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How to persuade government of this plan

In theory, democratic government listens to the people. If the people want shorter working hours badly enough, they might eventually persuade the government to give it to them.

However, this particular issue tends to be regarded as an issue of labor unions. If the unions are not demanding shorter hours, then it is thought the issue has no constituency. Even Paul Wellstone withheld his active support for that reason.

But the shorter workweek does have a constituency, even if it is one that is relatively unorganized.. Not just blue-collar workers, but white-collar people as well want shorter hours. Whoever is human wants this. The desire for shorter work hours is a reflection of “family values”.

The dirty little secret is that leaders of the federal government do not want the American people to have shorter working hours. They are afraid of what the people might want or do once they have a taste of personal freedom.

Officials of the U.S. government think there are more important things in this world than for people to be happy and free. We have nearly one thousand military bases scattered around the earth. We have an empire to maintain. Our national “greatness” depends on Americans working long hours.

All legislation of this kind has to be reviewed by the Treasury Department. What this department will say is that shorter working hours would be bad for the nation’s fiscal health. Leisure time, while a benefit to individuals, can’t be taxed. There are no dollars attached to it. And therefore this doesn’t exist as a benefit in some people’s eyes. We need more economic growth of the sort that can be taxed.

And so, what can be done? The solution is obviously to take over the government. Employers will not unilaterally give working people the chance to pick shorter work schedules. Labor and management are not discussing shorter hours as a feature of their collective-bargaining agreements. Government must become involved.

Nearly everyone knows, at least subliminally, that American workers are being cheated out of leisure. Despite belonging to an advanced industrial nation, our workers work longer hours than their counterparts in Europe and in Japan. They also have less vacation time.

Opinion polls show that U.S. workers are generally dissatisfied with their working conditions, and the shortage of free time ranks high on the list of complaints. Even the politicians know this is a popular issue. But it is not popular with the people who count - the big donors to political campaigns who make or break candidates.

Fortunately, there are activists in our community who are trying to set a new agenda. Support for shorter hours comes from surprising places. John de Graaf of Seattle, Washington, made documentaries for public television. He made one on the shortage of free time in America. And now de Graaf has gone beyond reporting situations to attempting to change them. He is the leader of a national movement which created and promoted “Take Back Your Time” Day.

This day, which occurs around October 24th, denotes the point in the year when Europeans had satisfied their annual work requirements; on average, Americans work nine full weeks per year longer than their counterparts across the Atlantic.
De Graaf and his associates have now started a campaign to convince Congress to enact minimum-vacation legislation, hopefully bringing us up to standards set by the International Labor Organization in 1970.

But the old forces of financial privilege are formidable and determined. It will take more than ordinary pressure to overcome the prejudices and bad information that have afflicted the shorter-workweek cause for so many years. Truly, it will take a political revolution. How likely is this in our comfortable, complacent society? Maybe it is not likely unless there is a new approach to politics.

That is why shorterworkweek.com is linked to another, http://www.GoldParty.org. At this point, Gold Party is just an idea. But the Gold Party concept has the potential to enable ordinary citizens to regain power at all levels of government. Gold Party can do this without money. It can do this without coverage in the commercial media. It is a formula for creating a grassroots movement which, if executed properly, can take over the government.

A change of this magnitude would be powerful enough to change our society generally, sweeping us into a new epoch of civilization. A society of leisure is the logical next step in human history. James Garfield said while campaigning for President in 1880: “We may divide the whole struggle of the human race into two chapters: first, the fight to get leisure; and the second fight of civilization - what shall we do with our leisure when we get it?”

The first step, however, is to get leisure. In this website, some of the economic arguments are presented that will help to reach a informed decision about this matter. The political process is the place to organize support for the shorter-workweek (or longer vacation) cause. We can then watch the rest fall into place.

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