Thursday, July 14, 2005

L&S - Work and Leisure

Last night, during the Q & A after the showing of the "1900 House", Steve Horwitz made a point that had never ocurred to me before. We all feel tremendously busy and stressed - or so we tell surveys - yet the stats show we are actually working less compared to the 1950s, let alone the 1900s. Steve's take on this is that our leisure has become much busier and so (in some sense) stressful. I found this thought provoking ( in a good sense, not the British one). I can see how this is clearly true. I would add a couple of points. One is the extent to which leisure and life in general, involve travelling to a much greater degree. A lot of this travel is time-critical in some way and in general we find that both tiring and stressful. The other point is this. I'm not sure adult leisure is that much busier. The big change is that child leisure has become much busier and also much less self-directed. To give a personal example, as a child I entertained myself and was pretty much left to my own devices. Today middle class parents in particular are crucial for both organising and enabling their children's leisure and spend a vast amount of time ferrying them around. I suspect this may well be a transitional effect. James Tooley's idea that the future of education is to move away from 'school' to an institution that combines education and entertainment is very suggestive here. Of course one element in all this is the huge panic over child abuse and abduction but we can only hope that this will start to diminish.

Steve is now demolishing economic myths about income distribution, standard of living etc. This is very useful because there are so many myths around in popular discourse. Some of this is due to deliberately misleading argument but I increasingly think the big problem is a combination of innumeracy among both journalists and the general public and the way that many statistics are not made available in an accessible way. All those OECD studies are great but they have very little effect on the public consciousness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I grew up on a farm in Ohio which, when I was a kid, did not have electricity or running water. Lighting was by oil lamp, cooking by wood stove, and water by hand pump. We will not discuss sanitary arrangements.

So my reaction to "The 1900 House" is like the Monty Python sketch: "Gaslight? Luxury!" And I laugh when people talk about how stressful modern life is. Stress? I have two words for you: "weather" and "farming."