Most Americans share the belief expressed in the Declaration of Independence that all U.S. citizens are guaranteed the right to life, liberty and the
pursuit of happiness. Implicit in the Constitution and Bill of Rights is the idea that every human being has a right to a life; a life in which they
have choices, are free to choose, and are free to determine their life's direction without coercion. And what are our lives but time? Time cannot be
banked for future use: each moment must be utilized at the instant of its creation or be lost forever. That is why time is our most precious
commodity, to be surrendered neither lightly nor uncompensated.
The most fundamental freedom, the one freedom without which all others lose their meaning, is the freedom to choose how we spend our time. But
time and choice is what we are deprived of when every moment is driven and absorbed by the need to survive economically and to comply with government
demands. The freedom to participate in a democracy means nothing if the time necessary to consider the options before us is lacking. The social
contract that has evolved in this nation has done so on an ad hoc basis driven primarily by and for business interests without much regard for the
rights of the other citizens expressed in and implied by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Businesses are really just people, ordinary citizens
once removed. Business interests, therefore, are people's interests. Stated another way, generations of citizens who own businesses have used the
apparatus of government to create an economic and legal framework that is primarily arranged to meet their families' personal economic and time-based
needs and desires at the expense of those of all others.
The world is a far more demanding and complex place than when the work week was set at forty hours some eighty years ago; who will debate this?
Since then, the time required to fulfill the obligations of citizenship has grown. The time necessary to do proper research to make sound economic
decisions has grown. The time investment demanded to maintain economic competitiveness has grown. The time essential to properly raise and supervise
children has grown. But the amount of time available is rigid: no fiat of business or government can lengthen the day. It is far past time to redress
the neglect of the time needs of the non-business class citizen. It is time for a dispassionate in-depth analysis of the time available to citizens
and how that amount is consumed by the needs, obligations, and rewards of living the American life, and come to a reasonable, rational, and equitable
balance between the needs of the individual, the economy, and the government. It is time to restructure our society in a manner that makes economic
and chronological sense for the majority of citizens, not just an elite few.
There are twenty-four hours in a day.
Seven days in a week.
Fifty-two weeks in a year.
About seventy-five to one hundred years in a life.
These are the strictures that frame the debate. Who owns this time? Who has first rights upon it? Who controls how it is used? Is it business
first? Does government at all levels have the right to first claim on a citizen's time? Does the individual citizen own the moments of his or her own
life? There are nuances to these basic questions that address the balance between these competing forces: if one or the other has first rights, to
what extant do they have them? How much time under what circumstances?
These are not imponderable philosophical questions. Neither are they impossible to answer. They are basic questions of governance that can be
addressed in a logical, scientific, and provable manner because there are, indeed, twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week, fifty-two weeks
in a year, and about seventy-five to one hundred years in a life. Because those numbers are measured, anything that fills them can be measured against
Some among us would argue that without an economy, nothing is possible, and therefore the needs of business must come first, or at least weigh
most heavily in the balance. They would be justified to a certain extent: the economy is important. But is “the economy” the master of society or
its servant? Is it the purpose of society to further the economy, or should the economy benefit society? It would help here to know what we mean when
we talk about it, however: what exactly is “the economy”?
In one aspect, it is the total collective economic interactions of the populace of the nation. That is the definition normally used by
business interests when describing their economic proposals to the general populace. That is too broad a definition to be useful in this discussion,
though, and is in point of fact not the one used by those who lobby the government for funding and legal control structures. The economy they describe
to legislators consists of the specific economic interests of those who employ them. Over time the regulatory and legal system more and more has
become symbiotic with business interests, those business interests being the personal financial concerns of those who can afford to hire lobbyists to
promote their vision of what the regulations pertaining to their particular segment of the economy should be. In the end, arguing that the individual
must arrange his or her life and time to meet the best interests of “the economy” translates into arguing that majority must submit to the
economic dictates and benefits of a minority of fellow citizens.
