Saturday, January 12, 2008

The logic of the 40 hour week

An extremely interesting piece of business thinking from 1926, Henry Ford, Why I favor five days' work with six days' pay:

" is the influence of leisure on consumption which makes the short day and, the short week so necessary. The people who consume the bulk of goods are the people who make them. That is a fact we must never forget -- that is the secret of our prosperity."

"Where people work longest and with least leisure, they buy the fewest goods. No towns were so poor as those of England where the people, from children up, worked fifteen and sixteen hours a day. They were poor because these overworked people soon wore out -- they became less and less valuable as workers. Therefore, they earned less and less and could buy less and less."

"Business is the exchange of goods. Goods are bought only as they meet needs. Needs are filled only as they are felt. They make themselves felt largely in leisure hours. The man who worked fifteen and sixteen hours a day desired only a comer to be in and a hunk of food. He had no time to cultivate new needs. No industry could ever be built up by filling his needs, because he had none but the most primitive."

"It is the intersection of power and machinery in the hands of management which has made the shorter day and the shorter week possible."

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