"Well, the reason why I ask you about the American Dream I mean, I work hard. I'm a plumber, I work 10-12 hours a day..."
"Two things have always marked out the financial masters of the universe from the rest of us. First, their souped-up salaries, and then their souped-up working hours. We mortals understood that these were connected. The rewards were so high because the hours were so long."
Nothing seems to dramatize "The American Dream" quite as insistently as the hard-work-and-long-hours parable. There's just one problem with the parable: long hours of work result in reduced output -- not just reduced productivity per hour but reduced total output. Those who brag about working "10, 12 hours a day" spend the last two to four hours sacrificing their leisure time (and yours) to a false idol. The fact that they get paid -- and sometimes handsomely -- for this conspicuous waste of time is due solely to cultural norms known as "the wage" and "the overtime premium" neither of which is calibrated to actual measures of output or productivity.
It is "un-American" to point out the baselessness of this myth. That's because the "regular Joe" who works overtime to support his family, buy a house, go into business and put his kid through college is a genuine "American Hero." No, he is not. He's a SCAB. At one time, even conservative American unionists understood, as Samuel Gompers declared: "The answer to all opponents to the reduction of the hours of labor could well be given in these words: 'That so long as there is one man who seeks employment and cannot obtain it, the hours of labor are too long.'"