Take Back Your Time

Never has our message been so close to winning broad acceptance. From many quarters, the message that our workaholic, time-rushed culture is harmful to health, families, communities and the environment, is beginning to ring out more clearly.

A recently-released study compared health in the United States and in the United Kingdom, finding stark evidence that Americans are far sicker than the British, despite spending more than twice as much on health care each year. Even poor Brits were as healthy as the richest Americans.

In a New York Times op-ed (“Our Sick Society,” 5/5/06) about the study, economist Paul Krugman asks what it is “about American society that makes us sicker than we should be?” Overwork, he suggests, is a leading culprit. Stress is another.

The study only compares the US with the UK, where working hours — though far shorter than in the US — are among the longest in Europe and health outcomes among the worst. A study comparing the US with the Scandinavian countries or many continental European countries would show an even wider gap between American health and theirs.

from Take Back Your Time

It all seems very long ago, but my ‘minor’ as an M.A.-level graduate student in the mid 1980s was economics. Actaully, though, it was just a chance to read Marx— Capital Volumes I, II, and III– and study with my hero, a professor named Harry Cleaver.

Harry had a seemingly simple reading of capitalism that still makes sense to me today: the main way we loose power over our lives is through work, and the best way to regain control is to reduce the work week. As Harry has written, “Work is Still the Central Issue.

With all that in mind, I was happy to hear on Rick Steves— yes, the travel show– about a group that is fighting to reduce the work week by, among other things, lobbying for increased vacation time, part-time work parity, health care, and a living wage.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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