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“So does that mean I can sleep with your girlfriend?”, A blog about the leisure time deficit.

March 29, 2013

This blog deals with the notion that it is just to re-balance inequalities. There is a tendency in the press and in political commentary to suggest that wealth inequality is a bad thing, the implication being that individual wealth differences ought to be ironed out. To counter this view, this blog sets out why such a view is flawed without wider consideration and asks the question: Why is the inequality of wealth or income the only variable  that seems to be at issue – surely if one is upset about inequality, that must run across the spectrum of all human activity?

Imagine two boys, Bill and Ben. (This blog could quite easily be re-written Bina and Bella so should be read as gender neutral). Bill and Ben went to school together from the age of 4. Bill was a quiet hard working boy who didn’t socialise well. He spent his youth mostly in his room studying and preparing for exams. By the time he finished high school, his performance reflected his efforts and he won a place at a top university. He continued to work hard and eventually took a job at a demanding Management Consultancy firm. Although the hours were extremely long, Bill’s ambition led him to earn £120,000 salary for a 60 hour week. Bill never had anytime to meet anyone nor had anytime for leisure.

Ben was not a hard working boy. He loved to have fun and took every opportunity to ignore the pressures of work. Ben was, however, very good at partying. When Ben finished high school, he wasn’t able to win a place at university as he didn’t get the right grades. He still, however, managed to have great fun and was very successful finding girlfriends unlike his erstwhile classmate Bill. Ben eventually took a job on £15,000 p.a. for a 20 hour week – for the rest of the week, Ben preferred to take his time as leisure.

According to our political masters and left leaning socialistic inclined commentators for example:

the richest should bear the “broadest shoulders bear the greatest burden. It isn’t however, clear why this should be the case and if it is the case why should it be restricted to taxing individual income?

In the case of Bill and Ben, HMRC would seek to confiscate around 40% of Bill’s income leaving him with a net take home of  around 60% of his gross salary. Ben, on the other hand only contributes around 14% of his income leaving him with 86% of his gross salary. Under the current Housing Benefit regime, however, Ben is also entitled to claim more than £12,700 in housing allowance which more or less doubles his net take home.

To review, Bill’s hard work, dedication and efforts lead the HMRC to take around 40% of his income. Ben’s relaxed approach to work and effort lead him to be awarded a 100% net pay rise. This is in the name of “equality and fairness”.

What the analysis doesn’t take into account is the amount of leisure time that the respective parties have enjoyed over their lifetime. Whilst Bill toils until beyond midnight for his company, Ben finishes work at around 3 in the afternoon and enjoys sitting in the pub with his friends. Ben has enjoyed a great social life.

Would Ben’s greater ability to, for example, find girlfriends not be an apt matter for the socialist to consider as something that ought to be equalised? Of course, it would be easy to counter this argument with the fact that interpersonal relationships are contingent upon a dynamic that isn’t apt for state intervention. This argument, however, falls rather flat when one considers that the leisure time that leads to the availability of a social life is measurable.

The principle that leisure time or “non working time” isn’t considered by the state is a travesty for incentive, hard word and entrepreneuralism in the UK and elsewhere. If “justice, fairness and equality” is the cry of the re-distributors, perhaps they ought to consider the leisure time deficit of those higher earners who pretty much give up their time to their work.


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