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Gold Party: A battering ram to break through bureaucratic and plutocratic opposition to shorter work time

by William McGaughey


Yes, shorter work time would relieve the stress that work-centered activity puts upon the environment. To cite a simple example, if the workweek were cut to four days and the day off were staggered, traffic congestion in metropolitan areas would be greatly reduced, cars and trucks would reach their destinations sooner, and consumption of gasoline (and release of greenhouse gases) would drop dramatically.

However, the whole question is how we get there? How do we persuade national policymakers to reduce working hours on the scale needed to effect change - not only to relieve the environment but also unemployment?

Right now, we’re locked into a plutocratic embrace of the political process that makes it extremely difficult to get reform: (1) To be elected to major public office, political candidates need to advertise in the commercial media, especially television. (2) To pay for the expensive commercials, they need to have or acquire money to spend in campaigns. (3) If they do not already have money, they have to raise it from donors. (4) The big dollars are raised from wealthy donors who usually represent special-interest groups that want something in return. The corporate media are locked into this system, too, and are unwilling to give publicity to anything - e.g., shorter work time - that rocks the boat. The current political system is a cash cow for them.

I see no way out of this problem unless we bypass the commercial media with something of equal power. People talking to each other face-to-face would do the job; but how can this be coordinated on a scale needed to change national policy? We need to start to “think big” even at the risk of failing or appearing to be foolish.

I have long been thinking of a scheme to bring people together on a common set of political goals as political parties do or used to do. I call it “Gold Party”. The concept is unveiled at http://www.goldparty.org. The basic idea is to build up party membership to the point that it can win elections at all levels of government. Then supporters of those common goals can put their program across.

Now, of course, this seems a pipe dream; and it may well be that unless a serious attempt is made to try to put the scheme into practice. I think the missing ingredient in political activity is the incentive that individual members might have in working to build up the party or elect its candidates. This is the essence of what Gold Party would do that existing parties do not.

As people are motivated to work hard in building up a small business so it can become successful and earn lots of money, so Gold Party would have a money-like point system that rewards members who work hard on its behalf. Instead of giving party members an equal vote in its internal decisions, this party would distribute votes on the basis of the number of points which individual members have. Therefore, policy decisions, candidates, and all other questions decided by the party would be made disproportionately by the members with a large number of votes.

Yet, even this would not be enough incentive to build a party to the size required. The Gold Party scheme also envisions that if this party is able to take over the government, it will convert the points into hard cash. Laws will be passed allowing the federal government to pay Gold Party members money in proportionate to the number of Gold Party points they have at the time of the government takeover. This would be a one-time payment. Either this money would be raised by printing new money - which would be inflationary - or it would be acquired through a wealth tax of the sort that Thomas Piketty is now advocating in”Capital in the Twenty-First Century”.

Gold Party also has a program of action if it succeeds in taking over the government. The first several points have to do with shortening work time. However, because shorter hours are associated with lower pay in most people’s minds, the program also has a guarantee that weekly wages will not drop by more than a small amount if work hours are substantially reduced. In some cases, government would pay the difference between what the employer pays and the target amount. Historically, however, wages have kept pace as supply-and-demand controls the level of wages. (Reduced average hours of work would tend to reduce labor supply which, with a constant level of demand, would bring the price of labor up.) In effect, people would be paid the same amount of money while working shorter hours.

I think that in this age of robots we need to be thinking seriously of the conversion to a society based upon more leisure and less work. Rather conservatively, I regard work as the ethical basis of economic reward and am, therefore, less enthusiastic about paying people who contribute no work. I also think shorter hours are a better way to provide jobs at decent wages than government make-work programs or increases in the minimum wage. (Curiously, opponents of the minimum wage in the restaurant and other industries are raising the specter of automation to suggest that fewer people will be employed if wages are increased.)

In summary, the key question for us who favor shorter hours is how we get there politically. Gold Party is a radical but, I think, realistic solution to that problem. I hope others agree.

Note: This message was posted on the Shorter Work Time discussion list on May 10, 2014. Previous postings had argued that we needed shorter hours to reduce carbon emissions and otherwise protect the environment.

 

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