by Gary North
I offer a free service to my readers. They can ask an investment question, and if it's one I think a lot of my readers would be interested in, I publish an answer. I limit the question to 24 words or fewer.
I received this question recently. The format conforms to my required outline for questions.
Age: 42; occupation: software test engineer; location: San Luis Obispo, CA; annual income: $74,000, net worth: home: $560K, owe $405K, savings: $10K, investment in profitable and growing pre-IPO company: $300K, 401K: $50K #1 goal: Love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind and fulfill he purposes He has left me on earth for (namely to be a great husband and father, and reveal Jesus to whomever I meet).
Question: How can I find time to learn more skills while also trying to spend quality and quantity time with my family?
The man is a Christian. So, I think the best way to answer his question is to go to the Bible in search of passages related to quality time.
There is one. As far as I can see, there is only one.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (Deuteronomy 6:6—7).
You might think, "What about the feasts: Passover, Firstfruits, and Tabernacles?" Quality time? A family was on the road, walking for days. Three or four days of hearing, "Are we there yet?" No disposable diapers. No fast food restaurants. Then the walk back. The feasts were designed to keep the whole nation physically fit. Israel was a holy army. This was "family camp" — boot camp. I don't think this is what modern promoters of quality time have in mind.
If quality time is crucial, why isn't it mentioned in the Bible? Why aren't there descriptions of it? What other religious literature that has stood the test of time has a reference to quality time?
Consider a man in ancient Israel who was a trader or sailor. What quality time did he have with his family? Not much. Yet sailors have married and had children for millennia. They sent their money to their wives. Societies have never prohibited such family arrangements or even recommended against them. The Mosaic law even had a unique law associated with Passover designed for such workers. Instead of celebrating it on day 14 of the first month, they could wait a month.
Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto the LORD. The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Numbers 9:10—11).
The central concern of the family down through history is this: the husband's financial support of his family. This is surely the case with Christianity.
But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (I Timothy 5:8).
There is no comparable statement with respect to quality time. There is not even a definition of quality time.
Quality time is related to the concept of adolescence. Both have become a focus of concern with the rise of modern education. Modern education is the product of the Industrial Revolution coupled with tax-funded schools.
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
Prior to the twentieth century, over half the population in every society was rural. Prior to the nineteenth century, the figure was probably in the range of 90%.
Except in winter, men went into the fields daily with their sons. Daughters remained at home with their mothers. Each parent taught children the gender-specific skills of the farmer's lifetime occupation. The social division of labor has primarily been a function of gender in most societies in history. Only with the development of labor-saving machinery and especially electricity has this changed. It was not Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony who made American woman more equal to men. It was James Watt and Thomas Edison. The light switch is the consummate symbol of this enormous social change. Women can flip one as well as men can. After most men stopped chopping wood, the suffragettes won their battle, but not until then. (If you do not see the connection here, you should have majored in economics instead of political science.)
Because the social division of labor for millennia was gender-specific, productivity was low. Most people are round pegs. Most holes were square. In towns, there was greater specialization. Townspeople mostly served farmers. In cities, there was considerable specialization. Cities grew up along trade routes. Workers served the needs of narrow clienteles. There were lots of occupations. But cities were few and far between. Comparatively few people lived in them.
All this began to change with the Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth century in England. There was great innovation in technology. (An amazing percentage came from the Scots. No one knows why.) There were institutional innovations for capital creation, which funded these new technologies. England's position as a sea-trading nation helped deliver the goods produced by technological specialization.
Within half a century, this civilizational model had spread across Europe and into North America above the Rio Grande. Within a century, the social order had been completely transformed. It was a revolution. Free markets had produced capitalization. Capital flowed into new occupations. Occupations multiplied.
Men no longer went into the fields with their sons. They went to work at a factory or a retail outlet. They worked 12 hours a day, five days a week, and half a day on Saturday.
American children went to tax-funded schools after 1850, at least north of the Mason-Dixon line. Schoolmarms became tutors for large numbers of children, from ages 6 to 18, though usually age 14, when most students dropped out. The division of labor ruled inside schoolrooms. Teachers taught the older students to teach the younger ones. This worked well, but it was abandoned in favor of the urban system of classroom division by academic year, which became widespread in the early twentieth century. After that, salaried teachers took over all instruction.
Parents surrendered quality time to tax-funded bureaucrats. Fathers voted this system into reality.
In the 1920s, radio arrived. Families' time in the evening centered around the radio. Then came television.
All of this was made possible by capital. Capital made possible enormous specialization. Specialization was also funded by what recent sociologists call "quality time." People surrendered it to purchase radio and TV time.
Quality time was always mostly work. It was devoted to teaching children how to work. It meant delegating family tasks to children. It ended when education was bureaucratized.
JONES & SON
We no longer see signs on establishments with the words, "& Son." There is a reason for this. Capital has funded new products and new occupations. More and more, individuals are round pegs in round holes. People can find ways to serve consumers as never before. They can match (1) their skills, interests, and a passion to be creative with (2) consumer demand. The free market makes possible the fine-tuning and close matching of production and consumption.
There is a thing called the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC). The U.S. government created it in the 1930s. Each profession or business category has an SIC number. There are 1,004 separate industries. The new North American SIC system has 1,170 industries.
Jones has one set of skills. His son has another set. The son would be a round peg in his father's company, Square Holes, Inc.
