Points of Progress

I’m going to start a new serious in this blog, “Points Of Progress,” a once-monthly report of things happening in our world, policies, articles, and practices in-line with the steady state economy, that are worth some time to read about –  the good news, the promising results. This stems from the many articles I have been scoping through on google reader (a great RSS feed tool, for those of you interested in getting updates via rss).

Through the 50-100 posts I receive daily, I manage to pick out a handful of good ones and post on twitter (follow me), but some of these deserve some recognition on this blog. This monthly report is for the exciting things happening I just don’t have time to post about in-depth. Here are some cool things happening in the world:

Maryland’s New Alternative Metric: The GPI

Herman Daly‘s home state has just instituted their version of the Genuine Progress Indicator. This alternative to the grossly inadequate GDP takes into account 26 factors, from incorporating the costs of crime to the costs of ozone depletion. The state is using the GPI as a tool to education the public and policymakers on the balance between costs and benefits of decisions regarding resource use.

As Governor O’Malley said, “The GPI will help us ensure that our economic growth will not come at the cost of our natural resources, and that they both support our progress toward a sustainable future and a better qualify of life for all Maryland families.”

21 Hours: Work Less, Live More

Part of the many policies of a steady state economy, adjusting the work hours for increases in efficiency is a policy that could revolutionize our society. Not only does this policy fight unemployment head-on by making more work available, it frees up time in our weeks to do something really important – live.

The new economics foundation’s new report, 21 Hours: Why a shorter working week can help us all to flourish in the 21st century outlines how the average time worked in Britian, 21 hours, should  be the new standard. As nef explains, “A ‘normal’ working week of 21 hours could help to address a range of urgent, interlinked problems: The average overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life.”

The IMF Rethinks Macroeconomics

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has not only recently acknowledged that macroeconomic policy may have “exacerbated the recent financial crisis,” but also has begun to rethink those policies.

Olivier Blanchard, the IMF’s chief economist, published a paper, “Rethinking Macroeconomic Policy” (pdf), stating that better economic policies might include increased government involvement, higher inflation, and help for the poor. The IMF’s typical policy of telling governments that less intervention and low inflation were powerless to prevent the “Great Recession.” Great news for those of us hoping for changes in the IMF and World Bank.

5 thoughts on “Points of Progress”

  1. 21 Hours?

    I think this is a cause worth campaigning for. What does the rest of the EU say about this matter? I believe that 21hours could be the basic working week as opposed to the massive 40hours (or a lot more). It is too much and cannot be sustained for a lifetime. People are not machines.

    Ceridian – The Future of Work

    People live to work and I think this attitude can be traced back to, what Max Weber called ‘The Protestant work ethic’. This label is more relevant to the times in which this socioligist deemed it a phenomenon of industrial society (19th Century). But the idea of a ‘work ethic’ or a moral obligation to work oneself into the ground (in effect) with excessive hours of gainful employment dominates the culture of work.

    1. SLK,

      You’ve hit the nail on the head. I think working 40 hours a week is extremely unhealthy – for the worker, for society, for the environment. All those advances in technology that we’ve made were supposed to grant us more leisure time. In the 1950s, that was the big marketing shtick, advances in technology would mean more time to live and less time devoted to the day-to-day chores. But instead of improving efficiency to work less and produce the same amount we have gone the route of working the same (more, actually) to produce more than before.

      In colonial time there was a phenomenon where “civilized” men would defect from the colonies and go live with the natives. Some, even upon being returned to their colonial homes, would escape again. Why? Because the natives spread the work around and focused on living. Most Native American tribes spread the daily work load around the community – every worked about 2 hours a day and then spent the rest of their time raising children, napping, being with family, working on hobbies, et cetera. They had more life in them and were more connected to their community. Sounds like the life to me.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

  2. (apologies for my spelling error *sociologist)

    Absolutely! The idea of progress (within this system – the only one we have and know) is to produce as mush as possible in the quickest possible time with as little resources and at the lowest cost possible. Everything geared of course to maximise profit. This is old hat to some but when you demystify the glory of endless, backbreaking work – you can see the sense in trying to move away from this warped value.

    Have a look at the work of Buckminster Fuller:

    Ephemeralization – Buckminster Fuller

    There is never enough in industry – this is the culture of industrial advancement. Scientific discovery and research and development facilitates production at ever increasing rates. Mechanisation is not the end in itself nor can it run itself. It needs an enormous workforce. Although the skill set of this workforce may shift along with technological change, the human is still needed.

    There is a moral basis for 21hours a week (or at least a change of values which allows and celebrates excessive work and the working of people. If living standards are improved (for example – time for leisure, health, good food, family etc.) that people will get by with less money. Germany would entertain this idea at least as their culture is very family orientated (for instance – they do not open their shops on a Sunday so people who work in the retail sector do not have to work on this day). Here in Britain, on the other hand, this would never wash. We work the most hours in Europe.

    Blame Thatcher and Reagan (but not just them – it goes way back).

    The 21 hour week is thought of as a measure to improve productivity overall and reduce levels of national unemployment with the effect of alleviating the social defecit of this.

    I work around 20hours a week and earn enough to get by. I like to have time to think. I have always been told that ‘time to think’ is a dangerous thing. I think this goes hand in hand with the notion that ‘the devil makes work for idle hands’. My ‘work ethic’ by my parents’/societies standards is not strong and my studious nature is not seen as a quality that will enable me to get by, in the long run. We all must buy a house (by getting into ballbreaking debt with the bank) and buy a car (on credit) and countless other things we must do in our lives to be considered a proper person. You have to ask yourself – well I do anyway – is living to work worth it?

    1. SLK,

      Exactly. We have some neighbors who pay nearly twice as much as we do to afford their mortgage, while we rent. They don’t actually own that house, it’s just a pile of debt (the bank has the deep to the real wealth) yet they are fully liable for everything on the house. The same goes for cars on loans, or anything else bought on credit. We rent our place (for, like I said, half as much as our neighbors), and we don’t pay utilities or have to worry about replacing the furnace when it blows. I think there is extreme real value in those qualities – far more than the value of “owning” a house.

      The said thing is that 50 years ago my one salary would have afford us a house, paid off, car every few years, paid off, and three kids. Today you need two, not one, income to support the mortgage that you’ll never actually pay off and the car loan and insurance and child care…. If we all scaled back and took a breather I think we’d be better off.

      Cheers,
      Joshua

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