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Timesizing News, Oct.10-14, 2003
[Commentary] ©2003 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080


10/14/2003  primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/13 via GoogleNews, collected by Alan Applebaum of Brookline (& still commented by Phil Hyde) -

  1. U.S. Economic Forecast – Updated and Upgraded, by Sr.VP & Dir. of Economic Research Paul Kasriel and VP & Economist Asha Bangalore of *Northern Trust Co. via FXstreet.com.
    ...We think it is fair to say that the U.S. labor market is stabilizing. We base this assessment on the behavior of the recent downward trend in new jobless claims....
    [Dream on. There are plenty of backcurrents in the downward spiral.]
    The rate of firing [ie: layoffs] has abated, which is the precondition for hiring.
    [Seems a bit of a jump from a slower rate of layoffs to a precondition for hiring. Is this but another example of strained smiles from investment salesmen? How about first requiring at least an end of layoffs, not just an abated rate?!]
    We also are encouraged by the extension in the factory workweek in September. This is the prelude to hiring. First, you work your existing staff longer hours, and then you add to staff.
    [This indicates that workweek resizing is already common in U.S. factories - instead of Procrustean workforce resizing.]
    We believe that the unemployment rate will move lower next year. Its decline, however, will be retarded by a reversal in the labor participation rate. As the job market has been punk for so long, folks have become so discouraged that they have dropped out of the labor force. This has led to a decrease in the labor participation rate.... When the demand for labor firms, folks will become encouraged.
    [And by what magic will the demand for labor firm? These guys probably have the same voodoo explanations as Martin Feldstein yesterday (see 10/11-13/2003 #2).]
    They will come streaming back into the labor force faster than they can be absorbed.
    [Surplus labor is already pounding on the doors of the job market - that's what's keeping wages low.]
    Hence the labor participation rate will rise and the unemployment rate will be slow in moving lower....
    [Yeah, VERY slow. Here's an aspect we don't get too often along with our time search results -]
    There is one development that is causing us some near-term concern about the strength of economic growth in the first half of 2004. And that is the recent sharp deceleration in M2 and M3 money supply growth.... We believe this slowdown in money growth is the result of a slowdown in net new mortgage credit growth as a result of the recent backup in mortgage rates.
    [Funny how oblivious they are to the effects of increasing income and wealth concentration here, and the resultant marginal efficiency of that astronomical buildup.]
    We expect that increasing credit demand from the federal government [ie: more makework?!] and businesses (to finance higher inventories [to sell to whom??]) will soon lead to resumption in rapid growth in the monetary aggregates. If this does not occur, however, the risk is that our first-half 2004 GDP forecast is too high.
    [Prepare to "eat crow."]

  2. EnBW: four-day week to save jobs - Germany's fourth largest utility is considering implementing a four-day week, Datamonitor.
    [On the face of it, this is timesizing to avoid downsizing.]
    SUMMARY. With its panoply of 'inherited problems', EnBW (Energie Baden-Wurttemberg [shouldn't this be Württemberg?] ) remains in the news for all the wrong reasons.
    [...not to the 'idea commandos of the future' = shorter-hours advocates!]
    A letter to employees reiterated the company's poor performance but denied plans for 3,700 job losses. Adding to its woes, EnBW may incur the anger of labor unions if it moves towards a four-day week to meet its planned cost savings.
    [The fact that half the labor movement is always fighting developments that could save their jobs, hire more, cut wage-flattening labor surplus and harness market forces to give them more bargaining power shows how much work is ahead for the sustainable-economy, unemployment-set-workweek movement.]
    GERMANY. EnBW's {EBK.F's} troubles continue to make the headlines. Following former chairman Gerhard Goll's statement in the German press over the failed assurances by EdF to financially support EnBW, some German newspapers reported this week that the company plans to undertake 3,700 job cuts, which would account for nearly 10% of its work force.
    However the company has officially denied these rumors. In a public statement to its employees, the company stated that the planned E350 million cuts in personnel remained in place, insisting the savings are "economically imperative". The personnel savings remain integral to the overall E1 billion cost cutting program announced in July by the new chief executive Utz Claassen.
    The problems EnBW aired in its statement focus on the core energy business, in which its electricity businesses posted H1 pre-tax losses. This has further depressed EnBW's share price.
    EnBW also stated that its troubles are "entirely an inescapable consequence of the situation left (by the preceding management)". This remark seemingly implicates Mr Goll and his extensive acquisition spree across various industries, some far removed from EnBW's staple competency of energy provision.
    [Goll apparently had a lot of gall. Again, the lethal takeover-downsizing connection.]
    Mr Claassen has looked to refocus on consolidating its assets around the energy portfolio. EnBW plans to retain 143 of the 395 companies the group had acquired.
    [395 companies?! This is as bad as Tyco.]
    The situation has reached a point where the company has even stated that it is considering implementing a four-day week with a corresponding wage reduction to hit its planned personnel targets. However, given the strength of the German unions, combined with stringent employment law, this strategy may present EnBW with yet more headaches.
    Ironically, this week has also seen the French government review its own 35-hour week. The failure to grow the economy at a higher rate has found many analysts blaming it for the slowdown in growth. With EnBW looking at a four-day week and France reviewing its 35-hour week, the two countries seem at odds again.
    [In other words, with a German company looking favorably at workweek reduction and the French right-centre trying to reverse it.... So this time, Germany's on the side of the future.]

