The Economist’s new 1843 periodical asked me to write a short theme on that question, here is the result:
Work? What is work anyway? I’m a writer on economics and thus also a reader. I don’t find writing to be so hard, but I need something to write about and that means reading. For me, working more means reading more. And you know what? Working less also means reading more. It does however mean reading different things.
If I worked less, I would read more fiction and less non-fiction. Is that such a bad thing? Perhaps the fiction enriches me more as a human being, but I enjoy reading the non-fiction (including The Economist) just as much, sometimes more.
Plus I get paid, usually indirectly, for absorbing non-fiction material, playing with the ideas, and converting them into content for others. I enjoy earning that money, and spending it.
Also, most fiction isn’t that good. In fact, it isn’t even true. Or if it is true, it is true by coincidence or accident. That’s not a complaint, but I don’t see why I should give up cash income for the privilege of giving up reality. Can it be such a winning bargain to give up cash and reality at the same time? It’s not, and I won’t. Unless it’s Star Wars or Elena Ferrante.
Otherwise, see you at work.
Tyler Cowen, George Mason University
Here is the whole symposium, which includes Diane Coyle and Daniel Hamermesh. This was all inspired by Ryan Avent’s excellent recent essay on work-life balance.