Henry Ford’s thoughts on the economic value of leisure -totally ignored by today’s academic priesthood as we lungefrom one ill-fated job-creation scheme to another
Besides manufacturing cheap, reliable cars, Henry Ford was a principalcreator of the consumer mass market in the United States. He knew that, inorder to sell cars, he had to tap a market supported by adequate wages andadequate leisure for working people. The same people who build cars, he said,are the people who consume them. It was an ecological understanding quitebeyond the grasp of those who staff today’s economics departments or assumethe pundit’s role in the media.In this interview published in World’s Work magazine, Henry Ford explainswhy he is switching from a 6-day, 48-hour workweek to a 5-day, 40-hourworkweek in the Ford plants with no loss in pay. Leisure, he said, is anindispensable ingredient in a growing consumer market because working peopleneed to have enough free time to find uses for consumer products, includingautomobiles.Ford’s name is also associated with the enormous improvements in laborproductivity brought on by the automobile assembly line. Today we have otherproductivity-enhancing techniques; and it is mainly because of this that we as aconsumer society need to think of further reductions in work time for workingpeople. Either we do this or more people will be displaced from productive jobsand be reassigned to enterprises in government and elsewhere that do notprovide useful goods or services.