Why Not Start the Weekend on Wednesday?

We are twice as productive as our parents. We don’t have to be twice as rich, twice as consumptive, and twice as dangerous. Why not work half as much and stay the same?

Economists worry that slowing consumption harms the economy. It doesn’t have to.

If this were a gradual process, mass unemployment would not result. People would simply earn less, spend less, wear a few more secondhand clothes, and spend more time reading or going for walks.

And the alternative is trapping ourselves in a mad struggle to run a hedonic treadmill, buying more and more because we always want more than we can sate ourselves with, always comparing ourselves to our neighbors and always coming up short.

According to economists Mark Aguiar and Erik Hurst, leisure time for women has increased by at least four hours a week since 1965. Men have done even better. That may well understate the leisure gains. A hundred years ago, many people would start working at the age of 10 or 12 and work until they died. Now it is common to spend fewer than half our years working; the rest of the time we spend studying, traveling, and in retirement.

The “work less, spend less” movement is winning. It’s a shame it hasn’t noticed.