Surely that isn't what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they framed the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Just as surely they never envisioned a time when business would expand to fill every moment of every day and eventually attempt to supplant the
government itself. But by dint of the majority of people minding their own business while ignoring government to the greatest extant possible we have
arrived in this over-stressed, over-tired, under-compensated and time-deprived society run by business interests through elected proxies in the best
interests of “the economy”. A minority of our fellow citizens has gradually, through law and regulations, usurped control of our individual lives
for their private benefit. They haven't necessarily done this as a consciously evil plot: rather it is simply how the system has evolved with
individuals looking out for their own best economic interests. Their collective attitude is best summed up in Charles E. Wilson's once famous but
incorrect claim that “What's good for General Motors is good for America”. But I submit that it is a system out of balance with the needs of the
nation and the majority of its citizens, and needn't be blindly supported unchanged..
Some might say the government has first rights, and under some circumstances they would be correct. For instance, if the government were to
institute a draft it would be exerting those first rights, and the vast majority of the citizenry would agree and comply if they felt the purpose
justified. A demand to appear in court most certainly co-opts an individual's time. A good citizen votes knowledgeably and pays attention to local,
state, federal, and international issues so as to be reasonably able to judge the candidates' fitness for the offices they seek. A solid case exists
for the primacy of governmental time rights.
But the true answer for Americans must be that the individual owns this time and has first rights to it and that neither government nor
business has the right to force citizens and workers into time bankruptcy. To argue otherwise is to deny all that America is about.
To properly set up a budget, first you must define what you are budgeting for, and then match the budget requirements to the resources available
to meet them. So far as the available resources go, we know the bounds of those. But what budget categories should we define? We have seen that two
groups demand their share, if not all, of our time resources: business and government. Between them they leave little room for other recognized
First of the other categories is family. Unless one is an orphan working in extreme isolation we all of us have families, of blood or
friendship, with whom we share mutual supportive obligations that society recognizes as valid and necessary.
The second of the other recognized categories is spiritual: organized, disorganized, or cult, we have long since acknowledged that the
spiritual realm is legitimate place for an individual to invest their time, and without some time investment in it there is a strong possibility of
The third category is that of business and economics: earning/making a living.
The fourth is that of government: time spent complying with mandated activities.
The fifth and final recognized category is probably the original category, that of personal time, despite its being more honored in the
breach than the reality in our current society.
Having defined the categories and resources, how then to spend the time budget? Just like any other budget: basic needs first. Start with
sleep. A citizen should have the right to eight hours of sleep a night. After all, isn't that what is the doctor ordered? Numerous studies, medical,
economic, and traffic, point out the direct costs of excessive fatigue in the form of poor health, shorter lives, decreased workplace safety and
productivity, more traffic accidents, medical mistakes, and overall reduction in good judgment.
All the arguments arrayed to justify social controls upon private behavior in the interests of increased public safety would seem to apply to
ensuring that each citizen has the right to a full night's sleep. That leaves sixteen hours a day. One must cook or acquire, eat, and clean up
afterwards. Is three-quarters of an hour per meal too much to ask?
That leaves fourteen and a half hours. To stay healthy one must stay clean and tend to various bodily needs. Is an hour a day sufficient for personal
grooming and bathroom time? That leaves thirteen and a half hours. America supposedly cherishes family values...is an hour a day too much to ask for
"family" time? Not family business...that is a different issue. Family time is time enjoyably shared with one's family, whether that family is related
by blood or friendship to maintain the bonds necessary for social cohesion. Family time is one the things that makes going to work worthwhile in the
first place. That leaves twelve and a half hours per day. There are bills to pay, banking, clothes and food to buy, housework, laundry, get gas,
medical needs, etc. That is family maintenance time, again, an absolute necessity. Is two hours a day sufficient for these purposes? Ten and a half
hours left. That covers basic needs.