  3. The EU's sluggish performance, by Matthew Rusling, American Daily (OH).
    Although Sweden's Sept. 14th referendum not to adopt the Euro was more politically than economically motivated, it nevertheless underscored some of the EU's serious problems. Far from being the overnight economic superpower many EU proponents expected, its economic performance has so far been disappointing.
    [To investors and CEOs? So what! They have more money than they can use. Generally Europeans have more economic security and family time than Brits, Japanese or Americans.]
    ...According to an Aug.14 report by Eurostat, the EU's statistical service, the economies of 12 EU countries did not grow at all in the second quarter of 2003. In the first quarter, the EU economy grew by 0.1%. Italy and the Netherlands are now officially in recession.
    [Europeans in "recession" have better lives than Americans in "recovery."]
    Germany, which comprises 32% of eurozone GDP, had a 0.3% contraction in the second quarter. It has an unemployment rate of 10.4% (4.3 million workers) and is going through its second recession in three years. France is not far behind.
    [Both need to spread the vanishing work more widely by cutting their workweeks further.]
    In contrast, the 2001 US recession, a predictable response to the investment bubble of the 90's, was short lived.
    [If so, then why did it take the experts over six months to tell it was over? The whole labeling exercise is subtly biassed mumbo-jumbo.]
    In fact, US economic growth has trounced that of Europe for the last seven consecutive quarters and, because the US continues to outperform Europe in productivity, unemployment, business investment, currency flows and stock markets, there is no sign this trend will reverse.
    [It's time Europe defined some of its own measures, instead of competing on the basis of U.S. measures in a race to the bottom.]
    So what's the problem? For starters, there is too much regulation in EU countries.
    [True. All they need is fluctuating adjustment of the workweek against un(der)employment to reactivate all their potential consumers/customers - then they can safely dismantle much of their regulation which has been an ineffectual effort to compensate for the lack of jobs at the obsolete 35-40 hour levels at the dawn of the Robotics Age.]
    Until recently, German stores were required by law to close by 4PM on Saturdays. Gas station convenience stores are only allowed to sell "travel provisions", although the definition has recently expanded to include ice cream and other items.
    [Why should they commercialize 100% of life like the U.S.?]
    The EU also has problems with its fiscal policy. The Stability-and-Growth Pact sets limits of 3% of GDP on EU countries' budget deficits. Any eurozone country in breach of the pact could be forced to pay a fine of up to 0.5% of GDP. If recession occurs, there is an exception clause but it only applies if GDP falls by a minimum of 0.75%. The reason behind the pact stems from the German fear that EU countries would be tempted to run large deficits since the EU would collectively share the costs. But many see it as an unnecessary burden and, last year, European Commission president Romano Prodi even called the pact "stupid".
    [Only a politician too cowardly to raise taxes on the top income brackets would get exercised about this.]
    Italy and Portugal have already broken the deficit limit this year and both France and Germany are expected to be in breach for a third time in 2004. Germany has even considered raising taxes in order to reduce its budget deficit.
    [Oh heavens! Going against the crisis-fostering American idiocy of taxcuts regardless of deficit? How sensible - for a change!]
    Besides fiscal and regulatory problems, there are concerns about the Euro. Skeptics are concerned because the Euro forces several diverse economies to share one interest rate. This leaves the EU with few choices in times of economic crisis. And with the world's overdependence on the US economy to spur international growth, it seems downright dangerous.
    [The common currency was premature. However, ANY dependence on the US economy at this juncture is suicide.]
    The Economist reports that the negative effects of sharing one interest rate could eventually be mitigated because, as members trade more among themselves, their economies could become increasingly similar.
    [Yeah, especially if they adopt a common language and a common shorter workweek.]
    But this could give rise to another danger: if several members are heavily invested in one industry and that industry falls into a crisis, the entire EU will be hit hard.
    ["For better or for worse, in sickness and in health...."]
    Some eurozone governments are enacting reforms. Germany is trying to implement "Agenda 2010", which would reduce the burden on companies who are by law required to pay their workers' high pension and health care costs.
    [Then move healthcare costs to taxpayers, as in Canada, but don't finance them with high sales tax, as in Canada. You want sales. You don't want huge pools of sluggish income and wealth - so restore steep wartime levels of graduated income taxes. They were a vital part of the "wartime prosperity" that current blindered thinking taboos talking about.]
    France has followed suit and passed a big pension "reform" package in July [our quotes].
    [Fine if you move from a retirement model to a disability and workweek-fluctuation model to achieve full employment.]
    But "reform" will not be easy and labor unions will not take benefit cuts lying down. Still, the German and French governments should be given credit for starting to take on the massive job of trying to make the EU more competitive with the US.
    [God forbid - competing with a huge dummy who's slowly committing suicide? Not too smart.]
    Adam Posen of the Institute for International Economics says "overall, the eurozone will come back, but weakness in Germany will suppress the strength of recovery". Nevertheless, there are recent signs of optimism in Germany. PriceWaterhouseCoopers forecast on October 2 that the German economy will grow by 1.5% in 2004 and the IFO index, Germany's most important indicator of business confidence, rose for the third consecutive month in July after the government pledged to speed up E15 billion ($17 billion) worth of tax cuts. But without continuing "reforms," these numbers may turn out to be an anomaly.
    [Say what you will about "unreformed" Germany with its generous pension and healthcare benefits - these enable it to have a LOT of economic activity for its population level. Cut them and you cut your consumer base and your effective demand.]
    There are also cultural reasons for the EU's weak economy. Compared to the US or Japan, Europeans tend to place a higher value on leisure time than on hard work. In some countries, the underlying belief that no one should be enslaved by a corporation also contributes to a lax work ethic.
    [Hardly a concern in an age when robot sales are increasing 35% a year (see 10/22/2003 #1). Quite the contrary.]
    In France, corporate enslavement means working more than a 35-hour week.
    [If we had a full-employment workweek, corporate enslavement would mean working more than 20-35 hours a week at our levels of worksaving technology. Only the control freaks in the boardroom keep this outmoded work mania going.]
    Most eurozone citizens typically get at least twice as much vacation as Americans and sometimes four or five times as much as the Japanese. This practice has been known to cause inefficiencies with cross-border mergers.
    [Cross-border mergers themselves have caused many more inefficiencies than vacation dissonance, in terms of layoffs and consequently deactivated consumers.]
    Asian workers in joint European-Asian ventures often complain that they can never seem to get their European counterparts on the phone during the summer because the Europeans are always on vacation.
    [Eat your hearts out, workaholics! While you slave for peanuts on somebody else's agenda and turn your countries into hell, the Europeans have the good sense to enjoy themselves, and their families, and their religions, and their civic duties, and travel, sports, healthspas.... God, can you believe this stupid chatter in support of puritan 24/7 workaholism? How pathetic is this at the dawn of the Third Millennium?! These jackasses won't be satisfied till robots are doing all the farming, manufacturing and routine services, and a diminishing part of the world population is working or on-call 168 hours a week in return for room and board to sell burgers, and an increasing multitude is downsized and starving.]
    In many ways, valuing leisure time is healthy.
    [Funny how patronizing this sounds in light of the above.]
    Placing an emphasis on leisure time leaves more time for family life and allows people to relieve stress by pursuing hobbies or exercise. But Europeans are naïve to think they can take annual six-week paid vacations and still have a thriving and vibrant economy.
    [Except for the fact they've been doing it for decades. Maybe you need some new definitions of "thriving" and "vibrant"!]
    Dynamic economies are built on hard work
    [in the age of robotics? get real!]
    and flexibility, not on over-regulated welfare states.
    [Watch America's deregulated misery state follow in wide-screen California's nightmare experience with deregulating energy.]
    If the EU wants to catch up with the US,
    [meaning "sink down to the level of the US as it plummets toward the Third World"?!]
    it must continue its "reforms" [our quotes]. Similarly, Europeans must decide whether long vacations and shorter work weeks are more important than cutting unemployment and reviving a sluggish economy.
    [Matthew Rusling must believe in a flat earth and a geocentric solar system. The only reason European unemployment is not much higher than it is is those long vacations and shorter workweeks. France cut 4% off its 12.6% 1997 unemployment rate by preparing and implementing, in stages, a 4-hour cut in its workweek, achieving an 8.6% unemployment rate in mid-2001 before the US-led recession began to drag it, almost last among the major EU economies, down and push its unemployment rate back up. But even now it's still between 9.0 and 9.5 - nowhere near the 12.6% of 1997.]

  4. Schröder in bid to win over rebels before crunch vote - German chancellor faces resignation over "reforms" in country "weakened" by 'leisure mentality', unions and welfare state [our double quotes], by Luke Harding, The Guardian.
    [Another in-the-box commentator parrots the partyline of the control freaks.]
    Germany's embattled leader Gerhard Schröder last night offered concessions to left-wing rebels within his own party ahead of a crunch vote this Friday which could lead to his resignation and the collapse of his government.
    The German chancellor yesterday held an emergency three-hour meeting with members of his Social Democratic party (SPD) in an attempt to head off a revolt over his contentious plans to overhaul Germany's welfare state.
    Six rebel SPD MPs have threatened to vote against the government. Mr Schröder's SPD and Green coalition has a working majority of just four in Germany's Bundestag, or lower house.
    Most observers expect the government to scrape through but with the result nail-bitingly close, Mr Schröder's political future and that of his centre-left government was last night hanging in the balance.
    "It's going to be a challenge. Even if he wins this vote he might lose the next. It's like Russian roulette," said Peter Lösche, professor of political science at Göttingen University.
    "The likely outcome is that Schröder will win. But I wouldn't bet my house on it," one western diplomat added.
    The chancellor has repeatedly threatened to resign if his programme of structural reforms, known as Agenda 2010, is not passed.
    [Time to lose him. His vague concept of a Third Way was never founded on worktime economics.]
    Earlier this month he told MPs: "My political destiny is tied up with the passage of these reforms."
    Since narrowly winning re-election last September, after criticising the US's plans to invade Iraq, Mr Schröder has become increasingly unpopular in Germany.
    [And it wasn't for whacking the wacky Bush administration's insane invasion.]
    This is not only true among ordinary Germans but also with disgruntled left-wingers inside his own party.
    Yesterday SPD officials announced three minor changes to the "reforms" in an attempt to win over the rebels. Mr Schröder, meanwhile, expressed confidence that the Bundestag would back his programme.
    "Our country needs successful reforms and it needs them now. I expect the coalition will give them its full united support," he said.
    The rebels are unhappy about a clause in the new bill that would force the long-term unemployed to accept any job offered to them or risk losing benefits.
    Yesterday Olaf Scholz, the SPD's general secretary, promised better pension provision for the unemployed, and said that some tough measures - including a clause that meant families would have to bail out their jobless relatives - had been dumped.
    Last night, however, several rebels still appeared to be unconvinced. "We are waiting to see what changes will be proposed," said SDP MP Klaus Barthel. "Only then will we decide how to vote."
    Both the right and left in Germany are agreed that something has to be done to dig the country out of its present hole.
    The German economy - Europe's largest - has been teetering on the brink of recession for the past three years.
    [So, workaholic Japan has been teetering on the brink of depression for the past TWELVE years.]
    Unemployment now stands at 4.2m - more than 10%. The public sector, meanwhile, is completely broke. And Berlin - Germany's capital since 1991 - is officially bankrupt.
    [Raise taxes on those who have money, and drop VATs and sales taxes completely.]
    Some of the blame for Germany's current economic woes can undoubtedly be blamed on the vast costs of German re-unification. But the biggest problems appear to be more deep-rooted.
    Germany is suffering because of its too-generous welfare system, its over-regulated job market, and its powerful unions, many believe.
    Several observers have pointed out that the Germany of 2003 uncannily resembles Britain, shortly before the arrival of Mrs Thatcher.
    "We are where Britain was in the late 1970s. We even have our miners in the shape of IG Metall [Germany's biggest industrial union]," Michael Stürmer, an adviser to the former German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, said last night.
    "This country has been living beyond its means. People have become spoilt. We have been rich enough to afford this nonsense for a long time. But now it's got ridiculous."
    Germany needed its own Frau Thatcher - but was unlikely to get one because its electoral system tended to produce coalitions. "The problem is if you tell voters the truth they don't vote for you," he added.
    During a visit to Britain this summer Wolfgang Clement, Germany's adroit minister of economics and labour, complained that Germans had developed a "leisure mentality" and had become lazy.
    [WHO NEEDS A WORK MENTALITY IN THE AGE OF ROBOTICS???]
    German workers did a 35-hour week,
    [Our grandparents thought we'd be down to 16-20 hours by now! Only our own stupid rigidity has prevented this.]
    had 30-plus days holiday, 16 days off for public holidays and retired at 60 even though the official retirement age was 65. Germans needed to work longer and harder, he said.
    But not everyone agrees. Mr Schröder, whose surprise victory over the opposition right-wing Christian Democrats (CDU) last year was almost entirely because of his opposition to the Iraq war, has seen his popularity evaporate, and has struggled to win public support for Agenda 2010.
    [Sort of like our traditional liberals, Paul Krugman for example - smart enough to oppose the disastrous Bush administration but not smart enough to apprehend the timesizing imperative.]
    Voters are happy about the prospect of tax cuts next year when the income tax is to be cut by E15.6bn (£11bn). But they are deeply suspicious of the social democrat-green coalition's plans to freeze pensions and cut unemployment benefit.
    On Monday around 5,000 pensioners protested in Berlin, walking from the Brandenburg Gate, the city's most famous symbol, to the city hall. They carried banners that read: "Pensioners and unemployed against the greed of banks and companies." The march, organised by the Grey Panthers, is likely to be the first of many.
    Several left-wing intellectuals, meanwhile, who supported Mr Schröder last year in his acrimonious stand-off with the Bush administration, say they are now disillusioned with the chancellor, and his proposed structural "reforms."
    "These aren't reforms. They are cuts," Klaus Staeck, a German artist, complained. It was a right-wing myth to claim that German workers were inefficient, he said.
    "I don't think these reforms are the solution to our problems," he added.
    Either way, most observers believe that the rebels within the SPD will back down later this week because the alternative would probably be a long spell in opposition. The CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, broadly supports the "reform" agenda and has come up with its own proposals but they will vote against the government on Friday in order to maximise Mr Schröder's political embarrassment.
    The opposition controls Germany's Bundesrat, or upper house. The Bundesrat is likely to reject the bill, which will then go to arbitration, before another vote, probably in mid-December.
    If, on the other hand, Mr Schröder loses on Friday and is forced to resign, the SPD could continue in government as part of a grand coalition with the CDU, some political pundits believe. Under this scenario the finance minister, Wolfgang Clement, would become chancellor, with the CDU's deputy parliamentary leader, Friedrich Merz, a possible deputy.
    Although Mr Schröder's SPD has much in common with the British Labour party, the German leader recently appears to have lost Tony Blair's knack for winning elections. Last month the SPD suffered a crushing defeat in elections in Bavaria, its worst in the state since the second world war.
    Over the weekend an opinion poll in Der Spiegel magazine put the SPD on a mere 26%. Were a general election to be called tomorrow few doubt that the CDU's leader, Angela Merkel, or Edmund Stoiber, whom Mr Schröder narrowly defeated last time round, would romp home.
    Last week, the man who consistently emerges in polls as Germany's most popular politician, the Green foreign minister Joschka Fischer, was asked whether the government was in danger. He replied that it wasn't.
    Germany's next election is not due until 2006. But some feel that the German chancellor should not be underestimated, despite his current difficulties.
    "I don't think he is a weak chancellor. He is a power player," Peter Lösche, the professor of political science said. "The government is in for a rough time. But it won't collapse."

