July 29, 2005

Krugman: The French Live Better
— Ace

Okay, it's Liberal Day here at Ace of Spades, but Paul Krugman makes a few good points in comparing the American and French views about economics and competition.

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.

It's true that France's G.D.P. per person is well below that of the United States. But that's because French workers spend more time with their families.

O.K., I'm oversimplifying a bit.

[But the] point is that to the extent that the French have less income than we do, it's mainly a matter of choice. And to see the consequences of that choice, let's ask how the situation of a typical middle-class family in France compares with that of its American counterpart.

The French family, without question, has lower disposable income. This translates into lower personal consumption: a smaller car, a smaller house, less eating out.

But there are compensations for this lower level of consumption. Because French schools are good across the country, the French family doesn't have to worry as much about getting its children into a good school district. Nor does the French family, with guaranteed access to excellent health care, have to worry about losing health insurance or being driven into bankruptcy by medical bills.

Perhaps even more important, however, the members of that French family are compensated for their lower income with much more time together. Fully employed French workers average about seven weeks of paid vacation a year. In America, that figure is less than four.

So which society has made the better choice?

I've been looking at a new study of international differences in working hours by Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser, at Harvard, and Bruce Sacerdote, at Dartmouth. The study's main point is that differences in government regulations, rather than culture (or taxes), explain why Europeans work less than Americans.

But the study also suggests that in this case, government regulations actually allow people to make a desirable tradeoff - to modestly lower income in return for more time with friends and family - the kind of deal an individual would find hard to negotiate. The authors write: "It is hard to obtain more vacation for yourself from your employer and even harder, if you do, to coordinate with all your friends to get the same deal and go on vacation together."

Just sayin'. There's nothing inherently wonderful about the short vacation times Americans get. It would be nice if we could all collectively bargain for more; I doubt any except the most driven individuals would balk at taking a couple of more weeks off per year. Or even shortening the work week to thirty seven and a half hours.

Yes, this is, to some degree, a form of socialism. It's artificially creating rules which disfavor the more-driven in order to keep the less-driven from experiencing the full competitive disadvantage they'd suffer were the workweek as long as one decided to work, or vacation time as brief or nonexistent as one chose.

To some extent it's not so much state-mandated socialism as tradition. Anyone who's tried to eat or buy stuff in Europe in the late afternoon knows shopkeepers and such tend to take a few hours off mid-day. It's an inconvenience for the buyer, of course, but it can't help but be a boon to the shopkeeper.

I don't know. Not sure what my point is here, except, perhaps, to get ripped further by Fat Kid.

Forget The Facts: Quite frankly, I expected that Krugman's "facts" would be exposed as sham.

I don't put a lot of stock in them.

I'm more citing this for the general proposition -- there's not necessarily anything economically or competitively magical about two weeks of vacation per year. I suppose productivity might suffer some if people had three or four weeks vacation average; then again, many of the top wage-earners in the country take off more than that, so perhaps, they being very smart and very productive, know that a bit of me-time can actually make for better workers.

Posted by: Ace at 10:32 AM | Comments (78)
Post contains 719 words, total size 4 kb.

1 Hoo-boy, those frogs live well. Remember a few years back when all their Grandmas and Grandpas dies of heat exhaustion (cause they can't afford air conditioning)...that was a great time. Dead old people, a sure sign of quality of life.

Posted by: at July 29, 2005 10:34 AM (Gi7oA)

2 Much of the French economy is artificially propped up by government subsidies and inequitable trade policies. Airbus is only competitve with Boeing because the French government backs the company with billions of dollars; likewise many of the French armaments companies. (Lots of people aren't aware that France is *huge* arms exporter...)

France is also slave to trade unions and labor-centric special interest groups. This has made France highly uncompetitive in an unregulated market (which is why the "polish plumber" boogeyman helped to sink the EU treaty recently).

The French economy is bad and getting worse -- their social model is simply unsustainable, especially with a greying population who will insist on full benefits despite a shrinking tax and industrial base. They have a large and mostly-unassimilated population of "guest workers" (mostly Arabs) who are now unemployed and radicalized.

Krugman, as usual, has his head up his ass.

Posted by: Monty at July 29, 2005 10:41 AM (8K26L)

3 Nor am I sure what the point is here, either, but methinks Mr. Krugman is doing what he does best. Namely, he cherry-picks one data point and extrapolates from it the conclusion he's looking for.

