The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers
on issues both timely and timeless.
We live in time. On days like this one, when we find ourselves
carried without any effort or intent from the end of one calendar year to the
next, this observation is perhaps especially clear.
Our lives are temporal. Time passes, and with that our lives. Dissolving into
things, processes, and events as the mode of their becoming, time is a medium
within which every being is able to exist and develop. Time is, however, also
destructive. Its power means that everything, including ourselves, is transient,
provisional and bound to come to an irreversible end.
Many philosophers have tried to articulate what it means to be not only temporal
but aware of oneself as such. How should we interpret the fact of our own
temporality? One response would be that the question is uninteresting or even
banal. It simply involves living with clock time, the kind of time that
scientists take for granted when they study nature and that we continuously keep
track of via our watches and calendars.
So time has passed? You are getting older? It just means that a certain number
of homogenous moments (seconds, minutes, hours, and so on) have succeeded one
another in a linear fashion: tick, tack, tick, tack… Now look in the mirror!
At least since the introduction of the pocket watch in the 16th century brought
exact time measurement into everyday life, modern agents have found themselves
increasingly encased in a calculable and measurable temporal environment. We
measure and organize time as never before, and we worry about not “losing” or
“wasting” time, as though time was a finite substance or a container into which
we should try to stuff as many good experiences as possible.
Clock time is the time of our modern, busy and highly coordinated and
interconnected lives. It is the time of planning and control, of setting goals
and achieving them in the most efficient manner. We move through such time in
the same way we drive a car: calculating the distance passed while coordinating
our movement with that of other drivers, passing through an environment that can
never be particularly significant and which will soon be observable in the
Modern society is unimaginable without clock time. With the rise of the
chronometer came a vast increase in discipline, efficiency and social speed,
transforming every institution and human endeavor. The factory, the office,
transportation, business, the flow of information, indeed almost everything we
do and relate to is to a greater or lesser extent controlled by the clock.
It was not always like this. In a medieval village, the day started not with the
beep of the alarm clock but with birds gradually beginning to twitter, the light
slowly starting to shine through the windows. When the observation of natural
cycles played a greater role in people’s awareness of temporality, change was
“softer,” less precisely calculable, and intimately tied to a more fluid and
large-scale sense of rhythm. In all likelihood, the inhabitant of a medieval
village could also contrast sublunar time with some vision of eternity or
“higher time” in which the soul was allowed to participate in a higher order of
So what of all this? This yoking of our lives to clock time? Despite our
increasing reliance on the mechanical measurement of time to structure our
lives, many of us find some part of us resisting it. We find it confining, too
rigid perhaps to suit our natural states, and long for that looser structure of
the medieval village (while retaining our modern comforts and medical advances,
What is behind this resistance? The modern time frame brings about two
fundamental forms of dissatisfaction. For one thing, it exacerbates and
intensifies our sense of transience. If time is understood as a succession of
discrete moments, then, strictly speaking, our experience will be one of
perpetual loss: every instant, every unit of time, is a mere passing from that
which has not yet been to that which will never again be, and the passing itself
will not endure but simply be a boundary between future and present. “In time,”
the philosopher Schopenhauer put it, “each moment is, only in so far as it has
effaced its father the preceding moment, to be again effaced just as quickly
itself. Past and future (…) are as empty and unreal as any dream; but present is
only the boundary between the two, having neither extension nor duration.”
Responding to this sense of transience, Schopenhauer rather desperately throws
in a salvific conception of beauty as being capable of suspending our normal
temporal awareness. Aesthetic experience, he claims, pulls us beyond our normal
subjection to temporal sequentiality. The sunset or the Beethoven string quartet
can be so ravishing that we find ourselves lost in the unchanging essentiality
they present to us. Whatever merits this view has, it only promises temporary
respite. When, from an observer’s standpoint, the act of transcendence comes to
an end, we necessarily have to return to everyday life.
The modern time frame also generates a problem of existential meaning. The “now”
of clock time is contingent. It is neutral with regard to the kind of
established, historical meaning that historians and social theorists think was
important in pre-modern societies. Why me now? What am I to do with myself in a
world apparently bereft of deep, collective meaning? From the idea that what was
done was right by some sacred authorization, a divine order perhaps, the modern
agent turns to the future, cut loose from tradition. The moment is there to be
seized upon. We are entrepreneurs and consumers in a liquid, fast-moving
society. We look forward rather than backward, to the new rather than the old,
and while a huge space of innovation and possible change is then opened up, we
seem to have lost a sense of the unquestionable meaning that those who came
before us seemed to have had in abundance.
Modern philosophy, especially in the European tradition, contains plenty of
attempts both to diagnose and remedy this situation. Some thinkers —
Schopenhauer among them — have hoped that philosophy could identify ways in
which we may escape the modern time frame altogether. Others, like Heidegger,
have tried to show that clock time is not as fundamental as we often think it
is. In addition to the objective time of the clock, they argue, there are
temporalities of human experience and engagement that, while often ignored,
deserve to be explored and analyzed. Perhaps clock time is one mode of
temporality among others. If so, then it is not obvious that clock time should
always be our preferred mode of temporal self-interpretation. Perhaps we have to
recognize a tension in human life between the demands of clock time and those
other temporalities, between the clock or the calendar and life as it is truly
For several reasons the notion of escape seems the least promising. How could we
ever escape clock time? Where would we go? If the answer is to a pre- or
non-modern society where people live happily without clocks, then surely we
could not envision this as a plan for society as a whole. Few or any such
societies still exist, and the changes necessary would not be acceptable in
light of the interests we have in enjoying the benefits of a well-organized,
industrial civilization. If the answer hinges on some sort of individual escape
— perhaps, as in Schopenhauer, to the timeless realm of pure essence — then one
needs to show that something like this is actually possible. Does it make sense
to conceive of a perfectly timeless experience? Probably not. Experience is
necessarily temporal. Can there be false sanctuaries from clock time? Perhaps.
Heroin and video game addiction spring to mind.
We thus fall back on the first alternative — the one involving a rethinking of
temporality. Yes, there is clock time, but in addition to that there are other
and more unruly temporalities. There are, no doubt, temporalities of the human
body, of nature and of the psyche. At least they follow certain biological,
cosmological, and psychological rhythms, often involving perceived patterns of
birth or creation, growth, decay and regeneration. Equally significant, however,
the way we interpret ourselves and our relations to other human beings is deeply
shaped by its own forms of temporality. We don’t simply live in Schopenhauer’s
fluctuating “now.” Rather, human life is a continuous and highly complex
negotiation of existing commitments and remembrances with future demands and
My friend returns the car he borrowed yesterday. I understand and interpret his
action by viewing it as the fulfillment of a promise. The sense I make of it
will be based on the memory I have of the promise as well as on knowledge of the
manner in which promises both create commitments and constrain people’s future
plans and actions. There is an interplay between recollections and
anticipations, and between beliefs and inferences — all of which both opens up
and presupposes a temporal space.
Even direct forms of awareness involve such an interplay. We see the blooming
flowers as manifestations of spring and situate them temporally by invoking the
sequences associated by the annual changes in nature from winter to spring and
summer, and all of this while viewing the whole process in terms of concepts
like regeneration, life, or perhaps the fleetingness of beauty. We bring certain
inferences to bear on what we experience such as to transform mere succession
into meaning and form.
In these ways, human beings structure their lives around narratives. Some
narratives will tend to remain in the foreground of one’s engagements and
orientations. These will include things like our self-conception and our
relationships with others. Others, such as how we organize our day, will be more
rarely reflected upon. I could give an account of how I organize my day, but
that would typically be to a child or someone with scant knowledge of my own
culture. By contrast, stories about our relationships almost always tend to be
matters of reflection, rethinking and revision.
Most of our narratives are socially constituted. Becoming an investment banker
is possible because such occupations exist in our society, and because there are
socially constituted routes to obtaining that status. The investment banker is
in possession of and identifies with the banker narrative: it largely determines
this person’s identity.
Some narratives, however, are intimate and personal, based on experiences and
commitments made by individuals independently of social expectation. These are
the kinds of narratives that novelists often use. These are the ones that not
only point beyond the deadening sequentiality of mere clock time but have the
capacity to open new territories and vistas for human growth and authenticity.
Discontinuity is the key here: the pregnant moment outside the regular flow of
time when some unexpected yet promising or individually challenging event
We need these moments, and we need to be attentive to them. They are the moments
when new possibilities emerge. The narratives that frame such forms of exposure
to the sudden and unexpected will tend to deviate from the standard, causal
“this because of that”-structure. They will have cracks and breaks, intimating
how we genuinely come to experience something as opposed to merely “moving
through” it. Falling in love is one such narrative context. While we can tell
when it happens to us, the involvement it demands is open, promissory, risky,
possibly life-changing, and sometimes deeply disappointing.
Experiences like this, which explode the empty repetition of standard clock
time, offer glimpses of a different and deeply intriguing type of temporality
that has the power to invest our lives with greater meaning, possibility and
excitement than a life merely measured on a grid could ever provide.
Espen Hammer is a professor of philosophy at Temple University.
His most recent book is “Philosophy and Temporality
A minimally successful end to the Afghan war depends on weakening the Taliban
militarily and helping Afghanistan build up a government that won’t implode as
soon as American troops are gone.
