America And The Protestant Work Ethic, Ctd

Matt Steinglass is unfazed by the idea that Obamacare will enable some Americans to work less:

Americans work more hours per person than citizens of almost any other wealthy nation. If America suffered from a shortage of max_weber_1917-SD-thmblow-wage labour, we would likely see the evidence in the form of rising wages at the lower end of the spectrum. Instead, the opposite is true: wages for the bottom quartile did not even keep pace with inflation over the past ten years. It seems then that America has a surplus of low-wage labour. If some of those workers decide that, because they’re receiving a new benefit, they can work less and spend more time raising their kids, playing basketball, launching home renovation projects, taking night classes, cooking, going to church, playing video games, or whatever it is they want to do with their free time, I can’t see what the problem is.

Pareene thinks liberals should embrace an agenda of freeing people from work for work’s sake:

It’s easy for the thought-leader and executive classes to embrace a “do what you love and love what you do” philosophy when they are wealthy enough to work hard only voluntarily, and when their jobs grant them status. But this is a truth most Americans know in their bones: Most work sucks and people don’t like doing it. The song “Take This Job and Shove It” spent 18 weeks on the country charts in 1977. 1970s country music fans had a clearer understanding of the ennui of wage-slavery than modern elites.

Josh Marshall expands on the “wage slavery” metaphor:

Obamacare doesn’t create a disincentive to work. To be more precise is removes one incentive to work. And no, this is no mere semantic difference. One incentive that keeps some people either in their current job or in the labor market in general is the risk of themselves or their family facing a catastrophic health care situation without insurance.

One might note that abolishing slavery also removed a powerful incentive to work, namely whippings, torture, various deprivations and in some cases death. We could also incentive people to work by threatening them with the loss of their children if they did not hold full time jobs. But in a capitalist economy, the primary incentive to work is supposed to be money, not the risk of being prevented from purchasing a life saving commodity.

Chait thinks Republicans are being disingenuous:

One could easily imagine any number of legislative changes that might satisfy the right’s newfound concern for prodding the middle class to work harder. Republicans aren’t going to accept any such solution because the main impetus of its gleeful embrace of the CBO report is not any policy reform at all, but to generate a new message about Obamacare welfare queens mooching off your hard work.

Philip Klein proposes encouraging older Americans to work more and retire later:

One obvious move would be to gradually raise the Social Security and Medicare retirement ages and then index them to gains in life expectancy. Another option would be to change the way benefits are calculated to encourage Americans to work longer. A 2006 paper from researches at Stanford University described a number of disincentives to longer careers created by the Social Security system. For instance, Social Security calculates benefits based on an average of the highest 35 years of earnings and thus, “an individual who has already worked for 35 years has a diminished incentive to work an additional year.”

Lastly, Benjamin Kline Hunnicut looks at how the American approach to work has changed over time:

For more than a century before 1930, the average American’s working hours were gradually reduced—cut nearly in half. Labor played a part in these reductions, but they were largely a product of the free market, reflecting individuals’ choices to work less and less.

Most Americans approved, counting work reductions as the better half of industrial progress (higher wages and shorter hours). No one expected this progress would end. Quite the contrary. Through the last century, observers such as John Maynard Keynes, Julien Huxley, Dorothy Canfield Fisher and Eric Sevareid regularly predicted that soon America would enter an age of leisure in which we would chose to devote more and more of our lives to the “pursuit of happiness” promised in the Declaration of Independence.

Previous Dish on Obamacare and work here and here. My take is here.