Richard Nixon talked about a 4-day week in 1956

Recently in British magazine The Spectator, an article appeared explaining “Why Conservatives should support a four-day week.” I appreciated it because I think that if we move away from the idea that the 4-day week is the exclusive property of one party, it’ll spread faster; or at the very least, that it would be good if people on different parts of the political spectrum saw support for it as consistent with and advancing their larger policy aims.

So I was struck that way back in 1956, Richard Nixon gave a speech he “foresaw” in “the ‘not too distant future, a four-day work week and a fuller family life for every American. He said this would come about through continuation of the Administration’s economic policies.”

This was during a re-election campaign, and Nixon– a Republican, should anyone have forgotten– was making the case that his party and its policies would enable a shorter workweek. As the New York Times wrote in “NIXON FORESEES 4-DAY WORK WEEK; Says G.O.P. Policies Assure Fuller Life for Family:”

“These are not dreams of idle boasts— they are simple projections of the gains we have made in the last four years,” he asserted. “Our hope is to double everyone’s standard of living in ten years.”

To reach the “unbelievably prosperous” future he pictured, he set for these immediate goals:

    • “To wipe out the remaining pockets of distress and economic discrimination in the United States.”
    • “To wipe out the bitterness and class struggle” that he accused the Democrats of fostering.
    • “To promote a new way of life— better than we ever had before” by utilizing the forces of scientists and technicians so that “back-breaking toil and mind-wearying tension will be left to machines and electronic devices.”

According to the Times, Nixon also said that there was as yet

no name to describe his philosophy, he said, but added it had been described as “moderation of partnership, the new capitalism, the people’s capitalism or consumer capitalism.”

“Whatever it is, it is something new and far better than anything the world has ever seen before,” he added. “Communists are in awe of it. Visitors from older industrial countries are amazed at its results.”

Very interesting to look back on this after decades, and see how someone who saw themselves as quite conservative could embrace a 4-day week.

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