Budget Proposal Puts Economics Above Ethics

London: 8th July 2015 – George Osborne’s proposal to extend Sunday trading hours in today’s budget represents a clear case of economics trumping ethics, according to social futurist Mal Fletcher.

In a paper published today by the London-based international think tank 2020Plus, Fletcher urges that arguments about increased economic opportunities should not be allowed to obscure more important questions about human values and wellbeing.

Under the Budget proposal, opportunities for enhancing family interaction and social cohesion, as well as personal reflection and mental focus, would be sacrificed in the interests of economic growth and the government’s VAT coffers.

“Once we reduce everything to purely monetary values, we encourage an economy that defines us rather than serving us,” says Fletcher. “That’s the kind of thinking that led us into the Great Recession. We should avoid it at all costs.”

“What’s more, studies show how important it is to our education, happiness and even longevity of life, that we spend regular downtime in non-distracted, face-to-face contact with people close to us.”

“The pressures of workplace stress, which is on the rise, make this downtime even more essential as many people find it difficult to switch off after hours. Even children are affected, with one UK study suggesting that 40 percent of children who own a smart-phone are sleep deprived.”

Meanwhile, he adds, there is evidence that an increasing engagement with digital gadgets is leading to a drop in empathy levels among some children and younger people.

According to some reports, British children as young as five now find it harder to read subtle facial signals in human conversation, because they are so heavily engaged with digital screens.

Mal Fletcher says, “Having one day each week in which social norms gently encourage us to do very little except come together, without the distractions of shopping and work, provides a rare opportunity to switch off. It allows us to build empathy and resolve potential conflict situations.” 

The answer is not to turn back the clock. Modern schedules are complex, so shopping times must offer convenience for all and Sunday trading is vital for some people.

Yet the availability of shopping should be balanced against the interests of local communities and the workers who would have little option but to forego valuable family and recreation time.

Claims that longer trading hours will help retailers overcome competition from online shopping are wide of the mark, Fletcher argues. Retailers need to find creative new ways to offer a premium real-world experience, while accepting that the basics will increasingly be found online.

“For the sake of our physical and cognitive welfare,” Fletcher concludes, “we need days when social convention suggests we’re not expected to be doing anything in particular – whether that’s working at the cash register or hunting for bargains in the high street.”

For interviews or further information contact Mal Fletcher at 2020Plus: 0870 766 2660 or media@2020Plus.net.


Mal Fletcher, a Social Commentator, leads the 2020Plus Think Tank based in London. He is a regular commentator for the BBC and other media outlets and is a widely published author, having researched social trends for more than two decades. He speaks regularly to audiences around the world on issues relating to future social change.

To read the full article, Extending Sunday Trading – Economics Over Ethics, visit www.2020plus.net

© Copyright 2020plus.net with Mal Fletcher

Recent Social Comments

››  BBC Bashir Saga Feeds Trust Deficit

Posted on: Friday 21 May 2021

››  TechnoKings Rule. But At What Cost?

Posted on: Thursday 25 March 2021

››  2021: Tech Innovation Boom!

Posted on: Thursday 31 December 2020

››  Covid-19 Shouldn't Kill Cash!

Posted on: Thursday 19 November 2020

››  The Hot Response Culture (Why Reason & Compassion Should Prevail)

Posted on: Tuesday 25 August 2020