Most Americans approved, counting work reductions as the better half of industrial progress (higher wages and shorter hours). No one expected this progress would end. Quite the contrary. Through the last century, observers such as John Maynard Keynes, Julien Huxley, Dorothy Canfield Fisher and Eric Sevareid regularly predicted that soon America would enter an age of leisure in which we would chose to devote more and more of our lives to the “pursuit of happiness” promised in the Declaration of Independence. As technology created “labor-saving” machines and the economy grew, they reasoned, we would gradually be able to buy back more of our time from our jobs, preferring leisure to new goods and services that we had never needed, or even seen before.
Then real progress would begin. Humane and moral progress. Instead of perpetual consumerism and the infinite increase in material wealth, we would naturally turn to improving the human condition, learning how to live together “wisely, agreeable, and well,” as Keynes put it. Progress would then take the form of healthier families, communities and cities—the increase of knowledge, the enjoyment of nature, history and other peoples, an increasing delight in the marvels of the human spirit, the practice of our beliefs and values together, the finding of common ground for conviviality, expanding our awareness of God, wondering in Creation.