Free Time: The Forgotten American Dream

Oct 6, 2014

What is at the heart of the American dream?

Bigger houses, fancier clothes, faster cars... or is it about having time for family, friends and community?

For decades University of Iowa Associate Professor Benjamin Hunnicutt has studied why we work as hard as we do, why we’re work obsessed, and how attitudes about work and leisure in our culture have changed over time. His is also the author of Free Time: The Forgotten American Dream.

On economic progress -

According to Benjamin Hunnicutt, "Free time is a natural result of economic progress." And as industrialist Henry Ford said, "Free time will come - the only choice is unemployment or leisure."

On capitalism -

While Hunnicutt says capitalism has strong suits, he also says that its "major function is to kill jobs." It does so because at the same time its goals are to "make us more efficient, and sell products cheaper."

On the pursuit of happiness -

The consumer mindset is a generally new concept. There was a "business response to the 1920s - the new economic gospel of consumption, the birth of advertising," Hunnicutt says. There was a "new belief system that we could be convinced to buy new goods and services that we have never seen before...rather than taking the time off to spend with our families."

On his recent publication in Politico -

Hunnicutt's work was featured in Politico, a piece called "Why Do Republicans Want Us to Work All the Time?" He received a lot of heat and criticism of the article, including responses from Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Herman Cain. Hunnicutt attributes the negative response to the title Politico chose.

"If you read the piece, it's bipartisan," he says. "My headline was 'Obamacare and the Forgotten American Dream.'"


Comment on this podcast and Hunnicutt's ideas - Tweet us @IPRTALK