August 17, 2013

What if #time were a lottery prize?

Survey after survey shows that, at least among the full-time employed, among developed nations, Americans work the most hours a week and most weeks, or weeks and fractions, per year of workers in any country.

Much of this likely stems from the old Protestant work ethic and its pop theology cousin, the success gospel, along with secularized variants. Some of it may be a population genetic bit, related to any genetics that drove the restless, the daring and others to become immigrants in America in the first place. (This of course vastly simplifies by ignoring Native Americans who were already here [although they, too, came from elsewhere], Africans brought here involuntarily as slaves, and Europeans sent here involuntarily as indentured servants.)

Anyway, the research numbers are out there. Full-time Americas work a couple hundred hours a year more than their equivalents in other developed nations.

And, we even have a saying related to this: "Time is money."

What if we were able to do a little social psychology research related to that?

What if states had a new lottery prize, per my header, of time? With adequate money to make the time enjoyable without financial stress. 

Let's put it something like this.

The winner of this prize is given either six months or one year of time off. To make sure everything's copacetic per my second statement, let's say the prize comes with money equal to either  six months or one year's income of the average of the top 1 percent, or even 1/10 of 1 percent.

In addition, combining both cash prize with time savings, and with encouragement to do something non-homebound with that free time, let's say the lottery department will auto-pay all the winner's bills over the period at hand. All utilities, auto lease or ownership payments, house payment or rent, various insurance bills., etc.

But, there's one catch.

The winner has to stop working during that six months or one year. (Since this is a thought experiment, we'll stipulate he or she automatically gets his or her old job back at the end of that time.)

Period. You cannot work during that time.

Also, volunteer work cannot be more than 20 hours a week, to make sure volunteering does not become an ersatz job. Ditto on going (back) to college.

In short, you're given the gift of (relatively) unadulterated time.

Or what seems like a gift.

Would many an American consider it a burden instead?

Let's narrow our thought experiment to Americans who are reasonably reflective and self-knowledgeable.

My off the top of my head guesstimate?

About 10 percent would be unsure about how much they like this.

About 80 percent, either in advance or just a few weeks after accepting the prize, would be horrified.

Only 10 percent would embrace it.

To riff on Marx, the American middle, or muddled, class has forged at least a few of its own chains.

I'd love to hear from friends with psychological or philosophical bent about their thoughts.

No comments: