Work harder or the communists will win!

It’s desperate times for those still clinging to their workaholic, exploitive ways. From Japan to China to even the US, there’s a growing understanding that working 70-80-90 or 130 hours per week is not glorious. Not virtuous. Not healthy.

So what’s a whoever-works-the-most-wins advocate to do? Sidestep the question of efficiency, of health, of sustainability, of course. Just press the pedal on fear and competition. Here’s your host of terror, Jason Calacanis:


Yeah, that’s it. Those who reject the wisdom of overwork is really helping the ENEMY. This is democracy vs communism!! What is this, 1950? Whatever year it is, it’s stupid.

Rather than support a grassroots rejection of the exploitive abuse of the Chinese workers under the 996 regime, Calanis is doubling down on the premise that to “beat” the Chinese, you must submit to their worst work practices. What?

This is at best a lateral move from “work harder or the kitten gets it”. A trope that’s meant to be a punchline, not a policy recommendation.

Besides being imperial paranoia, urging American companies to adopt Chinese abuses, lest they be left behind in the chase of growth uber alles, is the furthest away you could get from winning. Accepting the terms of engagement by your so-called opponent is a basic, rookie mistake in any form of strategic out-maneuvering.

You’re not going to “beat” the Chinese by one-upping 996 with 997. You’re not going to top Jack Ma’s calls for sacrifice by injecting nationalist fervor and clash-of-civilizations rhetoric into these base pleas for a deeper grind. This is madness.

If you define winning solely as “who has the greater growth”, you’ve already lost. If you dismiss the standard of living enjoyed in Europe – one without medical bankruptcies, crushing college debts, or falling life expectancies – as a “retirement society”, you’re the one who deserves to be dismissed.

The ideological underpinnings of capitalism are already in an advanced state of ethical decay. You don’t save the good parts of said capitalism by doubling down on the worst, most exploitive parts. Racing to the bottom just gets you there faster.

16 thoughts on “Work harder or the communists will win!

  1. Couldn’t agree more.

    This obsession with economic growth and “competition” as measured by a synthetic benchmarks at the expense of quality of life is becoming increasingly ridiculous as it becomes increasingly divorced from the everyday experiences of actual human beings.

    Quick note, should the sentance “one without medical bankruptcies, crushing college debts, and rising life expectancies” read more like “one without medical bankruptcies or crushing college debts, and with rising life expectancies”

  2. When I hear this sort of fearmongering, I find myself asking why I should work at all. No matter where I go or what I do, my job seems to exist primarily for the purpose of making rich assholes richer. That’s not good enough.

    Maybe the communists should win for once. I’m talking about actual communists, BTW, not the state capitalists who ran the Soviet Union into the ground.

  3. The irony is that these same people that spout about working so many hours also believe in the 10X Engineer, the 10X marketer, and the 10X CEO. 10X anything isn’t done by working harder, 40 hours per week X 10 = 400 Hours per week. Not even possible. It’s only possible by working on exactly what needs to be done, and finding ways to be efficient or smarter.

    I believe in working hard, but it’s about accomplishment, not hours. 5 hours making a decision that offers no better outcome than a decision made in 1, isn’t working harder.

    Many of those smart ideas happen after hours, even if you’re not officially working. Offline is when your brain can relax and see the new opportunities.

    Perhaps the problem is that a lot of these types are investing in people that don’t really have the skill set needed to be successful yet, so they need to make up for what they lack with increased hours, which is okay for some short time, but it’s not exactly what I call “work.” In the long run, something will always give. Those 72 hour employees burn out, and get replaced like cogs. Meanwhile, the new employee comes in to do his 72 hours and is likely only about 30% efficient because he doesn’t know his job.

    Meanwhile, the 40 hour guy stays on his comfortable job for years, learning how to be the best, and most efficient at it.

    Last part of my rant, the world is changing more rapidly than ever before, that doesn’t mean it’s time to work more, it means it’s time to be on the look out more. Seeing what else is out there, that only happens when time to look around and explore is an option.

  4. I had this same silly exchange with Calacanis almost 10 years ago, and it’s like he hasn’t learned anything:

    https://jeffputz.com/blog/non-sustainable-start-up-jobs

    Seriously, what qualifies him to demonstrate measurable success? Weblogs is ancient history, and he hasn’t succeeded at anything since. His definition of “winning” is so warped that he has no idea that it starts with happy customers.

  5. Well said…
    I haven’t really understood why for some people loyalty and work ethic equals overwork. Work ethic to me is doing the best work in the contractual time and beeing flexible when necessary. Respect should come both ways. This means I expect to be paid or take time off for overtime. The consequence, I don’t get to work for exciting companies, but I get to see my 3 kids daylight and spend the weekends home. Coming for a ex-communist/ socialist country I can confirm that the emphasis on high productivity, overtime and sacrifice at work was prevalent those days. Productivity equals overwork in current language too. From this perspective there is no difference between current capitalism and past socialism(what communists use to call themselves in my country). Different choice of words, similar consequences. How can someone speak against hyper-productivity and to the cost of it!? Decay indeed…

  6. I love the max 40 hours per week and the rest we get here in Europe 🙂
    Winning in life.

  7. I think we need innovation and problem solving, not to run faster. I use Edward De Bono’s methods to improve my ability to innovate and solve problems. I’m sure that I couldn’t use them in a “traditional” working environment where people don’t know better than to crush you under insane workloads. Insane workloads can only make you stupid. The only race you win is the race to the most complete stupidity.

  8. If you put 130 farmers with scythes on 10 acre field, you’re not going to get the crops harvested 130 times faster. You’re going to get 129 injured farmers. The same basic economical logic of intensive/extensive growth applies to labour.

  9. Thanks, DHH!

    Quit one of his companies recently after reading this.

    Smart guy (angel-wise), but I don’t work for people who have no regard for the value of other people’s outside lives.

    His employees also look busy but spend most of their time justifying their time to management without being able to focus on real work. #996!

  10. I entirely agree with the sentiment – we as a society *should* strive for individual freedoms, collective happiness and not chase growth at any price.

    #996 is unlikely to create any of that, despite dubious claims of how it made countries great in the past – times have changed and we no longer live in the past.

  11. Alright so it’s not really a question about the topic at hand here but… how long does it take you to put together these kind of posts? Is it easy? Like did you have to research all this stuff? I’ve been wanting to start a blog myself, so just curious. Sorry not totally relevant but figured I’d ask. Thanks in advance

    https://www.screencast.com/t/msUjyqrSIT

  12. I don’t have to read anything beyond this blog article to guess this guy is a far right wing nutter, utterly oblivious to reality. The “Europe is a retirement community” is classic delusional claptrap. If we can keep Americans terrified of those horrible European countries, the natives won’t get restless and realize how much better life is in many of those countries. Better in all the ways that matter – education, happiness, quality of life, life expectancy, and healthcare to name a few. Nope, much better to tell everyone every day how “we’re the greatest!”.

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