President George W. Bush gave the war — and the rebuilding — shockingly short
shrift. President Obama has devoted far more troops and resources, and the
United States and NATO have made progress in clearing militants from southern
strongholds and building up Afghan security forces. Afghanistan is still a very
dangerous place. While overall violence is down, August was the deadliest month
of the war for American troops, including several Navy Seal commandos who were
killed when their helicopter was shot down.
At this point, we are skeptical that the administration has a comprehensive
strategy to help build up a government that Afghans would be willing to fight
Mr. Obama has ordered home 33,000 of 100,000 troops by the end of next summer,
with Afghans to take full responsibility for their security in 2014. We support
that decision. After a decade of fighting, 1,700 American lives lost and $450
billion spent, it is time for the troops to start coming home. But no one should
minimize the risks.
Afghans have no love for the Taliban’s brutality. They show extraordinary
courage every day when they send 2.5 million of their daughters to school.
Still, if the president’s withdrawal timetable has any chance at all, Washington
will have to do a lot more to try to build up a government that can deliver
basic services and minimal security; one that doesn’t steal its people blind and
offers all Afghans — including women — a real opportunity to participate in the
country’s political life.
And while the State Department this year finally tripled the number of civilians
in the field — there are now more than 1,100 — to oversee aid and development,
there is already talk of bringing some of them home.
There isn’t a lot of time left. Here are some of the major issues that must be
President Hamid Karzai is more difficult to work with than ever. The government
was paralyzed for months after he named a special court to review last year’s
fraud-tainted parliamentary election, which gave his Pashtun clan far fewer
seats than expected. Under Western pressure, Mr. Karzai recently agreed to a
compromise. But his unchecked power and frictions with Washington are serious
Some ministries, like health, perform reasonably well because competent people
were found to run them and the Americans provided technical advice. But that is
the exception. The truth is that Afghanistan still lacks a functioning
government, Parliament or banking system.
Washington has a chance to set a fresh tone with the new American team in Kabul
— Ambassador Ryan Crocker; Gen. John Allen, the commander for the war; and Marc
Grossman, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan — respected
veterans who don’t have the same history of tensions with Mr. Karzai as their
To clear the way for a new generation of politicians, and break the lock of
cronyism, Mr. Karzai has to step down in 2014, as the Afghan Constitution
demands. He says he will. The Americans should use all of the levers they have
to make sure that he keeps his word. The Americans must also press him to make
political reforms that will help develop credible candidates and make it harder
to tamper with the 2014 vote.
There are some competent officials at the local and provincial levels, many
encouraged by the Americans and assisted by military and technical advisers. But
many have been targets of Taliban violence. There must be more effort on
building this level of governance, including providing more security for
RECONCILIATION In February, after much resistance, American officials publicly
endorsed the idea of negotiations with the Taliban on a political settlement.
Washington held several preliminary meetings with a representative of Mullah
Muhammad Omar. While there was little apparent progress, in a statement issued
Tuesday, the Taliban leader acknowledged the contacts and left open the door for
We are skeptical that there is a deal to be had, but the Americans should keep
looking for openings. At a minimum, talks with Taliban leaders may make it
easier for lower-level fighters to decide to come in from the cold, especially
if NATO continues to pound away at them. Washington should consider supporting
the appointment of an international mediator who might be better able to bring
more insurgent groups to the table.
SUPPORT According to the World Bank, an estimated 97 percent of Afghanistan’s
roughly $28 billion gross domestic product comes from military and development
aid and the in-country spending of foreign troops.
An awful lot of that money has been stolen or wasted, but not all of it.
Sixty-four percent or more of Afghans now have some access to health care, up
from 9 percent under the last year of Taliban rule; eight million children are
in school, up from one million in 2001; infant mortality is down; adult
longevity is up; half of all Afghan families have cellphones.
What the aid has not built is a stable and viable country. The Afghan government
is still struggling to develop the capacity to run — and finance — programs on
its own. Revenues cover only one-third of the government’s $4.5 billion budget.
Officials fear the economy could contract by 40 percent as the troops leave.
International donors will need to keep underwriting Afghanistan for years to
come. But self-sufficiency has to be the goal.
The most immediate question is where will Afghanistan get the $6 billion to $8
billion per year that it needs to maintain a planned 379,000-man security force
that is now paid for by foreign donors? Or keep countless other projects and
jobs afloat? What will happen if thousands of armed young men are unemployed?
Washington needs a plan to address these challenges. It also needs to spend
smarter by investing in projects that are achievable and sustainable but will
still strengthen governance and services. One success story: the National
Solidarity Program that pays for local projects developed and managed by Afghans
Over the long term, the country’s huge mineral resources, if developed right,
could produce significant jobs and revenue. One short-term idea worth
considering: channeling billions of dollars in remittances — sent home by
Afghans working in the gulf and in Iran — into Afghan banks to underwrite loans.
Afghanistan will first need to build a functioning banking system; the
corruption and near-collapse of the Kabul Bank is a reminder of how much effort
that will take.
Afghanistan will never have a chance at lasting stability if Pakistan continues
to harbor and support the Taliban and other extremist groups. If negotiations
with the Taliban ever get real traction, Pakistan will have leverage — for good
The biggest problem, for both Afghanistan and Pakistan, is that Pakistan’s
military leadership still sees the Taliban as a proxy for ensuring its influence
in Afghanistan, and any move it makes against the extremists as a favor to
Washington — rather than also a fight for its own survival.
Relations between Washington and Islamabad have not recovered since the American
raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The administration needs to keep searching for
ways to revive a working relationship and change the self-destructive mind-set
of Pakistan’s leaders. Ending all aid would be a serious mistake, but
withholding certain military aid, as the administration has done, could help.
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY The withdrawal of American troops must not be an
invitation for a revival of the 19th century’s “Great Game.” For the sake of
their own stability, Pakistan, India, Iran and others need to agree to respect
Afghanistan’s (and each other’s) sovereignty and forswear interference and
Turkey will test its leadership skills when it holds a regional conference in
November aimed at producing some agreement along those lines. In December, a
bigger international meeting in Bonn is supposed to lay out economic initiatives
that could help stabilize Afghanistan. Ideas include new investments as well as
a broad vision for a “new silk road” that would create jobs and foster economic
integration through trade and energy projects.
The United States and its allies have to marshal their best arguments and
diplomatic skills to ensure that those meetings produce real results and a
persuasive message that is heard by all people in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As
we said, there is not a lot of time.
Laden is dead. So is Saddam Hussein, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and too many
Qaeda No. 3’s to count. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is awaiting his military
tribunal. George W. Bush is home on the ranch, Dick Cheney is on book tour, and
even Gen. David Petraeus is a general no more, having traded in his stars for a
civilian position atop the Central Intelligence Agency.
But 10 years to the week after the twin towers fell, we are still living in the
9/11 era. The names and faces are different, the White House has changed hands,
and the country has turned its gaze from our distant wars to the economic crisis
on the home front. But American foreign policy is still defined by the choices
our leaders made while ground zero smoldered, and the objectives they set. Our
approach to the world was fundamentally altered by 9/11, and nothing that’s
happened since has undone that transformation.
Part of this transformation was tactical: a shift from a criminal justice
approach to counterterrorism that emphasized investigations, arrests and
successful prosecutions, to a wartime approach that emphasized detention,
interrogation and assassination. The other part was strategic: a decision that
America’s national security required promoting democracy across the Muslim world
— by force of arms, if necessary — rather than accepting the kind of stability
that various dictators had promised to supply.
Taken together, these two shifts gave us the Bush administration’s most
controversial policies, from Guantánamo Bay and “extraordinary rendition” to the
invasion of Iraq and the nation-building effort that followed. Some of those
policies were walked back in the second Bush term. (The waterboard vanished from
our interrogation repertoire, and there were no further wars of choice.) But the
overall transformation endured.
It has endured under Barack Obama as well, his campaign promises
notwithstanding. We are still fighting a war on terrorist groups, complete with
the indefinite detention, drone attacks and covert warfare that infuriated civil
libertarians during the Bush presidency. Meanwhile, Obama’s first term has
featured an expanded nation-building effort in Afghanistan, a regime-change
operation in Libya, a possibly permanent military footprint in Iraq — and the
gradual adoption, amid the ferment of the Arab Spring, of Bush’s freedom agenda
rhetoric as well.
The question is whether this continuity is evidence of success or an example of
the stay-the-course bias to which all governments are prone. Here it’s worth
asking a version of Ronald Reagan’s famous question: Are we better off than we
were 10 years ago?
The case for answering yes is strongest on the counterterrorism front, where our
shadow war has clearly diminished our enemies’ capacity to do us harm in ways
that our pre-9/11 efforts never did.
There are significant moral costs to a policy that depends on routinized
assassination and detention without trial. But 10 years without a major attack,
the death of Osama bin Laden and the steady degradation of Al Qaeda and its
affiliates are not achievements to be taken lightly. The United States will
always be vulnerable to terrorists, but in the decade since we were blindsided
by Mohammed Atta’s team of hijackers, our spies and SEALs and interrogators have
dramatically improved our odds.
On the strategic front, though, it is extremely difficult to argue that
America’s geopolitical position is stronger today than it was 10 years ago.
Some of this weakening was inevitable: Our extraordinary post-cold-war dominance
couldn’t last forever, and the rise of rival powers is a phenomenon to be
managed rather than resisted. But our post-9/11 attempts to transform the Muslim
world have cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, and won us — well,
what? A liberated Iraq that’s more in Iran’s sphere of influence than ours, an
Afghan war in which American casualties keep rising, an Arab Spring that
threatens to encircle Israel with enemies, a Middle East where our list of
reliable allies grows thin ...
