Redefining Recession

There just isn’t enough 40-hours a week work to go around.

The Wall Street Journal quoted the Fed Chairman today:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Tuesday that the recession was “very likely over,” as consumers showed some of the first tangible signs of spending again.

Ben–not here. Not that I can see.

There is a great disconnect between the conventional standards for judging economic conditions and our current economic condition. What Bernanke said might be true, but it’s meaningless. We need to change what we measure. GDP misses today’s America.

We also need to come to grips with the new reality–in many cases machines are cheaper than and better able to perform jobs than people. It’s happening in my business. We’re not alone.

There are jobs people did when I was growing up that just don’t exist anymore, or don’t exist at the same level of pay.

Sadly, the benefits of labor saving devices have mainly been reaped by business owners who happily do more with less. Maybe it’s time to redefine our thoughts on what a full work week is and re-align our tax structure to discourage businesses that produce profit without producing a product.

Wikipedia: The eight-hour day movement or 40-hour week movement, also known as the short-time movement, had its origins in the Industrial Revolution in Britain, where industrial production in large factories transformed working life and imposed long hours and poor working conditions. With working conditions unregulated, the health, welfare and morale of working people suffered. The use of child labour was common. The working day could range from 10 to 16 hours for six days a week.

Here in the U.S. the 40-hour week didn’t gain any traction until the mid-1800s. Then, as now, more modern processes and tools had greatly increased productivity. It happened before. It can happen again.

There just isn’t enough 40-hours a week work to go around. I can’t see how there ever will be again.