Economics: Shorter Work Hours vs UBI

Richard Wolff gives lots of awesome speeches and explanations, but sometimes he also skips over vital points like probably all of us. Here is one such case:

Economic Update: Beyond Universal Basic Income
Democracy At Work

Comment: Richard Wolff is probably right that reduced full-time workweek hours could be used less well by sociopathic demagogues than a UBI to divide people because the current weird ideology of our right to live deriving exclusively from us working paid jobs would continue as before. No shaking of the boat. There would be less risk of misleading people into thinking that they work shabby jobs and pay painful taxes only to keep lazy other people from having to work (while always overlooking that this is exactly what we are doing in the current system, although not really for under-supplied poor people who get very little help, but rather for all those super-rich people who own most of what can be owned and swim in a huge stream of money flow they do NOT earn by work). 

Unfortunately, in this clip, Richard Wolff skips over looking at the bigger picture, namely that lots of hard working people work without being employed in paid jobs. Child raising and taking care of our elderly or other disabled relatives is among the hardest types of work but unemployed and unpaid, same as helping needful neighbors or volunteering for community service or engaging in activism for a better world, all very important societal contributions. Mr. Wolff at other times has pointed out (or was it someone else???) that charging people within one’s family money for anything one does for the family, like cooking a meal or taking the trash out, for example, is a big no-no. Money hurts our social connectivity. We therefore should reduce the role money plays in our society, not enhance it.

What a UBI (better a Citizen’s Dividend) would do that a reduction of working hours or the creation of federal job programs would not is twofold: (A) it would help EVERYBODY, not just employed people, taking care of unemployed hard workers we depend on so much same as it would help employed people; AND (B) it would reduce the power that money has over us when money we can earn would only give us additional access to things we desire while our survival basics like food, shelter, and healthcare were already taken care of. This would be a step in the direction of a more egalitarian society where human principles and values would prevail — rather than desperate need for money, material greed, and profit-seeking-at-all-costs.

Of course, a reduction of the work week should also be implemented at the same time since increased productivity makes less work necessary. And federal job programs would be helpful, too (to finance important non-profit tasks). And rent control. And free healthcare for all, free education for all, and housing for all, ideally with a free or cheap property lot for building one’s own house, even. And, yes, it all requires taxing the rich, not merely to finance this, but to cap-tax the ultra-rich ruling class away, so the billionaires and multi-multi-millionaires can no longer oppress us by bribing democracy away and making all the rules that keep them rich and us poor.

Putting together a new world from these and other building blocks (like worker co-ops, time banks, local currencies, or even money-less egalitarian communities) would turn our current Hell on Earth into a Heaven on Earth.

Here is another important point. A life secured with a citizen’s dividend (UBI) would spread the beneficial circumstances enjoyed by children and non-poor retirees to all of us: namely a life of no financial desperation, and more opportunity to follow our passions or moral obligations, living life rather than running in treadmills for the rich all our mid-stage existence (or even into our crippled old age as more and more of us are forced to agonize to try as more and more of the world’s wealth and more and more of its money flow gets monopolized by the rich). Think about it. If you had a good – rather than poor – childhood, it may be the best part of your life you had, making you dream of a retirement phase where you can return to this relaxed non-desperate life. Why reserve this only for the youngest and oldest when our economy becomes so productive through automation that the need for us to work keeps slipping away? Such productiveness means there is no more desperate need to get all hands on board. Let’s use this to relax our lives and make them more human again, away form history’s recent custom of spending our adult lives running in treadmills like hamsters or rats, treadmills designed to make the rich richer and keep us in poverty, having us struggling to pay our bills, kissing the feet of bosses, defining ourselves by our jobs and professions controlled, steered, or denied by others sitting in high places of power created from winning life’s money lottery. We can do better than that.


Psst. BTW, if you want to read more good stuff, try out The Revolution Continues. For instance, over a week ago it reported nicely on the worldwide Climate Crisis demonstrations and this week on the mass media’s attacks on the messenger.


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