"Why do we work so hard?" The question is asked by a man standing before a pool and manicured lawn. "Other countries, they work, they stroll home, they stop by the cafe, they take August off, off. Why aren't you like that? Why aren't we like that? Because we're crazy hard working believers."

The recent Cadillac commercial that featured this message has been heavily criticized for endorsing materialism and workaholism. But what critics often overlook is the ad's accuracy.

According to the International Labor Organization, Americans work more, take less vacation, and retire later than people in any other industrialized country. In the U.S. 86 percent of men and 67 percent of women work more than 40 hours per week.

By any measure work is an enormous, even overbearing part of our lives. Our culture is more work-centered than any other on the planet and, very possibly, more work-centered than any other in history. In such a culture, those of us tasked ...

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