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Bertrand Russell's argument for idleness is more relevant than ever (newstatesman.com)
356 points by pepys on Aug 12, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 264 comments

I'm a huge fan of sloth. I frequently take many months off between jobs, sometimes a year or more. I refuse to work more than 40 hours a week except for genuine emergencies (things like outages; being behind schedule never counts), and I'm close to drawing the line at four days a week. I always take at least three weeks off a year, and that's in a bad year. I take "mental health days" often and with no guilt. If you don't own your time, people will take it from you.

I'm perhaps speaking from a place of privilege, but it's not that hard to achieve. I've been doing this my whole life, from minimum wage jobs through decades of professional career.

Sit on the couch. Take a vacation. Quit your job. Say no to overtime always and forever. Blow off weekends often. Nothing is as important as others will tell you it is. You're going to die some day and when you're on your death bed you won't regret the times you did nothing.

I could not agree more. I'm pretty early in my software career after a few years as a military officer, and if that job taught me one thing, it's that NOTHING at work is as important as you think it is. Looking back on those times, even in a job where lives are sometimes on the line, I can't believe how seriously I took some things and how much more fun I could have had. It's a disappointing lesson to have to learn in hindsight.

Highly recommend to watch the clip from the movie Office Space (only 54 sec long) [1]

The guy with the moustache is a blue collar worker and the other one is white collar worker (actually in Tech/IT)

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lmW2tZP2kU

That’s gotta be one of my favourite movies of all time. This and the printer killing scene are hilarious.

Amusing that so much of that movie is still relatable 20 years later to a whole new generation of workers. Except maybe the scene where he kicks down the cubicle, if I need to be in an office give me a cubicle or something lol

Yes. I'm genuinely surprised how timeless this is.

You watch it today, in 2020, and it's shocking that it was made 20 years ago. This tells me that Judge and the other writers managed to latch on to some very timeless things.

Not sure what they are, but they nailed it.

They latched onto the meaninglessness that is office work, combined with the obvious passive aggression and lack of respect that big companies have for their employees

It's fascinating how good Mike Judge is at 'nailing' a variety of experiences.

Office Space is pitch-perfect, but then he went and created Silicon Valley and King of the Hill too. I can't personally confirm that King of the Hill is accurate, but I've heard it is. Silicon Valley just nails it though, and it is far more specific than the Office Space type stuff.

i still remember the time (early in my career) i was summoned to jury duty and tried to register an "undue hardship" with the judge because i had a project deadline coming up.

i genuinely thought it was that important, but looking back it was really not a big deal at all (and the judge knew it) :)

One level of enlightenment is when you understand things can be done later at your convenience.

Another level of enlightenment is when you understand somethings don't have to be done at all.

thank you, that's a great and pithy comment

It's not like spending your time on jury duty is in any way better than spending it on work (or pretty much everything, for that matter).

You don't think doing your part to guarantee your fellow citizens get their (in the US at least) constitutionally guaranteed right to a jury trial is "worth it"?

According to this thread: no, it's not nearly as important as your own time. They can always get someone else to fill in.

If only there was a way to do that without being treated with a general low-grade contempt.

Remember those late night ironing and polishing things. The few the brave. Ahh the best of times.

40h/week with 3 weeks off/year isn't anything out of the ordinary. If anything it's quite a bit more work time than most European workers.

Taking months between jobs and going to 4 days/week is more uncommon though.

My own experience as a Software Engineer in Switzerland:

- A lot of companies are ok with 80% (most often that means 4 days of full time work). Some aren't, but especially towards more experienced roles, it's not out of the ordinary at all.

- 40h is actually somewhat rarer. I've been interviewing recently and lots of smaller companies think it's a point of pride to have 45h or 43h weeks. When you point out to them that this 12.5% rise in hours should also come with a 12.5% pay rise, they are baffled how you would come to that conclusion.

- 4wk vacation is the mandatory minimum. 5wk is nice and often available.

I like your attitude. How, if I may ask, did you end up with your current philosophy? Was it through past experiences where people did take your time and you gave in?

I love the idea of taking lots of time off, but on a personal level I have a lot of guilt surrounding that. I know it's not rational since ultimately it's my life, but it's still something I need to work on to get over. If you have tips on changing my mindset surrounding this, I'd love to hear it.

caymanjim is unlikely to answer. The poor thing is knackered out from typing their post.

I think that they might have been a little disingenuous. Their post was far too long and properly typed out to be from a real sloth.


I identify with his post. I always had a rebellious streak when it comes to people judging me. In return, I don’t judge other people myself. It also saves a lot of energy :)

That’s how I don’t feel guilty. I am not doing anything and you can do whatever you want in life too.

I find it tough to achieve though. I am currently at 4 days per week but would like to be at 3.5 days, that’s my optimum (lower than 3 days and I will go insane of not exercising my mind).

> lower than 3 days and I will go insane of not exercising my mind

It's not like paid work is the only place where you can exercise your mind

I agree but I find it the most practical place. If I can’t exercise my mind, then there’s nothing for me at work other than obtaining an income (no SF salary here so no financial independence possible).

I do the same only I exercise the body at work.

Nice one!

Fair enough, I thought about doing that too. I chose for the mind, but IMO the body is a good option as well, especially because if you choose the right profession (i.e. light to medium exercise), it probably means you'll live longer.

If you need the workplace to 'exercise your mind' then I don't know what to tell you... all your free time gained this way is useless then if you don't know how to spend it.

One needs to work to survive. The benefit of work for me is to exercise my mind. Other forms are available but do not aid survival. So assuming everything else is equal, I should use work to exercise my mind.

The issue with work is that it is constrained to one thing (web dev in my case). I can use my free time to do whatever (relax or other exercises such as meditation).

Can't answer for caymanjim. Personally, I now work about 2-5 hours per week, mostly just meeting some people (don't have to do anything besides talking to them).

What I realized early in my professional career was that position trumps everything. For example, if you are born into a great enough position, you are set for life, pretty much regardless of anything else. Then I figured out (slowly over time through trial and error), which positions I could move to from the one I was in, where I could either: a) do less work for same pay, or b) get more pay for same work. Although a lot of times switching positions required intense "extra" work.

In the end however, it seems to mostly just been a lot of luck in the way things played out, together with an intense desire to, in the long term, reduce my work-related load/responsibilities.

I'm curious. If you don't mind me asking, what do you talk about for those 2-5 hours?

Depends on who I meet with. But mostly it's about financials, sales, planning, legal issues and team building (usually talking about personal stuff and building rapport as a group). Sometimes it's about product and programming.

> it's not that hard to achieve ... from minimum wage jobs through decades of professional career.

i highly doubt somebody on a minimum wage job can choose to work only 4 days a week.

highly agree

> I frequently take many months off between jobs, sometimes a year or more.

Definitely speaking from a place of privilege. Single moms living in poverty don't have the luxury to care for her mental health. She probably can't take even a few days off, voluntarily, much rather months or years.

Let me ask you (caymanjim), in the months and years you take off, how do you subsist? The average American has, what, less than $500 in savings?

Privilege colors your views on reality, and I would love for all of us to get there, but let's not imagine that this "isn't hard to do". It is. It really is.

This sentiment expresses something I'm starting to see a lot in our discourse. I call it "third-party outrage", where you (bystander) get mad because you think some "aggressor" did something bad to some hypothetical "victim".

What cracks me up is that oftentimes, the victims don't even care or don't get nearly as mad as the bystandars. Same story with tech workers getting mad about how Amazon pays their employees. Is there any real harm being done here?

So I gotta wonder, why are the bystanders more mad than the alleged "victims" themselves? Do you realize how screwed up this is?

I don't think it's outrage, it's more so pointing out that "if you're poor and can't afford to renew the lease, just take a million or two out of your savings account and boom, you're wealthy" isn't good advice because it requires having a savings account with at least a few million in it.

And for anyone in that situation: how many of them are too poor to pay rent?

It only makes sense to do something if you expect results. The victim doesn't get mad because there is no point to it. (or they just feel that way) They just have to accept whatever is coming at them. (or they just feel that way) Are there labor laws if you cant afford legal action?

Would you still make the same statements if the topic was about whether the word 'blacklist' should be replaced?

Yes :) but that ship has sailed.

> So I gotta wonder, why are the bystanders more mad than the alleged "victims" themselves? Do you realize how screwed up this is?

Can you clarify, cause I'm not sure what issue you're addressing? Am I a "bystander" in this, or an "alleged victim"?

As a "bystander," you think, therefore, that I am not poor/in poverty? What gave you that idea?

Being single mom has often nothing to do with privilege but rather choices in life, at least if you are divorced... I think that was the point.

I disagree. The main point, at last my initial point, was that there are people in situations in life -- however they got to those situations -- that absolutely cannot afford that kind of "sloth" lifestyle.

And, sociologically speaking, sometimes single motherhood is connected to privilege, or a lack thereof.


Please don't take HN threads further into flamewar.


There is a leisure class at both ends of the economic spectrum.

That's an interesting observation, although it does depend on the benefits landscape where you live.

I love the idea of benefits conceived of as a landscape. You have the slough of despond, the scorched desert, the arctic wasteland, the jagged windswept hellscape, etc.

The old pit

If it was sufficiently long ago, which it sounds like it was, they could. Minimum wage would be significantly higher now if it had kept pace with inflation and cost of living increases over the last few decades.

Yeah, minimum wage jobs mostly won't expect you to work beyond your normal periods and days, but they definitely won't want you working less than that.

The weirdest part, though, is voluntary taking several months or even a year between jobs. Now that is proper privilege.

Why though? You don't know in what conditions he spends that time. He might live in a way you would not like to live without a job so you think of not working a privilege.

> Why though?

