Quote Of The Day

Richard Posner on the liberal daydream of working 20 hour weeks and enjoying more “leisure”:

The Skidelskys have an exalted conception of leisure. They say that the true sense of the word is “activity without extrinsic end”: “The sculptor engrossed in cutting marble, the teacher intent on imparting a difficult idea, the musician struggling with a score, a scientist exploring the mysteries of space and time — such people have no other aim than to do what they are doing well.” That isn’t true. Most of these people are ambitious achievers who seek recognition. And it is ridiculous to think that if people worked just 15 or 20 hours a week, they would use their leisure to cut marble or struggle with a musical score. If they lacked consumer products and services to fill up their time they would brawl, steal, overeat, drink and sleep late. English aristocrats in their heyday didn’t work, but neither did they cut marble or explore the mysteries of space and time. Hunting, gambling and seduction were their preferred leisure activities.

Americans value leisure, but it is expensive leisure, and so they have to work hard in order to pay for it. As a result they have less leisure time than if their preferred form of leisure were lying in a hammock, but on balance they obtain more pleasure.

1 Response to “Quote Of The Day”


  • Nothing like tons of assertions without evidence. He says people derive a lot of pleasure from ownership of lots of possessions. I’ve been seeing a lot of evidence to the contrary lately.

    Chomsky makes a very similar point though about leisure. The ownership class doesn’t want people to have too much leisure. This guy says they would “brawl.” That’s sort of true. They would start to pay attention to injustice in the world and would start to do things that would remedy it. Elites don’t like that so they call it “brawling” or “mob activity.”

    In the 60′s elites expected people to just salute and do as they were told when it came to attacking peasants that had done nothing to us and weren’t a threat to us in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, etc. Leisure meant that people could resist, and this was considered a horror. The Trilateral Commission issued a report. “The Crisis of Democracy” Elites were horrified at the prospect of democracy. People thinking for themselves, questioning war, and questioning whether or not they should just do as they are told and go kill innocent people.

    One of the means of beating democracy back was to defund universities and burden students with the debt. When you have to service enormous loans you have to work hard, often in the corporate sector. You won’t agitate for change, as Vietnam protestors did. You’ll do what you are told.

    So yeah, this guy doesn’t like leisure for the poor. They should be pushed hard. Maybe be distracted with football, or the desire to own lots of stuff and keep up with the Jones’s. It doesn’t actually bring happiness according to the studies. But it is useful for ownership and oppression. So it’s pushed hard.

    Lately I’ve been trying to embrace the concept of minimalism. Just the recognition that all the stuff I won doesn’t really matter to me. And constantly buying stuff that I really don’t need and doesn’t bring me pleasure just means I have to work more instead of doing the things I love. Yeah, playing a musical instrument. I enjoy working on foreign languages. Puedo hablar espanol un poco. Puedo ir en una pais adonde hablan espanol y vive si tuve sufficiente tiemp, pero tengo que trabajar. (Not sure if that’s all right). This guy wants to poo poo the idea that people pursue their dreams and enjoy their lives. They should instead spend their lives as wage slaves serving the ownership class. Es una pendejo (my best friend-saw the pic on Facebook-good one, but this gringo gets it) :)

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