Do We Really Have a Choice: Beyond the Assumption of Consumption

Dave Wann
Publication date
April 2011
Corporate Responsibility in the Workplace
Free/Pay for content

Most Americans work full-time because they must. Part-time jobs typically have lower hourly pay and no benefits. Instead of using higher productivity at the national level to increase consumption, why not use it to reduce work hours?

Obviously, policy and design modifications can help give Americans a wider palette of choices.  The most sweeping – and critical – choice of all might be the choice between “your money or your life.” When the culture’s policy-makers unlocked the door marked “money,” they in effect barricaded the door marked “life.”




1.     U.S. Income Tax policy discourages saving and investing by taking a bite out of income.Solution:Lower income taxes and instead tax carbon-heavy fuels and technologies, as more than twenty EU countries already have.


2.     Mandatory 40-hour workweeks don’t offer workers the choice of trading less income for more time.Solution:Enact laws that guarantee equal pay for part-time workers, as many EU countries already have.


3.     Free parking at workplaces rewards driving but offers no incentives for alternatives such as walking, bicycling, and carpooling.Solution:give a stipend to all employees, rewarding non-drivers and letting drivers pay for parking.


4     Daycare tax credits assume that employees would rather pay for daycare than work less and care for their own children.Solution:Credit a fixed amount per U.S. child; let parents choose how to spend it.


5.     Flat-rate trash policies discourage recycling.Solution:Implement “pay as you throw” policies that charge by the volume of un-recycled trash, while pick-up of recycled goods is free.


6.     Current beverage container policies don’t reward recycling.Solution:Enact a federal “bottle bill” law, as eleven states already have.


7.     Suburban sprawl wastes time, money, land, and energy.Solution:Enact local, state, and federal policies that encourage public transit, compact development, and mixed-use zoning.