Planned Obsolescence for the Monetary System: The 4-Hour Workday

Buckminster Fuller once said: "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." Let's make that happen then. Let's make this current Monetary System obsolete by establishing the 4-Hour Workday worldwide and lead the path into a new model, a Resource Based Economy.

Last August I wrote an article presenting the 4-Hour Workday campaign as a transition plan toward a Resource Based Economy, which received a lot of positive reviews. In order to better grasp the concepts in this article it would be a good idea to read that August article first, if you haven't read it already.

A great example that illustrates B. Fuller's quote is Feudalism. The Feudal Lord was very powerful and owned the land. Slowly, the Feudal Lord started to lose his power, and the rise of merchants (and many other factors) made Feudalism an obsolete system until it disappeared. We are all familiar with the term Planned Obsolescence, a concept that our "wonderful" system has brought to us that deliberately makes products break faster or become obsolete faster, creating unnecessary waste and a toll on the environment. Well, it is time to give this system a taste of its own medicine: a Planned Obsolescence to this Monetary System through work-time reductions. How would that happen?

Having a society that is only required to work four hours a day would mean the following:

1.- A path toward a no-growth economy will be developed. Productivity increases can be used in two ways: We either use it to produce more output in the same amount of time, or we use it to produce the same output but with less amount of time. A fundamental part of a no-growth economy is to utilize the increases in productivity to work less instead of producing more, and the 4-hour workday will enable us to do that. The environment will have a chance to breathe again in a no-growth model.

2.- A switch in patterns of consumption. For example, people who work longer hours are more likely to choose to eat out instead of cooking healthier meals at home, or to buy produce mostly shipped from other regions or countries instead of growing their own food right in their own backyard, or to spend on a car and gas instead of using public transportation or, even better, riding a bicycle. Reducing the working time will encourage people to move away from these patterns of consumption that have high carbon footprints, and gravitate toward activities that are more self-sufficient and less dependable on the system. The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) published a study this past November of 2012 which concludes that countries with shorter work hours tend to have lower ecological footprints, carbon footprints, and carbon dioxide emissions (Schor et. al, 2012)

3.- It also means that current models that are being developed, models that focus on sustainability and a symbiotic relationship between human beings and the environment, will become more popular since people will have more time to spend on these activities. Permaculture, sharing programs, open-source technologies, time banks, etc., are activities and models that currently exist, but they could become mainstream in a society that is more self-sufficient and enjoys more leisure time.

4.- Full employment will be achieved. Capitalism and its common practices of outsourcing, of wage reduction in order to declare more profits, of workforce reduction and replacement with technology and automation, are aggravating the unemployment problem. Technology should be used to create the output in less time and therefore reduce the workday. The 4-hour workday will increase the availability of jobs so everyone can be employed and have an income. Even more, after the 4-hour workday is established, periodic re-evaluations every 10 years for more reductions to 3 or 2 hours a day (based on productivity increases) will make unemployment a meaningless measure. If in the next 2 or 3 decades we reach a point where we can get the income we need with just 1 hour a day of paid work, and we also begin to move toward activities that are self-sufficient and less dependable on the system, such as growing our own food, time banks, open-source technologies, tool sharing, etc., less and less money will be required to have a decent life. Money then will begin to become unnecessary and obsolete, and its end will be very close to us at that time.

5.- The amount of leisure time people have will increase. This leisure time can be spent on so many things. People would be able to do things they love doing, like playing a sport, reading a book, hiking, etc. But it could also be spent connecting more with family and friends, or maybe connecting with people in the local community, strengthening what economists call "Social Capital." This aspect will improve the psychological well-being of the population.

6.- People will be able to become more engaged with the problems that affect our community and become more active citizens. As another consequence of increased leisure time, people will have time to educate themselves about current issues that affect them and their possible solutions. But not only that, it will also provide more time to educate others, to engage the public and to massively assist to protest against the injustices of our current economic system. Whether it is monetary reform, anti-war movements, corporate takeover of government, etc., these issues that affect our society are without a doubt a battle between injustice and freedom, between the people and the oppressor. Increasing leisure time for the population will make it more likely to obtain higher participation rates in protest, activist movements or independent political campaigns than what we see today. And the participation can include the logistics of designing the campaign's websites, social media, educating ourselves about current issues and solutions, going out to the streets and protest, organize marches, educate others, etc. Essentially, Activism will be similar to the way we are doing it in current times but with 3 or 5 times more involvement from citizens. Thus, the concept of democracy will be redefined, giving more power to the people (which is what democracy really means) instead of giving that power to the politicians and the plutocracy that controls them. The biosocial pressure will be so strong that we could create the change we all want to see in the world.

7.- Our value system will begin to switch from competition to cooperation and from consumerism to sustainability. Imagine that you are a doctor who loves being a doctor and would not want to be restricted to 4 hours. You could work 4 hours per day to get the same income you've been getting and during your leisure time you could continue doing what you love doing and offer medical services to people who cannot afford it or lack health insurance. Or what about the engineer who loves being an engineer and can offer services during his/her leisure time to help nonprofits build houses for the poor people who somehow have lost their home due to economic reasons or an environmental disaster. Increasing leisure time will create the right environment for values like Individualism and Competition to be replaced with values of Collectivism and Cooperation respectively. And as we described in points number 2 and 3 above, values of consumerism will begin to be replaced by values of sustainability.

In other words, all these 7 aspects (and many more that could be listed here) will set the path to make our current system obsolete and slowly be replaced by a new one that will start taking over.

Let's support the 4-hour workday. Ask your Chapter Coordinator to bring up The 4-Hour Workday as a transition plan into a Resource Based Economy at the international meetings. Help promote it to other organizations like the Occupy Movement, different unions around the world or any other organization. A letter has been written for the occupy movement, which has been published on the main site. Help promote that letter to gain support from the Occupy Movement and Unions of the world. This is a plan that can really make a difference and should be the transition plan into a Resource Based Economy. It won't be easy, but history has shown us that it is possible. We have done it twice already when we reduced the work day from 16 to 12 hours in the mid 1800s and a second time from 12 to 8 hours in the early 1900s. The third time is NOW!

Let's get started

In solidarity

Alex Hartley
TZM Colorado Chapter Member.


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