Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More David Brooks:

I can't resist quoting this from Brooks' op-ed that basically tells people to shut the hell up and stop complaining about the economy:
... inequality is also rising in part because people up the income scale work longer hours. In 1965, less educated Americans and more educated Americans worked the same number of hours a week. But today, many highly educated people work like dogs while those down the income scale have seen their leisure time increase by a phenomenal 14 hours a week.
I'd be very interested to see if the increase in "leisure time" is the result of more people taking part time jobs. But beyond that, the notion that people up the income scale are there because they are working longer hours is absurd. For those way up the scale, are we to assume they are working ten times more hours than their cohort of two decades ago? Working not 40 hours, but 400 hours a week? That must be it. Although how you can work 400 hours in a week that consists of 168 hours is a mystery.


I teach, and sometimes, when it's time to talk about political philosophy (Plato, Mill, Marx, Rawls, etc.), I'll start off with a little quiz about wealth distribution, income inequality, etc. -- sometimes, I'll toss in a representation of The L-Curve, which demonstrates, in an unforgettable fashion, how most people measure their income in inches while a tiny number of people measure theirs in MILES. At the end of this, I'll often ask, "What do you DO to justify having an income in miles as opposed to inches?" Often, as if I'd just pressed a button, a student will say, "They work harder." Whereupon I launch into a version of the same observation you make here: most of the people who measure their income in inches are working eight hours a day or more, and there's only 24 hours in a day, so "They work harder" clearly doesn't explain miles' worth of disparity. I seem to be getting the automatic "They work harder" response less often nowadays, though, suggesting that a lot of students are more perceptive than a New York Times columnist. (I guess it'll be time to call the police when "They don't DO; they OWN" becomes the default response.)

By the way: have you seen Dean Baker's takedown of that column? It's sweet.

Categorical Aperitif

By Blogger nash, at 7/25/2007 5:59 AM  

so the Great Depression was actually the Great Vacation?

By Anonymous ray, at 7/25/2007 4:05 PM  

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