What Happened to the 15-Hour Workweek?
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Put in economic language, status signaling through consumption is a positional good. It doesn’t matter that we’re richer than in 1930. What matters is where I stand on the economic hierarchy, and that means spending more and more to keep myself there.
Here’s the (hilarious) advertising legend Rory Sutherland writing about the same idea, in the context of cheese:
“Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but middle-class rules now require that every dinner party cheeseboard must contain at least two cheeses which aren’t very nice. … I was baffled by this for a long time, until I realised that these cheeses are not bought to be eaten, but to signal the sophistication of the occasion. **There are many forms of consumption today where — dress it up all you like — it is obvious the main value lies not in the intrinsic value of the thing itself but in signalling the refinement of your taste.** This increasingly creates a kind of feedback loop where people are driven to absurd lengths to gain competitive bragging rights.”
There are all sorts of examples of how status competition makes things uglier and more wasteful than they could be—political elections, modernist architecture and ridiculously long wine glass stems come to mind.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction
January 13, 2019 at 10:48 AM #11873
January 15, 2019 at 7:00 AM #12445a little weirdParticipant
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Seems like someone who’s never had to worry about whether or not he will have enough to make rent or put food on the table. Maybe for him, wages are high enough that he could work 15 hours per week and do those things – I don’t think there’s a high percentage of the population who can say that. I wonder if wages had kept pace with productivity and inflation if that would be a possibility for more people?
Also, I just browsed the article but I didn’t see any mention of health insurance. Even if you did earn enough to have the basics at 15 hours/wk, many people are tied to a 40 hour week because that’s “full time” which means the difference between having an insurance benefit and not having one.
So I think the author is a bit of a moron and wants to blame the woes of the middle class on just wanting too much rather than the real problems that face them.
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