Market capitalism has achieved what Karl Marx always wanted

Market capitalism has achieved what Karl Marx always wanted, by Marian Tupy.

Marx believed the reduction of necessary labor time to be…an absolute necessity. He [claimed] … that real wealth is the developed productive force of all individuals. It is no longer the labor time but the disposable time that is the measure of wealth. …

The number of hours worked per day has fluctuated throughout human history. Based on their observations of extant hunter-gatherer societies, scholars estimate that our foraging ancestors worked anywhere between 2.8 hours and 7.6 hours per day.

Once they secured their food for the day, however, they stopped. The foragers’ workload was comparatively low, but so was their standard of living. Our ancestors’ wealth was limited to the weight of the possessions they could carry on their backs from one location to the next.

About 12,000 years ago, people started to settle down, cultivate crops and domesticate animals. The total number of hours worked rose, because people were willing to sacrifice free time in exchange for a more stable food supply. Since artificial lighting was prohibitively expensive, daylight regulated the amount of work that could be done on any given day.

In summer, most people worked between six and 10 hours in the fields and an additional three hours at home. In winter, shorter days limited the total number of work hours to eight. For religious reasons, Sunday was a day off and a plethora of feasts broke the monotony of agricultural life.

In 1830, the workweek in the industrialising West averaged about 70 hours or, Sundays’ excluded, 11.6 hours of work per day. By 1890 that fell to 60 hours per week or 10 hours per day. Thirty years later, the working week in advanced societies stood at 50 hours, or 8.3 hours per week.

Today, people in advanced societies work less than 40 hours per week on average. That still amounts to roughly 8 hours per day, because we don’t typically work on Saturdays. The “weekend” was born. …

Marx was wrong about many things. Famously, he thought that market competition would drive down profits, thus necessitating ever greater exploitation of the workers. … “When Marx died in 1883,” [Johan] Norberg writes, “the average Englishman was three times richer than he was when Marx was born, in 1818.” Blinded by his erroneous ideas, Marx could not see what was actually happening all around him.

hat-tip Matthew