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Peasants Had More Free Time Than Us

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Peasants Had More Free Time Than Us

Postby HouseMD » Thu Sep 05, 2013 3:41 pm

http://nypost.com/2013/09/04/medieval-p ... economist/

Plowing and harvesting were backbreaking toil, but the peasant enjoyed anywhere from eight weeks to half the year off. The Church, mindful of how to keep a population from rebelling, enforced frequent mandatory holidays. Weddings, wakes and births might mean a week off quaffing ale to celebrate, and when wandering jugglers or sporting events came to town, the peasant expected time off for entertainment. There were labor-free Sundays, and when the plowing and harvesting seasons were over, the peasant got time to rest, too. In fact, economist Juliet Shor found that during periods of particularly high wages, such as 14th-century England, peasants might put in no more than 150 days a year.

As for the modern American worker? After a year on the job, she gets an average of eight vacation days annually.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way: John Maynard Keynes, one of the founders of modern economics, made a famous prediction that by 2030, advanced societies would be wealthy enough that leisure time, rather than work, would characterize national lifestyles. So far, that forecast is not looking good.

What happened? Some cite the victory of the modern eight-hour a day, 40-hour workweek over the punishing 70 or 80 hours a 19th century worker spent toiling as proof that we’re moving in the right direction. But Americans have long since kissed the 40-hour workweek goodbye, and Shor’s examination of work patterns reveals that the 19th century was an aberration in the history of human labor. When workers fought for the eight-hour workday, they weren’t trying to get something radical and new, but rather to restore what their ancestors had enjoyed before industrial capitalists and the electric lightbulb came on the scene. Go back 200, 300 or 400 years and you find that most people did not work very long hours at all. In addition to relaxing during long holidays, the medieval peasant took his sweet time eating meals, and the day often included time for an afternoon snooze. “The tempo of life was slow, even leisurely; the pace of work relaxed,â€￾ notes Shor. “Our ancestors may not have been rich, but they had an abundance of leisure.â€￾

Fast-forward to the 21st century, and the U.S. is the only advanced country with no national vacation policy whatsoever. Many American workers must keep on working through public holidays, and vacation days often go unused. Even when we finally carve out a holiday, many of us answer emails and “check inâ€￾ whether we’re camping with the kids or trying to kick back on the beach.

Some blame the American worker for not taking what is her due. But in a period of consistently high unemployment, job insecurity and weak labor unions, employees may feel no choice but to accept the conditions set by the culture and the individual employer. In a world of “at willâ€￾ employment, where the work contract can be terminated at any time, it’s not easy to raise objections.

It’s true that the New Deal brought back some of the conditions that farm workers and artisans from the Middle Ages took for granted, but since the 1980s things have gone steadily downhill. With secure long-term employment slipping away, people jump from job to job, so seniority no longer offers the benefits of additional days off. The rising trend of hourly and part-time work, stoked by the Great Recession, means that for many, the idea of a guaranteed vacation is a dim memory.

Ironically, this cult of endless toil doesn’t really help the bottom line. Study after study shows that overworking reduces productivity. On the other hand, performance increases after a vacation, and workers come back with restored energy and focus. The longer the vacation, the more relaxed and energized people feel upon returning to the office.

Beyond burnout, vanishing vacations make our relationships with families and friends suffer. Our health is deteriorating: depression and higher risk of death are among the outcomes for our no-vacation nation. Some forward-thinking people have tried to reverse this trend, like progressive economist Robert Reich, who has argued in favor of a mandatory three weeks off for all American workers. Congressman Alan Grayson proposed the Paid Vacation Act of 2009, but alas, the bill didn’t even make it to the floor of Congress.

Speaking of Congress, its members seem to be the only people in America getting as much down time as the medieval peasant. They get 239 days off this year.


Turns out we work harder than peasants. Used to be that people were too stupid to think about their situation, so you could just give them time off to placate them. These days, time off is dangerous- worker bees that are glued to TV sets and willing to fold to whatever conditions their employer offer are rarely going to have the time to think about revolution, let alone organize and act upon those thoughts. When even the French are talking about cutting their coveted time off, you know change is coming, and for the worst. And the last little paragraph really pisses me off- Congress gets 2/3 of the year off to go with their automatic raises and insane benefits? f**k them.[/i]
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Postby Ghost » Thu Sep 05, 2013 4:32 pm

Well, the article inadvertently reveals part of the problem: it keeps referring to the worker as "she."
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Postby HouseMD » Thu Sep 05, 2013 4:35 pm

Ghost wrote:Well, the article inadvertently reveals part of the problem: it keeps referring to the worker as "she."

I'd noticed that as well. It really shows how backward things have become when using "he" is inappropriate but using "she" rather than something sexless like "they" is not only acceptable but encouraged.
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Postby Jeremy » Thu Sep 05, 2013 5:03 pm

Being forced to "make a living" is barbaric. Anyone who can't or won't financially support their kids for life has a moral duty not to have kids. End the cycle of misery once and for all.
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Postby HouseMD » Thu Sep 05, 2013 5:22 pm

Jeremy wrote:Being forced to "make a living" is barbaric. Anyone who can't or won't financially support their kids for life has a moral duty not to have kids. End the cycle of misery once and for all.

So we should just let the rich and powerful bastards at the top win, and all die off without a fight? f**k that, I'm going to do everything I can to make a good life for myself and my own in this world. I'm not laying down and dying.

Looks like Winston has disabled embedding Youtube videos for the moment, so here's a link to exactly how I feel about it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVYUMKrXg94
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Postby Cornfed » Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:04 pm

Jeremy wrote:Being forced to "make a living" is barbaric. Anyone who can't or won't financially support their kids for life has a moral duty not to have kids. End the cycle of misery once and for all.

Such an outlook would result in the species going extinct. There is nothing wrong with having to pull one's weight. What is barbaric is having to run in rat-wheels for the benefit and amusement of the elite.
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Postby djfourmoney » Fri Sep 06, 2013 12:20 am

Cornfed wrote:
Jeremy wrote:Being forced to "make a living" is barbaric. Anyone who can't or won't financially support their kids for life has a moral duty not to have kids. End the cycle of misery once and for all.

Such an outlook would result in the species going extinct. There is nothing wrong with having to pull one's weight. What is barbaric is having to run in rat-wheels for the benefit and amusement of the elite.


I can never understand why people want to subordinate themselves to a system they don't agree with and tell others not to have children or some other thing that doesn't even remotely threaten their well-being.

If I thought I could find an attractive, younger woman who was also unemployed to also donate plasma and pull our earnings together, might not be able to have children off of our labor (or lack thereof) but we can have children if we want and the state will largely pay for it.

The State is not discouraging child birth, why are people so stupid to deny it for themselves? This is why the White Community has a low birth rate, only Asians are lower because of the forced policies of China and Japan and why many are moving to the US or EU so they can have more children.

We live in such a fear based society now days that people just want to turn inward and not outward to community. Of course it doesn't help when some want to demonize and attack community/collectivism.
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Postby polya » Fri Sep 06, 2013 3:55 am

The great thing is, with the economic collapse and Obamacare making most jobs under 30 hours a week (just to reduce unemployment) there will be a lot more time to chill out.
"Woman is a violent and uncontrolled animal... If you allow them to achieve complete equality with men, do you think they will be easier to live with? Not at all. Once they have achieved equality, they will be your masters." Cato the Elder
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