This list doesn’t account for various counterfactuals (how much worse off we
might be with Saddam Hussein in power, for instance). Nor does it account for
democracy promotion’s long-term benefits.
But after 10 years of conflict, we aren’t exactly in short-term territory
anymore. And pointing out that things could have been worse doesn’t change the
fact that our post-9/11 grand strategy has been associated with a steady erosion
of America’s position in the world.
In this context, the fact that President Obama has kept the United States
enmeshed in occupations and interventions across the Muslim world isn’t evidence
that our strategy is working. It’s a sign that he doesn’t know how to get us
In my Aug. 22 column,
I should have said that the Texas-Mexico border
miles, not 1,969 miles.
Also, Texas’s black eighth graders
were tied with their
peers in Massachusetts for best score
SAN FRANCISCO — It’s 1 p.m. on a Thursday and Dianne Bates, 40,
juggles three screens. She listens to a few songs on her iPod, then taps out a
quick e-mail on her iPhone and turns her attention to the high-definition
Just another day at the gym.
As Ms. Bates multitasks, she is also churning her legs in fast loops on an
elliptical machine in a downtown fitness center. She is in good company. In gyms
and elsewhere, people use phones and other electronic devices to get work done —
and as a reliable antidote to boredom.
Cellphones, which in the last few years have become full-fledged computers with
high-speed Internet connections, let people relieve the tedium of exercising,
the grocery store line, stoplights or lulls in the dinner conversation.
The technology makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially
productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: when people
keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that
could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new
Ms. Bates, for example, might be clearer-headed if she went for a run outside,
away from her devices, research suggests.
At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when
rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show
new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their
exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a
persistent memory of the experience.
The researchers suspect that the findings also apply to how humans learn.
“Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it’s had,
solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories,” said Loren
Frank, assistant professor in the department of physiology at the university,
where he specializes in learning and memory. He said he believed that when the
brain was constantly stimulated, “you prevent this learning process.”
At the University of Michigan, a study found that people learned significantly
better after a walk in nature than after a walk in a dense urban environment,
suggesting that processing a barrage of information leaves people fatigued.
Even though people feel entertained, even relaxed, when they multitask while
exercising, or pass a moment at the bus stop by catching a quick video clip,
they might be taxing their brains, scientists say.
“People think they’re refreshing themselves, but they’re fatiguing themselves,”
said Marc Berman, a University of Michigan neuroscientist.
Regardless, there is now a whole industry of mobile software developers
competing to help people scratch the entertainment itch. Flurry, a company that
tracks the use of apps, has found that mobile games are typically played for 6.3
minutes, but that many are played for much shorter intervals. One popular game
that involves stacking blocks gets played for 2.2 minutes on average.
Today’s game makers are trying to fill small bits of free time, said Sebastien
de Halleux, a co-founder of PlayFish, a game company owned by the industry giant
“Instead of having long relaxing breaks, like taking two hours for lunch, we
have a lot of these micro-moments,” he said. Game makers like Electronic Arts,
he added, “have reinvented the game experience to fit into micro-moments.”
Many business people, of course, have good reason to be constantly checking
their phones. But this can take a mental toll. Henry Chen, 26, a self-employed
auto mechanic in San Francisco, has mixed feelings about his BlackBerry habits.
“I check it a lot, whenever there is downtime,” Mr. Chen said. Moments earlier,
he was texting with a friend while he stood in line at a bagel shop; he stopped
only when the woman behind the counter interrupted him to ask for his order.
Mr. Chen, who recently started his business, doesn’t want to miss a potential
customer. Yet he says that since he upgraded his phone a year ago to a
feature-rich BlackBerry, he can feel stressed out by what he described as
internal pressure to constantly stay in contact.
“It’s become a demand. Not necessarily a demand of the customer, but a demand of
my head,” he said. “I told my girlfriend that I’m more tired since I got this
In the parking lot outside the bagel shop, others were filling up moments with
their phones. While Eddie Umadhay, 59, a construction inspector, sat in his car
waiting for his wife to grocery shop, he deleted old e-mail while listening to
news on the radio. On a bench outside a coffee house, Ossie Gabriel, 44, a nurse
practitioner, waited for a friend and checked e-mail “to kill time.”
Crossing the street from the grocery store to his car, David Alvarado pushed his
2-year-old daughter in a cart filled with shopping bags, his phone pressed to
He was talking to a colleague about work scheduling, noting that he wanted to
steal a moment to make the call between paying for the groceries and driving.
“I wanted to take advantage of the little gap,” said Mr. Alvarado, 30, a
facilities manager at a community center.
For many such people, the little digital asides come on top of heavy use of
computers during the day. Take Ms. Bates, the exercising multitasker at the
expansive Bakar Fitness and Recreation Center. She wakes up and peeks at her
iPhone before she gets out of bed. At her job in advertising, she spends all day
in front of her laptop.
But, far from wanting a break from screens when she exercises, she says she
couldn’t possibly spend 55 minutes on the elliptical machine without “lots of
things to do.” This includes relentless channel surfing.
“I switch constantly,” she said. “I can’t stand commercials. I have to flip
around unless I’m watching ‘Project Runway’ or something I’m really into.”
Some researchers say that whatever downside there is to not resting the brain,
it pales in comparison to the benefits technology can bring in motivating people
“Exercise needs to be part of our lives in the sedentary world we’re immersed
in. Anything that helps us move is beneficial,” said John J. Ratey, associate
clinical professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School and author of
“Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.”
But all things being equal, Mr. Ratey said, he would prefer to see people do
their workouts away from their devices: “There is more bang for your buck doing
it outside, for your mood and working memory.”
Of the 70 cardio machines on the main floor at Bakar Fitness, 67 have
televisions attached. Most of them also have iPod docks and displays showing
workout performance, and a few have games, like a rope-climbing machine that
shows an animated character climbing the rope while the live human does so too.
A few months ago, the cable TV went out and some patrons were apoplectic. “It
was an uproar. People said: ‘That’s what we’re paying for,’ ” said Leeane
Jensen, 28, the fitness manager.
At least one exerciser has a different take. Two stories up from the main floor,
Peter Colley, 23, churns away on one of the several dozen elliptical machines
without a TV. Instead, they are bathed in sunlight, looking out onto the pool
and palm trees.
“I look at the wind on the trees. I watch the swimmers go back and forth,” Mr.
Colley said. “I usually come here to clear my head.”
Every few years, the world seems to face a new testing time. After Sept. 11,
leaders had to figure out how to respond to Islamic extremism. Now we face
another test. Today, leaders around the world have to figure out how to
stabilize economies amid volatile global capital flows.
This test is rooted in a global shift in economic power. The rise of China, the
vast wealth of the petro-powers and easy monetary policies created an ocean of
excess savings that had no obvious place to go.
This money was entrusted to a few thousand traders who sloshed it around the
world in search of the highest returns. These traders live in a high-tech
version of Plato’s cave. They do not see reality directly. Instead they see the
shadow of reality as it dances around in numbers on their computer screens. They
form perceptions about other people’s perceptions of where the smart money is
going next, so they’re three or four psychological levels removed from normal
These traders are driven to take big risks because the glory goes to the biggest
stars. And because they are human, they assuage their ensuing uncertainty with
self-deceptions. They develop an excessive faith in “value at risk” computer
models, which seem to calculate their exposure in soothingly rigorous terms.
They adopt accounting techniques that tell them they’re on firm footing. They go
in for complicated financial instruments that promise “riskless risk” by
dispersing risk into a million small pieces and casting them into the ether.
The economists talk about “mispriced risk” and “illiquidity” in the system. But
many economists are trained to downplay emotion, social psychology and moral
norms, and so produce bloodless and incomplete descriptions of what’s going on.
The truth is, decision-making is an inherently emotional process, and the
traders in charge of these trillions become bipolar as a result of their
When things are going well, they don’t think they’re just lucky and riding a
wave. They’re infused with a sense that they have it all figured out. When these
traders are in their manic phase, they flood countries and economic sectors with
capital. Without meaning to, they dissolve the moral fabric and spoil their own
Easy money severs actions from their consequences. National leaders find they
can run up huge deficits with no negative effects. Congressmen lean on Fannie
Mae and Freddie Mac to acquire more and more risk. Highly regulated banks find
they have money to lend far and wide, and everyone else finds credit is easy.
Families decide they can afford homes and lifestyles beyond their means.
It all feels great until it doesn’t. Then when things go bad, the social
contagion sweeps the other way (the computer risk models never quite get this).
One minute there’s an ocean of credit, the next minute there’s barely a drop.
Once ebullient traders become paranoid, realizing how little they know about
their trading partners. They refuse to acknowledge the true value of their
portfolios. Everything stops.
At these moments, central bankers and Treasury officials leap in to try to make
the traders feel better. Officials pretend they’re coming up with policy
responses, but much of what they do is political theater. In reality, they’re
trying to cajole, bluff and calm their audience of global money-sloshers.
This is more than a mortgage problem. We live in a world in which trillions of
dollars can move instantly, but they are in the hands of human beings who are,
by nature, limited in knowledge, and subject to self-deceptions and social
contagions. By one count, financial crises are twice as prevalent now as they
were 100 years ago.
