"The eight hours day is usually preached both with most fervour and with most success as a gospel for the unemployed. No other argument has been so prominent or so influential in the present movement as the promise of mitigating and perhaps extinguishing that most unnatural of our social maladies, the unwilling idleness of willing hands. Nor is this any wonder, for what can be more captivating thant the hope of seeing that troublesome malady become as obsolete as the plague? and what can at first sight appear either a surer or an easier way of making work for the idle than cutting a few hours off the work of the busy? The work seems already found and nothing to remain but count in the men to do it. It is a simple sum in arithmetic. If 5,000,000 labourers do each twelve hours a week less work than they do now, how many supplementary labourers must you call in at 48 hours a week to supply the 60,000,000 hours' service which the original staff have ceased to render? . . ."
"Now all this is entirely illusory. It stands in absolute contradiction to our now very abundent experience of the real effects of shortening the hours of labour, and it stands in absolute contradiction to the natural operation of economic forces to which it professes to appeal; and the illusion arises (1st) from simply not observing or apparently caring to observe the important alteration which the introduction of shorter hours itself exerts on the productive capacity of the workpeople; and (2nd) from yielding to the gross but evidently very seductive economic fallacy, which leads so many persons to think that they will all increase the wealth they individually enjoy by all diminishing the wealth they individually produce, and to look for a great absorption of the unemployed to flow from a general restriction of production, the very thing which in reality would have the opposite effect of reducing the demand for labour, and throwing multitudes more out of employ."
[Return to the Prosperity Covenant]