I recently ran across a couple of interesting blog posts which gave me something to think about. In 1966 it took over 120 hours of work at the average hourly wage to make enough money to buy an oven ($330). At today’s average hourly wage working 120 hours a person would earn enough to furnish a kitchen and laundry room with 8 new appliances: a stove, washing machine, dryer, chest freezer, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher and blender. See the details HERE.
Another blogger notes that thanks to the internet it has become cheap to keep ourselves entertained, and that maybe folks just don’t need to work as much anymore to get the things that make them content.
To a point I agree with these guys. It really should take less work now to meet basic needs than it once did. We really should be able to enjoy more leisure once our basic needs (including entertainment) are met. But sadly the reality seems to be that once we attain a particular level of material well-being, we tend to define the level necessary for contentment as the one we have not yet reached. In other words, contentment is always something we place just beyond our reach, guaranteeing perpetual discontent.
I’ve blogged on the subject of contentment frequently. One example was with respect to the ever growing size of our homes (HERE). In 1970 the average new home size was 1500 square feet. Today, despite the fact that families are smaller, the average new home is over 2400 square feet.
So despite the fact that we don’t have to work as many hours today to be able to buy a particular item as we might have had to work then, we’ve become so addicted to accumulating stuff and so unable to find contentment with what we have, that whereas the norm used to be that only one member of the family would earn an income, now both must work to be able to afford all the stuff that fills our expanding homes.
It’s good that stoves are cheaper now than they used to be. But until we learn to be content, cheaper stuff won’t mean fewer hours worked.