Probably because we assume that when he wants a job he can get one, and one that pays for all the time of as well, at the drop of a hat. But it's not so for someone without in demand skills.

Because one of the big concerns of almost everyone who isn't in high demand is gaps in CV. For some reason it seems that - and it's definitely believed that - employers will look very unfavorably at you if your history of employment isn't continuous.

Not just that, being able to afford months and months without salary is quite a privilege, even on relatively high wages like a developer's. Not to mention if you can do that while on minimum wage jobs, you probably aren't a major source of income for the family.

sounds like me except for the 3 weeks vacation in a bad year. I guess you are living in a country with an employees-are-slaves-work-culture. In Germany five weeks is the minimum and six the norm. _maybe_ understanding your situation through my on experience I'd question your priviligedness, though, as it appears to me like you are (also) carrying a considerate psychological burden that you need to deal with. at the end of the day this is what more or less forced me to take time off between jobs. I needed that to bring back some peace and balance to my mind.

I decided, 3 weeks into my first full-time job (as a lab technician) that I profoundly disagreed with the concept of the capitalist work ethic. The idea that a person's life had meaning only if they stayed in work - often boring, tedious work - until their retirement day, after which they could be kicked onto the old-person's scrapheap to do fun stuff for a few years (if they were lucky) until dementia took their dignity and their memories and their final breath ... I hate that concept.

I have, over the years, walked out of well-paying, high responsibility jobs (Civil Service, IT) because the stupidity of the petty empire building and office politics became too much to bear. Sometimes I've been in a situation where I had saved up enough 'rainy-day' money to give myself time off to do other stuff - finally get a degree, write some books, work on an open-source project or even, yes, spend a couple of weeks staring at a wall while I daydreamed. When I've had no money, I've taken welfare cheques, or worked in menial zero-hour-contract manual labour jobs to keep food on the table, or started fresh in an entirely different service/industry.

Things I've learned:

1. Know how much money you need to survive with a roof over your head and food on the table. If you're earning more than that, you're in a good place.

2. Your job title and the numbers printed on your payslip do not determine who you are. Measure your worth in the relationships you have with your friends, family and work colleagues. Measure it in terms of your mental wellbeing.

3. There is no such thing as 'idleness'.

I am not sure. My biggest driver has been to be in my death bed and having done nothing, having made no difference to the world. So I keep trying.

I like to think that friends and family will look on my works and say "he was a creative man", but deep down I know that those words will only come from a few who already know how to appreciate it.

Therefore, I work to please that faceless few. I am happy with this, because it is nice to be appreciated, but at the same time I cannot help but feel that I am not building something meaningful in my more direct social circles.

I totally agree. Three days has been the max for me, as far as mental health agendas. Far more productive with 15 - 20 hours work, at the most. My employer Walmart, for some reason, isn't as conscious as many, they're telling me that my cart-collecting days are over.

> Blow off weekends often.

Yes definitely agree, best for health outcomes.

What does your spouse say about your effectively freed time? Your kids?

I bet they appreciate the attention.

Why would they get a say in that?

If they don't, why one would call them their family?

>we also need to challenge the cultural ethic that teaches us to value ourselves in proportion to our capacity for “economically productive” labour. Human beings are more than just workers. We need to learn how to value idleness.

I think much more than valueing idleness it's also a massive indictement of the system we live in. The number of people who I've talked to who legitimately don't know what to do without work during the pandemic is staggering.

It says a lot that as a society there is so little attention paid to instilling curiousity in people and fostering people's potential that, left without menial work to do, nobody knows what to do with themselves.

> The number of people who I've talked to who legitimately don't know what to do without work during the pandemic is staggering.

The pleasures of urban populations have become mainly passive: seeing cinemas, watching football matches, listening to the radio, and so on. This results from the fact that their active energies are fully taken up with work; if they had more leisure, they would again enjoy pleasures in which they took an active part.

-- Bertrand Russell http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html

I'm not sure that this little nugget of wisdom has withstood the test of time. The average number of hours worked has fallen dramatically since the 30s[0] even as interest in passive entertainment has skyrocketed.


The core of it stands that 'urban populations have become mainly passive'. Perhaps I'd consider revising to replace passive with consumers. So, we've been taught and continually urged to spend our idle hours consuming. So, it isn't a surprise to me that most folks don't know any other way to spend their time.

Consumption usually costs money and increases money velocity, which leads to a better economy. So it's a bit different than "idleness."

A better economy... Please define "better".

Money is worse when its velocity is low. This is associated with hoarding of cash.

The world could have 10000T in cash but if no exchange happens, everyone is poor.

Endless consumption is a delusion, regardless of how much "better" the economy appears.

Idleness doesn't necessitate consumption, and it's interesting that that conclusion was jumped to.

Leisure != time outside of work. If you're commuting, if you're too exhausted to get off the couch, if you're on-call and worrying about interruptions, then you're not truly at leisure.

> as interest in passive entertainment has skyrocketed

I would like to see some data on this. It may seem like it but I would say it's quite the opposite.

Why do you think so?

I dunno. Here is just one random stat that came to mind. Boston marathon participation throughout the years

  1897 - 18
  1930 - 218
  1970 - 1174
  2000 - 17813
  2019 - 30234

Still, would be interesting to see some comprehensive study on active leisure.

Meh. I would bet that has way more to do with the cost of travelling to Boston for the average person around the world and the growth in prestige of that particular event.

Also, athleisure is "active" in the literal sense, but is it contributing anything back to society? I guess one could argue it collectively reduces the cost of our growing passiveness. But I would argue, as someone who loves exercising, that exercise is just a video game that makes you feel progressively better the longer you play it instead of worse. It doesn't serve a broader purpose beyond a certain point of basic health, unless you are so good that other people derive satisfaction from your accomplishments (pro athlete) or you are doing it to form social connections (golf, intramural sports leagues, etc.) or like break a world record or something.

Why do you associate those things specifically with urban life? Cinemas, televised sports, and listening to music are pretty broadly-enjoyed things. I don’t think they’re particularly “passive” either, but they’re certainly not uniquely urban.

When I think of unique opportunities in urban environments, I’m thinking more along the lines of nightlife, live sports, music, and theatre, boutique shopping, art galleries, etc. which I don’t consider to be particularly “passive” activities either.

Yeah, I think Russell got this one wrong and Vonnegut got it right. Consuming-all, creating-none became normal because of mass media. Its availability drove down the social value of playing on an unremarkable, very-local sports team, or playing the piano unremarkably, or singing, or being pretty good at telling a story (but not as good as the radio), and so on.

Know what you see references to all the time in previous centuries? Reading aloud as entertainment among family and friends, sometimes even in public places, and even staging little dramas at home. Kids might do the latter still, a bit, but one gets the impression it was much more common then. People didn't stop doing that because they were working more, they stopped because radio was invented.

When there was no radio or gramophone, if you could play the piano tolerably well and sing a little you were, to your social circle, hot shit. Not so much afterward. You could play a pick-up game on the green off town square against a neighboring town and people would show up and watch with enthusiasm. When things were expected to be repaired and a blanket might cost quite a damn bit to buy, being able to sew pretty well or being fairly handy at woodworking was far more valuable than it is now. Mass production has driven the social (and economic) value of both way down.

Direct personal enjoyment wasn't the only thing one could hope to get from all those "leisure" activities.

Oh, your sketches and watercolors? Yeah they're nice I guess. Have you seen Deviantart? Instagram? I follow 200 artists better than you, from around the globe, and most of them aren't even good enough to make any money at it. And so on. Social value approaching zero.

I agree it is more about this kind of raising the bar than "lack of free time". I can't even stand watching college-level sports anymore because the quality of play is so low compared to getting the best 500 or 1000 people on the planet together in a professional league.

That said, I think there's also room for a new kind of very-local active-not-passive activity to spring up. We already see the beginning of this with mass tourism and the rise of mass-amateur photography thanks to digital cameras and cell phones.

Does anyone really think their picture of the Grand Canyon taken on their iPhone is better than the thousands of professional photos already taken of it? Yet people (me included!) continue to take pictures.

I'm not really sure exactly what form it will take but that kind of "sure but I haven't personally experienced it" take feels like it might re-open the doors that were slammed shut by the kind of mass media effect you describe.

Compound that with a kind of long-tail niche of hyperlocal activities and there's more scope for hope in the future. Sure things like theater and music have been are a lost cause. But maybe birdwatching in a nearby national park? Or groups that handle beach cleanup or beach erosion?

Maybe we're just in the middle of a (long) transition toward those kind of things.

The photos of Grand Canyon require literally no time investment into building a skill. I think this is about as much (i.e. zero) as most people are willing to invest into totally non-productive hobbies right now.

For instance, many people are still gardening - not only because they like it, but also because the product, a beautiful garden, makes the effort worth it for them. I doubt many people would still garden if we could just display an equivalent garden in their AR glasses - similarly to how almost no one plays the instrument now because we've got recordings of music.

That is a quote from Russell from 1932 written before desegregation, white flight, and the explosion of the suburbs so the differences between urban and rural life was far more stark than it is today. The big networks like NBC and CBS were born just a few years before and it took them until WWII IIRC to really penetrate into all the rural areas of the US (in the 1930 census only 40% of households owned a radio, mostly as a sign of middle class wealth in urban areas). Sports teams could only be supported by relatively high densities of people because television wasn't yet a major source of revenue.

Today's equivalent would be smartphones, which are definitely harder to use the further out you are from civilization (I've got no reception 40 minutes from DT San Diego!)

Because at the time Russell wrote that (1932), the Suburbs didn't exist yet. If you didn't live in the city, you were agrarian; think sharecroppers living with dirt floors (the dust bowl/Grapes of Wrath were the 1930's). Most "modern" leisure activities were only enjoyed by urbanites.

> The number of people who I've talked to who legitimately don't know what to do without work during the pandemic is staggering.

