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不玩命工作还能干啥 The lost leisure time of our lives

来源:上元教育   【上元教育:技能改变命运,上元成就未来】   2016/3/18 9:42:39

Three hours a day is quite enough,” wrote John Maynard Keynes in his 1930 essay Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren. The essay continues to tantalise its readers today, thanks in part to a forecast that is looking magnificently right — that in advanced economies people could be up to eight times better off in 2030 than in 1930 — coupled with a forecast that is looking spectacularly wrong, that we would be working 15-hour weeks.

约翰•梅纳德•凯恩斯(John Maynard Keynes)曾在1930年的一篇短文《我们子孙后代的经济可能性》(Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren)中写道:“每天3小时就足够了。”这篇短文现在仍吸引着读者,部分原因是一项看上去极其正确的预测:到2030年,发达经济体国民的富裕程度可能会达到1930年的8倍,还有一项看上去极其错误的预测:我们将每周工作15小时。

In 2008, economists Lorenzo Pecchi and Gustavo Piga edited a book in which celebrated economists pondered Keynes’s essay. One contributor, Benjamin Friedman of Harvard University, has recently revisited the question of what Keynes got wrong, and produced a thought-provoking answer.

2008年,经济学家洛伦佐•佩基(Lorenzo Pecchi)和古斯塔沃•皮加(Gustavo Piga)编辑了一本书,在书中,一些知名经济学家对凯恩斯的这篇短文进行了探讨。撰稿人之一、哈佛大学(Harvard University)教授本杰明•弗里德曼(Benjamin Friedman)最近重新提到了凯恩斯预测错的那个问题,并提出了一个发人深省的答案。

First, it is worth teasing out the nature and extent of Keynes’s error. He was right to predict that we would be working less. We enter the workforce later, after long and not-always-arduous courses of study. We enjoy longer retirements. The work week itself is getting shorter. In non-agricultural employment in the US, the week was 69 hours in 1830 — the equivalent of working 11 hours a day but only three hours on Sundays. By 1930, a full-time work week was 47 hours; each decade, American workers were working two hours less every week.


But Keynes overestimated how rapidly and for how long that trend would continue. By 1970 the work week was down to 39 hours. If the work week had continued to shrink, we would be working 30-hour weeks by now, and perhaps 25-hour weeks by 2030. But by around 1970, the slacking-off stopped. Why?


One natural response is that people are never satisfied: perhaps their desire to consume can be inflamed by advertisers; perhaps it is just that one must always have a better car, a sharper suit, and a more tasteful kitchen than the neighbours. Since the neighbours are also getting richer, nothing about this process allows anyone to take time off.


No doubt there is much in this. But Friedman takes a different angle. Rather than asking how Keynes could have been so right about income but so wrong about leisure, Friedman points out that Keynes might not have been quite so on the mark about income as we usually assume. For while the US economy grew briskly until the crisis of 2007, median household incomes started stagnating long before then — around 1970, in fact.


The gap between the growth of the economy and the growth of median household incomes is explained by a patchwork of factors, including a change in the nature of households themselves, with more income being diverted to healthcare costs, and an increasing share of income accruing to the highest earners. In short, perhaps progress towards the 15-hour work week has stalled because the typical US household’s income has stalled too. Household incomes started to stagnate at the same time as the work week stopped shrinking.


This idea makes good sense but it does not explain what is happening to higher earners. Since their incomes have