Does Keynes still have the secret to happiness? And even for parents?

You must read this wonderful essay in aeon magazine from economist, John Quiggin – “The Golden Age: The 15-hour working week predicted by Keynes may soon be within our grasp – but are we ready for freedom from toil”.

Quiggin takes Keynes’ theory and in this essay fixes up some of the old oversights by talking about how happiness and money could be shared more equitably to include the marginalised like, stay at home parents, women, artists, the working poor and those who cannot (for a variety of reasons) work. After you have read this essay you will understand why capitalist feminism, which dominates in the USA, can frustrate me.

But far from weakening Keynes’s case against a money-driven society, the problems of caring for children illustrate the way in which our current economic order fails to deliver a good life, even for the groups who are doing relatively well in economic terms. The workplace structures that define a successful career today require the most labour from ‘prime-age’ workers aged between 25 and 50, the stage when the demands of caring for children are greatest.

Yes, the essay does have a bit of economics in it but I think it is all quite manageable, so don’t be put off, read on .. and if you’re having trouble with understanding any of it copy and paste the relevant bit into the comments below and I, or someone else here will try to ‘layperson’ the economics for you.

Cross-posted at blue milk.



Categories: economics, environment, ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, history, parenting, relationships, social justice, work and family

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8 replies

  1. Thanks for sharing the link to Quiggin’s essay – I read it a couple of days ago and it reminded me of how differently economic possibilities were viewed back in the late 70s up until the political dominance of the Chicago School “rationalism” successfully painted Keynesian theory as quaintly antique.
    The Chicago School stuff always struck me as rather intensely Othering, even before I knew the term.

  2. Yes, the essay does have a bit of economics in it but I think it is all quite manageable, so don’t be put off, read on ..

    Just a small criticism, sorry. I don’t think this is necessary (those who won’t find it interesting won’t read it, and many readers of Hoyden know who JQ is and where he’s coming from) and it feeds into the stereotype of feeble ladybrains. I know you didn’t mean that.

  3. Fair suggestion Helen. I re-posted this from my blog where I have written about/linked to universal minimum wage theory and similar before and readers have specifically told me that they’re really interested in the topic but put off by the economics. So, I was just pre-empting that and encouraging everyone. Readers of this blog are probably more well-versed in economics.

  4. I am not terribly well versed in economics, and have been rather leery of it ever since my brother studied it at uni and turned into a young liberal, despite being raised by the same protest-song-loving lefties the rest of my siblings were raised by.

    • Whereas studying economics totally reinforced my own bleeding-heart #destroythejoint leanings, because I was watching these famous professors overseas spout utter “economic rationalist” tosh and seeing senior politicans all around the world eating it up with a spoon, and wondering just why so many supposedly clever people couldn’t see the three-card-monty trick.
      Of course I decided that in high school, and got so disdainful that I didn’t study it further (formally). The problem is that economic theories make our politics go around (a huge philosophical shift of the twentieth century) and if we ignore economic theory we cut ourselves out of a huge part of the political conversation.

  5. And when I say liberal, I mean the political party, and not the “small l liberal”.

  6. My major objection to economics as the cornerstone of our political thinking is that the majority of economics is impractical at absolute best, unapplicable in general, and pure fairyland at worst. There is absolutely no effort made to match up the thinking with reality – instead, a lot of effort is spent attempting to make reality match up with their thinking. Politics is “the art of the possible”; economics can be said to be “the art of what should be”, and there’s very little effort made to find out whether “what should be” actually exists out there in the wild (something every other science, including all the other social sciences, is required to do as a standard part of the process).
    I suppose at least some of my disdain for economic thinking is based on envy. After all, my more delusional rantings tend to be ignored…

    • My major objection to economics as the cornerstone of our political thinking is that the majority of economics is impractical at absolute best, unapplicable in general, and pure fairyland at worst.

      This strikes me as a point where reinforcing the distinctions between macro- and micro- economics might be useful, with a side note on the effectiveness of certain aspects of monetary policy. Micro-economics strikes me as mostly on pretty solid ground when it comes to matching concepts/theory with the reality of trends within discrete sectors of the market, and this is where targeted stimuli aimed at changing a specific tendency have the most potential for working as desired. There’s quite a lot about monetary theory and adjusting one factor to modify another factor which is fairly well understood and mostly works pretty well. Where the big mismatch occurs is in the macro-economic arena, where the messiness of the culture wars surrounding the winning of elections seems to obscure both the strengths and the weaknesses of macro modelling with the smog of ideological overlays, resulting in insufficient rigor and unrealistic claims.

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