I wouldn't look at that and conclude that these people are just domesticated livestock who have no self-worth beyond their job. A lot of legitimate hobbies and even just normal socializing are completely shut down or heavily restricted in a lot of places.

It's unfortunate that passive entertainment is all that we crave, people in general have become "lazy", they simply don't want to put the effort in doing anything "active" > sports, art, music. And I disagree, you can pick a new sport, prior to the pandemic I worked out at the gym and played racquetball. Now I work out at home with kettle bells and resistance bands. Picked up mountain biking and tennis, which are "socially distanced" sports. You can learn a musical instrument, cook, bake, paint, ride a motorcycle, kayak, take pictures, no one is stopping you.

Yes and no. Kayaking needs transport to a body of water. Biking is okay, but some people find it hard to breathe with a mask on while biking. Musical instruments work if you have a private residence and already know how to play. If you don't many people prefer learning from a tutor.

Of course there are some things we can do by ourselves, but not everyone is made that way. Lots and lots of people would rather while time away. "Dumb" by Nirvana captures this pretty well.

Good grief, people. If you're wearing a mask while on a bike (distant from people) you're doing it wrong.

In some jurisdictions it's mandatory to wear a mask when out in public. A lot of the definitions are wishy washy (medically approved, for example), is a national forest a "public space"? technically, yes...

Austin, Texas. One of "the worst hotspots".

Can confirm that not one soul has hassled any of us for riding our bikes in the woods with our masks off.

Were it not for bicycle motocross, I think I would have jumped in front of a bus by now. Seeing my friends in the woods is one of the only things keeping me sane.

I cannot recommend cycling highly enough; not just as a pandemic activity, but as a way of life.

I live in Gent, Belgium, which has more bike traffic than car traffic on any given day. Biking here is treated as a way of life. I've been spoken to for biking without a mask, even though I was not in a heavily populated area (I was riding along a canal outside of the city, and was accosted by a police officer riding in the opposite direction).

But even so, so what? The mask isn't going to let me ride as vigorously as I normally would, but I can still get out into nature and enjoy some exercise and new scenery.

I don’t think this is true at all. I often wear a mask when it’s not entirely necessary, just to be on the safe side in case something happens or I encounter someone unexpectedly.

Sure, I’ll almost always be fine in these circumstances, but the “cost” of wearing a mask is really nothing compared to the protection afforded me in the event of the unforeseen.

Absolutely cannot agree enough with this sentiment and I do the same out of what seems like basic cautionary instinct, though the sheer quantity of people (perhaps a loudly vocal minority) who seem to consider the particularly minor inconvenience of wearing a mask to be too high of a "cost" continues to surprise me.

I think this is part of it. Lots of things require social contact in parts of the process. If your hobby produces something useful, it might also require a way to distribute it in a marketplace: say bread, or cheese or beer, furniture, etc., etc. At some point your hobby can cause things to pile up in your residence and that's no good either.

Isn't that exactly the point? It's just extended a little, with "legitimate hobbies" and "normal socializing" not available. So take that away and then they are domesticated livestock? If you don't have the ability to do something with your time outside of your normal environment, that is definitely an indicator that something is really off. There is SOOOO much you can do. I wouldn't even know where to start even if I didn't have my job and was locked in a room.

Sure, in the strictly technical sense, there's "SOOOO much you can do" — but that's not really useful information, is it? Just because you could pound sand, or eat dirt, or bang your head into a wall, that doesn't mean those activities are enjoyable or enriching. The challenge is not finding something you can do, it's finding something you can do that's more rewarding than staring at your phone, and there are a lot fewer things that fall into that category, and they're not all the same for everyone.

In prison, the worst punishment you can get is being moved AWAY from all the rapists and murderers, and into solitary confinement. Humans are extremely social creatures.

I still have my job, but not being able to go out and socialize in the evenings and on weekends is driving me a little nutty. Sure, I work on some side projects, read books, work out, watch films, etc., but it just doesn't come remotely close to filling the same void for me as having a drink and good conversation (in real-life) with my close friends, or swinging by my climbing gym, or seeing live music.

I don't think that means something is "really off" with me, or that I'm "domesticated livestock" - it just means my hobbies and the way I like to spend my time aren't as pandemic-friendly as yours.

that's half the point though - the pandemic means we're all locked away as individuals, roommates, or family units, with few exceptions.

I'd love to go jam with my band, but we're all in lockdown mode. I'd love to go to the playground with my kids, but they're all closed. I'd love to have a playdate with my friend's kids, but everyone is self-isolating.

These are not normal circumstances.

> I wouldn't even know where to start


I have a different perspective.

I see work as the way we contribute to society, how we help others with things that are important for them. In return, other people work on things that benefit me.

This is how we can live in wealth and peace unimaginable to most of history. This is a fantastic historic achievement, and I want to keep it going.

I do agree that we are much more than just workers, of course. But that feels like a strawman argument. Does anyone actually argue that?

And likewise, we are more than just self pleasers. If all you do is trying to entertain yourself every moment, I think a big part of life is missing.

There are a large fraction of Americans who don’t have that leisure though. They’re forced to work long and arduous hours at meaningless jobs for low wages, because they can’t survive otherwise. Hard to see yourself as someone who is valued beyond their economic output in those cases.

This echoes my favourite passage from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations:

“If any action of yours, then, does not have direct or indirect relation to the social end, it pulls your life apart and destroys its unity.”

That said, keeping yourself mentally healthy is just as important, to the social end.

I'm in my late 20s and used to believe something like this, but I've become quite cynical. I think that modern work is just about capturing wealth and passing it onto the wealthy, so they can have more control over their time and can enjoy the fruits of our labours.

I think people conflate the above with "wanting to contribute to society and benefit others" because you're not usually willing to pay for things that don't benefit you. However we all know there's a massive section of capitalism that's built on manipulating people to buy things they don't need or will actually do them harm, and there's also a huge section that benefits from desperation and will use it's political weight to increase said desperation if possible.

Of course in principle it's possible to have a company that balances a healthy profit with a useful and beneficial product, but in practice a vast majority of companies will abuse its customers and employees as much as legally permissible if it increases the incomes of the upper echelons. At least that's my view.

So nowadays I just do my job to get my stagnant wage, so that I can pay my extortionate rent.

> Of course in principle it's possible to have a company that balances a healthy profit with a useful and beneficial product, but in practice a vast majority of companies will abuse its customers and employees as much as legally permissible if it increases the incomes of the upper echelons. At least that's my view.

Survival of the fittest. Competition on the market guarantees that, over time, the companies that do useful things and balance that with profits and employee needs will die off, while companies good at maximizing revenue by any means necessary will flourish.

That's my cynical realization. Both too little and too much competition on the market is poison.

> I think that modern work is just about capturing wealth and passing it onto the wealthy, so they can have more control over their time and can enjoy the fruits of our labours.

wether or not that is a concious goal. it defintiely seems the result that is happening in our current culture

sometimes i think of it like a horse and a jockey, somehow the horse was acclimated to allowing someone to ride on its back, tell it where to go, and how fast to run... in return the horse gets a stable, some food and a trough... but even if the horse is compensated for its "work" its still a releationsnip of "rider" and "rode on"

The day I drove into Mexico it was a huge shock to see so many people around just enjoying their time - paying with their younger relatives on the beach, playing guitar, singing and dancing. My fascination and disbelief at the amount of leisure time everyone has continued for two years through all of Latin America, and then for another three years when I drove right around Africa.

Having come from years grinding at a desk job, it was startling to see that many millions (probably billions) of people live extremely happy and fulfilled lives without the need for menial jobs and "a career". Money is useful, but if you can shortcut straight to happiness why bother with the inefficient middleman.

We in the West tend to think our way of life is the "best" or the "only", but that is very far from the truth, and I urge anyone who is curious to spend time in parts of the world where work is not the meaning of life. Spend a summer in Spain and enjoy siesta.

I found the Spanish lifestyle harrowing. Many work for hours in the morning, take an hours long break, then work into the late evening. Maybe the warmer climate or tourism economy agree factors. But it didn't strike me as appealing. They also have high unemployment along the youth.

West way of life is expensive that is why we have to grind at a desk job.

What do we pay for with that grind: low violent crime rates, good roads so lower amount of traffic deaths, better health care.

Being poor or sick in Latin America or Africa sucks.

> Being poor or sick in Latin America or Africa sucks.

Speaking of the US, being poor and sick here also sucks but differently. You won't die of malaria. Instead, you will spend the rest of your days scraping pennies to pay for an outrageous medical bill because you don't belong to the class of people with good employer-provided health insurance.

Good roads and cars exist in Latin America and Africa as well of course.

Where did you go? Because the average Mexican works more hours than every other OCDE country[1].

[1] https://data.oecd.org/emp/hours-worked.htm

You probably don't see these workers as a tourist (aside from workers in the service industry I guess). You see the people that are out having a leasurely time.

I spent roughly a month per country in 17 countries in Latin America over 2 years, and 35 countries around Africa in 3 years.


The anxiety of not knowing when or how you're going to be able to support yourself and/or your dependents can have a pretty chilling effect on one's openness to experience and idle creativity. It's very easy to get yourself into a cycle of existential paralysis where you can't/don't allow yourself any opportunity to do something normally considered "frivolous" despite the fact that there's no real opportunity for you to do something normally considered "useful".

Even though the actual opportunity cost of doing something "frivolous" is zero given the circumstances, the self-imposed perceived cost could feel much higher. There's a difference between not knowing what to do with oneself and feeling like one shouldn't be doing any of those things.

I get your point, but because we're in a lockdown, a whole host of things that we'd normally have available to us are gone. Normally when people have time off, they can still meet up with friends, or hang out at the coffee shop, or go to a meetup or a conference. Now we're idle at home without much-needed social connections to grease the daily wheels.

