It’s sadly ironic: Back in 1930, famed economist John Maynard Keynes predicted the American workforce would work just 15 hours a week, due mostly to technological innovations that created a world where we depended less on labor intensive, time-sucking methods of production and more on computerized machines. Julian Huxley, an evolutionary biologist, shared that same sentiment the very same year, calling a future with two-day workweeks “inevitable.” He wrote in the New York Times on November 17, 1930: “The human being can consume so much and no more. When we reach the point when the world produces all the goods that it needs in two days, as it inevitably will, we must curtail our production of goods and turn our attention to the great problem of what to do with our new leisure.”
That seems laughable now.
Since the 2008 economic crisis, most of those that still have jobs are working longer hours and longer into their golden years just to make ends meet, never mind a cushy retirement package. But at least there are jobs to be had in some parts of this country—a land of employable beings, yet one that hovers around 7.6% unemployment.
But how can I complain, really? At least I don’t live in Detroit—a city on the last legs of life support. In addition to serious unemployment woes, the city has experienced a 35% drop in home prices during the past three years (the average cost of a house is now $40,000), along with the highest crime rate in the country. Adding salt to a long-infected and festering wound, Forbes recently awarded Detroit the number one spot on its list of America’s most miserable cities for 2013. Ouch.
By the time August rolls around (if not sooner), I predict Detroit will have declared bankruptcy, making it the largest U.S. city to ever do so. And though that filing may save them from the teeth of some creditors, it’s hard to imagine how this will truly help them in the long run.