Aug 31 2010

Work Less So All Can Work: A Progressive Strategy for Fixing the Economy

the progressiveConservative commentator Ben Stein wrote last week that the unemployed are a group of unskilled “complainers and malcontents”. Around the same time former newspaper editor Ira Stoll called for cutting unemployment benefits for many so-called “undeserving” groups, including married individuals whose spouses have a job. And in Sunday’s Wall Street Journal, Harvard Economist Robert Barro blamed unemployment benefits for keeping unemployment high. It seems as though a new attack on the jobless is always on the horizon, even as economic forecasts remain bleak. But this blame-the-victim mentality is uniquely American when compared to the attitudes of other developed nations. In France, Germany, and the Netherlands governments discourage lay-offs by temporarily subsidizing wages and allowing companies to cut pay. Or individuals work less hours, jobs are shared, and the government steps in with subsidies. In Germany its called “short-work”, and the French say, “[work] less so all can work”. My guest John de Graaf wrote an article for the latest issue of Progressive Magazine, detailing these more flexible approaches to economic downturns. Not surprisingly he finds that not only do businesses remain productive and competitive in the world market, but workers are happier.

GUEST: John De Graaf, Executive Director of Take Back Your Time, and co-author of, “Affluenza: the All-Consuming Epidemic”

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