Right. Even activities you can do alone are distorted by isolation. I usually cycle alone 80% of the time. Now I do 100%. I have less motivation for my solo rides, even though I would be alone this year, or last year, no difference. Last Friday I decided a ride with one other person would be safe enough, and I find myself more motivated to ride alone afterwards.

That makes sense. There's an extra benefit to having company even if the goal of the activity is not to socialize itself. Just their mere presence feels good.

I was thinking the other day that I found it easier to dive deep into my side projects when I have the contrast of social outlets. If I just have my side projects, the balance is out of whack. It doesn't feel as meaningful as an outlet if it's the main thing. It's no longer this fun thing to do to give myself time away from others. All time is time away from others now.

Meetups and conferences are happening online now and it's actually pretty nice. For example, if the Julia Conference had not gone online this year, there's really no way I could've gone to Baltimore for most of a week to attend. But because it was online it was not only free, but also accessible. They had discord channels to hangout in as well as other ways to socially engage.

The most recent DefCon conference was held virtually and they referred to it as "safe mode" which I thought was a funny, poignant touch for a computer conference.

This. People are conditioned to non-productive, consumptive leisure. Some have hobbies and can find meaning in productive leisure, but for those who don't, after a while binging Netflix is just meaningless. Creating things is a very important way for humans to find meaning and to be in the Zone.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one hand I don’t think we should be overprescribing any particular path towards finding meaning in one’s life. On the other hand promoting other possible paths is probably a good thing.

Some people genuinely find “work” meaningful and purposeful and that should be okay if that’s what they value. If other things provide them meaning, that’s okay too.

Industrial Society and its Future has a far more interesting take on this topic, and one that I haven't seen effectively refuted. (If you have examples, please comment!)

Specialization trades off innovation for efficiency while generalism/curiosity trades off efficiency for innovation.

If someone is going to say human beings are more than just workers it would be helpful to say exactly what else they can be that doesn't involve work.

I think the point is that you can be whatever you want. It's a change from being forced to do something just to pay the bills to doing what you want because you want to do it due to personal interest. It seems to me that many people need to be told what to be interested in. It is the reason we have fads of interest, driven by media exposure or personalities. It is very rare for somebody to decide to do something without some type of stimulus.

Yes you can be whatever the limitations of your resources and responsibilities allow you to be.

Turns out for many people, there’s not much else they can be that would be an improvement over whatever they currently are.

Why did Keynes believe that, say, a doubling of efficiency (through technology) would half work time for everyone? Sure it’s a solution to the equation, but so is what actually happened[1]: half the workforce gets laid off. This halves the costs, which facilitates price reduction and thus a competitive edge. Did Keynes believe that benevolence would win over profit? Don’t get me wrong, I wish it had, but that seems a little naive.

[1] It occurs to me that another solution is to keep the work force, but double the work. This also happened; it seems like there are plenty of jobs that are just busy work with no real purpose.

> what actually happened[1]: half the workforce gets laid off.

The article says as much:

> In a sane world, Russell thought, the factory would simply halve working hours, maintaining the same wages but greatly increasing the time that the workers could devote to the joys of leisure. But, as Russell observed, this rarely happens. Instead, the factory owner will opt to keep half the workers on the same hours and lay off the rest. The gains from the advances of technology will be realised not as an expansion of leisure but rather as drudgery for some and jobless destitution for others, with the savings enjoyed only by the winner, the factory owner.

The reason this didn't happen is two fold.

First, workers gain skill by the hour. It's more efficient to have forty hour work weeks for a workforce of half the size than twenty hour work weeks with the same size.

Second, many things in the economy are arms races. Housing[0], cost of education, status goods, actual arms for our militaries, etc. We have enough productivity for things like food to be very, very cheap but it just drives up prices elsewhere.

[0] Specifically land value, but also housing in the physical sense since raw materials and labour are not unlimited.

Zeroth, the more unemployed, the more downward salary pressure on the employed.

edit: the reasonable expectation is that half of the workers are fired and the remaining workers' salaries are cut. The Luddites were a result of noticing technological improvements lowered wages and employment at the same time.

It's kinda weird how the labour is almost always in oversupply.

Won't be if basic income becomes available :)

Is the sane solution then not some sort of encouragement of greater stock market participation? Where when the "factory owner" wins, everybody wins, because everyone has shares in the factory?

Then the incentives are aligned - the more productive, technologically advanced the economy is, the greater your stock returns and the better off you are.

Is that not more or less the case for many people that have lived in the developed world for generations? You do not need to save a lot every month in order for it to compound into a meaningful stock ownership after 200 years. Median household net worth in the UK is £300'000, and that includes many many recent arrivals. For comparison, with a net worth of £500'000, you could draw ~£15'000/year in perpetuity if you wanted - is that not a much better alternative to UBI?



Why the only alternatives to capitalism that come to mind are always China and Gulags? Is there absolutely nothing else we can imagine?

(Maybe if we had some more leisure we could become more imaginative)

>Why the only alternatives to capitalism that come to mind are always China and Gulags? Is there absolutely nothing else we can imagine?

This is precisely Mark Fisher's argument in Capitalist Realism. Capitalist realism dictates that the majority of people have become incapable of imagining something outside of a kind of binary choice. There can't be an alternate future, because we can't imagine it in the first place. This was bessed summed up, rather ironically, by Thatcher: "there is no alternative".

Which is sad because unions and trust busting showed that regulated capitalism was better than the Ayn Rand flavor so popular now. (Yay child gig economy.)

Burning man. And temples/churches.

But yeah, those are the only places where markets are off-limits. If you try to make a totalizing system that forbids people the right to buy or sell (say, on your way to burning man or after church), you'd need gulags to control the social unrest. People like to buy stuff and sell stuff.

Churches are increasingly about merch.

> Why the only alternatives to capitalism that come to mind are always China and Gulags? Is there absolutely nothing else we can imagine?

The answer is that it's effective propaganda. Starvation and gulags are terrible evils. If you can plant the idea in someone's mind that they are what you get when a society questions capitalism, then you've created a zealous foot-soldier for capitalism who feels he's fighting for good against evil.

Someone who zealously fights starvation and gulags is fighting for good against evil, but those were mainly the result of particular alternatives to capitalism: radical Soviet-style central planning and dictatorship. That's not the only alternative: there are others, including many that haven't been thought of yet. Also, it's not like capitalism is over and we know how it ends. Maybe it too will find its way to starvation and gulags.

I believe that both capitalism and communism are broken because of broken brains of people who are "implementing" them. We need enlightened, self-organized people (no "leaders" or "representatives") as a starting point for any successful implementation of a Utopia (whatever -ism you like to call it). But no current system is going to support enlightenment of people because it would mean its end.

Self organizing doesn't work because everyone wants what's best for themselves. Every grassroots activity has figureheads and leaders. Hierarchy is literally older than civilisation and observed in most animal life.

While this is a familiar Peterson talking point, society has in many ways sublimated our nature for the broader collective good. Addressing the problems of capitalism would be another step in that progress.

Nah, I disagree. Capitalism is the most natural system because it accepts what we are - selfish beings in a competitive environment. If we didn't specialize and trade skills/products/services, we'd still be a hunter-gatherer species. The system is what kept us going, not what holds us back. It only looks like oppression in 2020 because of how easy the rest of life is.

There are a lot of good arguments and suggestive evidence that the exact opposite is true: that we were competitive in our environment not because we were selfish, but because we were social, altruistic, caring, supportive.

Capitalism cannot be the most natural system simply because it's only barely 300 years old. Before that, there was a whole slew of different ways to organize production and distribution. Primitive tribal communes, large tribal unions, agricultural slavery, feudalisms of varying shapes... and that's only in Europe.

Regardless of the obvious political quackery downvoting my original comment, this is what I was pointing out: we're not as self-prioritizing as we are convenience-prioritizing. Capitalism isn't the only solution, just like how any given criticism of the current implementation of capitalism isn't only indicative of a problem intrinsic to capitalism. The problem is we don't have effective checks and balances to over-conveniencing ourselves.

I believe that's the problem with capitalism as it is today. Whomever owns the means of production has literally zero constraints on maximizing their convenience. The expense ends up drastically inconveniencing, to the point of being a barrier to access, everyone who doesn't own the means of production.

> Whomever owns the means of production has literally zero constraints on maximizing their convenience. The expense ends up drastically inconveniencing, to the point of being a barrier to access, everyone who doesn't own the means of production.

maybe cooperatives are a potential solution to that issue?

> Capitalism is the most natural system because it accepts what we are - selfish beings

that does not follow: just because something is natural doesnt make it good or desireable

The Daemon/Freedom novels have an original solution for that

An highly advanced non-conscious AI takes over everything

Then people can rate each other. And gain experience levels like in a mmorpg. And then people work to improve their rating and levels

Hopefully the AI is smart enough to prevent fraudulent ratings.

> Then people can rate each other.

Found your problem.

Capitalism is fine, just don't treat it as a religion (looking sternly at you, HN crowd) and know that it needs to be fixed from time to time. We've been patching capitalism for centuries if not millennia: abolishing indentured servitude, environmental protection, public education, workers' rights, market regulations...

All that needs to be done is to properly mandate maximum work hours (no overtime even if the worker is willing).

> All that needs to be done is to properly mandate maximum work hours (no overtime even if the worker is willing).

We are close to that in Norway already. See https://www.arbeidstilsynet.no/en/working-conditions/working...


The Working Environment Act defines working hours as time when the employee is at the disposal of the employer. The time the employee is not at the disposal of the employer is referred to as off-duty time.

There are limits for how much you may work per 24-hour day and per week. These limits are laid down in the Working Environment Act, but may also be regulated by your employment contract and by any collective agreements.

