Wednesday, May 30, 2007

tax me, baby

Sweden has legislated something like 18 months of paid maternity/paternity leave (which can be split between the two parents). I can’t be bothered researching the exact details, but it’s something like that. No, I just checked on Wikipedia (NEVER wrong); I was right. Sweden has the luxury of these sorts of social programs because it’s a rich country with high taxes and a small population. Given that Sweden is lucky enough to be wealthy, this seems to me like an absolutely acceptable tradeoff. Many countries – especially those that are not rich and have large populations – would find it impossible to offer such programs. But Australia (rich, low population) could.

The Sweden baby-leave idea makes me wonder if, with higher taxes, a country like Australia could switch to a 4-day working week. This idea would no doubt be met with howls of derision and protest from the business sector and most politicians. But it’s well established that above a certain pretty basic level of material wealth (a level long ago surpassed by most Australians), there’s very little, if any, correlation between money and happiness (see Clive Hamilton’s Growth Fetish, for example.

Think of all the worthwhile, life-enriching pursuits you could engage in with an extra day off each week. But of course many such activities aren’t really recognized as all that worthwhile – after all, how can an activity possibly have value if someone doesn’t pay you for it?

Would I (if I returned to live in Australia, which I likely will do soonish) accept less money for a perpetual 3-day weekend? Abso-fucking-lutely.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

All well and good Wombat, but what precisely do you mean by a 4 day week? Should there be legislation forcing this - ie restricting the hours that can be worked?

France tried this - and discovered the problem:

People want to work. A lot. Who are we to tell a dedicated father that he cannot distinguish himself from others by working extra hours and building up a nest egg for his wife and children? Worse still the restriction meant less jobs available, not more (counter-intuitively at first blush, but economics is weird like that - multiplier effect, productivity gains, etc)

There are enough people out there for whom work is better than leisure time. Work means something, it gives purpose.

So without the artificial restriction of legislation, what's left is the hope that a cultural, voluntary standard of 4 days will take over. Not likely - things were set in stone way back when Martin Luther nailed his demands that people stop partying and start grinding for God.

11:32 am  
Blogger secret wombat said...

DMc, nice link, as usual. In response to your comment:

1) This requires a discussion over a beer or similar.

2) Of course there are flaws in my post, and details that need to be ironed out - it was an unresearched blog post written in 15 minutes. But I stand by the sentiment.

3) I'm not suggesting that the gov legislates to enforce 4-day working weeks. Just that 4-days is the "official week" - anyone can work more than that if they want. You'd need to work it out so if people choose to work more, they'd be compensated appropriately etc. But I remain convinced that our society's priorities are generally fucked up. I'm not suggesting that priorities are imposed by legislation - that's a ridiculous proposition. But nor do I believe in that just because people prioritize things, those things are ipso facto the right things for people to do. I think it's ludicrous to deny that political/economic/social systems -- in our case a capitalist, market-based system -- don't influence or drive people's choices. Therefore, I think we can develop a system that encourages or facilitates what the vast majority of people would agree are positive priorities, such as nurturing a friendships and the environment, promoting community, and reducing our increasing addiction to the material. Even a lot of hardcore neo-liberal free marketeers wouldn't necessarily disagree that these are good. They may disagree about the idea that you develop a system that promotes them, but not with the phenomena themselves. Also, even though the vast majority might agree that, for example, healthy relationship with friends and family are more important than a new, flashier mobile phone/car/TV/etc, they often don't act in a way that bears that out.

The priorities we see today can't be unentwined from the system we have; so in that sense are as "artificial" or "imposed" as a different set of priorities that would be promoted by a sifferent system.

10:19 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

Having a hard day at work again, mate?

9:15 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, so as I figured Wombat, you are in fact a goddammed Communist.

Secret Wombat?

Or SecreD Wombat......?

11:59 am  
Blogger secret wombat said...

This is MUCH more important than work. Thsi is about saving the world from itself. As Digby is learning, SW KNOWS BEST.

Thought I'd submit to your withering attack, huh. Well, how about this: "No! sAcreD wombat!"
Or: Secret Vodkat.

12:08 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What? Acres of red wombats drinking vodka?

Right, I'm smoking out this commie hellhole.


12:56 pm  
Blogger secret wombat said...

Green Berets!! HELP! I'm going to have to assemble an elite wombat unit...

2:15 pm  
Blogger Lone Gopher said...

Sewret Combat

5:17 pm  
Blogger Lone Gopher said...

Interesting anagrams of Secret wombat BTW:
Re: Commie - Combat Re West, Atom Brew Sect
Re: Elite Force - SWAT Mob Erect
Re: True Identity - Scam Web Otter


5:29 pm  

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