Patterico's Pontifications


More Bunk from Comrade Bernard

Filed under: General — JVW @ 7:06 am

[guest post by JVW]

I first encountered this last month in The Spectator but didn’t bother to write about it, but now that National Review has fleshed it out in greater detail I think this is a good opportunity to discuss Senator Bernard Sanders’ (Democrat Socialist – Vermont) truly batty idea to use federal legislation to lower the workweek from 40 to 32 hours while requiring that companies keep workers’ wages at the current levels. In other words, Lunchpail Larry and Hairnet Heidi would receive their current paycheck for working only 80% of their current workload. Overtime pay would begin on the worker’s thirty-third weekly hour, not the forty-first weekly hour spelled out in current law.

I don’t have to tell readers of this blog (with perhaps a few exceptions) what an ignorant and truly fanciful idea this is. We’ve known for a long time that the Granite State Gramsci was an economic dunderhead, a freeloader who has spent most of his adult life on the public payroll, an ideologue who has zero clue as to how private enterprise works and who labors (but not really) under a Marxist assumption that economic nirvana comes about when workers are paid more to accomplish less. To be fair, if I had drawn a legislator’s paycheck for most of my life I might be inclined to believe the same, but that’s a discussion for another time.

It doesn’t really faze me much to know that we have a United States Senator so woefully ignorant in the working of markets, so easily swayed by garbage academic studies conducted by disingenuous hacks intent upon muddying the waters with half-baked nonsense, so smugly certain of government’s ability to discover and implement the perfect solution to all that ails us. But let’s not discuss Elizabeth Warren just now, and please allow me keep the attention upon the elderly Maple Syrup Maoist. Bernard Sanders is a particular kind of useless, a shallow thinker recycling ideas that have failed elsewhere for the past 150 years as well as a rank phony and utter hypocrite living the high life while pretending to be a man of the people, even as the fruits of his ideology ensure that the people suffer from oppressive government. Writing at The Spectator, Charles Lipson sees no end to unintended consequences of Comrade Sanders’ meddling:

What do you think would actually happen if such Bernie’s law were passed, enforced and found constitutional? (None of those would actually happen, of course.) The immediate effects would be another 25 percent price increase for labor-intensive products, a huge burden on low-income consumers and an additional incentive to replace more expensive workers with machines and computers.

The substitution of capital for labor is an on-going process, but Bernie would supercharge the effort and create incentives for innovators to come up with products, machines and computer programs that performed those tasks at lower costs. The more expensive the tasks, the greater incentive to figure out ways to save money on them.

Bernie’s Magic Pay Raise would create a major incentive to hire people off-the-books (for the true market price) or to have them work extra hours that way. It would create new incentives for employers to hire workers as individual subcontractors, rather than wage workers. And, of course, it would lead to tens of thousands of court cases where employees were sued for violating the new wage rules. Since the wages would be above market rates (otherwise there would be no need for a mandate), the yearly increases would lag inflation so that real wages would gradually return to market rates.

Just so, and the ability of progressives to ignore the pretty obvious unintended consequences of their nutso legislative daydreams speaks to either cluelessness or dishonesty, or perhaps even both. For his part, Kevin Hassett at National Review eviscerates the “academic” studies used to bolster the insipid case for less work at the same wage:

As for the workweek, the 2023 study that has been cited extensively in the media was performed by researchers from Boston College, the University of Cambridge, and a self-described “progressive” think tank based in the U.K. called Autonomy. The study’s key finding is that 92 percent of the 61 surveyed companies (which were all in Britain) reported that they were continuing the four-day workweek after a six-month trial in 2022, and 18 companies said that this change would be permanent. For the 24 companies that supplied sufficient data, revenues on average went up 35 percent over a comparable period in a previous year.

How could the results be so positive? One sign is that the participating companies (11 percent of which were charities or non-profits) do not appear to have been randomly selected for the trial, but rather were “recruited.” In other words, the study examines the impact of the four-day workweek on companies that wanted to try it. A sign of possible sample-selection bias can be seen in a footnote disclosing that, “Initially, 70 companies had signed up to take part in the pilot — however, 9 of these did not begin the trial.” The most common reason for this was “a sense that the organization was not sufficiently prepared. . . . Other reasons include[d] difficulties measuring performance in some departments, struggles with the ‘great resignation,’ and two companies who decided shorter working hours were not right for them.” Of course, companies that really need workers to show up for the full five days would not have signed up in the first place.

Imagine you are considering a new weight-loss pill which claims to yield the most productive results yet observed. Would you be interested in knowing if the 100 people who had tested the regimen were volunteers who had eagerly signed up for the study and perhaps — just perhaps — had also at the same time instituted of regimen of healthier eating and moderate exercise, versus 100 people who were forced into the study and might resent having to participate? Doesn’t this seem similar to hand-selecting 61 eager companies willing to try out a 32 hour week versus foisting it upon the entire business world irrespective of participant buy-in?

And when you dig into the study, plenty more red flags emerge. In addition to the self-described “progressive” think tank, the study was conducted with the help of a New Zealand-based company called 4 Day Global and a UK outfit known as 4 Day Week Campaign. I don’t know about you, but those names make me suspect that both groups had incentive to ensure that the 32-hour workweek was successful. They recruited 70 companies for the pilot, but nine of them apparently couldn’t get their shit together and had to bow out, suggesting that the transition isn’t particularly easy to implement in all cases. Furthermore, the survey admits that “between 44-51 [participating organizations] provided survey data for the performance analysis of this report.” Excuse me? What the hell happened to the other 9-16 companies? And what does it tell us that they can’t even zero in on a precise number between 44 and 51? “Well, it might have been 44 organizations, but it could have been 46 or 48, perhaps 49 or 51.” What sort of data collection nonsense did these clowns employ? Presumably they mean that there were three separate phases of data collection, and not all organizations participated in each phase. Is this study starting to sound more and more like utter junk?

Finally, what if a mere three of the 61 participants had a really bad experience and ended up closing shop or laying off employees. After all, there are apparently at least ten participants who gave no data at all, and five participants confirmed that they no longer organize around a 32-hour workweek. And remember that these are companies who wanted to be a part of this study. If just three of them closed or had significant layoffs, you’re looking at anywhere up to five percent of employees in the study losing their jobs because of the shift to a 32-hour workweek (assuming that the size of the organizations is averaged across all participants). If that failure rate was the norm and if moving to a 32-hour workweek jumped the U.S. unemployment rate from the current 3.8% up to 8.8% in just one year’s time, would that really be considered an acceptable consequence of giving people one more day off per week? Given the smallish size of this study, the fact that the researchers don’t have a full picture of what happened to every single participant again speaks to the shoddiness of the methodology and the unreliability of this whole endeavor.

Thanks to some apparent skittishness among Senate Democrats at considering this bill in an election year and the fact that the House is at least nominally still under the control of the GOP, we can be reasonably sure that the 32-hour workweek isn’t coming any time soon. But today’s socialist flights of fancy have a crazy tendency to end up being tomorrow’s standard Democrat orthodoxy, so look for this crackpot Vermonter’s idea to be around long after the old codger has shuffled off to the one place where socialism actually works.


14 Responses to “More Bunk from Comrade Bernard”

  1. Inflation is already inching upward, unexpectedly, after CA forced fast food prices to rise.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  2. Bernie Sanders and his wife took their honeymoon in Leonid Brezhnev’s worker’s utopia. I guess they were tired of the same 5 blocks in Havana.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  3. A number of cities have already gone to a 4-day week for employees, at least every other week. To save energy, of course.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

  4. A number of cities have already gone to a 4-day week for employees, at least every other week. To save energy, of course.

    I’m totally fine with companies decided on their own to implement a 32-hour week, or moving to a model of four ten-hour days (though there would be some issues with anyone who currently is on a five-day eight-out model being suddenly involuntarily compelled into a four-day ten-hour model), but I am dead set against government mandating such an arrangement.

    JVW (b02843)

  5. What’s especially curious about Sanders and the Green Mountain State is that Vermont has a very popular — and sensible — Republican governor, Phil Scott.

    Jim Miller (e96cbf)

  6. Bernie is the epitome of a well-meaning person who has studied too much philosophy, and not enough economics.

    norcal (f55616)

  7. zDid the UK experiment involve a de facto wage hike, or just shorter work week? IN any case the biggest difficulty evidently was logistics and it did involve an increase in productivity per hour, which is sometimes possible, when a lot of slack has grown in.

    Sammy Finkelman (c2c77e)

  8. What’s especially curious about Sanders and the Green Mountain State is that Vermont has a very popular — and sensible — Republican governor, Phil Scott.

    I have a theory about that. States like Massachusetts and Vermont (but alas, not really California or New York any longer) are fine with electing Republican executives in order to prevent the dominant legislative Democrats from going hog wild on left-wing nonsense. Vermont already embarrassed itself by passing a single-payer health plan under a Democrat governor, which they then had to publicly kill once it became clear that it was ridiculously unaffordable. Same thing goes in Massachusetts: Democrat legislators and a Democrat governor screw things up royally by blowing out the budget and overseeing corruption in state government, so then Bay State voters finally get tired of it and elect a Republican governor to force Beacon Hill to mend its wayward ways. I guess that Republican states like Kansas and Kentucky which routinely elect Democrat governors might be operating under the same principle.

    JVW (b02843)

  9. I guess that Republican states like Kansas and Kentucky which routinely elect Democrat governors might be operating under the same principle.

    JVW (b02843) — 4/12/2024 @ 6:08 pm

    Alas, Utah is as mono-party as California, only it’s the Republican Party. Still better than California, but mono-party isn’t healthy long term.

    norcal (52f585)

  10. Comrad bernard will be a moderate to whats coming even AOC is being attacked by young leftists for not being radical enough! I used to be on the hard left ;but they are passing me by. At least I have my young race girls to root for. Good luck to Haile Deegan and Katie Hettinger tomorrow even though Deegans is a trump supporter. For some reason most race girls are trump supporters.

    asset (456552)

  11. Here in Nevada, living between California and Utah, I have clowns to the left of me, and jokers to the right. 😀

    norcal (52f585)

  12. At least I have my young race girls to root for.

    “Race girls” is pretty telling. Kind of like how R&B music was referred to as “race music” in the 1950s. Very telling, asset. We learn more about your mindset all of the time.

    JVW (b02843)

  13. @12 most of the race girls I follow or under 18. Hailie Deegan is 22 ;but Katie Hettinger is 16. Iam 74 so they are young to me. I started following Deegan when she raced at 16. Wish them luck tomorrow that the punks don’t wreck them again.

    asset (456552)

  14. I’m totally fine with companies decided on their own to implement a 32-hour week

    Not quite the same thing when it’s government employees deciding to work less without asking their real bosses.

    Kevin M (a9545f)

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