The limits prescribed by the Working Environment Act for normal working hours are:

    9 hours per 24 hours

    40 hours per 7 days
If you work shifts, nights or Sundays, normal working hours are 38 or 36 hours a week. The duration and disposition of the daily and weekly working hours must be stated in your employment contract.

The employer shall keep an account of the employee’s working hours. Calculation on the basis of a fixed average

The normal working hours may be calculated on the basis of a fixed average. This means that you may work more than the limit for normal working hours during certain periods in exchange for working correspondingly shorter hours during other periods. The average number of hours worked must be within the limits for normal working hours.

end quote

I'm pretty hardcore capitalist but I also have started to think more about the ideas that go under the heading "market society" -- namely, that everything has its price, that we'll trade away all kinds of things, family time, vacation, meals with friends, etc. for some kind of price. That everything can be bought and sold, that everything has its price.

Some things have to remain outside the realm of market exchange. Marriage is a good example. You just can't put a price on it. Ditto for kids, and a lot of other highly meaningful life experiences.

I think the problem is thinking that markets and commerce are the whole story. They aren't. There's just so much more to life: serving others, community, family. None of this is anti-capitalist per se.

> From above, we can only conclude that capitalism and profit-oriented economy are insane

I don't see the conclusion. I can only see there are many specific problems with capitalism.

The quote starts with "In a sane world" and from the rest of the quote we can see that we're not living in such world. Isn't that enough to conclude that the (most of the) world is not sane, ie insane?

A major function of capitalism is to direct human attention towards utilitarian valuation, which produces the growth-and-exploitation formula we are familiar with: more stuff is made, more land is developed, but it is often done by overfitting to market prices.

But increasingly we are turning the valuation process over to algorithms, sensors, and other precision instruments. If we extrapolate this onwards, the market exchange will become vestigial in not that many years: the algorithms involved will already know how much can be sustainably produced, consumed, transported and trashed, and there will be known bounds to personal and societal consumption relative to planetary capacity. At that point, transition away from capitalism will seem obvious. And we might be closer to this point than it looks.

But what will happen when we get to that point? What world will these algorithms create for us? Will it be the utopia of Earth in Star Trek? Or will it be a "Disneyland with no children"[0], once economy becomes fully self-contained and eliminates its dependency on humans, leaving Earth to be inherited by machines endlessly working and trading, with no sentient being to see it or enjoy the fruits of that labor?


[0] - A phrase coined by Nick Bostrom, in "Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies":

"We could imagine, as an extreme case, a technologically highly advanced society, containing many complex structures, some of them far more intricate and intelligent than anything that exists on the planet today – a society which nevertheless lacks any type of being that is conscious or whose welfare has moral significance. In a sense, this would be an uninhabited society. It would be a society of economic miracles and technological awesomeness, with nobody there to benefit. A Disneyland with no children."

> At that point, transition away from capitalism will seem obvious.

I expect the global population to be reduced and/or reprogrammed over time (via genetic interventions) long before I expect techno-capitalist industrial society to implode.

The horror that is possible with technology is essentially unbounded, and any discomfort caused to humans can be overcome through drugs and similar measures. Hell, we're already medicating people in first-world economies in extraordinary numbers.

Are there societies which have smooth scaling on workers? i.e. where the cost of adding a new worker for 20 hours is about the same as the cost of adding 20 hrs to a worker working under 20 hrs?

I like to think of what an amoral money machine would do as a base-case for what we set up the incentives to be. Then we can tweak the incentives to get the outcome, but we start with the machine. After all, moral outrage alone rarely has lasting change without policy change.

Things that encourage fewer-people w/ more-work-per-person are:

* Laws that explicitly disincentivize larger companies (that kick in at >24 people or >49 people, or that are flat per-person-on-payroll fees like medical benefits)

* The learn rate of individuals given sustained work

* Increased overhead with more individuals (i.e. communication costs, scheduling costs, hiring costs)

There's portions I can't immediately nail like the fact that if I share a desk with someone I can't spray my things all over it like I normally do. My hardware has to be out of the way and clean for the other guy.

> It occurs to me that another solution is to keep the work force, but double the work

I think one other solution is to keep the work force, but double the output. I think this also happened (in addition to the other two that you identified). The overall productivity and output of society has massively increased.

And, of course, output doesn't have to be number of bars of soap.

All of the automation I'm familiar with is making the design and manufacturing processes more fluid, giving faster iterations at reduced cost. This allows the tech/process/whatever to progress faster. You'll finish your product sooner, but that means you can start the next sooner.

This whole concept of having more time assumes there's nothing else to do. There will always be something to do if you're not making something static, like soap.

> half the workforce gets laid off.

Technological progress has made labor productivity itself a lot more uneven and sharply unequal than it used to be when Keynes was writing. So the currently most marginal workers tend to be laid off first, especially given the increasing regulatory barriers that have made low-productivity positions unsustainable since then.

Regrettably he believed far too much in fungibility as well.

As technology increases you need fewer people with higher skills to produce everything, but there is no reason why they should spend all their time producing a surplus to supply everybody else. They would rather stop and have Thursday and Friday off.

We all work in solidarity with those we need to work. Because it is more difficult to share out the unemployment than it first appeared.

The solution is to retire people earlier and have a public job option so younger people can always contribute their labour hours for others. Retiring people at 50 makes sense in a Covid world.

Keynes believed we would as a society, change our behavior (2 day working week etc) to maintain employment.

He was semi right. We've actually made work weeks longer, but less than 50% of people work (at all, let alone full time).

The issue here is equality. Keynes assumed everyone would be viewed ad equal and given the same time off. Instead a large number of people have been allowed to opt out entirely and others have been forced to pick up the slack...

> what actually happened

I can't find the comment, but I do remember someone on HN suggesting that the gains of extra productivity are claimed by a corresponding increase in credit and therefore debt.

If workers controlled the workplace, this is precisely what would happen. It's only because the people doing the work don't control the work that this seems fanciful.

"Worker-controlled workplaces" are rather common in some industries where capital intensity is especially low, such as legal services (with firms being organized as partnerships; indeed, capital intensity is the main obstacle to this kind of structure in other industries). And yet, top lawyers tend to work quite a bit more than the typical worker.

> And yet, top lawyers tend to work quite a bit more than the typical worker.

I would argue that the reason for that is that they more directly see the fruits of their labour.

and yet a worker getting paid by piece-meal don't?

You know, what's funny is that we'll never be sure if that's the case[0]. What guarantee is there that the median socialist voter wouldn't vote for more work for everyone because they want fancier tvs, or more dazzling musical spectacles, or fancier video games, bigger homes, etc? What if society doesn't democratically vote for idleness and quality of life / tranquility?

[0] I mean unless there's a real and successful socialist revolution.

Well there are worker co-ops. Lots of farming is as co-operatives. Sunkist is a cooperative, for instance. https://growers.sunkist.com/

It's a cooperative for owners, not workers. A lot of cooperatives in the US exist for owners.

What if the workers actually controlled the factory and not a commissar sent by central planning? There are lots of different ways to do this.

For central planning, one proposal I saw offered that the workers could be organized into sectoral unions that participate as a sector in government. This weight and common interest allows them to counter the weight of voters that ask for too much. It's also large enough of an agglomeration that the workers still represent society as a whole to a great degree.

Well, we have one big agglomeration in the US for policing workers. That hasn't led to positive results for society.

I'm not sure what you're talking about? The police?

The police.

Fancier TVs are not going to make their ~miserable~ (edit: too heavy word) lifes more meaningful. That's what capitalism has made you believe in order to keep you in its chains voluntarily.

Sitting 8+ hours at desk plus few more in a car only to get home and continue sitting in front of a fancy TV. And you call this advanced society or civilisation?

Reading the title and actually reading what Bertrand Russell was talking about are two different things. Russell when he refers to leisure isn't talking about sitting on a porch staring up at the sky(or binge watching netflix), he is talking about pursuing interesting hobbies and learning into subjects not core to ones occupation(but also a little plain idleness as well). With most people in tech jobs and especially if you have a family, time is extremely constrained. I would love to get more involved in astronomy, study into physics and just learn more about various areas of history. Due to the pandemic work has for me increased tremendously and become very stressful. I sometimes wish I was unemployed so I can focus on these side projects which I love, but couldn't deal with the loss of income. If I had the extra time I would be extremely busy so to speak, so its strange when I hear about people who are bored during the past few months who are not working.

Some of the highest goods (as in, virtuous or wholesome things) are those that are sometimes described by workaholics, or parents of over achievers, as "useless" or "wastes of time".

Art, music, sport, leisure, time with family- all these things (and more) put us in touch with the greater things in life. We collectively live out the human experience in a way that crashes through barriers of language, and in my opinion, we also encounter the transcendental.

Work is simply a means - not an end in itself. I work so I can provide for my family. The good I am pursuing is the welfare of my family. That gives my work a higher meaning. Those engaged in charity work or volunteer work (also a higher good) are usually paid the least.

I find that the people who fall into the trap of treating their work as an end, are the ones the most susceptible to burn out, depression, and low life satisfaction.

Make time for the "useless" things. Go for a walk, read a book, look at the birds, listen to music, write a poem, get out those pencils you never use, play an instrument, watch a good film, go fishing, spend time with your kids, buy something nice for your wife. But for goodness sake, forget about work for enough time each week. You'll feel infinitely better.

> virtuous, wholesome, ... higher good ...

what counts as virtuous etc, is just a set of beliefs you have. The person who "treating their work as an end" is not less happy, in the same way that a worker ant is happy doing what they were born to do (work themselves to death). Assigning your value judgement on someone else's life decisions just another way to be on a high horse. Who's to say that the workaholics are wrong to live the way they do?

FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) is now a popular goal among the young. If you retire early, however, you're going to have to figure out what to do with all the leisure time. It would perhaps be better to have people working fewer hours, but over more years - a longterm 3-day workweek would allow for plenty of leisure as well as work.

>you're going to have to figure out what to do with all the leisure time

Not an issue for me, nor anyone else I know who has retired early. Maybe the same sort of energy that supports early retirement also leads to a fully engaged post-retirement life.

As long as you love to learn or create (or both) you will have a shortage of free time, even in retirement.

Off the top of my head, I spend time on: foreign language, guitar, writing, blogging, photography/videography, programming challenges, fitness, meditation, cooking, history, math, politics, biking, kayaking, hiking, golf, travel, volunteering, reading books/magazines/news, watching movies/shows, surfing the web, home improvement and repair, investing.

And that's just the fun stuff. There's still bills, taxes, paperwork, repairs, laundry, dishes, on and on.

Honestly, I still don't have anywhere near enough time and am annoyed by how much time sleep steals. I have no idea how I went 30 years with 50 hours lost every week to work, not to mention raising a family.

It's a trite saying, but true: you won't be bored unless you're boring!

This is very nice to hear. Thanks for sharing.

I can only speak for myself, but I know a lot of people with similar goals to me - I've worked a full-time job since I was 17, and upon leaving college, have always worked 2 or more jobs (typically one-full time, one entrepreneurial venture or part-time internship to gain experience - currently I just work two full-time jobs, one of them my own company, and do some sporadic consulting as well).

I'm in my late 30's and plan on "retiring" in my early 50's. I had kids in my late 20's, so we're good there (it's been tough of course). I doubt I'll stop working and will probably switch to working 2-3 days a week for a few months at a time, or getting on a few boards of directors and being an advisor/consultant, or something like that.

I work 70+ hours/week on average and have done so for over a decade. I know this pace isn't sustainable; I'm falling behind every year that passes me while I watch 23 year olds put in the hours I used to. So for people our age, we have to put the work in now if we want leisure time later.

America is turning into a winner-takes-most society and I don't see that changing anytime soon. It will become harder and harder to be a "punch the clock" person and retire at a normal age, especially as life expectancy continues to get pushed out.

This honestly sounds just like my nightmares.

I'd rather go live in a tent than spend 10+ years putting in 70+ hour weeks just to retire when all of my best years are behind me.

Feel free. Different strokes. I spent 3 years of my life professionally gambling as one of my full-time jobs and lived more in those 3 years than most do in a lifetime, and founded a company with an eight-figure valuation that is a lot of fun to run. If I worked some boring desk job that I hated, sure.

Besides, my best years are ahead of me. I'll be in great shape in my 50s with nothing but time and options. The idea that your 20s and 30s are the best years of your life is a very antiquated concept.

Plenty of us here founded companies with eight-figure valuations. Not that uncommon on hacker news.

I did and I’ve never worked-worked more than 30 hours per week except for short bursts at a time. The more critical your work is, the more time you should dedicate to being at your best.

I don’t take any umbrage at your chosen path nor do I disagree that america is a winner take most society. But when most is a bunch of unnecessary consumer faff, maybe enough is better to shoot for.

These days I work 15-20 hours per week. I spend as much time as I want abroad/surfing/screwing around on the internet. I’m 35. I don’t care to fly first class or buy Vuitton. But I do have all my meals and my bed made for me.

Well I work two jobs plus consulting, so it's like 30-35 hrs/job if that works!

I agree RE: consumerism. I save / invest most of my money and spend it on services like you (though I cook most of my meals since it's a hobby of mine; but same idea with a nanny, housekeeper, etc). I wear mostly free clothing from vendors and my suits (such that I need them) are all from Indochino; I drive a 12 year old used SUV around and live in a modest townhome in a not-great area of my city.

I have "enough." I enjoy work, a lot. I get the feeling a lot of people don't like working, or like their job, or something. It's not a chore. 70 hours a week producing and working is indeed a hell of a lot of fun. Especially for those years when it was gambling... but hey, what I do now is still almost as fun.

EDIT: Well, I have enough for me. Not for my family. To retire at age 40 requires a hell of a lot more money than I have now for obvious reasons, even if I don't plan on giving my kids a ton of money to live off of.

It sounds like your priorities are on track. There are far worse things to do in life than to accumulate generational wealth and save your kids from the drudgery of meaningless jobs. How much money do you think you’ll need to be comfortable?

That said I still have a problem with the idea that working 70 hours out of every week is good - even if you feel energized, certainly you can’t be operating near your peak.

Take the world’s best in the world’s most star-driven market, Ronaldo. How many hours does he work every week? 10 real work hours, plus 10-15 of preparation? Would we expect him to be a better footballer if he also took a shift doing data analysis at McKinsey nights and weekends? Or is it better that he focus on being close to 100% of his potential on every match?

I’m sure you’re extremely good at what you do and I’m genuinely thrilled to see what you’ll produce when you can afford to be better-rested (if you don’t burn out before). I’m sure it will be your best work.

Ronaldo most certainly "works" more than 25h a week.

I think it's very difficult to become world class working <40h a week. At the same time I don't think this is something everyone should strive for. If you want a nice relaxed/balanced life, there's nothing wrong with that.

However the world would be a much sadder place without the obsessive-compulsives that spend an inordinate amount of time on their craft.

Well my company and my other job are both pretty important mission-driven things to me. It's not like I am a founder and then work at McKinsey, heh. That would not be worth it to me. I've been fortunate enough to have full-time jobs that I've mostly enjoyed, well, when I get out of software development anyway.

Both jobs, as you can probably surmise, have significant overlap. So being good at one makes me good at the other.

I think I'll be a good consultant. I actually might teach junior college or high school when I'm all done "working." That'll be a blast when doing it for the mission, not the paycheck.

It sounds like you're enjoying what you're doing so this doesn't necessarily apply to you, but the suffer now to enjoy life later mentality assumes you'll make it to your 50s.

Tomorrow isn't guaranteed so we should make time to experience life and live our values today.

I am in a very similar situation (and I think even age/life experience)

I don't have any public words to say to you, but I would love to chat a bit if you ever want to.

My email is brunomtsousa @ the biggest search company email service.com

Yeah, if you get a 4-day week job or a remote job you can work a lot fewer hours and it’s much easier than FIRE. Other people are ‘hustling’ or scrimping and saving nonstop so they can have leisure time later. Why not skip the hustle and go straight for the leisure time? Like the old story about the fisherman and the businessman. Works great for me.

I agree, but it's difficult to find a part-time technical job. Which is why some folks opt for the work-like-mad until they've saved up enough to retire early approach.

What I do instead is work for a year or two and then take six month or so off between the gigs.

We could start by not calling it “idleness” when we paint pictures, learn physics or read philosophy...

i think the utilitarian mindset is very pervasive (but for good reason) - work that does not generate excess value is called idleness. If you paint a painting for yourself to enjoy, and have no desire nor ability to sell it to somebody else, it's called idleness.

There's a reason why these activities are often funded by patronage in the old days (nobles and kings etc).

Also see Bob Black's "The Abolition of Work":


Or, similarly and more recently, Graeber's idea of "bullshit jobs". As mentioned in your link, we need to slow down economic growth if we're going to have any shot at all of slowing down climate change, and that will conveniently require us all to work a lot less :)

Thanks to technology, the need for employment is at the lowest it has ever been, if someone is willing to make a lot of sacrifices when it comes to modern luxuries.

However, if one desires to live with luxuries such as, gasp, housing and medical care, then life becomes extremely expensive, especially in US cities.

So increasingly as I see it, you either need to be making big bucks as a developer/executive, or you need to be living in a tent on BLM public land with your only expenses being food and a phone bill.

> your only expenses being food and a phone bill.

Just hope you don't get sick.

Also, food expenses add up. State food assistance programs are already overloaded (even before COVID), if you're a single dude living as a hermit you go to the back of the line.

It really makes the US sound like a third world country to me. I have a confession: I've never ever not once in my life worked a job for pay. I have free housing, medical care, electricity and a fair amount of money to spend on food, even the occasional luxury. The social security landscape benefitting me has allowed me to live my life in pursuit of arts and technology, at no cost and no sacrifice. Computers are cheap, and living here is free. I'm in the poorest underclass in my society, yet I feel wealthier and luckier than an average American, apparently. Best of all, I almost never have to wake up to an alarm clock. ^_^

> or you need to be living in a tent on BLM public land with your only expenses being food and a phone bill.

Can you actually [legally] do this?

> Dispersed camping is allowed on public land for a period not to exceed 14 days within a 28 consecutive day period. The 28 day period begins when a camper initially occupies a specific location on public lands. The 14 day limit may be reached either through a number of separate visits or through 14 days of continuous overnight occupation during the 28 day period. After the 14th day of occupation, the camper must move outside of a 25 mile radius of the previous location until the 29th day since the initial occupation. The purpose of this special rule is to prevent damage to sensitive resources caused by continual use of any particular areas. In addition, campers must not leave any personal property unattended for more than 10 days (12 months in Alaska).


So I guess you would need two or three spots to cycle between if you wanted to do it legally, but you could continuously occupy public land like this.

You just have to move around every 20 something days, although I don't know if it's enforced.

I can confirm it's not enforced, as it is difficult to track. I imagine that the worst that would happen is you are just asked to move, particularly if you have a giant camper or are making quite a bit of impact on the land you are occupying.

> ... we have realised that it is worth taking an economic hit in order to preserve health.

Have we realized this? I think you'd find a sizable chunk of the country that disagrees. And I also think it's still too soon to say.

> That, after all, is what money is for.

