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08/06/2005

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John Dowd

Are you suggesting that greater leisure promotes lower birthrates? it seems that way.

Also, you are rather obviously missing the point of Krugman's piece. I don't think he was promoting greater leisure-time so much as he was pointing out that alternate economic models exists and that they are not necessarily accompanied by the dire consequences that conservatives often suggest.

I don't believe (of course, I don't know) that he would argue that greater leisure is cost-free. The 'free lunch' is more of a Reagan invention with his government *is* the problem rhetoric.

If we've learned nothing else over the past few years, it is that business must be regulated if it is to serve the public interest. As Soros points out, left to itself it just churns money and is amoral. Greater regulation costs money. So does greater leisure time.

David

This is from PK's recent op-ed column; I think it's an apt response to the absurd thesis that European economic policies cause terrorism.

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"Back in 1978 Mr. [Irving] Kristol urged corporations to make 'philanthropic contributions to scholars and institutions who are likely to advocate preservation of a strong private sector.' That was delicately worded, but the clear implication was that corporations that didn't like the results of academic research, however valid, should support people willing to say something more to their liking. . . . Corporations followed his lead, pouring a steady stream of money into think tanks that created a sort of parallel intellectual universe, a world of 'scholars' whose careers are based on toeing an ideological line, rather than on doing research that stands up to scrutiny by their peers."

Andis Kaulins

What is the difference between a rich man doing nothing and a poor man doing nothing? Both are doing nothing. But the one is highly revered and the other looked down on. So is human society.

Having lived in Europe for over 30 years now, the idea that European leisure policies (things like longer vacations) have anything to do with economic problems in Europe is quaint and antiquated and the product of gullibly assigning economic blame on the "have-nots", who have no economic power, rather on the "haves", who hold the bulk of the economic decision-making power at any given time. In Europe, both a good portion of the haves and the have-nots are currently doing "next to nothing". Those with wealth idle their time away in what they view as semi-noble parties. Those who are unemployed idle their time away for lack of employment. But this is not the leisure time you referred to.

The whole idea of modern capitalism was to create labor-saving devices so that men would not have to work around the clock but in fact would have more leisure time away from work. Somewhere along the way, many in capitalism have become confused.

In addition, in view of a world economy in which services and not goods are the growing sector, people have to have the time to enjoy those services. In fact, in Europe, the service industry is underdeveloped.

Similarly, if everyone is working all the time, you are producing a lot of goods which people do not have the time to enjoy.

Moreover, in order to be fit and motivated for their work, more leisure time and longer vacations are surely beneficial for many. I refer here to Justice Brandeis (quoting from the CEO Refresher website):

"Judge Brandeis served on the Supreme Court for several decades early in the 20th Century. He had a very distinguished judicial career; however, there was a time when he was strongly criticized for taking a vacation just before an extremely difficult and complex case that was to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Judge Brandeis's response to the criticism was as follows: "I have found a way to successfully complete 12 months of work in 11. I have never found a way to successfully complete 12 months of work in 12." This is a reminder to all of us that time to pause and recharge our batteries may be the fastest way to get ahead."

Even suggesting that leisure time among the working majority is a cause of economic malaise or terrorism in Europe seems to be "shoot from the hip" economics. By focusing on such matters, the real issues remain submerged.

In my view, the primary economic problem in Europe is an inert, ensconced hierarchy of business and political leadership and wealth. For example, something like 200 leading families control much of German wealth and invest much of that wealth overseas and not in their own countries.

At the same time, you have socialist governments like those of Schroeder in Germany, who has not one single business person in his cabinet (6 "cause-oriented" lawyers, 4 teachers (none above high school) and 2 journalists - not exactly a formula for economic success).

It is this kind of a selfish business and politically incompetent leadership that in the past always led to revolutions in Europe, because a good portion of the people discovered at some point that they were working merely to make life pleasant for some chosen few. That has never worked long term and never will.

To find the faults in an economy, it is my view that you look to those who HAVE the money and look to what they do with that money. To look to those who do NOT HAVE the money and place the blame on them for economic miseries in a country is just plain foolish.

Ben

Why are some people still unable to understand Posner's point about legally-mandated leisure? He is not somehow condemning the "have-nots" while applauding the "haves." Rather, he is pointing out that legal mandates such as required leisure interfere with the fluidity of the free market, leading to the social stasis of which you complain. It is the "haves" -- those in power, making the poor economic decisions for the supposed good of the lower classes -- that are limiting the mobility of the "have-nots", the jobless immigrants.

Brandeis' point is that intense intellectual labor requires some time off in order to reach maximum productivity. The French system involves forcibly lowering productivity in exchange for the gain of leisure. The quote does not somehow support the incompetency-promoting poliicies of European democratic socialism.

Tino

Posner seems to accept the Krugman fallacy that Europeans necessarily consume more leisure than Americans, just because they work less. It is more likely that they are forced by relative poverty and taxes to under-specialized, replacing work in the market in the work within the household. Just like third world countries.

The time study data supports this for Sweden, where Americans actually work 4.5 hours LESS combined within the household and market than Swedes.

Mike Petrik

Dickens On Happiness and Economy: 20 pounds income and 19 pounds expenditure = Happiness; 20 pounds income and 21 pounds expenditure = Misery. Of course, most American middle class in "misery" eagerly blame their predicament on markets, lenders, or the whatever is the current Administration. It is seldom their own fault.
That said, "misery" is also seldom the predicament of American immigrants, who generally save at decent rates notwithstanding modest earnings.
Finally, a protectionist and socialized economy may well generate more security, at least in the short run; but it inevitably leads to financial status immobility. As a whole Western Europeans are more comfortable with this immobility than Americans.

Cogliostro Demon

The NYT has been running a series of articles on Payola.

Could this be a future topic? If markets work, how can paying djs to play trash trick the market? Why do I care if Payola records drops $15,000.00 on WQAM to play the new CD by Sting. Can you bribe a market, or will quality (or popularity) will out?

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Keith

"How is it that most first year law students were able to instantaneously dismiss your stilted and errant approach to the law as ridiculous..."

Because most first-year law students are often arrogant and unable to deal with viewpoints that challenge their own biases? At last, that's what I got out of your linked blog post.

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