10/11-13/2003  primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are via GoogleNews -
  1. 10/12   Changing approach to work hours, Seattle Times (WA).
    1800s: Industrial Revolution, with 13- to 14-hour days, 70- to 80-hour weeks the norm in many countries. Labor refrain: "I work from can't see to can't see."
    1886: Fight for shorter hours begins. May Day Labor refrain: "Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, eight hours for what we will!"
    1926: Henry Ford's auto plants introduce a 40-hour week.
    1933: The Black-Connery bill, which set the workweek at 30 hours with substantial overtime penalties, passes the U.S. Senate. Replaced by the idea of government job programs as a way of reducing unemployment.
    1936-38: U.S. and France first to legislate a 40-hour week (occurs in 1940 in U.S.).
    Post-World War II: Production gains fuel greater consumption but not a movement for shorter hours.
    1965: U.S. Senate predicts a 14-hour workweek by 2000. Sociologists worry about what Americans will do with so much leisure time brought by coming technology.
    1960s: Netherlands loses Saturday as a regular working day.
    1973: Sweden reaches 40-hour standard.
    1996: U.S. average hours per person per year pass Japan to lead mature industrialized countries, according to the International Labor Organization. ("Developing" countries Czech Republic and South Korea actually have more.)
    2000: France legislates 35 hours per week as a standard. Workers in the Netherlands average 36; Denmark, 37; Norway, 37.5; Portugal, 40.
    2003: U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Edward Kennedy introduce a resolution calling for October to be "National Work and Family Month," saying, "reducing the conflict between work and family life should be a national priority." It passes by unanimous consent.

  2. 10/12   Fatigue endangers workers: minister, The Age (Australia).
    Sleep loss and fatigue were emerging as significant safety concerns in the workplace, NSW [New South Wales (state)] Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca said.
    Speaking at the opening of a one-day conference investigating the health and safety consequences of sustained sleep loss, Mr Della Bosca said the public needed to recognise the importance of sleep health. The conference, called Sleep Loss: Risks and Solutions in the Workplace and held at the Powerhouse Museum, is presenting the latest thinking on the relationship between fatigue and behaviour.
    Mr Della Bosca said the trade-off between money and working hours must not be tolerated, but he failed to outline what would be done to achieve this.
    He said shift work "doesn't necessarily have to be dangerous" adding that research and discussion is vital to developing an understanding of the consequences of sleep loss to work.
    "Sleep loss and fatigue are rapidly emerging as a significant safety issue facing industry," he said.
    "Shift work has become more than a financial consideration. Increasingly there is a trade-off between better pay and more fatiguing working hours and this cannot be tolerated."
    The conference is examining a variety of issues including how people's work performance is affected by the kind of sleep loss which can result from shift work.
    It is also looking at the link between sleep loss and accidents and the health effects of prolonged lack of rest as well as reviewing some of the latest treatments for people suffering from sleeping disorders.
    Current scientific wisdom suggests that some people can cope better with less sleep, but also that those who feel they can work effectively with only a few hours rest are not necessarily the ones who can.

