The people who consume the bulk of goods are the people who make them. That is a fact we must never forget — that is the secret of our prosperity we must largely reckon with — the positive industrial value of leisure, because it increases consumption.
The industry of this country could not long exist if factories generally went back to the ten hour day, because the people would not have the time to consume the goods produced. For instance, a factory worker would have little use for an automobile if he had to be in the shops from dawn until dusk. And that would react in countless directions, for the automobile, by enabling people to get about quickly and easily, gives them a chance to find out what is going on in the world, which leads them to a larger life that requires more food, more and better goods, more books, more music — more of everything.
The hours of labor are regulated by the organization of work and by nothing else.
Where people work longest and with least leisure, they buy the fewest goods. No towns were so poor as those of England where the people, from children up, worked fifteen and sixteen hours a day. They were poor because these overworked people soon wore out — they became less and less valuable as workers. Therefore, they earned less and less and could buy less and less.
Business is the exchange of goods. Goods are bought only as they meet needs. Needs are filled only as they are felt. They make themselves felt largely in leisure hours. Think how restricted business is where both men and women still work all day long! They have no time to let the needs of their lives be felt. They have no leisure to buy. They do not expand.
This increased consumption will require greater production than we now have. Instead of business being slowed up because the people are ‘off work,’ it will be speeded up, because the people consume more in their leisure than in their working time. This will lead to more work. And this to more profits. And this to more wages. The result of more leisure will be the exact opposite of what most people might suppose it to be.”
NOTE: While this is very applicable business philosophy for today — it makes me think of ideas like ROWE or coworking which are redefining how our work intersects with leisure — the above article was actually made from select paragraphs excerpted from a longer article found in The World’s Work Volume 52, published in 1926.
This is an interview with Mr. Henry Ford, transcribed by Samuel Crowther who was a contributor to Ford’s autobiography My Life and Work. I edited the prose a bit to make it gender-inclusive and easier to read.
ALSO: Seth Godin just wrote a piece with some extremely similar threads. Check out his blog post What Does ‘Pro-Business’ Mean? here.