But eventually I got around to reading the book and I have to say, it was the very opposite of what I expected. As usual, there is a lot more to this issue than it appears. Take back your time details the connection between many of the world's social problems, including the environment, health, crime, transportation, etc., and our ever increasing work hours. Each chapter is an essay written by a different author, many of whom you've probably heard of many before, including Juliet Schor, David Wann, Vicki Robin and Cecile Andrews. This is the second book I've read recently that uses this essay format (hey! another review coming...sometime) and I really like it. No only do you hear about different sides of an issue from many different voices, but if there is a particular side you are less interested in, well you can get the gist in a shirt amount of time. It's also a great way to find out about new authors who may be of interest.
I especially enjoyed the book's explanation of the differences in work hours between the US and Europe. As workers became more productive during and after the industrial revolution, Europeans fought for reduced hours and more time off instead of increased wages. Americans made the opposite choice of course, and though many predicted that our work hours would be drastically reduced by now, and certainly less than 40 hours per week, in reality they keep increasing.
- What's the economy for anyway? We're told to shop, among other things, for the good of the economy, but what is the economy for anyway? Are we supposed to serve the economy or is it supposed to serve us.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans have the shortest vacations in the industrialized world (those Socialist bastards!!). We are also the only country in the industrialized world without a minimum paid-leave law. Even the Chinese get a mandated three weeks off (p. 22).
- It's not just adults who are overscheduled, but children as well.
- Our desire to keep our health insurance benefits ties us to jobs that are bad for our health. (But we can't possibly provide universal health care, cause then we'd be Socialist bastards too!)
- The US is not very healthy compared to other industrial countries, despite spending almost half of the world's health care budget. In the early 1950s, the US was one of the healthiest countries in the world, but by 1960 it had sunk to 13th healthiest, ranked by number of years lived. Today we are 25th, behind almost all other rich countries and some poor ones as well.
- Lack of time has severe environmental consequences as well. "The message we get every day is hurry up and consume. But many scientists now agree that overconsumption is the world's most serious environmental threat, because for every product we consume, an average of 20 times its weight in raw materials was consumed to make it (p. 96).
- "Our industrial society is poverty-stricken in the time we have to live as compared to most of the rest of humanity throughout history. Even the majority of slaves in the ancient world and serfs during the Middle Ages did not work as hard, as regularly, or as long as we do (p. 115).
Lest these points depress you, the book as plenty of ideas for solutions too,m both within and outside of the realm of public policy. But I'll leave you to read the book and find out those for yourselves.
In summary, Take Back Your Time is definitely worth the time it takes to read it. Rating: 4/5.0.