In his astonishingly prescient book, “The World Is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the
Global Economy,” David M. Smick argues that we have inherited an impressive
global economic system. It, with the U.S. as the hub, has produced unprecedented
levels of global prosperity. But it has now spun wildly out of control. It can’t
be fixed with the shock and awe of a $700 billion rescue package, Smick says.
The fundamental architecture needs to be reformed.
It will take, he suggests, a global leadership class that can answer essential
questions: How much leverage should be allowed? Can we preserve the development
model in which certain nations pile up giant reserves and park them in the U.S.?
Until these and other issues are addressed, the global markets will lack
confidence in asset values. Bankers will cower, afraid to lend. America’s role
as the global hub will be threatened. Europeans will drift toward
nationalization. Neomercantilists will fill the vacuum.
This is the test. This is the problem that will consume the next president.
Meanwhile, the two candidates for that office are talking about Bill Ayers and
September 28, 2008
The New York Times
By CARA BUCKLEY and ERIC KONIGSBERG
A small-business owner in Brooklyn worries about making the
payroll. A homeowner in Queens faces foreclosure. A suburban stay-at-home mother
cuts back on luxuries. A retiree watches rent, food and cable bills rise while
her income stays flat. An aspiring musician chooses between recording fees and a
trip to see his family at Christmas. A head of a nonprofit group sees grants
Six New Yorkers anxiously watch the Wall Street roller coaster and wonder how it
will affect them.
Making Drinks and Song, But Not Enough of Either
Rescalla Cury, 22, an aspiring musician, lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and
tends bar at a restaurant in Chelsea:
I came to study music. I am taking private lessons, which made things a little
bit harder. I also wanted to take a sound engineering course, but since I’m a
foreigner, I would have had to pay the whole course up front, like $15,000. I
play solo. I sing and play the guitar. My music is like Brazilian jazz with rock
and blues. Hopefully I’m not going to be a bartender for the rest of my life.
What I can see from last year to this year is that the season is definitely
slower. I’m making less money because less people are going out. And when they
go out, they spend less than what they used to. I’ve been doing the same, I’ve
been having friends together in my house, to drink bottles of wine, instead of
going out to bars. It’s kind of like a chain. I make less money, and I stop
going out too.
The rent is so absurd, and everything is so expensive. How can people afford
$2,200 for an apartment? I want to stay in the apartment I’m in; hopefully my
building won’t get sold.
I was planning to start recording a track by the end of the year, but I don’t
know if it’s going to happen or not. Because I may have to choose between
recording a track and going home for Christmas with my family.
Income Is Unchanged, Costs and Worries Rise
Betty Jones, 79, a retired social work administrator, lives in Stuyvesant Town,
I live on a fixed income to the extent that I get Social Security and then I get
a small federal pension from my husband, who died in 1999. Then I get a monthly
check from my retirement plan.
Those three checks add up to about $5,000 a month — about $2,000 a month short
for covering my expenses. My basic yearly expenses are $60,000 to $65,000 but
other things come up. I fortunately have some other savings my husband and I put
aside, and that’s how I make up the difference.
Rent has gone up. The cost of food is up. I have RCN for cable and phone and
that’s gone up. So I really have to budget more carefully now.
I just came back from Rwanda. It cost about $5,000, for 10 days. I went with
People to People, to volunteer in orphanages and vocational training programs
for young people. I came back wondering what’s happening to my money. It was
right in the middle of the week when the market crisis was happening. I was
worrying, “What about my money-market at Citibank?” I get my statements and I’m
getting poorer and poorer. I’ve lost about $40,000 or $50,000 in the past few
The money has to last a long time. I expect to keep ticking.
I’m not nearly as frightened as some of my friends. But I won’t spend $5,000 for
another trip right away. Having been a part of the Depression as a child, I
worry about what happens on Wall Street. I wonder, “My God, are we going to live
through that again? Is everything going to collapse around me?”
I haven’t taken any of my money out of the market yet. Where do I put it, under
An American Dream Slowly Evaporates
Rico Lumaban, 49, immigrated from the Philippines in 1982 and lives with his
wife, a nurse, and three children, ages 21, 19 and 13, in Bellerose, Queens:
We bought our house in 1989. I had a 30-year fixed mortgage. But in the year
2001, I had difficulties. I bought the right to run a gas station in Astoria,
Queens. They had all these accounts with people who work at the embassies. It
was supposed to change everything. But the guy I bought it from built another
shop and took all the customers with him. I lost close to $200,000; it was all
In 2006, I had the house refinanced, and I got into a very bad subprime loan. I
needed to pay some debts. My son was starting college. I had used all his
college savings; that was a very sad thing for him.
I got two kinds of loans, an adjustable-rate mortgage over three years and a
home-equity loan. After three years, the mortgage will go to $4,000 a month. I
didn’t know that the mortgage payments would also increase every six months.
I was relying on the representative that was helping me to help me do the right
thing. Sometimes you trust people. The worst thing was, after it’s all said and
done, I never heard anything from the representative. It’s like they got away.
I’m trying to get a permanent job. I just do, like, moonlighting as a handyman
and mechanic but it doesn’t pay.
We are in the foreclosure process. I got the court summons and I answered it
last week. I haven’t been paying for the last five months, because I can’t.
I don’t want to think about it, with my three kids. I’m so stressed out thinking
about where we’re going to be next year. I’m just closing my eyes, and seeing if
things change. It’s really scary; it’s hard to sleep.
Stay-at-Home Mother Ponders a Paycheck
Jennifer Manthei, 40, worked in museums but now stays at home in Pelham, N.Y.,
with her two sons, ages 4 and 1 ½:
I don’t know anybody who’s had to go back to work out of necessity yet, but in
our community of stay-at-home moms, it’s certainly something we talk about.
I’m an art historian, so my earning potential in the field is low even in a good
market. I used to work at the Met. Curatorial jobs without a master’s degree —
well, it was 10 years ago, but I made not even $30,000 a year. At the Museum of
Natural History, where I worked after that, I was making more, but I was in an
administrative job. But in a bad market, jobs in the arts are probably the first
to get cut.
So I would end up doing something like secretarial work, something just for the
money, something that is not as fulfilling. I imagine if I were working I could
make around $50,000 now, and I imagine a great percentage of that would go
toward providing the basic care for my children — a baby sitter and day care,
plus nursery school for our oldest. So it would be a lose-lose situation,
My husband co-owns a small recruiting boutique and he specializes in
information-technology placement. Because he places people for both temporary
and permanent jobs, his business can weather some of the employment ups and
downs, but I think he’s felt the change in the economy in his business. And he
anticipates he might feel it more.
Our family’s economic certainty is something we’ve been talking about more than
in the past. We’re already cutting back on things that I consider luxuries. I’d
sound silly if I considered this a real sacrifice, but we’re not redoing all of
the first floor like we’d wanted to, just some rooms. We wonder about how much
money we’ll be able to set aside for our children’s college fund this year.
Restoring Hot Lunches, At the Expense of Jobs
Stanley Richards, 47, is chief operating officer of the Fortune Society, a
nonprofit organization in Long Island City, Queens, which helps former convicts
find jobs and housing:
Our budget is about $14 million. Ninety percent of our contributions come from
government funding and the rest is mostly foundations. We’re already feeling the
pinch. We’ve talked about the worst-case scenario and what programs we
absolutely can’t cut. The cuts will come down on the drug treatment side, on the
housing side, for the next few years.
This year for the first time, the city gave us a 50 percent cut in a contract
that had started in January. It was already August — the year was more than half
over — so we had to end the program immediately and go through a series of steps
to recoup the money we’d already spent past July 1.
Also, we had a discharge-planning program — for prisoners who are going to be
released soon. The Department of Corrections stopped funding it, so we’ve
We’re looking at a minimum of a 5 percent cut from the city. State contracts
will be cut worse. We expect notification any day now. A funder at the city
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene told us to be prepared for our AIDS
housing funding to be cut by two-thirds, from about $1.6 million a year to
Two foundations have told us that their portfolio is in trouble. One is cutting
back their contribution this year and the other told us to reapply and ask for
We wiped out our hot lunches earlier this year, but we’ve decided that has to
stay, and so we’re going to bring it back and have layoffs. The food program,
for some of these people who come in — some of them have kids — it’s the only
meal of the day. Right now we’re serving peanut butter and jelly and what they
call “jail soup,” which is dry packets.
Earlier this year, we laid off 21 people — about 10 percent of our staff. It’s
very personal for me. A lot of people who work here are former inmates. This is
the first place they come when no one else wants to hire them. I started here in
1991 as a counselor. Prior to that, I’d been in prison several times, for
robbery the last time, a four-and-a-half year term.
Success Breeds Growth And an Element of Caution
Tricialee Riley, 34, owns the Polish Bar of Brooklyn, a nail and beauty salon on
Myrtle Avenue in Clinton Hill, and she just signed a lease to open a second
location in neighboring Prospect Heights:
I’ve been in the beauty business since college, since I was 19, and I’ve been in
New York for 10 years. For seven years, I was working and earning and saving.
There was never a day without me planning my small business. I always saved, and
knew it was going to happen. And I opened in July 2006.
It’s a small business, but I had a very big opening, and business has been
tremendous. So much so that we’re expanding and opening a much larger space. I
just signed my lease 15 minutes ago. We’ll be opening in December 2008.