Money that we don't have. We can keep conjuring money out of thin air if we want, but the effects of infinitely deepening debt seem negative in every case study I've ever read (to say the least).

what the pandemic is making more obvious is that money is getting stuck in idle and infirm hands. further, money is being injected into the wrong hands in the economy. we need money being injected closer to productive hands (like essential workers) rather than the current centralized system giving it to far-removed capital holders, those who prefer rent-seeking and other non-productive ways of stalling the velocity of the economy for their own benefit.


We need our tax laws geared to increasing the velocity of money.

I believe that with the growing global middle class we actually do need to print money faster than we are, because we don’t want to be in a situation where people think that not spending is more valuable than spending. Wealth is not zero sum, and these new families need to partake.

Unfortunately, this is by design.

The money is there, it just mostly resides in the hands of the few. The mean net worth of an American household is almost $700,000 - that's total net worth of all households, divided by number of households.

> Have we realized this?

It doesn't matter even if people do—techno-capitalist industrial society wants ever-growing efficiency and production, and if it harms humans (like, say, causing wide-spread depression) it will simply invent new mitigations (e.g. anti-depressants) that, natch, result in new products to sell that improve the GDP.

There are no brakes on this train and humans aren't even driving it anyway.

Individuals can make personal, effective efforts on this front.

Let's hear some. I believe there is little an individual can do, apart from participating in collective efforts that are fighting this effectively (of which very few are allowed to exist for long)

Collective efforts exist due to the contributions of individuals. One person making a principled stand on how to live their life makes a difference. There are examples all over this thread, and even if you don't think something will last, it doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile to support it in the moment.

The obvious response to your request is "do nothing". And don't let anyone sway you otherwise.

I asked for examples, I don't know what you're referring to in the rest of the thread. Sure collective efforts work because of individual contributions. But I believe you can only change things collectively and asked you for an example where a single person was able to make lasting change.

I just think the individualism narrative has become dangerous, because it leads to people's refusal to participate in collective action. Or it leads people to believe they are not the "right individual", that they don't have what it takes to be the person to make change, and therefore they end up doing nothing. I don't think the collective approach leads people to "do nothing" but quite the opposite! There is no one who is "unfit" to contribute to collective action. The more people involved, the more powerful it is.

Single people make lasting change by sticking to their principles.

For some reason my reply isn't posting to yours below, but you seem to have interpreted my comment to be saying things I neither said nor believe. Good luck with everything.

Everybody wants nice things, not just "techno-capitalist industrial society". Everybody can take an economic hit in order to preserve health and enjoy life more. Downsize your house, get rid of luxuries, stop going on vacations, you'll save so much money that you don't need to work as much (healthy!). You'll also have to give up having a larger apartment, a TV and 5 sets of sneakers (economic hit).

Yet barely anyone does that. We haven't realized this because it's not true.

Another important reason that "idleness is more relevant than ever" is climate crisis


Exactly this. I thought this must be the reason suggested by the headline and was really sad to see barely any reference to it even in the comments...

The core issue here is Democracy and Human greed. Why would a majority vote for a 15h working week for everyone, when they could vote for a zero hour working week for themselves and a 60h working weak for some poor beleaguered minority? That's what we have today: employment rates are around 50%, the rest opt out and vote republican. Republicans cut things used by working people and throw money indiscriminately at pensioners and the rich (2 groups exempt from having to work).

This is the exact same issue with UBI. The universality of it undermines support.

It's always seemed strange to me that the average work week, decreasing steadily for quite some period of time, seems to have stagnated around 40 hour work-weeks for decades, despite the massive increases in productivity leveraged by technological advances.

Personally I decided long ago that I simply don't care enough about money to try & advance upwards into high paying positions that would eat upwards of 60 hours a week, and possibly much more w/ off-time emails, phone calls, texts, etc. Instead I have a 40-hour work week, occasional emergencies where I of course do a little extra. I'm paid well for it, and have turned down every overture of advancement because I neither want the extra stress nor do I want to leave behind meaningful work in place of important-but-not-enjoyable work I'd have to do if I moved up a level. Instead I get to perform mission-critical work solving interesting problems, and get home early enough to have a nice family dinner, talk to my kids about their day, get beat by those same kids in Fortnite, and pursue multiple hobbies. Not only do I get ample vacation time, I don't work in a place that frowns upon actually using it.

I don't see why everyone couldn't have jobs that allow for this sort of lifestyle.

The article sets up a bit of a false dichotomy. It's partly inherent in using idleness as the alternative to economically productive work. Did Russell himself use that term (edit: yes :-))? I'm guessing it's supposed to be provocative, to make it stick. But I'd imagine that's part of the problem. Many people would balk, and I think rightly so, at the connotations. There's nothing positive about undirected free time over a long period. And the article doesn't help with glosses like "Netflix in pyjamas."

The best alternatives to economically productive work are equally productive in different domains. For example, take gardening. You might be surprised at the quality of aerobic exercise you get working a large yard and garden. I recently took a heart rate monitor and found I could replace my morning jog. My heart rate was actually higher on average, and the sense of purpose was a welcome distraction from the work.

Unfortunately few are taught these kinds of healthful alternatives. I can only imagine what a difference in health and cognition there would be if schools taught hands-on agriculture and gave students garden plots.

Thank goodness we can get aerobic exercise in while gardening. If ‘twere not so, gardening might be - horror - unproductive! “The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake.”

I know “nobody reads the article” is an HN joke, but surely asking whether Russell uses the word idleness in his essay titled “In Praise of Idleness” is taking the mick...

Edited -- I'd forgotten they cited the essay in the article. :-)

I know what you're saying and for the most part, I agree. I don't want to give the impression that I'm disparaging what isn't immediately materially, visibly useful to me. I don't believe in "inutile beauty" from a philosophical perspective, but not in the sense that I want to do away with it...just that I don't believe it exists. I think everything has some effect.

So that's one thing I like about gardening -- I find (for me) there's a bigger cluster of positive effects around gardening than jogging. The produce makes my family and friends happy and there are little goals to keep me distracted from the exertion. I still get the cognitive effects of a hard aerobic workout, but there are other benefits too.

I'm curious, what would you consider an unproductive activity?

> There's nothing positive about undirected free time over a long period.

I could easily fill that time with dozens of ideas. But you see, I'm lucky enough to be a "creative" person. That is, I'm in love with the things I invent. The more I invent, the more passionnated I am. I can sustain an incredible level of activity just to achieve goals I create myself. But these goals are mostly non economic. So being able to just do my stuff without having to prove an economical value to it would be very much welcome.

I'd say what you're describing isn't undirected. You have goals and they sound positive, assuming that what you're inventing is positive (e.g., not torture devices). They use and refine your creativity, they potentially help others, they give you opportunities to partner with others to work toward a common positive goal, etc.

I don't think that's idleness for the average person. It's more like nihilism and hedonism.

I'm not arguing that jobs are the solution, to be clear -- just objecting to the terminology. If everyone would use free time in the way you would, there would be no problem.

>I'm lucky enough to be a "creative" person

This is the kind of insanity Russel's original essay alludes to. If we weren't taught to fill every hour with "productive" work, then anyone could foster their creativity with idle pursuits that aren't limited by their ability to produce value.

People feel like they're not creative because they feel the constant need to produce something of value and are afraid to experiment with anything else. Creativity requires that type of experimentation.

The fact that we claim some people are creative and some are not is a complete facade. It's similar to saying "oh I can't draw" or "I'm bad at math" — well no, you've likely just spent less time practicing it... maybe you're too afraid to fail to even try.

You're right. And unfortunately, as you said, things are not as clear cut even for me. For example, it took me long (and the good will of my beloved) to accept that I should work less and have more time for me, that it'd be much better for my health. Sometimes too I feel guilty of not contributing to society by "traditional" means, etc. So you're right, the inescapable necessity of work is still in our culture :-/

> Instead, the factory owner will opt to keep half the workers on the same hours and lay off the rest.

People are the hardest resource to manage for a business. Finding them. Keeping them. Motivating them. Training them. Etc. Double the workers with half the working time is a lot more expensive.

So business will never choose to do this. If this would be better for society (emphasis on IF) then only regulation will make it happen.

You get to praise idleness only after you burn out writing Principia Mathematica.

Josef Pieper's "Muße und Kult" comes to mind as well:


From the article: "Recalling the famous example of the pin factory that Adam Smith used to explain the division of labour, Russell imagined a new technology that will halve the amount of time it takes to make a pin. If the market for pins is already saturated, what will happen?

In a sane world, Russell thought, the factory would simply halve working hours, maintaining the same wages but greatly increasing the time that the workers could devote to the joys of leisure. But, as Russell observed, this rarely happens. Instead, the factory owner will opt to keep half the workers on the same hours and lay off the rest. The gains from the advances of technology will be realised not as an expansion of leisure but rather as drudgery for some and jobless destitution for others, with the savings enjoyed only by the winner, the factory owner."

This is, amazingly and depressingly, the only thing that will ever happen. This is capitalism, unfortunately, and profits flow up, not down. Capitalism seems to work best when the bottom feeders continue to feed at the bottom, in the same ways, without dramatic changes in behavior.

Can regulation fix this?

That's like asking if regulation can solve racism, or stop domestic violence. It can help, but it won't minimize it to such a significant level that it will mitigate the issue.

Russell's argument is great, but the cold harsh winds of our capitalist reality blow in the other direction.

> Can regulation fix this?

What if it was illegal to work more than X hours per week? X=20 for example.

Actually, let me answer my own question: Everyone would need to have 2 jobs, and every company would employ twice the number of people.

I think that's the most likely scenario

>"Recalling the famous example of the pin factory that Adam Smith used to explain the division of labour, Russell imagined a new technology that will halve the amount of time it takes to make a pin. If the market for pins is already saturated, what will happen?