10/10/2003  primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/09 via GoogleNews except #1 & 6, which are direct from the 10/10 WSJ hardcopy
(today we start experiment to resolve our update-delaying embarrassment of riches - in terms of dozens of worktime stories per day via GoogleNews instead of just 1-3 via AOLNews - by getting a lot more selective, bearing in mind that already limited space on a page-one printout has already led us to list only 2-3 stories a day in our homepage headlines anyway) -
  1. Making France work - So much for the 35-hour workweek, editorial, WSJ, A14.
    A great social experiment may be coming to an end, sad to say. We refer to the French ambition that you can get richer by working less -
    [That was not their ambition. Their ambition was to get richer by having more people working, and supporting themselves so taxpayers wouldn't have to, and providing more confident consumers and customers and markets and domestic demand for French businesses.]
    - specifically that they could increase national wealth by shrinking the workweek to 35 hours.
    [Or more clearly put, that they could increase national wealth by squeezing down the technologically diminishing amount of market-demanded working hours out onto more people, instead of continuing to allow it to concentrate on ever fewer people while CEOs' kneejerk response to it - downsizing - burdened taxpayers with more and more long-term unemployed.]
    Imagine what might have been possible had this worked out.
    [It has worked out. Unemployment declined a full 4% between 1997 and 2001 (from 12.6% to 8.6%) before the US-led recession dragged France down, and trying to attribute this to the Internet bubble won't work because U.S. unemployment during the same period only declined 2% (from officially admitted 6% to 4%). The problem now is that the right-center government under Raffarin can't admit that the main policy of the left-center government under Jospin worked - even though the right-center government prior to Jospin also had a workweek reduction policy, the voluntary Robien Law under which firms would get 10 or 15% taxcuts for cutting their workweeks 10 or 15% to hire 10 or 15% more staff.]
    We could all lose weight by eating more,
    [This is not far off the Atkins Diet, which helps you lose fat by eating fat - to curb your appetite. It's one of the main reasons for the huge popularity - and effectiveness - of the Atkins Diet - to whose success Phil Hyde can personally attest. The black&white thinkers of the Wall Street Journal, however, find such paradoxes a little too challenging for their complexity-challenged brains.]
    or by exercising less.
    [And this is not far off the strategy of Chinese women in Asia, who abhor the muscular look of some American women because of their exercising more. See the Journal's own article yesterday, "For Asian women, weight-loss rule 1 is skip the gym - They shun the hard-body look, preferring pills, teas, gels; Shocking new treatment," by Bris Prystay & Geoffrey Fowler, 10/09/2003 WSJ, front page. And seems to us we've seen a LOT more obese American women than Asian women. Oh God, we DO love hoisting the Wall Street Journal on its own partitioned-brain petard!]
    Or become better informed by studying less - we know some teenagers who try this every night.
    [You don't think we have a rebuttal for this one, do you! But "the Lord doth provide" - and has provided abundantly just yesterday, this time in the Times - "Sleep appears to rescue memories," AP via 10/09/2003 NYT, A21, which states, "In a finding that backs up motherly advice to get a good night's sleep, scientists have found that sleep apparently restores memories lost during a hectic day...a matter of physical recharge [AND rescuing] memories in a biological process of storing and consolidating them deep in the brain's circuitry. The finding is one of several conclusions made in two studies that appear in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature...." Perhaps the Journal editors were not thinking of teenage binge-sleeping when they penned their ill-informed attempt at sarcasm, but Phil Hyde's mom always tried to get him to quit cramming in more information the night before exams and go to bed so he would "wake up more refreshed," and he often took her advice and, dammee, it usually worked! Of course, Journal editors are too busy working megahours to feel important and impress their "face-time-only" bosses to try such a strategy and realize what part paradox plays in the pages of their own paper and those of their chief rival.]
    Alas and alack, it was not to be.
    ["Don't count your chickens...."]
    PM Jean-Pierre Raffarin has just re-opened debate on the more-for-less policy introduced by the Socialists in 1998.
    [AND by the right-center UDF in 1996. And conceptually ("doing more with less") by Buckminster Fuller in every decade since the 1950s till his death (in the late 80s?). And by every CEO introducing new technology, with "less" all too often interpreted as "less staff" - to the detriment of his own markets - rather than "less worktime" to the maintenance or growth of his own customer base (due to the same number of people with generally the same or more money having more free time to shop).]
    The French came up with it five years ago while looking for a way to reverse a then-unemployment rate of 13% without loosening France's notoriously inflexible labor markets.
    [AND the Americans came up with it 65 years ago (1938) while looking for a way to reverse a then-unemployment rate of 19% without continuing to grow gov't "borrow&spend" with the mountainous makework of the "New Deal." See our page on 1933 ff. And as a matter of fact, the shorter workweek did allows France to loosen its notoriously inflexible labor markets. In a Manchester Guardian article today (10/10) titled, "A mixed blessing - As France's economy sputters, many are pointing the finger at the country's 35-hour working week," Jon Henley writes, "Company executives and big industry bosses broadly approve of the 35-hour week, which has allowed them to completely reorganise outdated production schedules and working practices and increase output and sales."]
    Labor Minister Martine Aubry's answer was to make them more inflexible - reducing the workweek from 35 hours from 39.
    [There is sometimes one central, overall regulation that enables you to dismantle almost all other regulations, which have been trying to do the same thing on a stiflingly detailed and micromanaging basis. Fluctuating adjustment of the workweek against un(der)employment is The One in our lifetimes.]
    The logic: Companies would be forced to hire more workers as their employees worked fewer hours.
    [Apparently the Journal editors and many other conservatives and liberals - since both economically beneficial World Wars were entered by Democratic administrations - would prefer to "force" companies to hire more workers by the lethal war approach to reducing the huge surplus of labor hours on offer relative to the amount of market-demanded employment hours.]
    The unemployment rate did fall to 9% for a time [actually 8.6%], a level economists consider the structural minimum for France.
    [There is nothing more bizarre and pathetic about modern economists than their pandering to the status quo, however skewed and unsustainable, by calling current levels of persistent unemployment, however high, the "frictional unemployment level" or the "structural minimum" about which no one - not they themselves anyway - can do anything. In the mid-1990s the US Fed called 6% unemployment normal and acceptable in terms of a rabbit-out-of-hat concept known as the NAIRU (non-accelerating-inflation rate of unemployment). "No problem. This 'problem' is normal." Nothing easier - and nothing a more-pathetic wimp-out. Then the silly New Economy - which they went along with - managed to take the official rate down to 4% so that became the new NAIRU until their foggy brains sensed that maybe it was deflation they should be worrying about - due to weakening consumer markets - not inflation. (And why are markets weakening? Because the economists have labelled all the additional consumer-deactivating disemployment that's building up on welfare rolls and in disability, prisons, homelessness etc. as "externalities" and shut their eyes to it - and the business schools are still activating promoting-by-teaching downsizing of all the destructive things, as the kneejerk response to losses - or not enough profits - read "executive pay" - and no amount is "enough" - and never do we consider the poverty, regardless of even the hugest money supply, of an economy where 1% of the population owns 99% of the wealth.) And lately in France these typhoid Mary's have been calling NINE percent the NAIRU or "frictional unemployment level" or "structural minimum" - whatever gobbledygook they pull out of the hat to explain away their uncreative and cynical and venal impotence. And they never ask the next obvious question, "What's the minimum necessary structural modification to lower this?" which would rapidly lead them, faute d'autres, to fluctuating adjustment of worktime per person per short time period (day or week or month) against un(der)employment. They neglect worktime per person as a variable, let alone a control variable, let alone the control variable of our current period in social evolution. Instead, they hide in their current, comfortable but ineffectual non-structural toolbox and continue to suggest no-ops like interest-rate fiddling or tax cutting. Or they actually go along with a mania, a folie en masse like the ridiculous yap about a New Economy where investment no longer requires a return. Or worst of all, maybe they're still cynically trying to control inflation by fostering unemployment rather than controlling it by balancing inflationary and deflationary incentive via automatic overtime-to-training&hiring conversion.]
    The policy was also said to create 250,000 new jobs.
    [No, it didn't artificially "create" new "jobs" at all - that's it's whole strength. It does not, like gov't makework, strain to create jobs - it merely spreads the natural market-demanded working hours across more people.]
    With her law now under political [not economic!] seige, Ms. Aubry this week lashed out, claiming that the measure instituted a "virtuous [not vicious] circle" of consumer demand, growth and employment.
    [or in proper order of causation and occurrence: employment, consumer demand and growth. Don't raise your hopes. The Journal editors are still in sneering mode, possibly some indication that their whole position rests more on rhetoric and ridicule than reality -]
