ratpag Rants: Part 1 of Our Anti-Work Manifesto

Wasted Time and Excessively Long Work Days

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Can ratpag go off topic for a minute? Work sucks. The end.

But really, though, ratpag wants to talk about work in America. Many of you may be reading this while at work, in America, because your job is boring and you can’t mentally commit more than 7 consecutive minutes to that spreadsheet open in the background of this shrunken, quarter-screen-sized internet window that you’ll nonchalantly minimize whenever anyone within a 5-cubicle radius stands up. We get it.

And you’ll probably do that for 8 hours today, tomorrow, and the entire week because…? Because you have 8 hours of work to do every day? That seems unlikely.  (No, no, we’re sure you have a very important job.  Humor us, then, and please read on.)

So what’s ratpag’s beef? Why is ratpag so against the American way of working? Because it’s stupid! It’s all so stupid! How dumb are we? Ok, allow ratpag to compose itself.

A few years ago ratpag wrote upon a post-it note, likely procured from its government job, a life goal: “Eliminate Bullshit.” This has been a bewildering, uphill, unending battle. Part of ratpag even once removed itself from the workforce and, for the most part, normal society as part of an experiment to see if escape from bullshit was possible. The conclusion: yes, briefly, before bullshit hunts you down like a rabid animal and forces you to acknowledge that is immortal and, usually, happily propagated by a large portion of the population.

Um, allow ratpag to compose itself once again. So where does work come into this? Well, work and work-related things appears to be the greatest source of bullshit in our society. Work too much? Work too little? Don’t work at all? Typically, if presented with such scenarios, one’s response will be “this is bullshit!”

Why is over-work or under-work or no-work bullshit? Look, the economy’s improving! Because we have means to not work so much and, if you’re of the persuasion that everybody should be working or else they be considered a drain on society, we have enough work where everyone could do something – just for fewer hours per day. So why don’t we work fewer hours per day? According to Erik Rauch, formerly of MIT, Princeton, Yale, and “other institutions,” the average worker in the year 2000 needed “to work a mere 11 hours per week to produce as much as one working 40 hours per week in 1950.”

That’s not true – I’m always biz-ay. Are you sure about that? Salary.com, which was relevant enough to be cited by Forbes (and ratpag!), conducted a survey that found that 89% of respondents claimed to waste time at work every day – shocking! Despite such “wasted” time, corporate profits continue to surge while “the number and quality of jobs are still lagging badly, as are wages and salaries.” In fact, according to that same New York Times editorial, “in 2013, after-tax corporate profits as a share of the economy tied with their highest level on record (in 1965), while labor compensation as a share of the economy hit its lowest point since 1948.” How could that be with such wasteful use of company time?

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ratpag, are you a communist?  No – ratpag is an anti-bullshit-ist.

So perhaps the above could be true because there’s no value in working long hours. Extremist publications such as The Atlantic, the BBC, and Harper’s Magazine (in 1932!) have published pieces discussing the positives of shorter work weeks and greater leisure time.  We’ll pull a few clips of some of their finer points but we recommend a full read (or heavy skimming):

  • From the BBC,
    • “…the US seems to value long work weeks for the sake of long work weeks.”
    • “…Germany works almost 45% fewer annual hours than Greece, but is 70% more productive…”
    • “Reducing work hours has also reduced unemployment…”
  • From The Atlantic,
    • “…length of work and quality of work at a certain point become inversely related.”
    • “There is also a belief in many countries, the United States especially, that work is an inherently noble pursuit. Many feel existentially lost without the driving structure of work in their life – even if that structure is neither proportionally profitable nor healthy in a physical or psychological sense.”
    • “Working too much is at best, pointless, and at worst, actively harmful.”
  • From Harper’s (in 1932),
    • “Suppose that at a given moment a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins as before. But the world does not need twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world everybody concerned in the manufacture of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked.”
    • “The fact is that moving matter about, while a certain amount of it is necessary to our existence, is emphatically not one of the ends of human life.”

That was a lot of quoting, and this is getting a bit long, so we’re going to wrap things up here. What does this have to do with rail and transit? Nothing. We just wanted to bitch about the pointlessness of excessively long work days (counting 8-hour work days), work weeks, and the looking down upon non-work. We provided a few articles that have already done a great job detailing this pointlessness and think you should give them a read. Take your time – ratpag’s on a reduced work schedule now – and we’ll have more actual transportation-related stuff when you come back followed by our favorite anti-work topic – extended time off.

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