Securing a loan for the second business was a lot more challenging that I
anticipated. We had been successful. I have a good credit score. All my i’s are
dotted and my t’s are crossed. I literally have in the savings almost the
equivalent of what I needed to secure the second store. But my own personal bank
denied me the loan, so I went to a microlender to do the financing. That was
All my profits are in savings, liquid cash. Because that might have to be the
payroll for a while. We anticipated on hiring 14 people for the second store,
but will probably hire 8 and take on people as needed.
We’re in the middle of something that’s so extremely exciting for us, but
worried about how the economy will affect us. Everybody’s being suggested to
watch their money and cut their spending and we’re at the top of the list of
what to cut.
I think there may be a drastic change in the habits and behaviors of women over
the next season. I am fearful of the change, I am. But I can’t work off of fear.
There is a doubt that creeps in now that I really haven’t had to deal with a
lot. On Saturday (Sept. 20) in particular. I came into work, early in the
morning. And I said ‘God, if I’m doing too much too soon, I can wait a year and
a half.’ I’d rather wait a year and a half and give up a wonderful location than
to fail. I had so much doubt. And he sent me a sign. I opened the store and we
had our second largest day ever, after a week when Myrtle Avenue looked like a
Interviews were conducted by Cara Buckley and Eric Konigsberg
July 31, 2008
The New York Times
By PETER S. GOODMAN
The number of Americans who have seen their full-time jobs
chopped to part time because of weak business has swelled to more than 3.7
million — the largest figure since the government began tracking such data more
than half a century ago.
The loss of pay has become a primary source of pain for millions of American
families, reinforcing the downturn gripping the economy. Paychecks are shrinking
just as home prices plunge and gas prices soar, furthering the austerity across
“I either stop eating, or stop using anything I can,” said Marvin L. Zinn, a
clerk at a Walgreens drugstore in St. Joseph, Mich., who has seen his take-home
pay drop to about $550 every two weeks from about $650, as his weekly hours have
dropped to 37.5 from 44 in recent months.
Mr. Zinn has run up nearly $2,000 in credit card debt to buy food. He has put
off dental work. He no longer attends church, he said, “because I can’t afford
On the surface, the job market is weak but hardly desperate. Layoffs remain less
frequent than in many economic downturns, and the unemployment rate is a
relatively modest 5.5 percent. But that figure masks the strains of those who
are losing hours or working part time because they cannot find full-time work —
a stealth force that is eroding American spending power.
All told, people the government classifies as working part time involuntarily —
predominantly those who have lost hours or cannot find full-time work — swelled
to 5.3 million last month, a jump of greater than 1 million over the last year.
These workers now amount to 3.7 percent of all those employed, up from 3 percent
a year ago, and the highest level since 1995.
“This increase is startling,” said Steve Hipple, an economist at the Labor
The loss of hours has been affecting men in particular — and Hispanic men more
so. Among those who were forced into part-time work from the spring of 2007 to
the spring of 2008, 73 percent were men and 35 percent were Hispanic.
Some 28 percent of the jobs affected were in construction, 14 percent in retail
and 13 percent in professional and business services, according an analysis by
“The unemployment rate is giving you a misleading impression of some of the
adjustments that are taking place,” said John E. Silvia, chief economist of
Wachovia in Charlotte. “Hours cut is a big deal. People still have a job, but
they are losing income.”
Many experts see the swift cutback in hours as a precursor of a more painful
chapter to come: broader layoffs. Some struggling companies are holding on to
workers and cutting shifts while hoping to ride out hard times. If business does
not improve, more extreme measures could follow.
“The change in working hours is the canary in the coal mine,” said Susan J.
Lambert of the University of Chicago, a professor of social service
administration and an expert in low-wage employment. “First you see hours get
short, and eventually more people will get laid off.”
For the last decade, Ron Temple has loaded and unloaded bags for United Airlines
in Denver, earning more than $20 an hour, plus generous health and flight
benefits. On July 6, as management grappled with the rising cost of fuel, Mr.
Temple and 150 other people in Denver were offered an unpalatable set of
options: they could transfer to another city, go on furlough without pay and
hope to be rehired, or stay on at reduced hours.
Mr. Temple and his wife say they cannot envision living outside Colorado, and
they probably could not sell their house. Similar homes are now selling for
about $180,000, while they owe the bank $203,000.
So Mr. Temple took the third option. He reluctantly traded in his old shift — 3
p.m. to midnight — for a shorter stint from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. He gave up
benefits like paid lunches and overtime. His take-home pay shrunk to $570 every
two weeks from about $1,350, he said.
Mr. Temple’s wife, Ali, works as an aide at a cancer clinic, bringing home
nearly $1,000 every two weeks, he said. But collectively, they earn less than
half of what they did.
Suddenly, they are having trouble making their $1,753 monthly mortgage payment,
he said. They are relying on credit cards to pay the bills, running up balances
of $2,700 so far. Gone are their dinners at the Outback Steakhouse. Mr. Temple
recently bought cheap, generic groceries from a church that sells them to people
“That’s the first time in my life I’ve had to do that,” he said. “We are cutting
back in every way.”
Mr. Temple has been searching for another job, applying for a cashier’s position
at Safeway and a clerk’s job at Home Depot, among others. But the market is
“I’ve applied more than 20 times, and I haven’t had a single call back,” he
His search is constrained by the high price of gas. “I can’t afford to go drive
my truck around and look for a job,” he said.
So Mr. Temple has done his search online — until he fell behind on the bills,
and the local telephone company cut off Internet service. On a recent day, he
bicycled to a Starbucks coffee shop with his laptop for the free connection.
The growing ranks of involuntary part-timers reflect the sophisticated fashion
through which many American employers have come to manage their payrolls, say
In decades past, when business soured, companies tended to resort to mass
layoffs, hiring people back when better times returned. But as high technology
came to permeate American business, companies have grown reluctant to shed
workers. Even the lowest-wage positions in retail, fast food, banking or
manufacturing require computer skills and a grasp of a company’s systems.
Several months of training may be needed to get a new employee up to speed.
“Companies today would rather not go through the process of dumping someone and
hiring them back,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and
Policy Research in Washington. “Firms are going to short shifts rather than just
laying people off.”
More part-time and fewer full-time workers also allows companies to save on
health care costs. Only 16 percent of retail workers receive health insurance
through their employer, while more than half of full-time workers are covered,
according to an analysis by Ms. Lambert, the University of Chicago employment
The trend toward cutting hours in a downturn lessens the pain for workers in one
regard: it moderates layoffs. Many companies now strive to keep payrolls large
enough to allow them to easily adjust to swings in demand, adding working hours
without having to hire when business grows.
But that also sows vulnerability, heightening the possibility that hours are cut
when the economy slows and demand for goods and services dries up.
“There’s a lot of people at risk in the economy when they keep the headcount
high and they only have so many hours to distribute,” Ms. Lambert said. “It
really is a trade-off for society.”
Goodyear Tire has in recent months idled work for a few days at a time at many
of it factories, as the company adjusts to weakening demand. At one plant in
Gadsden, Ala., workers expect they will soon lose a week’s wages to another
slowdown — something Goodyear would neither confirm nor deny.
“People are scared,” said Dennis Battles, president of the local branch of the
United Steelworkers union, which represents about 1,350 workers there. “The cost
of gas, the cost of food and everything else is extremely high. It takes every
penny you make. And once it starts, when’s it going to quit? What’s going to
happen next month?”
July 27, 2008
The New York Times
By KELLEY HOLLAND
DO you ever mutter under your breath at a dry cleaner with the
temerity to open as late as 7 a.m.? Have you snapped at a neighbor who asks if
you plan to attend the 7:30 p.m. town council meeting? Does your child have
trouble remembering which country you are in this week?
If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, chances are you have
been working the long hours that are increasingly common for many salaried
Officially, the average workweek has changed little in the last two decades. But
those figures mask a shift in who works the most. In 1983, the lowest-paid
workers were more likely to work long hours, according to the National Bureau of
Economic Research. But by 2002, the most highly paid workers were twice as
likely to work long hours as the lowest paid.
After my last column, on obesity as a workplace issue, my inbox was full of
messages describing long days of sedentary work — along with lunches gulped down
in the office, frequent travel and BlackBerrys that never seem to quit.
Is all this work a bad thing?
Truth be told, as a society we have been ambivalent about work hours as long as
— well, as long as we have been a society. There have been demands for shorter
work hours since the late 18th century, when it was not uncommon to spend 70 or
more hours each week performing some kind of manual labor. In 1791, for example,
Philadelphia carpenters went on strike, demanding a 10-hour workday. And in the
1840s, the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association petitioned the Massachusetts
legislature for a 10-hour workday for mill workers. (Both efforts failed.)
But our Puritan work ethic has been part of our culture for just as long. Some
employees are drawn to challenging, demanding work and the outsize financial
rewards that can follow. A survey of highly paid American workers published in
2006 by the Center for Work-Life Policy found that 21 percent of them — mostly
men, it should be noted — said they worked at least 60 hours a week under highly
stressful conditions. Two-thirds of those respondents said they loved their
“Americans do seem to want to work longer, and you ask them, ‘Do you like your
job?’ and we like our jobs more than other people do,” said Robert Whaples, a
professor of economics at Wake Forest University who has studied work hours.
Professor Whaples theorized that when most people were working 12 hours a day or
more, obtaining any amount of leisure time was more of a priority. But the
general reduction in work hours has helped ease the need for downtime for at
least some workers.
Alternatively, he said, “Maybe we’ve convinced ourselves this is what we should
be doing” in a world of conspicuous consumption.
