend and thereby consolidates its effects.

     The third fundamental, the National Credit Commission, provides a means to eliminate artificial work by penalizing organizations that engage in it, by denying them the National Discount on their goods and services. Thus, firms that are wasteful of their employees' time can be forced to function at a disadvantage - thereby providing them with a strong incentive to curb needless toil.

     Hence, the ultimate outcome of the Three Fundamentals is a virtuous cycle of rising leisure impelling further technological and organizational progress, which in turn frees more time: in short, the incessant extension of liberty and progress.


IV.) Conclusion: The Underlying Purpose of Full Employment.

'...the absence of full-time employment tends to increase the participation level in social movements.'

- K.Schwab & T. Malleret, COVID-19: The Great Reset, page 87.

     Richard Nixon tempered his position on the four-day week, arguing in 1960 that the time was not yet ripe for it, though proclaiming that he would promote automation so as to facilitate the shift eventually. No serious progress on this matter took place in the United States in the following decades, though in Europe, France introduced a 35-hour week in February 2000, and other countries have witnessed a steady decrease in working hours towards that level and sometimes a little beyond it. Nonetheless, given the economic advances of the last six decades, it is evident that even the reduction in the work week by 12.5% (from 40 to 35 hours) is very meagre in comparison to what modern technology should make possible. In short, it is not the lack of automation or computerization that is keeping men at work, but something else.

     It is most convenient for a tyranny if people pay little or no attention to public affairs. To this end, various spectacles are arranged and/or promoted by the authorities - such as the famous gladiatorial games of Ancient Rome, the month-long religious festivities of the Middle Ages - or the various sporting extravaganzas of our own time. However, one cannot wholly rely on such events to keep men permanently distracted - not least because many, if not most, of them will regard public issues as much more important than such recreations.

     It is here that work plays a crucial role, for it is one activity that men are wont to regard more seriously than politics. (Ironically, this is almost invariably because, consciously or unconsciously, they regard their (usually artificial) work as natural work, and therefore, as necessary for the well-being of society as well as, of course, necessary for their own well-being as a steady source of income.) Thus, work is ideal for keeping men distracted, and ultimately, enslaved. This is the real reason why the expansion of artificial work to compensate for the decrease in natural work has received so little attention.

     Seen from this perspective, the persistence of the five-day work week, while ostensibly due to economic reasons, is actually the outcome of the political imperative of vested interests that understand all too well the threat increased free time poses to them. Put differently, the four-day work week is a truly revolutionary proposal in more ways than one - and it is a tribute to the radical nature of Social Credit that its measures are altogether supportive of it.







Last modified on Tuesday, 08 February 2022 20:35