Sunday, January 13, 2013

The union label

An astounding tale from Philadelphia that reads like something out of the 1930s.

The only weak point occurs when the author attributes, as many do, things like the 40 hour work week to unions rather than to economic development. That leisure is a normal good (i.e. people buy more of it, implicitly in this case via fewer hours, as their incomes rise) is really the only explanation required.

Via instapundit


Michael said...

Sorry, but its simply a historical fact that workers movements are the drove legislation limiting on the work day that culminated in the 40 hour week. I don't know why I have to tell an educated person this, but read up on Robert Owen, the chartists, 19th Century French Socialism, blah blah blah.

There are lots of things that make perfect rational economic sense that don't/won't happen without conflict. In this case we have unions to thank for the 40 hour work week and saying otherwise is being obtuse.

econjeff said...

A more nuanced version would say that unions were sometimes the mechanism but never the root cause. That is surely true and the post would have been better had the nuance been there from the start.

The fact that the (private sector) unions have largely gone away in the US context, and were never there in other contexts, and yet limited work weeks appeared and/or continue, suggests that they are not the root cause.