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BETTER USE OF INCREASES IN PRODUCTIVITY

 

    Technological improvements bring an immediate consequence: The increase in productivity. When we are faced with increases in productivity, there are two options to choose from: we can work the same amount of time and produce more output, or, we can produce the same output but in less amount of time. Let's look at the following example:

    Imagine you produce 1000 shoes in one day (8 hours). Then, a machine is invented that can help you produce the same amount of shoes but now in half a day (4 hours). You have 2 options: you can either work the same 8 hours and produce 2000 shoes or you can take the increase in productivity and produce the same amount of shoes you were producing before (1000) but work half the day only, 4 hours. 

    Unfortunately, our economy, focused on "Unlimited Growth" and "Profits", always chooses to produce more output, instead of using the increase in productivity (by the new machine) to reduce  the amountof time it takes to produce the output. 

    Economist Juliet Schor states in her book "The Overworked American" the following:

"[In the United States]...we could now produce our 1948 standard of living (measured in terms of marketed goods and services) in less than half the time it took that year. We actually could have chosen the four-hour day. Or a working year of six months. Or, every worker in the United States could now be taking every other year off from work - with pay."  (Schor, 1992)

    We are utilizing the increases in productivity to produce more instead of reducing the work-day. In fact, we are even increasing the amount of work above the 40 hours per week. People and the planet cannot sustain this practice anymore. We need to start choosing the other option, which is to produce the same output in less time. Of course, if demand increases, we will have to adjust output to meet that increase in demand, but we have to be careful and look at the reasons why that demand has increased. Is it a real increase in demand or is it "Manufactured Demand", induced by advertisements telling us that the shoes we own are no longer "cool" or in "fashion", even though the shoes are perfectly fine and their utility has not decreased. Having a system that has incentives to produce more and more than what we already have just for the sake of more profits is illogical and will just make things worse. Economic collapse will be just a small drop compared to what environmental collapse will be for society. If we deplete the resources there will be no hope. We need to start choosing the second option, which is to reduce the work-day so we can use productivity increases for our benefit.


REFERENCES

  1. Schor, J. (1992). The Overworked American. The Unexpected Decline in Leisure. Basic Books, New York, NY.

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