As you may have noticed, there’s not been to much activity around here since the end of July. There won’t be much more until the first days of September: I am on my annual holiday period with the family.
This prompts a reflection about the nature of our societies and their relations to labour/work. It is presented as a grand socially progressive step forward that we have “more holidays”, a “shorter work week”, “shorter days”… And we are supposed to owe that to the forces of progress and the nice political personnel that embodies these forces (supposedly). This is absurd and a lie.
If we are freely selling our workforce to employers and they are freely purchasing that, or if we are self employed independent workers, do we need the state to bestow generously a number of days of holidays? Not really, we work when we need to, in order to make enough money to finance our plans. These plans could be investing to expand our productive activities, our dwellings, or our leisure. It is up to us to decide how much we need, what we prefer and what seems a good balance. Indeed if we work very little then we have long periods of leisure but not a lot of money to spend to make that leisure really enjoyable. On the other hand if we work a lot we sure have a lot of monies to spend but the time to do so and enjoy it becomes severely restricted. Where’s the right mix? Each one of us is the only person who can correctly estimate it. Not by a complex calculation but most likely by trial and error and constant adjustment since this “perfect mix” is bound to change over time and to change in a highly non-linear way at that.
So if we consider the notion of holidays from a rational perspective, not only should we NOT be grateful to the government and trade unions to have fixed a number of “resting days” but for about 99% of us we should be very ungrateful. Indeed, the current situation is bound to satisfy but the median individual, leaving about 49.9% of the population wishing they had more holidays, even if that means less money and 49.9% of the population wishing they had less holidays, even if that means “too much money” (hell, we have invented interest rates and investments to solve that problem of the optimal timing of consumption).
I, for example, have too many free days (so I mostly continue working during the “holidays”: students dissertations to review, papers to read, write, revise, but in a more relaxed way since that compounds with the need to look after the kids and so on) and would not complain if I had more money. Could I change that mix? Noooooo, it’s the law! Bad law!