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不玩命工作还能干啥 The lost leisure time of our lives

来源:上元教育   【上元教育:技能改变命运,上元成就未来】   2016/3/18 9:42:39

Three hours a day is quite enough,” wrote John Maynard Keynes in his 1930 essay Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren. The essay continues to tantalise its readers today, thanks in part to a forecast that is looking magnificently right — that in advanced economies people could be up to eight times better off in 2030 than in 1930 — coupled with a forecast that is looking spectacularly wrong, that we would be working 15-hour weeks.

约翰•梅纳德•凯恩斯(John Maynard Keynes)曾在1930年的一篇短文《我们子孙后代的经济可能性》(Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren)中写道:“每天3小时就足够了。”这篇短文现在仍吸引着读者,部分原因是一项看上去极其正确的预测:到2030年,发达经济体国民的富裕程度可能会达到1930年的8倍,还有一项看上去极其错误的预测:我们将每周工作15小时。

In 2008, economists Lorenzo Pecchi and Gustavo Piga edited a book in which celebrated economists pondered Keynes’s essay. One contributor, Benjamin Friedman of Harvard University, has recently revisited the question of what Keynes got wrong, and produced a thought-provoking answer.

2008年,经济学家洛伦佐•佩基(Lorenzo Pecchi)和古斯塔沃•皮加(Gustavo Piga)编辑了一本书,在书中,一些知名经济学家对凯恩斯的这篇短文进行了探讨。撰稿人之一、哈佛大学(Harvard University)教授本杰明•弗里德曼(Benjamin Friedman)最近重新提到了凯恩斯预测错的那个问题,并提出了一个发人深省的答案。

First, it is worth teasing out the nature and extent of Keynes’s error. He was right to predict that we would be working less. We enter the workforce later, after long and not-always-arduous courses of study. We enjoy longer retirements. The work week itself is getting shorter. In non-agricultural employment in the US, the week was 69 hours in 1830 — the equivalent of working 11 hours a day but only three hours on Sundays. By 1930, a full-time work week was 47 hours; each decade, American workers were working two hours less every week.


But Keynes overestimated how rapidly and for how long that trend would continue. By 1970 the work week was down to 39 hours. If the work week had continued to shrink, we would be working 30-hour weeks by now, and perhaps 25-hour weeks by 2030. But by around 1970, the slacking-off stopped. Why?


One natural response is that people are never satisfied: perhaps their desire to consume can be inflamed by advertisers; perhaps it is just that one must always have a better car, a sharper suit, and a more tasteful kitchen than the neighbours. Since the neighbours are also getting richer, nothing about this process allows anyone to take time off.


No doubt there is much in this. But Friedman takes a different angle. Rather than asking how Keynes could have been so right about income but so wrong about leisure, Friedman points out that Keynes might not have been quite so on the mark about income as we usually assume. For while the US economy grew briskly until the crisis of 2007, median household incomes started stagnating long before then — around 1970, in fact.


The gap between the growth of the economy and the growth of median household incomes is explained by a patchwork of factors, including a change in the nature of households themselves, with more income being diverted to healthcare costs, and an increasing share of income accruing to the highest earners. In short, perhaps progress towards the 15-hour work week has stalled because the typical US household’s income has stalled too. Household incomes started to stagnate at the same time as the work week stopped shrinking.


This idea makes good sense but it does not explain what is happening to higher earners. Since their incomes have not stagnated — far from it — one might expect them to be taking some of the benefits of very high hourly earnings in the form of shorter days and longer weekends. Not so. According to research published by economists Mark Aguiar and Erik Hurst in 2006 — a nice snapshot of life before the great recession — higher earners were enjoying less leisure.

这种看法很有道理,但它没有解释收入较高者的行为是怎么回事。既然他们的收入并没有停滞(远非如此),因此人们可能会预测,他们会以减少工作时间和延长周末的形式,享受高薪所带来的实惠。实情并非如此。根据经济学家马克•阿吉亚尔(Mark Aguiar)和埃里克•赫斯特(Erik Hurst) 2006年发表的一项研究,收入更高者享受的空闲时间减少。该研究是对“大衰退”之前生活的精彩“快照”。

So the puzzle has taken a different shape. Ordinary people have been enjoying some measure of both the income gains and the leisure gains that Keynes predicted — but rather less of both than we might have hoped.


The economic elites, meanwhile, continue to embody a paradox: all the income gains that Keynes expected and more, but limited leisure.


The likely reason for that is that, in many careers, it’s hard to break through to the top echelons without putting in long hours. It is not easy to make it to the C-suite on a 20-hour week, no matter how talented one is. And because the income distribution is highly skewed, the stakes are high: working 70 hours a week like it’s 1830 all over again may put you on track for a six-figure bonus, while working 35 hours a week may put you on track for the scrapheap.


The consequences of all this can emerge in unexpected places. As a recent research paper by economists Lena Edlund, Cecilia Machado and Maria Micaela Sviatschi points out, urban centres in the US were undesirable places to live in the late 1970s and early 1980s. People paid a premium to live in the suburbs and commuted in to the city centres to work. The situation is now reversed. Why? The answer, suggest Edlund and her colleagues, is that affluent people don’t have time to commute any more. They’ll pay more for cramped city-centre apartments if by doing so they can save time.

这一切的后果可能出现在意想不到的地方。正如经济学家莱纳•埃德隆德(Lena Edlund)、塞西莉•马沙多(Cecilia Machado)和玛丽亚•米凯拉•斯维亚特奇(Maria Micaela Sviatschi)最近所著的一篇研究论文所指出的那样,上世纪70年代末和80年代初,美国城市中心成为不适宜居住的地方。人们花高价住在郊区,每天通勤来到城市中心上班。如今情况已逆转。为什么?埃德隆德和她的同事们认为,答案是富人不再有时间通勤了。如果他们可以省下时间的话,他们宁愿付出更高价格,住在相对狭小的市中心公寓里。

If there is a limited supply of city-centre apartments, and your affluent colleagues are snapping them up, what on earth can you do? Work harder. Homes such as Keynes’s elegant town house in Bloomsbury now cost millions of pounds. Three hours a day is not remotely enough.


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