The Case for Economic Democracy: Chapter 3.3
No, we don't need to work as much as we're made to.
Welcome! This is Chapter 3.3 of my new book, The Case for Economic Democracy. The book is available for premium subscribers. For just $5 a month (or $50 a year) you can access this entire book, weekly exclusive articles, and the entire JoeWrote catalog.
Last week’s section focused on the “false choice” the American economy presents to us— the “choice” to work or starve. This week we’re examining how the threat of starvation isn’t necessary to support a 21st-century society, as Americans could work much less with the same production results.
Do We Really Need to Work This Much?
None of the above concepts mentioned in this chapter are in dispute. It is a clear fact that most Americans do not have enough capital (money) to start a business, and if they cannot work they will lose access to necessities. None dispute this, but many reject the framing.
Advocates of the current American socio-economic structure claim the aforementioned choice of “work or starve” is a necessity. According to them, workers must produce to support our 21st-century way of life. And if people stopped working, society would devolve into a group of “moochers” living off of the hard work of “producers.” This is the worldview of former Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, who was recorded giving a speech claiming that the country was divided into a class of “makers” (his wealthy donors) and “takers” (those supporting his opponent). Putting aside the loaded terms, this worldview is worth examining. Do Americans need to continue to work as much as we do to maintain our 21st-century lifestyle?
The “modern” economy, one founded on mass production from factories and distribution through stores, began with the Industrial Revolution. While factory production began before the Civil War, it wasn’t until the post-war period around 1870 that the country united in this economic approach, ditching the household cottage industry in favor of wage labor. In terms of economic growth, this shift was a massive success. Between 1870 and the eve of the Great Depression in 1929, American GDP per capita grew from $4,803 to $11,954, an increase of 248%[ix].
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