Still, long days at work take a serious toll. For starters, it is very hard for
employees to maintain a healthy lifestyle when work and commuting consume 60 or
more hours a week. It is probably not a coincidence that obesity has become more
prevalent as work hours have expanded for some.
Too many hours at the office can also wind up being counterproductive. Employees
who are overtired or preoccupied with neglected personal issues are unlikely to
perform at their peak. They fall behind, spend more unproductive time at work to
catch up, and so on.
It is in managers’ interests to help employees find ways to get more done in
less time, and some are trying.
Sprint Nextel, for example, offers its employees time-saving services like the
ability to fill prescriptions at work and help with travel planning, said
Collier Case, Sprint’s director of health and productivity. There are also
incentives to stay active at work: the headquarters in Overland Park, Kan., has
covered pathways between buildings, and stairwells are designed to be inviting.
(Also, some elevators operate at deliberately slow speeds.)
Other companies are addressing the problems of long hours head on. About a year
ago, the financial services asset management group at Ernst & Young began trying
to cope better with its busy season, roughly February to May, when long
stretches of 11- and 12-hour days and weekend work are the norm. Arthur Tully,
the partner in charge of the group, went to his manager, who offered to pay for
consultants who could help change the group’s work style.
The consultants emphasized the inefficiency of multitasking (nothing gets done
very well); the need for adequate sleep, exercise and a healthy diet; and the
importance of scheduling time for restorative personal priorities.
Things changed. Free fruit was supplied twice daily, and bagels and cream cheese
were replaced with granola and fruit. Employees were also urged to limit weekend
work to one day when feasible, and get home to their families on Friday nights.
“There’s a view that the longer you work, the better you are,” Mr. Tully said.
“But that’s not true at all.”
It was the group’s busiest season ever, Mr. Tully said, but employees’ hours
declined over all. He does not yet know what effect the program had on turnover,
but at least one part of it has been made permanent. The fruit deliveries ended
after the busy season, and employees objected immediately. The fruit, Mr. Tully
said, is back.
IT was the year of years, the year of craziness, the year of
fire, blood and death. I had just turned 21, and I was as crazy as everyone
There were half a million American soldiers in Vietnam, Martin Luther King had
just been assassinated, cities were burning across America, and the world seemed
headed for an apocalyptic breakdown.
Being crazy struck me as a perfectly sane response to the hand I had been dealt
— the hand that all young men had been dealt in 1968. The instant I graduated
from college, I would be drafted to fight in a war I despised to the depths of
my being, and because I had already made up my mind to refuse to fight in that
war, I knew that my future held only two options: prison or exile.
I was not a violent person. Looking back on those days now, I see myself as a
quiet, bookish young man, struggling to teach myself how to become a writer,
immersed in my courses in literature and philosophy at Columbia. I had marched
in demonstrations against the war, but I was not an active member of any
political organization on campus. I felt sympathetic to the aims of S.D.S. (one
of several radical student groups, but by no means the most radical), and yet I
never attended its meetings and not once had I handed out a broadside or
leaflet. I wanted to read my books, write my poems and drink with my friends at
the West End bar.
Forty years ago today, a protest rally was held on the Columbia campus. The
issue had nothing to do with the war, but rather a gymnasium the university was
about to build in Morningside Park. The park was public property, and because
Columbia intended to create a separate entrance for the local residents (mostly
black), the building plan was deemed to be both unjust and racist. I was in
accord with this assessment, but I didn’t attend the rally because of the gym.
I went because I was crazy, crazy with the poison of Vietnam in my lungs, and
the many hundreds of students who gathered around the sundial in the center of
campus that afternoon were not there to protest the construction of the gym so
much as to vent their craziness, to lash out at something, anything, and since
we were all students at Columbia, why not throw bricks at Columbia, since it was
engaged in lucrative research projects for military contractors and thus was
contributing to the war effort in Vietnam?
Speech followed tempestuous speech, the enraged crowd roared with approval, and
then someone suggested that we all go to the construction site and tear down the
chain-link fence that had been erected to keep out trespassers. The crowd
thought that was an excellent idea, and so off it went, a throng of crazy,
shouting students charging off the Columbia campus toward Morningside Park. Much
to my astonishment, I was with them. What had happened to the gentle boy who
planned to spend the rest of his life sitting alone in a room writing books? He
was helping to tear down the fence. He tugged and pulled and pushed along with
several dozen others and, truth be told, found much satisfaction in this crazy,
After the outburst in the park, campus buildings were stormed, occupied and held
for a week. I wound up in Mathematics Hall and stayed for the duration of the
sit-in. The students of Columbia were on strike. As we calmly held our meetings
indoors, the campus was roiling with belligerent shouting matches and slugfests
as those for and against the strike went at one another with abandon. By the
night of April 30, the Columbia administration had had enough, and the police
were called in. A bloody riot ensued. Along with more than 700 other people, I
was arrested — pulled by my hair to the police van by one officer as another
officer stomped on my hand with his boot. But no regrets. I was proud to have
done my bit for the cause. Both crazy and proud.
What did we accomplish? Not much of anything. It’s true that the gymnasium
project was scrapped, but the real issue was Vietnam, and the war dragged on for
seven more horrible years. You can’t change government policy by attacking a
private institution. When French students erupted in May of that year of years,
they were directly confronting the national government — because their
universities were public, under the control of the Ministry of Education, and
what they did initiated changes in French life. We at Columbia were powerless,
and our little revolution was no more than a symbolic gesture. But symbolic
gestures are not empty gestures, and given the nature of those times, we did
what we could.
I hesitate to draw any comparisons with the present — and therefore will not end
this memory-piece with the word “Iraq.” I am 61 now, but my thinking has not
changed much since that year of fire and blood, and as I sit alone in this room
with a pen in my hand, I realize that I am still crazy, perhaps crazier than
Paul Auster is the author of the forthcoming “Man in the Dark.”
IN 1784, Benjamin Franklin composed a satire, “Essay on Daylight Saving,”
proposing a law that would oblige Parisians to get up an hour earlier in summer.
By putting the daylight to better use, he reasoned, they’d save a good deal of
money — 96 million livres tournois — that might otherwise go to buying candles.
Now this switch to daylight saving time (which occurs early Sunday in the United
States) is an annual ritual in Western countries.
Even more influential has been something else Franklin said about time in the
same year: time is money. He meant this only as a gentle reminder not to “sit
idle” for half the day. He might be dismayed if he could see how literally, and
self-destructively, we take his metaphor today. Our society is obsessed as never
before with making every single minute count. People even apply the language of
banking: We speak of “having” and “saving” and “investing” and “wasting” it.
But the quest to spend time the way we do money is doomed to failure, because
the time we experience bears little relation to time as read on a clock. The
brain creates its own time, and it is this inner time, not clock time, that
guides our actions. In the space of an hour, we can accomplish a great deal — or
Inner time is linked to activity. When we do nothing, and nothing happens around
us, we’re unable to track time. In 1962, Michel Siffre, a French geologist,
confined himself in a dark cave and discovered that he lost his sense of time.
Emerging after what he had calculated were 45 days, he was startled to find that
a full 61 days had elapsed.
To measure time, the brain uses circuits that are designed to monitor physical
movement. Neuroscientists have observed this phenomenon using computer-assisted
functional magnetic resonance imaging tomography. When subjects are asked to
indicate the time it takes to view a series of pictures, heightened activity is
measured in the centers that control muscular movement, primarily the
cerebellum, the basal ganglia and the supplementary motor area. That explains
why inner time can run faster or slower depending upon how we move our bodies —
as any Tai Chi master knows.
Time seems to expand when our senses are aroused. Peter Tse, a neuropsychologist
at Dartmouth, demonstrated this in an experiment in which subjects were shown a
sequence of flashing dots on a computer screen. The dots were timed to occur
once a second, with five black dots in a row followed by one moving, colored
one. Because the colored dot appeared so infrequently, it grabbed subjects’
attention and they perceived it as lasting twice as long as the others did.
Another ingenious bit of research, conducted in Germany, demonstrated that
within a brief time frame the brain can shift events forward or backward.
Subjects were asked to play a video game that involved steering airplanes, but
the joystick was programmed to react only after a brief delay. After playing a
while, the players stopped being aware of the time lag. But when the scientists
eliminated the delay, the subjects suddenly felt as though they were staring
into the future. It was as though the airplanes were moving on their own before
the subjects had directed them to do so.
The brain’s inclination to distort time is one reason we so often feel we have
too little of it. One in three Americans feels rushed all the time, according to
one survey. Even the cleverest use of time-management techniques is powerless to
augment the sum of minutes in our life (some 52 million, optimistically assuming
a life expectancy of 100 years), so we squeeze as much as we can into each one.
Believing time is money to lose, we perceive our shortage of time as stressful.
Thus, our fight-or-flight instinct is engaged, and the regions of the brain we
use to calmly and sensibly plan our time get switched off. We become fidgety,
erratic and rash.
Tasks take longer. We make mistakes — which take still more time to iron out.
Who among us has not been locked out of an apartment or lost a wallet when in a
great hurry? The perceived lack of time becomes real: We are not stressed
because we have no time, but rather, we have no time because we are stressed.
Studies have shown the alarming extent of the problem: office workers are no
longer able to stay focused on one specific task for more than about three
minutes, which means a great loss of productivity. The misguided notion that
time is money actually costs us money.
