I’ll dedicate myself to pissing on John Calvin’s grave for as long as I live. I still think he’s one of the most malignant influences on American culture, period. But it’s only fair to acknowledge that he may not be entirely to blame for our insane attitude regarding work, as a new book asserts:
People in the U.S. often pride themselves for working more than our European counterparts. Why do we work so much in the first place?There aren’t any historical or cultural reasons for it. Americans famously had more leisure time than the Japanese back in the 1960s. I would say if you did a survey of most people who are in their late 50s or 60s, they will tell you that they take fewer vacations than their parents did. Now why did that change? It wasn’t because of the Pilgrims. People work hard in America, but there was a period where leisure time was increasing. I quoted Linda Bell and Richard Freeman in an article they wrote about what happened during the ‘90s. There was nobody to stop you from working longer. There was no government check, there was no union check as there is on excessive work as there is in Germany or elsewhere in Europe. These institutional checks are gone. So people feel like lab rats: “If I work an extra 10 minutes over the person in the cubicle next to me, then I’m less likely to get laid off.” It’s a very rational response.