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Morton Bast

editorial coordinator, TED

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What's your million-dollar idea to change the world?

Every year, the TED Prize is given to one innovative thinker who has what it takes to make a difference -- by putting one million dollars into action in order to fulfill a world-changing vision.

Since nominations are open for the 2014 TED Prize, we wanted to put our heads together with you, the TED community, and brainstorm even further: How would you choose to make an impact with one million dollars? What would you like to see as next year's TED Prize wish to inspire the world?

This is a space for you to get your mental gears turning. If you would like to officially nominate a mentor, colleague, friend -- or even yourself -- head to www.tedprize.org by Sunday, June 16.

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  • Bob S

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    May 26 2013: 20-hour work week, worldwide. We have 5 billion working age people on the planet. Some of them work (and consume) too much. Many of them don't have any work at all, or are not paid enough. Both unemployment and low wages are caused by over-supply of labor. The solution is simple: limit the supply of labor. This would solve the unemployment problem and it would increase real wages as the employers would have to compete for fewer workers.

    Over the past 40 years, we have seen an incredible rise in productivity (computers, robots, etc.). At the same time, there are many more workers available to do the remaining work that still cannot be done by machines. As a result, the workers are willing to accept lower and lower wages as they compete with each for the scarce jobs.

    Some claim that the problem could be solved by "growing the economy", meaning increasing the consumption. If we managed to consume fast enough to create decent paying 40-hour/week jobs for 5 billion workers, we as a species would commit an environmental suicide.

    It's time to work less and live more. It worked wonderfully in the 1930s when we went from 60 to 40 hour work week. It's time to cut the working hours again.
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      May 26 2013: Curious here Bob..............

      'limit the supply of labor.'...... you say, now how would that work?

      ROFL..................

      By the Unions only allowing a certain number of workers to be available for employment perchance?

      Suggest the problem is not an oversupply of workers but an under supply of jobs or maybe there is an oversupply of workers and that I suggest is because there are too many people on the planet and its only going to get harder/worse in that department.

      and when you say Bring on a '20-hour work week, worldwide. .......and 'It's time to work less and live more.' you appear to be saying that people should be now paid more fore doing less.

      Good luck with that one! :)
      • Bob S

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        May 26 2013: It could be as simple as lowering the limit of what is considered over-time work (currently 40 hours/wk in most developed countries) to 20 hours per week and increasing the over-time pay from 1.5x to, let's say, 3x of regular pay. That would encourage businesses to hire more workers instead of increasing the hours of existing workers.

        Of course, all this would have to be phased in over 5-10 years to allow everyone to adjust.

        I did not say people should be paid more for doing less, but that I would expect that to be one of the results of employers competing over, now suddenly scarce, workers.
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          May 27 2013: Always find it interesting how the solution is as simple as SOMEBODY ELSE pays for it!

          Ponder, as Margaret Thatcher is quoted as saying: 'Sooner or later you run out of spending other peoples money.'
        • May 31 2013: Bob, As having been an accountant in a business, I found that your "theory" really is not quite right in math. If an employer hires 1 worker who only works 20 hours per week and pays the normal wage, but this worker only produces half of what a 40 hour worker usually produces, (in other word, the employer has to pay twice the wage to produce the same amount of goods/services) then the employer can hardly make a profit thus he will starve, If instead he pays only one half of the wage to the 20 h worker, then the latter will starve. Yes, you can make the situation to have twice as many workers being needed for the same production in a business, but it won't work by normal math in cost and profit balance.
          Actually, similar problems already happened in several Southern European countries. In there, businesses, with workers having 22 -25 working hours/week, couldn't survive the competition with other exporting countries of the world, including Germany. Also, in the U. S. , the small businesses here currently all tried to make all their employees to work less than 30 h per week to avoid the penalty of not putting all their employees in a company supported health insurance plan. So, Bob, if you do find your scheme works on hiring workers to work 20 h per week , and double the number of workers, and allowing the business still be able to make a profit, I guarantee that you will be SOUGHT AFTER BY ALL THE EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN BUSINESSES TO BE A CONSULTANT TO TEACH THEM TO ALLEVIATE THEIR DIFFICULTIES FOR THEIR SURVIVAL!
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        May 27 2013: The whole universe is about taking the work out of living, it packs the most in the least, life, in a breath of air. As such it supplyes us with a near continuous stream of insights, and now we are well into the age of refinemend. Humanity has been provided with all the tools, toys, skills, talents, insights, to automate and streamline production of goods and take the drudgery out of living. Instead of freeing us up to have life come work for us all, life has become a make work project since we all got schooled to hold a job. Oft think much of our busyNess is because we cannot stomach the thoughts we have. We are so mired in politics and with it, the laws of man and money matters to the point that the thought of humanity operating like our bodyes do. with every cell of our being, from the moment of conception, knowing enough to play its part within the whole. Surely the sum of its parts, is like wise programmed from within. We do not need teaching near as much as be give a chance to continue dream ourselves into being on having been fast forwarded through the billions of years and are a combo of linage locale assembling ourselves to pick up on where humanity has evolved to. Or we can say, each of us is a cosmic update , with minds that works at lightning speed. A 50 50 recombine. . Schooling has us try think through other peoples thinking while not let deal with our own assimilation of all we happen on. if humanity operates as nature does, which is an instant fix, only the laws of man, his now medieval institutions and focus on punishment instead of healing, going by the book instead of fly by the seat of his pants. . we'd all be pitching in 2 days a week maybe to have life work for all of us, on clearing the air and cleaning up our act. if life doesn't work like a charm for us, we haven't come to the answers are yet.
      • Bob S

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        May 27 2013: BR, yes I have pondered how we got to the point where almost all of our wealth has ended up in the pockets of a few rich, greedy bastards. I have concluded that it started 30 years ago when Thatcher and her in-Hell-burning buddy Reagan sold us the trickle-down economics that delivered nothing but lots of trickle-up.
        • May 27 2013: Uh Bob , do you remember 30 years ago? Interest rates for mortgages 13% and more. Price controls including on wages. Stagflation, the collapse of manufacturing and oil industry . Gas lines and rationing. Any of this ring a bell? See the link below to remember the years before RRegan. He wasn't perfect by far but he did something.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_oil_crisis
      • Bob S

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        Jun 1 2013: Bart, thanks for your response. How do you explain that we were able to go from 60 to 40 hours per week in the 1930s? Yes, I understand we have a global economy now, which is why work week reduction does not work if only one or a few countries do it. The key word in my original posting is worldwide. The hours would have to be reduced by the same amount by the majority of the countries worldwide at the same time.

        Regarding the pay, the most likely outcome would be some reduction in take-home pay by workers working fewer hours, though not necessarily by 50% due to the increased competition between employers. No, I don’t think too many employers would starve as a result. Given how well the employers have done over the past 30 years, it’s more likely that they would have to give up one of the three summer homes, but they would not starve.

        As to the workers, even with the reduction in pay, I would not expect any major decline in workers’ standard of living. Remember, everybody’s pay would be lowered. What do you think the sellers of goods and services would do faced with reduced purchase power? Many would lower their prices. And yes, there are plenty of items that are way over-priced. Take for example housing, the biggest expense for most people. The houses that sell for $500K where I live sell for $350K in Idaho. $350K is much closer to what it costs to build the house in Idaho as well as here. It just happens that people where I live have more income and the sellers who know it price the houses as high as the market can bear. Same with other services like healthcare. Plenty of markup to cut.

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