Meanwhile, Derek Thompson of the Atlantic assumes that full time work isn't necessarily desirable in any instance, as he makes a poor assumption about today's rich, versus the current statistical reality:
The rich were meant to have the most leisure time. The working poor were meant to have the least. The opposite is happening. Why?First, why should anyone care whether the rich or poor end up with more leisure time, than the other group? To me, that was a misleading way to frame the discussion. Nevertheless, let's briefly unpack the historical context, which is also associated with the very different times in which Keynes lived, in terms of wealth generation.
Granted, the rich of earlier centuries frequently had plenty of "desirable" leisure time, and many of those individuals would scarcely have understood the cultural context which we associate with the rich of the present. Much of today's wealth consists of compensation for high value skills capacity, rather than one's ability to manage broad swathes of resource capacity. In some respects, knowledge wealth is more closely held, especially in terms of equilibrium outcome.
Keynes did not know, the degree to which institutions would eventually sort for skills capacity in order to meet their goals. Consequently, should one's skills value be perceived as somewhat mediocre, according to institutional need, one may only receive compensation for labor on a part time basis, so as not to require additional institutional benefits. Whereas if one's time is perceived as more valuable because of skill levels, these individuals are pressured to "give their all" for the most efficient outcome.
While this reasoning makes sense in traditional production terms, it's an approach which leaves too many negative externalities. Not only are too many individuals left out of the economic equation, they can scarcely plan a life for themselves which includes either meaning or personal responsibility. When institutions select primarily for specific forms of skills value over extended periods, the concept of time value - so vital to interpersonal relationships and social cohesion - may be lost.
A new institutional structure is needed, which honors personal time value alongside skills value, so no one need settle for the leisure options that presently appear "best suited" according to income - such as fewer time based services for lower income levels. By allowing individuals to take part in the valuation process for both time and skills availability, a broader interpretation of knowledge use potential would eventually become possible. This approach would eventually lead to broader societal participation, as well.
In Voltaire's time, it was possible to persuade with words, especially given the new publishing environment. However, in the present, it seems we have come full circle, since far more than words are needed to generate good political and economic outcomes. People would greatly benefit from a formal economic structure, which makes it possible to negotiate for individual needs on more comprehensive terms.
Only when individuals gain the ability to do so, is it reasonable to expect the citizen roles we once took for granted, to come back within our reach. Much of the growing chasm between different segments of society is about meaningful knowledge use, rather than differences in income. Even though I've enjoyed writing this blog, the practical part of me will not be satisfied until it is possible to turn words into action. Fortunately, there are more practical means by which knowledge can be applied in efficient contexts, than what is occurring in the present.