And it costs us time. People in industrial nations lose more years from
disability and premature death due to stress-related illnesses like heart
disease and depression than from other ailments. In scrambling to use time to
the hilt, we wind up with less of it.
The remedy is to liberate ourselves from Franklin’s equation. Time is not money
but “the element in which we exist,” as Joyce Carol Oates put it more than two
decades ago (in a relatively leisurely era). “We are either borne along by it or
drowned in it.”
Stefan Klein is the author, most recently,
of “The Secret Pulse of Time:
Sense of Life’s Scarcest Commodity.”
This article was translated by Shelley
Frisch from the German.
February 17, 2008
Filed at 12:21 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Even when experts were declaring the economy healthy, many Americans voiced a
vague, but persistent dissatisfaction.
True, jobs were relatively plentiful over the last few years. It was easy to
borrow and very cheap. The sharp rise in the value of homes and plentiful credit
cards encouraged a nation of consumers to get out and buy. But to many people,
something didn't feel right, even if they couldn't quite explain why.
Now the economic tide is receding, and the undertow that was there all along is
Take away the easy credit and consumers are left with paychecks that, for most,
haven't nearly kept pace with their need and propensity to spend.
The frustration of $3 gas and $4 milk, the worries about health care costs that
have risen four times the rate of pay, become much more real. The retirement
security that is only as good as the increasingly volatile stock market seems
much less certain.
Americans' declining confidence in their economy is triggered by a storm of very
recent pressures, including plunging home prices, tightening credit, and heavy
debt. But it is compounded by anxiety that was there all along, the result of a
long, slow drip of worries and vulnerabilities.
''The economy is currently in recession or arguably close to recession and
that's certainly weighing on the collective psyche,'' says Mark Zandi, chief
economist of forecaster Moody's Economy.com. ''But ... I do think there is an
increasing level of angst that is more fundamental and is not going to go away
even when the economy improves.''
Much of that anxiety is the uncomfortable, but expected jolt of the economic
roller coaster. During a downturn, people become less confident about keeping
their jobs or being able to find new ones, meeting household expenses and about
the prospects for the future.
But there may be more to it than just cyclical ups and downs.
What does the economic future hold? Many Americans feel increasingly unable to
answer that question with assurance, and they appraise it with a sense that they
are less in control of the outcome.
In Westminster, Colo., a Denver suburb, George Apodaca hears that uncertainty
from the maintenance workers, drivers and others enrolled in the home budgeting
class he teaches. Most have steady jobs, but are just getting by. They talk
about challenges like the rising cost of getting to work or medical bills, not
as new problems but as a continuing struggle.
''People in my class, they don't know what a recession means or what a boom
means,'' says Apodaca, a counselor for Colorado Housing Enterprises. ''They're
worried about buying the groceries, buying the gas.''
A year ago -- months before economic alarms went off -- nearly two of three
Americans polled by The Rockefeller Foundation said that they felt somewhat or a
lot less economically secure then they did a decade ago. Half said they expected
their children to face an economy even more shaky.
Other polls have registered similar unease in the past few years, showing large
numbers of Americans dissatisfied with the economy, and worried about retirement
security, health care costs, and a declining standard of living.
The surprising thing about many of these readings isn't that they've recently
skyrocketed. It's that in recent years they've registered consistently high
levels of worry without ever seeming to ease.
''This has just been a period of great disconnect between what the aggregate
economic statistics show and what leading politicians talk about and what
ordinary Americans are feeling,'' said Jacob Hacker, a Yale University professor
and author of ''The Great Risk Shift,'' which charts increased economic
insecurity. ''I think people are saying, where did the gains go? Where did the
boom go? And now that it's gone, what are we going to do?''
Those uncertainties have been submerged for the past few years. The war in Iraq
and the threat of terrorism dominated, drawing attention away from day-to-day
economic concerns. With employers adding workers, people's appraisal of the
economy focused less on jobs, the long-standing measure of financial security.
Many people gauged their well-being in wealth -- looking at the stock market,
and much more broadly, the rise of real estate prices, said Susan Sterne,
president of Economic Analysis Associates.
Americans borrowed freely against the value of their homes. But now there is
nothing left to shield them from the insecurities rooted in the old measures of
Except for the late 1990s, pay has been stagnant for more than a generation,
barely keeping pace with inflation. In 1973, the median male worker earned
$16.88 an hour, adjusted for inflation. In 2007, he earned $16.85.
For many families, the stagnation has been moderated by the addition of a second
paycheck as more women went to work, and their pay rose over the same period.
But the largest gains went to workers at the top of the pay scale. Now, economic
worries are rising fastest in households with smaller paychecks, and that chasm
''Over the past decades, whether inflation was much higher or lower, or incomes
grew faster or more slowly, there has never been such a wide divergence in the
experiences'' separating richer households from poorer ones, Richard Curtin, the
director of the University of Michigan's consumer survey said in summing up the
most recent figures.
That insecurity shows in small, but telling ways. Shoppers at drug store chain
Walgreens Inc. are increasingly bypassing name-brand cough syrups and pain
relievers and choosing cheaper store brands. Wal-Mart Stores Inc noticed that
many people who received its gift cards for the holidays used them in January to
buy food and other necessities instead of extras.
The pullback by consumers contrasts with years of continued spending that long
seemed to contradict mounting worries.
Worker optimism, which soared in the late 1990s, never fully rebounded after the
last, brief recession. Although jobs again were plentiful, it became clear the
new economy's opportunities came with few of the old assurances.
Rennie Sawade, the son of a Michigan auto worker, majored in computer science
because he saw no future on the assembly line. He was rewarded with a job at
Oracle Corp., but lost it in late 2005 when the company shifted his department's
work to India. Sawade, who lives in Woodinville, Wash. near Seattle, has been
unable to find a full-time replacement, instead jumping from contract job to
The contractor offers a 401(k), but contributions are entirely up to workers.
When Sawade's wife was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last year he missed the
equivalent of two weeks work -- and pay -- to take care of her. The job has
health insurance but still left the family with a bill for more than $2,000.
Contractors call to offer other jobs, but the pay is frequently disappointing,
''It was pretty well known when I was working on my bachelor's degree that the
auto industry was going to move overseas,'' he says. ''Everybody said get into
technology because you'll have a career. Now it looks like the same thing is
happening to technology.''
Cutbacks and changes by employers also have pushed heavy responsibilities on to
workers, many who find themselves unprepared.
In the past decade, scores of companies have frozen or eliminated benefit plans
providing a guaranteed pension. Many have replaced them with 401(k) plans whose
future worth depends on workers' investment skill. Almost half of all households
are at risk of coming up short in retirement, according to the Center for
Retirement Research at Boston College.
Worry also grew about the cost of health care, with good reason. Since 2001, the
cost of health insurance has gone up 78 percent -- about $1,500 more per year
for the average family, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Over the same
period, wages rose about 19 percent, and inflation about 17 percent. About four
in 10 people polled by the group say they are worried about paying more for
health care or insurance.
Even the consumption made possible by easy credit has helped turn up the
financial pressure. The number of products -- from air conditioners to cell
phones -- that Americans say they can't live without has grown substantially in
recent years, according to the Pew Research Center. About 6 in 10 working
Americans polled by the group say they don't earn enough to lead the life they
Economic confidence is, largely, a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more consumers
believe the economy is heading downhill, the more likely they'll rein in
spending that will contribute to a downturn.
''I think if people were generally more satisfied and less anxious perhaps they
would be more resistant to thinking things were deteriorating rapidly,'' says
Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center.
Maybe the downturn in optimism is temporary. Americans are voracious consumers
and persistent optimists.
But some believe a fundamental change in behavior and mind-set is taking place.
Since the early 1980s, consumers' contribution to the economy has risen from 63
percent, near where it had long hovered, to 70 percent. Baby boomers spent
generously on growing families. Interest rates and inflation dropped, making
homes and other assets worth more and cutting borrowing costs. The spread of
easy credit promoted spending.
Now, those are drying up and the population is aging. Older households don't
spend as much, and often assess the economy more conservatively. Over the next
generation, that could drive consumers' contribution to the economy back down to
the low-60 percent range, Zandi said.
''There were tail winds behind'' the growth in consumer spending over the last
25 years, he says. ''Now there are headwinds.''
A war winds on, but lawmakers are seemingly powerless to do
anything about it. The wrenching sorrow of tragedies on a Virginia campus, a
Minnesota highway bridge and deep inside a Utah coal mine is compounded by a
question that echoes: Could this have been prevented?
Thousands lose their homes in a mortgage and credit crisis that worsened --
despite repeated assurances that the worst had passed.
Every year has grim headlines. But the story of 2007 was the frustration that
wound through so much of the news. Americans repeatedly confronted the same
images and the same misgivings in many of the year's biggest stories.
The frustration factor was personified by former U.S. Attorney General Alberto
Gonzales, at the vortex of criticism over the dismissal of eight federal
prosecutors. When the story began around the New Year, most would have figured
it as a mildly sensational, fairly routine political brouhaha.
Then it stretched into the spring and summer, with an endless loop of Gonzales'
vaguely apologetic denials. Called before Congress in April, he found more than
70 ways to say he could not remember what had happened. Any day now, pundits
speculated, Gonzales could take the fall.
By the time Gonzales finally did resign effective in September, the focus on
right or wrong had largely been replaced by a grinding frustration over why
resolution -- any resolution -- had taken so long. Even when it ended, it did so
That story was hardly unique. After a while it became difficult to separate the
frustration built into many of the year's biggest news stories from a public
mood of resigned exasperation.
Were we frustrated by the events themselves, or was our frustration reflected in
our reaction to them?
That frustration made it difficult to recall that 2007 had started with a mix of
uncertainty and possibility.
Voters deeply dissatisfied with the Bush administration had signaled a strong
desire for a new direction and invested those hopes in opposition Democrats.
''The election of 2006 was a call to change,'' Rep. Nancy Pelosi proclaimed as
she led her party into leadership of the House in January. ''The American people
rejected an open-ended obligation to a war without end.''
But the war has stretched well into a fifth year, with troops no closer to an
exit. And in early November, troop deaths made 2007 the deadliest year for
American troops since the war began.
The number of attacks, deaths and injuries dropped off sharply in recent months,
but the improvement did little to revise the public perceptions.
Opinion polls reflected public frustration with the inability of lawmakers to
bring the war any nearer to an end, a feeling acknowledged by Pelosi.
''If you asked me in a phone call, as ardent a Democrat as I am, I would
disapprove of Congress as well,'' she told reporters.
The year's frustrations were hardly limited to politics.
In April, the deadliest shooting rampage in the nation's history provoked a
national outpouring of grief for the people of Virginia Tech. But the initial
horror turned to grim consternation when it became clear that university
officials and others knew gunman Seung-Hui Cho was deeply troubled, yet they had
missed any opportunity to prevent the killings of his 32 victims.
That futility lasted long after the massacre, with investigators stymied in
their search for a motive and with continued hand-wringing over where or whether
to place blame.
''This is a story of recrimination, or a story of redemption, which will just
take us into the past,'' one Tech professor said, addressing calls for the
university's president to resign months after the massacre. ''The story of
redemption is how we move on.''
Late in the year, the nation confronted still other violent tragedies. In early
December, a 19-year-old who wrote that he ''just snapped'' fatally wounded eight
people and killed himself at an Omaha mall; days later, a 24-year-old gunman
killed two staffers at a Colorado missionary training center, then two young
women at a megachurch before turning a gun on himself.
In August, the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River
during rush hour. Thirteen people died and more than 100 others were injured.
The miracle was that it wasn't worse.
The curse was the nagging doubts about whether the disaster might have been
preventable. Minnesota officials were warned as early as 1990 that the bridge
was ''structurally deficient,'' but had relied on small-scale repairs and
inspections rather than reinforcement or replacement.
Then attention turned to a disaster in a place that seemed all too familiar.
Fully a year and a half after West Virginia's Sago Mine tragedy prompted
widespread calls for tougher oversight of the mining industry, an accident in
Utah provided an indelible reminder of those dangers.
At first, efforts to rescue six workers trapped inside the Crandall Canyon Mine
appeared to offer reason for hope. But the deaths of three would-be rescuers
compounded sorrow with futility. In November, investigators reported that
despite the public's focus on mine safety, federal regulators had failed to
inspect one of every seven underground coal mines in the year following Sago --
and that their inspections of the Utah mine were seriously flawed.
The year also saw greatly increased attention to global warming. But
acknowledging the issue was one thing, finding solutions was another.
''We seek your leadership,'' a delegate from Papua New Guinea told U.S.
officials at international climate talks in December. ''But if for some reason
you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the
The talks ended with a U.S. agreeing to negotiations for a new climate treaty on
condition that, for now, plans will not include specific emission reduction
targets. At home, it took until well into December for the federal government to
mandate the first increase in auto fuel economy in 32 years along with stepped
up use of ethanol.
Across the South, dry weather extended a parching drought that some blamed
partially on climate change.
As officials battled for precious water, and belatedly began focusing on
conservation, the drought's persistence convinced some to try more extraordinary
''We come here very reverently and respectfully to pray up a storm,'' Georgia
Gov. Sonny Perdue told a crowd of people who gathered outside the Capitol to
seek divine intervention.
Meanwhile, the headlines offered more than enough to confound any consumer.
First came the recall of cat and dog food linked to the death of more than 100
pets, blamed on ingredients provided by a Chinese manufacturer. That lead to
broad concerns about the safety of food products made in Chinese factories, but
tighter import restrictions seemed fruitless. The pet food scare was followed by
the Chinese toothpaste scare, then worries about seafood and lipstick.
But nothing unsettled the public as much as a series of recalls of Chinese-made
toys, starting with Thomas the Tank Engine wooden train sets found to contain
lead paint. That was in June, but more recalls of toys tainted with lead or
other hazards continued well into November.
At the same time, energy prices rattled the public. Oil began the year at near
$60 a barrel, but began climbing in the spring and just kept on going. By year's
end, the price regularly flirted with $100 a barrel. The question was how much
that would cut into consumers' ability to keep up spending. The answer was
complicated by the fact that buying power was simultaneously curbed by a drop in
the value of the dollar.
But the frustration of higher prices at the pump seemed minor compared to the
fears and uncertainty that accompanied a crisis in the housing and mortgage
It began as the story of what sounded like a marginal niche of the economy --
subprime loans. But concerns rippled. Maybe it was about more than thousands of
people losing their homes. Maybe it was a sign of deeper troubles with the
credit markets that sustain businesses, and a premonition of more serious woes
that would could cut into the consumer spending that has long been the economy's
Or maybe not. Month after month, federal economic officials offered calm
reassurances that the problems were ''contained,'' and did not pose a danger to
the rest of the economy.
But by year's end, even optimists were sounding doubtful, the stock market had
fallen sharply from record highs, and the questions about subprime had morphed
into a debate over whether a recession was in store in the new year.
No wonder, then, that polls showed the majority of Americans frustrated with the
status quo and with deep misgivings about the nation's direction. And little in
the news seemed to reassure us.
''Do you understand our frustration?'' Maryland Sen. Benjamin Cardin asked
Gonzales, in a July hearing.
''I do understand your frustration,'' Gonzales replied.
The answer sounded simultaneously empathetic and empty. And at the end of the
exchange, anyone craving resolution or relief probably was more frustrated than
Thousands of children are being forced to work as slave labour on cocoa farms in
west Africa to help produce the chocolate British youngsters will be enjoying
this Easter, campaigners warned.
According to International Labour Organisation figures, 12,000 children have
been trafficked from countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso to the Ivory Coast,
where they work long hours for no pay and little food on the cocoa plantations.
Hundreds of thousands more help out on family farms in west Africa, in often
hazardous conditions which put their health at risk and keeps them out of
school, charities said.
Stop the Traffik, an anti-slavery coalition which is backed by Amnesty
International, World Vision and Tearfund, is demanding the major chocolate
manufacturers certify chocolate with a "traffick-free" guarantee so consumers
can eat chocolate without unwittingly supporting child slave labour.
Stop the Traffik believes the root of the problem is the abject poverty of the
farmers - which drives them to seek cheap or free labour - and is demanding more
money from the multibillion-pound industry to protect children.
But British chocolate manufacturers said they believed trafficking was
"unacceptable" and the industry was investing in a region-wide certification
scheme to tackle the issue.
Stop the Traffik chairman Steve Chalke said: "These youngsters come from a
background of poverty, and are even knowingly sold by their parents sometimes.
"Often what will happen is the parents are starving, they're poor, they have
nothing and somebody comes along and says 'I'll take your son, he'll work on my
farm and I'll give you some money.
"They think 'we'll get money so we can eat and our son gets a job'. They don't
know what he's going to is a living hell.
"They are being hit, they have been taken from their mothers, they effectively
have no freedom, no escape, there's no pay, little food, no education - and we
sit here munching through our chocolate bars."
THE Bill to
provide for the permanent adoption of Summer Time was again considered in
Standing Committee at the House of Commons yesterday, Mr E.R. Turton (Thirsk and
Malton, U.) presiding.
Attempts were made to alter the dates in the proposed measure, and also to make
it not applicable to Scotland, but they were unsuccessful, and it was decided
that the Bill should be reported without amendment.
Sir Henry Cautley (East Grinstead, U.) moved an amendment to make Summer Time
begin as at present instead of the first Saturday in April or the last Saturday
in March, as proposed in the Bill. He said while people in the towns desired to
have Summer Time for September, they did not get any substantial benefit out of
the fortnight in the early part of April. In that month there were constantly
early frosts and the measure would be a real hardship to a vast number of
He suggested that the Committee should show some practical sympathy with early
risers, who would be made to suffer by the Bill.
Major Colfox (Dorset U.) proposed that the second Saturday in September should
be substituted for the first Saturday in October. He said they had not had any
expression of opinion from the committee as to what was the appropriate date for
the closing of summer time.
Since the promoters of the Bill had not agreed to that concession it was
necessary to have a definite decision from the committee as the appropriate date
The amendment was defeated.
Captain A.H. Moreing (Camborne, Const.) proposed that a clause should be
inserted stating that the Act should not apply to Scotland. He said the
conditions in Scotland and England were very different. The day was much longer
in Scotland, especially in the north, and they did not need summer time.
Mr. Locker-Lampson (Under-Secretary, Home Office) said to have a different time
on one side of the border to that on the other would result in confusion in
regard to the railways and postal and business arrangements.
Apart from that, there was no evidence that Scotland did not want the Bill. They
had evidence that a great many people in Scotland wanted it. In 1923, 52
Scottish boroughs were in favour of the longer period. So far as he knew they
had no representations against the Bill from Scottish agriculturists.