Gordon: "To engage in this debate in December 2009 requires that we play a fantasy game..."
It is fitting that Professor Gordon admits he is playing a fantasy game. To equate unemployment with vacation is a bizarre and callous fantasy. To equate market income per capita with standard of living is a strange and fantastic category mistake that could only be made by someone for whom "money is reality, while leisure is an empty spot in time devoid of wealth-producing activities."
But Professor Gordon crosses over the line from fantasy into delusion when he invokes the so-called "lump of labor fallacy" to disparage policies that encourage shorter hours of work. The fallacy claim is a weird concoction that many economists fancy to be their "knockout punch" against work time reduction. It consists of the bogus claim that advocates of shorter hours assume there is "a fixed amount of work to be done" regardless of labor costs, work arrangements, demographic trends or consumer demand. Advocates of work time reduction assume no such thing.
Policies to encourage shorter hours do not rely on any such ridiculous assumption. No economist has ever produced a coherent argument or substantive evidence to show that advocates assume a fixed amount of work or that policies rely upon such an assumption. All economists have done is repeat the assertion ad nauseum. Repetition doesn't make it so.
The lump of labor fallacy amounts to little more than schoolyard name-calling. But – and this is a crucial point – it is name calling with a long and very peculiar history that has nothing to do with economic analysis and everything to do with reactionary ideology and polemics. Professor Gordon is sadly unaware that this curious history of the lump-of-labor fallacy claim has been painstakingly documented (see "Why Economists Dislike a Lump of Labor" ).