Frankly, you could give Americans more vacation then they do now, but since so many people don't even use the vacation they GET, what would that mean?

I dunno, either.

Posted by: NickS at July 29, 2005 10:42 AM (Xroyb)

4 The only person in Paris with air conditioning is Napoleon. Seriously, his tomb is the only place with AC I found. I just wanted to take off my shirt and lay on the floor.

After I went to Paris I would tell people I'd give up trying to run the world for 5 weeks vacation. I'm being facetious, but just barely. I've got serious corporate burnout and I'm taking steps to get my documentation to work on tug boats, something I wanted to do when I got out of the Coast Guard.

I can't wait to change careers, and one of the reasons is so I have more free time to go to places like Paris. Hate the French all you want, but Paris is awesome and the French women are gorgeous.

Posted by: Ken J at July 29, 2005 10:42 AM (lIVm5)

5 I'd leave a detailed comment, but I've still got another four hours of work ahead of me.

Fortunately, after that's done I'll be able to afford glass after glass of Ketel One on the rocks. So it all kind of evens out.

Posted by: Hubris at July 29, 2005 10:44 AM (PwC+V)

6 Luskin calls Kruggie on his loose shit: link.

Posted by: at July 29, 2005 10:44 AM (8K26L)

7 That Luskin link was me.

Posted by: Monty at July 29, 2005 10:45 AM (8K26L)

8 Look, ace, nice idea and all but remember also that France has an unemployment rate of something like 10.5% due to thier "family friendly" anti-competitive rules and regs. In america that would translate into an additional six million unemployed workers.

And one other thing. Krugman passes over much smaller disposable income like I would pass over "less cheese on my cheeseburger." Americans have plenty of jobs where additional time off is an easy choice, teachers for example can have two months off. Nurses can work per diem and litteraly pick the number of days they wish to work. The difference between the US and France is I can choose and they can't, and thier economy shows it.

Posted by: John at July 29, 2005 10:49 AM (dOWpv)

9 Uh, Krugman assumes most of those unworked hours are voluntary "leisure" tradeoffs. More likely it's largely their inability to find work because of all the anticompetitive elements screwing up the labor market.

Plus he's using a wierd definition of productivity, which generally refers to output per person or worker.

That and more than you ever wanted to read about the US-EU productivity comparison here.

Ace, you never took antitrust law in law school? (Blue laws are a classic case of anticompetitive behavior via lobbying.)

Posted by: someone at July 29, 2005 10:56 AM (sJVel)

10 Krugman leaves out a little demographic detail. The French are supposedly spending more time with their families but the numbers indicate that they increasingly don't have families. Outside the Muslim ghettoes, the birth rates are declining toward a shrinkage of the population. The recent mass death of the elderly during a heat wave could be dwarfed in the future when the number of French senior citizens overwhelms the number of young French willing to take care of them.

Will France become the first big foreign market for Japan's senior care robots?

Posted by: epobirs at July 29, 2005 10:59 AM (51CH/)

11 The reality of my job is I'm here 40 hours a week and I can wrap up what I need to accomplish in 15 hours. I could even work at home, if my employers were so inclined. Instead, I hump 30 blocks on the NYC subway day after day, surrounded by miserable people who probably are stuck in similarly absurd situations.

The French have it great. As for myself, I receive two weeks vacation that turns into three weeks in my third year of employment. Then it stays that way for five. frickin. years. I've tried to take mini-three day vacations to counteract the angst of it all. This is all pretty non-negotiable.

The fact is, I'd take less money if I could work full time and do my job well in the 15 hours it truly takes to complete it. But our society operates under the belief that working hard means a 40 hour work week. And that's too damn bad, cause life is short.

Posted by: ChrisG at July 29, 2005 10:59 AM (nfnmD)

12 But the study also suggests that in this case, government regulations actually allow people to make a desirable tradeoff - to modestly lower income in return for more time with friends and family - the kind of deal an individual would find hard to negotiate.

Government as collective bargaining agent. Yeah, sure. And guess which loose-sh*t-flinging perfessor gets to be our shop steward? [shudder]

Posted by: Tongueboy at July 29, 2005 10:59 AM (nug4S)

13 If I had gone to law school, of course I would have taken a course on antitrust.

But as you know, the government passes a lot of laws restricting stuff and that has nothing to do with antitrust.