    And a fountain of youth too.
    [As a matter of fact, when you get more rest, you are healthier - and liable to live longer - though the workaholic editors of the Wall Street Journal are, of course, hardly interested in such a long-term goal. God only knows why they're sneering at The reality was that France's employment rose when U.S. growth lifted the global economy.
    [The reality was that Franc'es unemployment fell twice as much as U.S. unemployment during that period (1997-2001) and France is only 10% dependent on exports compared to US' 17%, so U.S. growth would have less effect on France. The U.S. recession also had a later and lesser effect on France, which succumbed to the U.S.-led recession last among the larger EU economies - because the work-spreading effects of shorter working hours has a recession-proofing influence.]
    Once the American economy slowed, France awoke from its dream.
    ["Last among the larger EU economies."]
    For one thing, those new jobs had been subsidized with about $10.6B in government tax rebates to companies.
    [And this was money that the government was saving on subsidizing the unemployed. Why should the government continue taxing companies for creating high unemployment when they're no longer creating high unemployment? This is an argument FOR the shorter workweek, not against it! The work-spreading function of workweek reduction cuts taxes safely - high unemployment and welfare taxes are no longer needed because high unemployment no longer exists.]
    Unsurprisingly, the artificial jobs produced artificial higher output.
    ["Artificial" jobs? The 35-hour workweek simply brought about a more level redistribution of natural market-demanded working hours. Is the Wall Street Journal now embarrassing itself by arguing for higher concentration of working hours on fewer people combined with government makework as "natural" - and the more-level re-allocation of the nation's market-demanded workload across more of the nation's citizens as "artificial"?! "Cursed be they who call evil 'good' and good 'evil'." As to the Journal editor's claim of "artificial higher output - on the contrary, we maintain that our current workload-funneling and concentrating habits of uncapped and old-fashionedly long working hours artificially depresses our output because it so effectively artificially depresses our effective domestic consumer demand, which is currently in the range of only two thirds of our GDP. Downsized employees do not confident consumers make. And overloaded survivors don't have time to shop. And is that great lip-servicer of human freedom and liberty, the great Wall Street Journal, really here embarrassing itself by speaking against the most basic and fundamental form of human freedom and liberty, FREE TIME - in order to argue for more control and the stifling of the human spirit with LONGER working hours?!! Pathetic!]
    Meanwhile, tax revenue has fallen, with Budget Minister Alain Lambert estimating that the 35-hour law costs the country $17.6B each year.
    [OK, that's his hostile side of the story. Now how much does it save the country each year by having an unemployment rate still around only 9-9½% instead of 12-12½%? Does Lambert and the Journal editors believe in work and self-support and independence or not? Because the more work you allow to concentrate on fewer people, the more you pass along the work-saving miracles of technology in the form of anxious un(der)employment instead of additional, financially secure leisure.]
    Among French workers who get paid by the hour or depend on overtime (which was limited [but is now less limited thanks to the obsolete but ingrained long-hours ethic of the current 35-hours scapegoating French government]), the law was never popular.
    [No one should depend on chronic overtime. They should depend on continuous retraining and skill upgrade. Half the labor movement is always shortsightedly bucking market forces by demanding higher pay and more overtime rather than achieving higher pay by cutting unemployment and harnessing market forces in raising pay in response to a decreasing labor surplus. Dependence on overtime and concentration of the nation's market-demanded workload - regardless of unemployment, welfare, "disability," homelessness, incarceration, forced self-"employment," forced part-time, forced early retirement, or its obverse, forced prolonged working - is simply a demonstration of labor's slitting its own throat.]
    Smaller businesses complained about the bureaucratic hassle, and the larger ones sent jobs overseas.
    [French smaller businesses complain all the time anyway - like the French in general - though the workweek reduction in France could have been designed much more accommodatingly for smaller businesses, for example, by leading instead of lagging with government participation, and by having many more stages of implementation for different sizes of company instead of just two, large and small, with the division at only 20 employees. This would have produced a lot more customer demand for the benefit of smaller businesses to compensate them for the hassle of hiring more people. As for larger comapnies sending jobs overseas, hell, larger American companies are sending jobs overseas even with the punishingly long working hours in the USA so that can hardly be blamed on the difference in working hours between the two economies.]
    But the middle classes loved their long weekends and holidays and embraced this latest not-so-free lunch.
    [And does not the middle class dominate, percentage-wise, in France as it does here in the U.S.? You know, this from the supposedly conservative and capitalist Wall Street Journal sounds very much like the kind of sneering that Marx used to do at the comfortable middle-class "bourgeoisie" - is the Journal going pinko on us? What does it have against comfort and real freedom, free time, or is that only OK for those with piles of unearned wealth in the Journal's eyes? - implying, once again, that the Wall Street Journal does not really believe in work and self-support.]
    Then came the shock of this summer's heat wave....
    [Oh come ON. Is the Journal now going to stoop to repeating the stupid scapegoating of the 35-hour workweek for France's unpredictable weather this summer? Yep -]
    which claimed about 14,000 lives. Much of the blame for those deaths, mostly involving the elderly, fell on the 35-hour law,
    [among its already in-place, workaholic enemies]
    which depleted hospital and nursing home staffs.
    [Or was it the fact that everyone in France goes on vacation at the same time - August - or was it the fact that many of the hospital and nursing homes are government-run and, as mentioned, the government in France stupidly lagged instead of leading the implementation of the 35-hour workweek. Government leadership is necessary to demonstrate the overtime-to-training&hiring conversion process. All too often, the unfortunate and cowardly French government demonstrated workweek compression and overloading on the existing workforce, not workweek-reduction-and-hiring. This work spreading concept has to be done carefully to work really well. It has difficulties - but they are the right difficulties because they lead to a better future for all of us, and no other strategy can claim that. Is the current French government and the Wall Street Journal, for example, going to seriously claim that longer and longer workweeks represent progress? That way lies a widening imbalance between productivity and consumability, because the more technology, the higher output with fewer employees, and the fewer employees the fewer consumers. The economy splits into workers and drones, Eloi and Morlocks, and every nation descends to the lowest common denominator of which capitalism always used to accuse communism - we all wind up in the Third World. It's certainly happening at accelerating speed to the American economy with its 5.7m 'disabled,' 2.2m incarcerated and 600k homeless, not to mention all those other troubling categories again.]
    Maybe that's why a survey last month has 54% of the French saying the 35-hour week ought to be ditched.
    [No, "36% would like to see...a return to the former 39 hours" and "a further 18% would like to see the measure 'temporarily suspended'." That's only 36% - little more than a third - who want to say it ought to be ditched, and a further 18% - less than a fifth - who just want a time out - whatever that would mean. Quite possibly the wording of this survey "by one of France's main polling organizations" was "leading the witness." Certainly offering the option of "temporary suspension" is pretty peculiar on the face of it. Maybe no one has given us a sufficiently full story in the mainstream English-language media to judge. See "France looks towards longer week" embedded in 9/26/2003 #2.]
    The defenders of France's l'état [do they mean 35-hour 'status quo'?] point out that the country boasts some of the world's most competitive companies. True.
    [And that may be helped or simply due to the discipline which the 35-hour week imposes on French management, unlike American CEOs, who have a virtual blank check on their desperately abundant, powerless employees' lives.]
    So just imagine what the French economy, with its highly educated workforce, could achieve if it were unshackled from the burden of not having to work [probably foggy wording (and this is by a WSJ editor?) for "of having not to work longer than 35 hours a week"].
    [Again, double-talk. Working longer than a certain level is no longer a burden - not working longer than that level is. Here the words "competitive" and "achieve" presumably meaning "produce" are deployed against fluctuating adjustment of the workweek against un(der)employment. Note the concept of "efficient" is absent here. Any consideration of unlimited worksaving technology is absent. Most important, any consideration of markets for all the technology-multiplied production is missing. With people this narrow-minded currently running the world, is it any wonder that CEOs all over the world are wondering where their markets went. Gee, it just never occurs to them that maybe they killed them with downsizing and workweek expansion for the full-time survivors. The more they concentrate and funnel the market-demanded work onto fewer people, the fewer confident consumers they have - but ... they are apparently incapable of seeing any connection between their markets and their own employees. The idea that they've been laying off their customers' customers has never dawned on their innocent minds. They are macho-posing self-destructive fools, cannibalizing their own markets.]

