Sunday, 30 July 2017

The importance of Leisure-time

A recent psychology paper has shown that people gain more happiness if they used a windfall to purchase time-saving services (increasing their leisure time) rather than material goods, as reported in a BBC article.

This shows us that many people probably spend too long working to buy things when their leisure is more valuable. It also reminds us that the most important inventions and infrastructure are those which save us time: from permanent homes (rather than temporary camps) to electricity, from indoor plumbing to washing machines and from central heating to the automobile.

If the research finding is generalizable, it implies is that a society with substantial division of labour in which we all work for each other in ways that increase our leisure might be happier.

However, it also highlights the importance of the distribution of leisure in society. Some economically fortunate people may use their good fortune to effectively purchase more leisure time for themselves. Our regressive tax system which taxes work and consumption more than windfall income fails to mitigate this unfairness.

Political philosophers are starting to recognise the importance of the distribution of leisure, for example Julie Rose’s recent book Free Time. However, my own tax proposals also fit well with this issue.

Taking account of the number of hours people work would when calculating tax through my CLIPH-Rate Tax system would greatly improve the distribution of leisure-time in society without thereby discouraging people from working (as would other radical economic proposals).

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