Collusion between companies to restrict competition can be an antitrust violation. But workers engaging in collective bargaining hasn't been considered anticompetitive illegal behavior for a long time.

Even though, yes, the argument can be made that they're a monopoly and the like.

Posted by: ace at July 29, 2005 11:00 AM (sYxc4)

14 I understand that Krugman used to be an intelligent, knowledgeable person in economics. What the hell happened?

Posted by: meep at July 29, 2005 11:01 AM (5j3FI)

15 I prefer having a choice.

Posted by: Dave in Texas at July 29, 2005 11:04 AM (pzen5)

16 One of problems with an "apples to apples" comparison between the U.S. and France is the free rider problem. The fact is that, over the long term, France's existence is guaranteed by the U.S. through the countless ways we police the planet.

Also, France is, in effect, spending is cultural heritage. By allowing a high percentage of low skill immigrants to perform the low wage work without assimilating, they get to live well for now, but the bill will come due for their children. (note - they are only different from the U.S. in the degree to which they do this).

France is like a commune writ . Sure it's nice to have sharing, caring, wine, and plenty of vacations, but somebody else has to do the dirty work of policing, make the plumbing work, creating antibiotics, and all of the other things that would never be possible if everyone lived like that.

Posted by: Ayes of Death David at July 29, 2005 11:05 AM (Hj9yW)

17 I would add that for myself (and I suspect a lot of white-collar workers) the small amount of vacation I take is a voluntary, individual decision. I always lose a lot more days than I can carry over each year, as I'm busy slaving away for The Man in an effort to become The Man and oppress a larger number of people.

Posted by: Hubris at July 29, 2005 11:05 AM (PwC+V)

18 Something that goes unmentioned here is that "the slightly lower standard of living" is not permanent. The division between France (and the rest of Europe) and the U.S. grows every year.

American GDP is growing at something like 3.5% per year. Europe's growth (due largely to these "family-friendly" policies) is less than half that. These rates accumulate, and so every generation Americans' standard of living grows about 25% more than that of Europeans.

If one guy has $1000 in the bank and earns 3.5% on it, and another guy has $800 in the bank and earns 1.5% on it, the second guy's balance is "slightly lower." After 50 years, though, the first guy is sitting on $5,500 to the second guy's $1,600 -- hardly a "slight" difference.

Posted by: Bebeaux at July 29, 2005 11:06 AM (b9v2c)

19 well, as regards the 37.5 hour workweek, you would have a choice to work longer hours, as people have a choice to work overtime already.

Well, not so much a choice. If you've got to work, you've got to work. But then the company has to pay you more, so they're less likely to ask.

(Obviously, this only applies to the sort of workers covered by overtime rules.)

Posted by: ace at July 29, 2005 11:06 AM (sYxc4)

20 Hmm..interesting disclosure Ace.

In one of your earliest INTERNET RADIO appearances (it might have been Goldstein's show) you answered a question about your background as having been associated with the legal profession.

Now you didn't claim you were an attorney, or even that you had taken the bar exam.

You have, however, done a lot of posting which indicates you are familiar with a lot of legal cases and procedures that usually fall outside a layman's knowledge.

And now you suggest you might not have attended law school.

My guess? Paralegal of Spades.

Posted by: Jack M. at July 29, 2005 11:08 AM (5hVbJ)

21 There's no doubt that Europe is very uncompetitive and getting moreso.

However-- I do wonder if there's anything special about two weeks standard vacation. Or the 40 hour workweek.

I'm not advocating European socialism. I'm just suggesting (only suggesting; I really don't know) that 1, there might be tradeoffs that would make us all happier to be explored and 2, if it really is much of a tradeoff anyhow.

As Chris points out, people waste time at work, and might waste less time if they weren't there quite so long. End result-- about the same level of productivity but an extra half hour a day to be with one's family.

Posted by: ace at July 29, 2005 11:09 AM (sYxc4)

22 Yes, this is, to some degree, a form of socialism.

No, it's socialism through and through.

Krugman's whole point boils down to agreeing with the sentiment of your average lazy Frenchman -- "I would love to work less, and I would if it weren't for all these bourgeois, aggressive American types who keep trying to out-compete me for my job. How gauche!"