  2. Deserted streets on an island struggling to recover, by Caroline Gammell, PA News via The Scotsman.
    BALI - As you walk down one of Bali’s busiest streets at night, the bars and clubs are largely empty. A few defiant tourists [are here], but...a handful of people does not make for a party atmosphere.... Sadly... the bombings a year ago have savaged Bali’s reputation as the ideal holiday destination and shattered its economy.  12 months on, hotels and restaurants on the island are running at just 15% of last year’s capacity. The financial blow to the island has meant businesses have been forced to close. ...The Sars virus and the war in Iraq meant yet more people staying away from the beautiful island.
    Phil Wilson, a management consultant, has lived on the island for 18 months but has visited Bali for years. He has joined his brother...who runs the honorary consulate in Bali as well as a pub.... Both men, originally from [England], were honoured with OBEs [Order of the British Empire?] for their work in the aftermath of the bombing in which 252 people, including 26 Britons, died. Yesterday...Mr Wilson reflected on the catastrophic impact on the Indonesian island. “In the short term, people were really hurting,” he said. “...They have left the cities and gone back to the villages; some of them are still there. They are very dignified people and if they are suffering, they would not show it.”
    Mr Wilson said many of the hotels had done deals with their staff – such as introducing job sharing – to try to keep them on. “Hotels work like communities – all the staff are like a family,” he said. “Redundancies have happened but a lot of them have kept their jobs in some form.”...