In a sane world, Russell thought, the factory would simply halve working hours, maintaining the same wages but greatly increasing the time that the workers could devote to the joys of leisure. But, as Russell observed, this rarely happens. Instead, the factory owner will opt to keep half the workers on the same hours and lay off the rest."

The cost for a single pin will be reduced and the labor required to consume a single pin will also be reduced. Money saved is an opportunity for leisure.

> Bertrand Russell wrote “In Praise of Idleness” in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, idleness was an unavoidable reality for the millions who had lost their jobs

What a passive attitude. Unless you're in a straight jacket idleness is a thoroughly avoidable reality. Hustle matters most when you're broke and unemployed. If you're doing it right being unemployed is a full-time job, job hunting. Or building your own.

You know that people live in places where: job market is limited, market for their skills is limited.

Even if you apply to every shitty job in your area you might run out of options. What then? Move to another city or another country? To do that you have to have some funds. If you have a house or property in one place you probably won't move so easily as well. So it might be that one has to wait it out.

All this thought about the economy and working and idleness doesn't take things far enough. What we really need to abolish is human metabolism. The fact that we need to eat and hustle to grow and acquire calories and nutrients is the real oppressor. We need to scientifically find out how to stop metabolism so we all don't need to work and will never starve. Attack the root of the problem. Next in line is mortality.

I'm not sure if you're serious or presenting what you think is an absurdity, but I instantly knew human photosynthesis must be an existing science fiction trope, even though I don't actually know a title offhand.

Frankly, I expect this sort of thing before fusion power that is "too cheap to meter".



The problem is we're just too energy intensive. There's an interesting exchange about average daily calorie needs (2k Cal) and how much sunlight collection you'd need to satisfy that energy need. Cool stuff. Bottom line, our bodies don't present enough surface area to get the job done. http://physicsbuzz.physicscentral.com/2018/02/ask-physicist-...

Speaking from experience, simply wait for retirement. Then your idleness cup shall runneth over. But even that too shall eventually prove to be a bore...

There are already movements applying this. Early retirement (FIRE), Tim Ferris 4-hour work week. Stoicism is also useful.

Indeed. But we can't all resell uppers and market self-help books/speaking engagements. So it's off to find our own niches or miners in need of shovels!

I distinguish at least two kinds of work: one where you earn money because you have no other sources of income. And work that relates to whatever you are doing on you own behalf - which can be very productive as well.

The first kind of work is a productive factor, like capital or land. It's just the brains and hands of a piece of flesh that does what it is told. A worker is always subordinated to capital, you are working for the capital of others. You never get the full reward, whereas people you never met will earn a share of every piece of value you provide.

It's funny, almost every second product I buy these days comes from firms which went to one or even multiple private equity hands in the past two decades. It is one of the reasons why I reduce my consumption to a minimum.

Neoliberalism hates equality, it hates social progress and it has absolutely no idea of how to do something different that would benefit society at large. There is no society for capital, there is revenue, returns and all human activity you are observing is partially there, because there is someone who just wants their profit.

Poles are melting, climate changes, species die out, capitalism (as it is implemented; the theory is much more progressive) could not care less about killing its own foundations.

It reminds me of avant-garde capitalists operation like facebook. It could only start on an open web, and its endgame is own all you presence online. Walled gardens, armes guards, cash flow.

Interesting article. It poses a huge dilemma. As more jobs become redundant, how should 'useless people' be compensated relative to 'useful people' without whom the economy could not operate?

To complicate matters, many of the 'useless people' could be highly skilled and could theoretically launch their own businesses and start competing against established businesses and take away some market share... But if the market is already saturated and consumers are already satisfied beyond their perceptual capacity, launching a business in such a saturated industry could not be regarded as a 'useful' activity in a broad sense (it's a zero-sum game). This means that being able to capture economic value (profits) from an industry would not necessarily imply that someone is useful; in fact, an increase in profits may not bear any correlation with an increase in consumer satisfaction in that industry; in a saturated market, the profits for a specific company or individual could entirely be the result of political lobbying, social scheming, or luck and have nothing to do with increased consumer satisfaction.

Given that useless people are still capable of capturing profits from an industry by starting their own business, it would be highly unethical for the incumbents (those who own the means of production in the saturated markets) to try to stop the 'useless people' from trying to compete (since that would deny them access to the same fair playing field which the incumbents themselves had benefited from in the past). Yet at the same time, it may be more efficient overall if, instead of trying to compete in a saturated market, 'useless people' would accept the reality that they are in fact useless and instead of trying to compete, they would get paid to be idle.

But if useless people get paid to be idle, then how will useful people who still need to work feel about that? Also, even for people who have useful skills, there may be more people who have those skills than there are positions to fill. How then do we choose which people should have a job and which should not? Does it make sense to select them based on skill if the skill level of the employee does not affect consumer satisfaction?

It seems like this would create an incentive for useless idle people to pretend to be or have been useful; they can't just accumulate enough money to go idle without having a backstory to go with it. Yet at the same time it is in the interest of incumbents (owners of the means of production) for these people to go idle instead of competing with them. To appease those who are still working, every member of the idle class needs an excuse (e.g. they sold their company to Google for a few million $). The economy then becomes centered around manufacturing backstories for new members of the idle class... Until the point where everything is automated and everyone can be idle.

I think the biggest problem with this story is that if we remove the market selection mechanism? What kind of alternative selection mechanism should be used instead?

I'm not sure if this rises to the level of a "huge dilemma" when we don't even compensate the "useful people" enough to live. As more jobs become redundant, the standards of the wealthy will become more extravagant, and require more bodies to fulfill. The difference in the income of owners will continue to drift farther from the income of workers.

Middle class people don't even have servants anymore, so we've got a long way to go before we have to worry about anything but an arbitrary number of unemployed decided through fiscal and monetary policy.

Try starting a business without any personal connections and watch it fail over and over again while customers keep telling you how much they like your product but you just can't compete with corporations financially. If corporations were on a level playing field with everyone else and they did not have a financial advantage in terms of having front row access to cheap money printed by the Fed, or their business didn't revolve around constantly trying to destroy small business competitors, I would have agreed that it would not be such a huge dilemma.

> It seems like this would create a perverse incentive for useless people to pretend to have been useful; they can't just accumulate enough money to go idle without having a backstory to justify it. To appease those who are still working, every member of the idle class needs an excuse (e.g. they sold their company to Google for a few million $).

There is a book on that: https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Bullshit_Jobs

Because efficiency can lead to leisure or layoffs, what will the future bring?

Capitalism suffers if half of workers are unemployed. Because it is actually in the market's best interest, we will develop social - political structures that enable improved efficiency and high employment (because more workers employed means more commerce and a bigger economy)

Why a partisan article is being discussed here?


This is material affiliated to the Labour Party in the U.K. which is associated to the International Socialist.

Why is it a subject here?


Please don't complain that a submission is inappropriate. If a story is spam or off-topic, flag it. Don't feed egregious comments by replying; flag them instead. If you flag, please don't also comment that you did.

Why are you so scared of different ideas?

I'm not scared of different ideas but I know the left censors different ideas.

But the reason I ask is this:

Please don't use Hacker News for political or ideological battle. That destroys the curiosity this site exists for.

It's true, Bertrand Russell had a leaning towards communist libertarianism (anarchism), but is it any worse than so many articles discussed here that originate in large corporations, that are associated with capitalism? Even people dedicated to maintaining the status quo (conservatives?) are partisan.

I'm not sure that the Labour Party of the UK really counts as socialist these days, it's social democrat at most.

I think you're conflating right and left with authoritarianism / anarchism. Anarchism can be left wing (anarcho-syndacalism) or right wing (anarcho-capitalism). And capitalism is not the opposite of anarchy, capitalism is definitely a form of anarchy.

Capitalism can be defined as `an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit`. Capitalism and free markets can't work if a strong government keep interfering, disrupting supply and demand and stealing profits - which is clearly visible in all the economic crisis we've seen in our recent history.

The opposite of anarchism is authoritarianism, which can be left wing (socialism or communism with publicly owned goods) or right wing (fascism, nazism - which comes from national socialism).

Now, large corporations benefits greatly from authoritarianism, because a strong central government is a single point of failure that can be lobbied and corrupted. Why do you think middle class individuals pay half of their paychecks in taxes while big corporations pay nothing with fiscal loopholes? Therefore, I think it's rational to assume that the environment in a large corporation is going to be leaning towards authoritarianism and promoting authoritarianism. You can also add the fact that universities are increasingly left leaning and people in large corporations (and big tech in particular) tend to have higher level of education. Of course, it's not great PR for the companies and it's not an easy sell on people, so they will need to masquerade their authoritarianism by saying appealing to people's emotions and saying that taxes need to be paid to "redistribute wealth to poor people" or to "protect our country from $external_threat". The two party system serves as a way to illude people they have a choice and so that they can blame bad things on the other party. Those of us who are lead on by nurturing emotions or economically comfortable enough to donate money will lean towards Democrats and believing the victimhood of minorities. Those of us who are poor or wants a smaller state will edge towards Republicans. The percentage of libertarians is so small, it's not even funny. In reality, both Republicans and Democrats just kept increasing their spending and their power - and there is no sign of stopping. The USA are the largest employer in the world.

Because of these factors, I believe people and articles from large corporations will tend to have a left-leaning bias, which fits perfectly well with this left leaning article and it's not its opposite.

Ultimately, I agree with your analysis of the labour party: I can't think of any "left wing" party in the western world which is left wing economically - and this is because socialism has been proven not too work over and over. The only meaningful difference between left wing and right wing parties nowadays is in the direction in which they edge (more taxes / less taxes) and where they stand on personal freedom issues (freedom of speech, gay marriage, etc).

I think it's a very interesting article, despite the bias.

I hate to break it to you, but rich people in general and big tech in particular are left leaning.

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