Why Not a Three-Day Week?


In 1930, John Maynard Keynes posed a question about the economic future of society: “What can we reasonably expect the level of our economic life to be, a hundred years hence? What are the economic possibilities for our grandchildren?” To Keynes, the answer was clear: the rapid accumulation of capital, combined with technological advances, had already, by his estimates, improved the average quality of life in the West fourfold since the Industrial Revolution, and there was no reason why that trend shouldn’t continue. “I would predict that the standard of life in progressive countries one hundred years hence will be between four and eight times as high as it is to-day,” he wrote. The potent combination of technology and capital would render most material-based concerns irrelevant; people would no longer have to worry about basic problems of survival. One result would be an unprecedented abundance of leisure time, which would present a new problem for the average human: “How to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.”