So, sons do not subordinate themselves to their fathers as occupational instructors, as most sons did until 1900. Yet "quality time" was mostly occupational instruction time, from the dawn of human society until 1900.
So, formal instruction is general rather than specific until the day the employee goes on the actual job. Instruction in the liberal arts is the norm for the majority of high school students. Instruction in some industrial skill is reserved for the social losers in the system of tax-funded education. The more specific the instruction program, the lower its social ranking.
Nevertheless, a plumber makes more money than a college graduate with a degree in the liberal arts. But he is lower on the social scale. It costs a lot of money — forfeited lifetime earnings — to maintain one's position in white-collar society.
Jones works day and night to send his son to college, so that his son can find a job at Round Holes, Inc. He sends his daughter to college so that some future employee at Round Holes, Inc. will marry her. But if no one will marry her, she can get a career for herself in one of those 1,170 industries.
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO QUALITY TIME?
Productivity replaced it. This productivity was provided by capital investment on a scale undreamed of prior to the late nineteenth century.
Quality time was always mostly low-productivity work time: in the fields for sons and in the home for daughters.
Contemporary complaints about the loss of quality time rarely point to what quality time always was in history. Quality time is a highly specialized research field for late-twentieth century academics. People then spend time away from their children to read books on the need for more quality time spent with children.
Finding quality time is like finding time for every other activity. It involves budgeting.
So, to help you gain quality time with your children, if they are still at home, I recommend the following phrases.
1. "Turn that thing off!" (television set)
2. "Turn that thing down!" (stereo)
3. "Take those things off!" (iPod earphones)
4. "Finish your homework!"
Or, as those unheralded masters of modern social philosophy, Leiber and Stoller, put it (and the Coasters sang it) in 1958:
Take out the papers and the trash
Or you don't get no spendin' cash.
If you don't scrub that kitchen floor
You ain't gonna rock and roll no more.
"Yakety yak!" (Don't talk back.)
Just finish cleanin' up your room
Let's see that dust fly with that broom.
Get all that garbage out of sight
Or you don't go out Friday night.
"Yakety yak!" (Don't talk back.)
You just put on your coat and hat
And walk yourself to the laundromat.
And when you finish doin' that
Bring in the dog and put out the cat.
"Yakety yak!" (Don't talk back.)
Don't you give me no dirty looks.
Your father's hip; he knows what cooks.
Just tell your hoodlum friend outside
You ain't got time to take a ride.
"Yakety yak!" (Don't talk back.)
Then, when this crucial step in your family's quality time-recovery program is completed, don't you turn on the TV, the computer, the stereo, or the iPod.
Back to my correspondent's question of finding time for self-help education. If you drive to work, get an MP3 player, such as an iPod, and listen to self-help or educational lectures. Convert drive time into education. (Note: don't stick the unit's earphones in your ears. You may not hear a siren if you do. Plug it into your car's audio system.)
Do the same at lunch time. Brown bag it. Then use the time to read on-line, or listen to iPod instructional lectures, or whatever.
If you are a typical commuter, this will get you an additional 90 minutes of productive time per day.
Get your wife to quit her job. Have her buy Arthur Robinson's $200 home school curriculum — one purchase per family, once. Cheap!
Pull the children out of school and have them study at home.
They can complete their lessons in four hours. That's noon. In the afternoon, your wife can teach them the basics of household management. This is high quality time. (See Leiber and Stoller, op. cit.)
When you get home from work, spend an hour seeing how well your children have done their work. Give them advice on how to do it better. Kids just love free advice from fathers at the end of the day. They always have. You did, didn't you? Of course you did.
Eat dinner. Ask questions after dinner. "What did you learn today?" "Nothing." And so on. Quality time.
After the kids have finished applying all of your recommendations, writing memos dutifully in their Day Timers, be sure to leave the TV off. Talk to your wife. "How did your day go?" "The same as always." "Mine did, too."
After 15 minutes, she will look at the clock and say, "Gray's Anatomy is about to start."
Then you can go listen to another instructional MP3 lecture.
Or you can watch Gray's Anatomy. There is this gung-ho Chinese female doctor and a bunch of hunk physicians. You'll love it . . . as much as I do.
Have you ever considered model trains? Quality time. Alone.
This obsession over quality time is part of modern man's delight in self-criticism. We live in an era of what R. J. Rushdoony identified as the politics of guilt and pity. When people feel guilty, they are more likely to let the state tax them and spend the money to make things better . . . for the state.
The hand-wringing over the loss of quality time is the product of way too much leisure time on the part of middle-class writers. They invent a world gone by that never existed, or that was very different from what they want their readers to believe. They don't talk about dawn-to-dusk time in the fields, fathers and sons.
Even if was all that today's writers imply that it was, it is gone forever. It has been gone in the United States for a century or more. Why all the fuss now? Because people spend more time reading books about the loss of quality time than they spend with each other. It is like reading a diet book while munching on Fritos and bean dip.
Quality time is productive time. Look for family projects that are clearly beneficial to every member and which impose responsibility on every member.
If you can identify these, implement these, and get continued cooperation with these, you will have quality time.
My recommendation: start a home business in which each child is given more shares according to his or her contribution of time. Arthur Robinson did this. The family jointly created the Robinson Curriculum. I think it has sold 60,000 copies. Half the money goes to the family. Do the math.
February 5, 2007
Copyright © 2007 LewRockwell.com