Job’s worth: being cost effective in producing and consuming ever more things.
We need a new defining idea for political economy, writes Richard Douglas.
During Cheltenham Gold Cup week I bumped into a friend of mine in a pub. He’d taken a day’s leave to follow the racing and he was having a good day. I’m not a betting man so I asked him how he decided what to bet on. It all began, he explained, when he was a young man, working for a public sector body that I shall not name. In his office they’d usually have their work finished by early afternoon, and he would be sent down to the bookies to place bets for his boss. He’d learnt all about betting on the job — although that wasn’t his job.
Later that day, I was having dinner with my neighbour. She told me about how, during the school holidays, her mum, a bus conductor, would take her and her brother to work. They’d ride around London (free childcare, she supposed it was now) and then return to the bus garage, where they’d be fed at a great canteen, and enjoy the jokes of the crews. There was a strong camaraderie among the staff, she said; the whole garage would go to the seaside together in the summer.
There can’t be too many areas of the public sector where habitual pockets of slack time haven’t been squeezed out already.