Next comes what government requires: the time burden of good citizenship. Few, if any, time management studies take this aspect of time demands
into consideration. Taxes must be calculated and paid, licenses applied for, vehicle insurance acquired and vehicle registration completed. Will an
average of fifteen minutes a day average cover standing in all the lines government requires? Ten hours five minutes. Citizens are exhorted to pay
attention to what's happening in state, local and federal government and get involved. If they don't they are told the results are their own fault for
inattention. Political issues and proposed legislation must be examined, considered, and decided. Candidates and their positions must be researched.
Is an hour a day enough to pay proper attention to self-government? Nine hours five minutes. The government can take children from a home for neglect.
Schools complain about lack of parental involvement. Is an hour a day enough to fulfill parental obligations to ensure that their children succeed in
school, don't bother the neighbors or drag on the economy? Eight hours, five minutes. Perhaps that covers legally required government obligations.
That might look like eight hours and five minutes a day left for business purposes, but work-related overhead hasn't been calculated yet. First
comes commute time: for most commuters this means about hour a day five days a week, counting from leaving your front door to clocking in.
Note that these links provide one-way commute times. Seven hours, five minutes per day left. Next is education. In order to stay competitive and
maintain value to an employer one needs to stay current in one's respective field. If one wishes to improve their economic value then more time must
be invested than that required merely to stay current. An hour a day is insufficient, but available time is growing short. There are six hours and
five minutes a day left. Just a shade over forty-two hours a week. Should business purposes be allowed to consume all this time? Where is the personal
time, the regenerative time, the time devoted to the exercise of faith, the time devoted to eldercare, the time to read, to think and to reflect?
Where is the time that makes all the stress and work worthwhile? A citizen should be entitled to two hours a day for these purposes. That leaves four
hours and five minutes a day for commercial business purposes: twenty-eight hours and 35 minutes a week. That would represent a proper balance.
But at current wage scales that leaves a money deficit; already working full time at minimum wage doesn't come close to matching the cost of
living. Therefore the minimum wage should be set to match the minimum cost of living based upon a thirty hour week. A business that fails to pay
living wages places the burden of the deficit upon other taxpayers for all the absolute needs the minimum cost of living requires, and helps create
the conditions that breed criminal behavior. No matter what time/wage base is used, the gap between minimum wage and the minimum cost of living is a
hidden subsidy of business that drains our economy to the somewhat benefit of the business class; somewhat because the gap deprives business of access
to a huge potential market and raises the cost of doing business through the taxes necessary to deal with poverty and poverty-related crime. Raise the
minimum wage and suddenly there is a thriving economy in which people are empowered to buy that which they couldn't previously afford. Raise the
minimum wage to meet the minimum cost of living and the size of the off-the-books untaxed economy is sharply reduced. Raise the minimum wage to meet
the minimum cost of living and the amount of poverty-related crime is drastically reduced. Few people are willing to risk criminal behavior if their
basic needs are being met through honest work. Raise the minimum wage to meet the minimum cost of living and the number of citizens paying taxes
explodes, allowing the individual tax burden to be reduced.
Although business will protest that such a scheme is inefficient and too expensive, the issues of comparative efficiencies and expenses are never
raised. What is efficient for a single business within the context of its market segment is not efficient for a nation. Maximum business efficiencies
usually entail eliminating redundancies within the economy: just-in-time delivery, minimum stock on hand, fewer competitors, the cost savings
associated with consolidation. But what is good for a business in isolation can be bad or fatal for the nation as a whole, because such a model
assumes minimal disruptions to the supply chain. With fewer suppliers, manufacturers and distributors, choke points emerge that make easy targets for
terrorists, natural disasters, and foreign competitors. For business, redundancies are bad; for a nation, they are insurance. Is it better for the
nation if more tax-paying citizens are employed at a living wage, or for many to be chronically unemployed or under-employed thus not only reducing
the tax base but also requiring state assistance to survive? Is it more efficient to have more people productively employed or to have the same people
unproductively jailed for doing whatever they must to survive economically, even if it involves breaking laws?
edit on 22-2-2011 by apacheman
edit on 22-2-2011 by apacheman because: clarity, ease of read
edit on 22-2-2011 by apacheman because: