Just read Hipcrime’s latest series

Hipcrime wrote an excellent series on political economy.

It starts here:


Read the whole thing. You might as well read it in order.

Along the way it gets very anti-clerical; I don’t endorse the writer’s brand of anti-clericism, although I might endorse my own brand.

The progress through the historical perspective is the important part. The conclusions might be a little underwhelming:

the Tragedy only happens because every user of the commons is compelled to grow! Without the growth imperative, the commons can be managed adequately, just as it was in real history for centuries before the wealthy partitioned it off for their own use and created the “science” of economics to ex-post-facto justify it. Rationing is not a dirty word. It is a necessity. And neither is “commons.” A commons is necessary for freedom to exist.

Working shorter hours is also a necessity. If we treat labor as just another commodity to be sold, why do we believe that the market for this commodity will expand infinitely and never be sated, unlike any other market? The market for cars and toasters may be large, but it is not infinite. Why do we insist that the market for labor is? And more labor produces more pollution, more stress, and uses more energy, even though energy per capita for the globe as a whole peaked decades ago, even with demographic momentum already projected to add billions of people and driving a refugee crisis of epic proportions (along with climate change). Note, though, that more free time is associated with self-actualization, with doing your own work instead of hiring it out (which lowers almighty GDP), and increased political participation. The people in power count on the apathy of the citizenry, and working them to the bone is one way to achieve that. More participation is the last thing they want, so will fight this one as well.

In my research I have found that countries with higher average annual hours of work have higher carbon emissions after accounting for other factors. The converse is also true: lower hours are associated with lower emissions. The main reason is that opting for shorter schedules puts a country on a trajectory in which production, with its associated energy use, is not maximized. There’s a leisure/GDP trade-off, and short-hour countries are opting for more free time. A second dynamic is at the micro level—households who are time stressed (due to long hours of work) tend to use more energy and have higher consumption. By contrast, acting sustainably typically requires more time. An obvious example is transportation. The faster one wants to travel, the more energy one must use. There’s an energy ladder from walking, through buses, trains, and planes. Existing models suggest the effect of hours on emissions is large. One study estimates that a modest 0.5 percent annual reduction in working hours through 2100 could eliminate between a quarter and a half of the projected warming that is not already locked into the system. My research also finds that shorter hours should be a key component of emissions-reduction strategies.

Right now this approach may seem infeasible. Employer-paid health insurance is a major barrier to shorter hours. When benefits are high, employers prefer a smaller number of long-hours workers. We are also in a political moment when working less cuts against a conservative, pro-work ethic. But if we could open our imaginations to a society in which good jobs did not come with killer schedules, we’d reap many benefits. In addition to reducing carbon pollution, both men and women could achieve that elusive “work/family balance.” Social and family life would improve, stress would be reduced. People would have time for hobbies and passions and to participate in political life.

… but read the whole thing anyway.

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