“Old Bill” Suggests—
If there were an exact number of jobs in the world the cure for unemployment would be a very simple problem in long division. Work hours needed, divided by workers, equal working day. Q. E. D.
Instead the number of jobs is infinitely elastic. Comedian Jones has a job if his jokes are funny. If his jokes are not funny people merely stay at home. The job dries up and blows away like a parched field.
There are two trends crossing each other. The machine age has been shortening hours and increasing pay, decade by decade. Instead of the old back-breaking tasks of hewing wood and drawing water, we turn a thermostat switch or a faucet. But shorter hours are the result of prosperity; they are not the cause.
When hard times come (as they do whenever a dream explodes) and the ex-rich reluctantly go back to work, the only answer is to create desirable goods or services. The longer and harder we work, the more we and our neighbors will have to spend. Nor does this mean misery.
As John Lubbock pointed out long ago, “Work, indeed, and hard work, too, if only it be in moderation, is in itself a rich source of happiness. We all know how quickly time passes when we are well employed while the moments hang heavily on the hands of the idle.”
There is still plenty of need for all the wealth we can produce.
ROYAL F. MUNGER.