  3. Lufthansa plans to cut 2,000 jobs over several years in its home country of Germany, AP via ABC News.
    FRANKFURT, Germany — German airline Lufthansa plans to cut some 2,000 jobs in its home country over several years as it tries to reduce costs.... Lufthansa lost 34m euros ($39.9m) in the second quarter, though it said it would have lost more had it not cut back employee hours. The figure contrasted [with] a profit of 160m euros in the same period last year....

  4. How can Tories fund their dreams? Daily Post via icNorthWales.
    U.K. - "Double-dealing, deceitful, incompetent, shallow, inefficient, ineffective, corrupt, mendacious, fraudulent, shameful and lying." Thus Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith [IDS] summed up, yesterday, with the help of a speech writer or two and a thesaurus perhaps, how he sees the Government.  Ring any bells? Yes, it's almost exactly how people saw the last Tory administration too.
    So what makes IDS think his hoped-for Tory government would be any better or any more attractive to voters now, or any different to Tony Blair's? How about "lower taxation, less school bullying, fewer mobile phone thefts, fewer traffic jams, fewer bogus asylum seekers, more hospital operations, more jobs, more holidays, more police, more home ownership, better pensions, shorter working hours, lower mortgages, no tuition or top-up fees, the ability to afford children's clothes, support for industry, support for the armed services, a fair deal for all, honesty and transparency, wealth and growth?"
    [So here's another example of shorter working hours being advocated by the right, not the left.]
    Well, to be fair he didn't exactly promise all of these - but he did single them out, and strongly suggest that they'd be the consequence of his lower taxes. For this was the central message (apart from steering clear of Europe and all that that stands for): A lower tax burden encourages jobs, growth and wealth. And, coupled with a reduction in suffocating red tape and centralised bureaucracy, the rest inevitably follows.... But the big question is: Can the Conservatives deliver where Labour has so far struggled?...
    [Not by an indiscriminate tax reduction platform though replacing sales taxes with more steeply graduated income taxes ("taxing the rich") would certainly help. The real closest thing to a Single All-Sufficient Plank in his platform would be his shorter working hours.

  5. [And here's an example of shorter hours being advocated by the left, but by the left in the generally rightwing South -]
    Birmingham mayoral race - Contenders pitch issues despite minor support, by Benjamin Niolet & Brett Blackledge, Birmingham News (AL).
    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - On Oct. 14 Birmingham will choose between 18 candidates for mayor. A recent poll commissioned by The Birmingham News, showed that the race is a close contest between three or four candidates. ...The candidates have appeared at forums throughout the city, making their pitch for the job currently held by Mayor Bernard Kincaid....
    Coal miner..\..Brian Taylor is running as a socialist candidate in a nonpartisan election. He has used his time at forums to list a platform that has more to do with national and international policy than with the business of the City of Birmingham. [His] ideas include shortening the work week, promoting unions and forgiving Third World debt....
    [shortening the work week can be, and has often been, used on the city level as in Somerville MA, not just on the national and international levels.]

  6. Delta readies work-rule changes, by Evan Perez, WSJ, A8.
    ...in a move the company said will increase productivity but that some flight attendants say is a wage cut in disguise.... The new rules include replacing a minimum base pay [ie: salary?] for flight attendants with an hourly wage rate and removing caps on how many hours attendants are allowed to work [currently 85-90 hours a month, and] will take effect next May and June. ...Its flight aren't represented by a union. ...In some cases under the new rules, employees will work more hours for the same pay and that the changes are part of a "profit improvement effort."
    [So the bottom line on all the lip service to "productivity" is profit.]
    But Delta also insisted that other [mng?] workers may actually work fewer hours and still make as much as they do now..\.. The new rules could fuel an effort to organize a union among Delta flight attendants.... Delta has cut about 16,000 jobs in the past two years.



Click here for spontaneous cases of primitive timesizing in -
Oct.8-9/2003
Oct.4-7/2003
Oct.1-3/2003
Sept.27-30/2003
Sept.18-26/2003
Sept.10-17/2003
Sept.1-9/2003
Aug. 28-Sep.1/2003
Aug. 16-27/2003
Aug. 8-15/2003
Aug. 1-7/2003
July 29-31/2003
July 22-28/2003
July 16-21/2003
July 5-15/2003
July 1-4/2003
June 28-30/2003
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June 6-13/2003
June 1-5/2003
May 27-31/2003
May 20-26/2003
May 1-20/2003
Apr.11-30/2003
Apr.1-10/2003
Mar.21-31/2003
Mar.1-20/2003
Feb.15-28/2003
Feb.1-14/2003
Jan.16-31/2003
Jan.1-15/2003
2002
2001
Y2000
1999
1998 and previous years


For more details, see our laypersons' guide Timesizing, Not Downsizing put out as a campaign piece during the 1998 race for Joe Kennedy's empty Congressional seat. The handbook is available online from *Amazon.com and at the Harvard Square Coop, 3rd floor (business & economics sections) in Cambridge, Mass.

Questions, comments, feedback? Phone 617-623-8080 (Boston) or email us.


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