Archive for September, 2011

Work-life balance? Apparently we’ve never had it so good…

An interesting graph was uploaded to the Adam Smith Institute website recently, which at face value appears to show that we’ve never had it so good in terms of work-life balance:

Working hours per year has fallen consistently over the last 50 years across the world

No surprises regarding this chart in some respects. For example, advances in technology and overall wealth have led to a reduction in work hours across the board over the last 50 years. It’s also no surprise that people work longest overall in the US; one of the major reasons I have never wanted to work there – either in my days as a lab researcher or in my current career – has always been the unreasonable hours (particularly when on a fixed salary) and the relative lack of annual vacation.

One thing doesn’t seem right to me though – apparently the average UK annual working hours total is ~1700, which roughly equates to a 35-hour week over 48 weeks. Really…? In the Pharmaceutical industry at least, I don’t think anyone (outside of London anyway) works that few hours; based on discussions with friends in a variety of other service and financial industries, the same is true for them at well. Since the graph above is an average across the country, there must therefore be a lot of people who work a lot less than a 35-hour week…

Anyway, perhaps we should all move to Norway – bracing weather, beautiful landscapes, and plenty of leisure time to enjoy it all in…


The illiberal nature of passports

All too frequent hour-long queues at passport control

In these days of global trade and supposed free movement of people, it’s amazing that we still have – and continue to put up with – the ridiculous ritual of passport control. The obsolete technology, the humorless border police, the queues, the ban on use of mobile phones or cameras in the hall (why?!) – all these contribute to making sure that your very first impression of the country you’ve just entered is a bad one.

I was therefore first surprised, and then increasingly annoyed, by finding out from an article entitled “Passport to the Total State” that passports are a relatively recent invention, were until even more recently a voluntary document, and were originally developed to help those who carried them:

A passport is where the security theater begins. Indeed, without a passport those who wish to fly or cross a border are not “allowed” to be scanned, searched, interrogated, or undergo a plethora of other indignities imposed by uniformed thugs. The hoops through which passport carriers jump are all prelude to “permitting” them to exercise a right belonging to every freeborn person: the right to travel.

America and the world were not always this way. It is important to remember that there once was a world in which people traveled freely across borders without paperwork to visit families, pursue education, conduct business, and mingle. Freedom worked once. It enriched the world economically, culturally, and psychologically.

The passport has grown into what is arguably the single most powerful tool of totalitarian America, second only to law enforcement itself. It no longer pretends to protect individuals; not a single terrorist has been apprehended as a result of passport checks. But it does cement the totalitarian state. The mandatory passport should be reviled and rejected as an abuse of human rights and common decency. A nation that requires one cannot be free.

The passport is yet another part of our everyday lives that, along with Big Government, tax, inflation, war and a host of other things, we accept as completely normal.