Monday, October 31, 2011


4-4-4 Plan

Presidential candidate Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan (9% individual flat tax, 9% national sales tax, 9% business flat tax) has recently attracted much attention. I think we the people should focus rather on implementation of the 4-4-4 plan outlined by Helen and Scott Nearing in The Maple Sugar Book (New York: Schocken Books, 1970), pp. 238-239 (a passage in which the Nearings explain the reasons why they abandoned the city for the country):
Sixth, we wanted, in one sense most important of all, to make a living in about half of our working time—say four or five hours a day—so that we would be freed from the livelihood problem and enabled to devote the other half of our time to teaching, writing, music, travel. We had frequently read and heard theoretical advocacies of such a daily time schedule: four hours for bread labor, four hours for one's vocation, and four hours for social intercourse, but we had seldom seen it practiced in our acquisitive society.* We have succeeded better than we dared to hope, in putting such a formula into practice, but subject to minor modifications. There are times during the year, such as the syrup-making weeks, when we work eight or ten or twelve hours a day. These we balance with at least an equal number of weeks when we do no bread labor whatsoever. During the balance of the year, we succeed moderately well in carrying out the daily 4-4-4 formula.

* In a letter to General Koscuisko in February 26, 1810, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "I am retired to Monticello where ... I enjoy a repose to which I have been long a stranger. My mornings are devoted to correspondence. From breakfast to dinner, I am in my shops, my garden, or on horseback among my farms; from dinner to dark, I give to society and recreation with my neighbors and my friends; and from candle light to early bed-time, I read." The Writings of Thomas Jefferson Washington: Memorial Association, 1907. Vol. XII. P. 369.
This admirable plan reminds me of an anonymous poem from the Greek Anthology (10.43, tr. W.R. Paton, with his note), which recommends a slightly longer work day:
Six hours are most suitable for labour, and the four that follow, when set forth in letters,1 say to men "Live."

1 The letters of the alphabet were used as figures: ΖΗΘΙ (meaning "live") is 7,8,9,10.

Ἓξ ὧραι μόχθοις ἱκανώταται· αἱ δὲ μετ' αὐτὰς
  γράμμασι δεικνύμεναι ΖΗΘΙ λέγουσι βροτοῖς.
If elected President, I pledge to work tirelessly (but no more than 4 hours a day) to promote nationwide adoption of the 4-4-4 plan.

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