I got about half way through this Paul Krugman, and it felt like I had read his piece before:
Americans tend to believe that we do everything better than anyone else. That belief makes it hard for us to learn from others. For example, I’ve found that many people refuse to believe that Europe has anything to teach us about health care policy. After all, they say, how can Europeans be good at health care when their economies are such failures?
Now, there’s no reason a country can’t have both an excellent health care system and a troubled economy (or vice versa). But are European economies really doing that badly?
The answer is no. Americans are doing a lot of strutting these days, but a head-to-head comparison between the economies of the United States and Europe – France, in particular – shows that the big difference is in priorities, not performance. We’re talking about two highly productive societies that have made a different tradeoff between work and family time. And there’s a lot to be said for the French choice.
First things first: given all the bad-mouthing the French receive, you may be surprised that I describe their society as “productive.” Yet according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, productivity in France – G.D.P. per hour worked – is actually a bit higher than in the United States.
And then I read on, and that is when I realized- I HAD read this before. When Matt Yglesias wrote it a month ago:
The average American works 46.16 weeks per year, while the average Frenchman only works 40.54 weeks per year. What’s more, 67 percent of Americans are working age, and only 65 percent of French people are.
So France has fewer workers, working shorter weeks, and taking longer vacations — that is why they make less money. Per hour of output, France is generating much more value than America is. If your buddy made 50 percent more than you because he was working 50 percent longer and had four weeks less vacation than you did, it certainly wouldn’t be obvious that your buddy had a better job than you do. Similarly, while it’s clear that the French have less stuff than we do, they have more leisure time, and it’s not obvious that our situation is better. Indeed, it’s not clear what “better” would even mean in this context.
Strangely similar… Of course, Matt being Matt, he just provides the data. Krugman being Krugman, tries to turn it into a pointed attack onk Republicans.