Now, as one of the more lazy guys around, I would positively LOVE it if the gov't would protect my job from potential go-getters. I friggin' hate those go-getters, and would find my life a whole lot easier if they weren't constantly breathing down my neck.

But that's the choice I make. I choose to work less than I could, for which I get less money. There is someone out there who is willing to choose more money for more work. Those with the money and the work (i.e., employers, typically prefer him to me. That's life.

By protecting my job and mandating the amount of vacation I prefer, the gov't is benefiting me at the go-getter's expense. Such rules, in effect, destroy the means by which a more productive person could out-compete a lazy guy like me.

On what basis is it justified for the gov't to do so? Just because I am not one of the go-getters, I should say it's OK for the government to protect me from my own laziness? At someone else's expense?

I may think it's great, but the go-getter who can't get ahead gets the shaft.

Posted by: Phinn at July 29, 2005 11:15 AM (DiZv6)

23 I've always distrusted the whole idea that when people aren't at work, they're living the good life. That somehow, vacation-time somehow equals "quality time". That *can* be true, but Krugman seems to accept it as a QED.

Remember that there are many groups of non-workers besides the "unemployed" in France. First, there are the "students" -- those perpetual scholars who pursue degree after degree, often on the government's dime. Then there are the "retirees": many have lost a higher-paying job and either don't want to accept a lower wage or simply can't get hired again due to their age. Due to the onerous restrictions on European businesses in regard to taking on permanent employees, there are lots of "grey" workers (often undocumented workers from places like Morocco) who get paid under the table and aren't declared by their employers.

None of these people are exactly living the good life, and they contribute very little to the GDP in real terms. This is the terrible time-bomb that France faces as the population grows older -- more and more people sucking on the public tit while fewer and fewer actual workers contribute to the welfare system.

Americans have a good quality of life, but we also understand that you can't home somethin' for nothin'.

Besides, we can rest when we're dead.

Posted by: Monty at July 29, 2005 11:16 AM (cB/4p)

24 government regulations actually allow people to make a desirable tradeoff - to modestly lower income in return for more time with friends and family

It isn't really a tradeoff if many of them don't get to make this 'trade' voluntarily. How many of them would choose to work more hours if it paid more to do so?

Posted by: lauraw at July 29, 2005 11:27 AM (PMuPr)

25 Its not just France, its Europe. And I think Krugman has it backwards, it is cultural first and then governmental.

When I was in my companies IT department I worked with another IT guy in the UK to implement our new global NT based network. This guy had a few months before been all set to come over to HQ for a bunch more money, particularly post-tax, than he was making in the same position in the UK. But when he was reading the offer sheet before signing he realized that he was going to go from five (5) weeks paid vacation to two (2) and that was a total deal breaker for him.

As part of the same roll-out and then again when we rolled-out Exchange as our messaging platform I travelled to Germany. The German IT guys I worked with could not understand how we Americans could have a productive private life with the miserably short vacations we received.

The work/family culture in France is a real shock for many/most Americans. We are used to entering a store and being the most important person there, sort of every customer is Paul Anka. In France the most important people in the store are the workers, goes to the socialist nature of the culuture. I think that this results in much of the American view of the French as snobbish and rude AND the French view of Americans as boorish and rude. When a Frenchman enters a shop he right of says, "Bon Jour!" to the clerk and then basically waits for the clerk to get around to helping him out, because after all the clerk is working and he is just shopping. Americans cannot abide this inept level of customer service and at times get irate. This worker centric culture is seen in, as Ace mentions, the two hour+ lunches as well.

I, naturally, would love to see much longer vacations. Not that it would help me much at this point as I'm senior enough that I'm already getting four weeks vacation, and my company is enlightened enough (sort of a recent phenomena) to make sure that I get to take it.

Posted by: vonKreedon at July 29, 2005 11:28 AM (u8Zgq)

26 Of course, ace is not a real attorney. Laws Restricting Stuff is required in your first year of law school. It's also on the MBE.

Posted by: at July 29, 2005 11:29 AM (TIDzr)

27 "I, naturally, would love to see much longer vacations."

Then work harder/better and ask for one...

...or get paid less and take days off.

Posted by: at July 29, 2005 11:32 AM (Gi7oA)

28 In my opinion, the best companies to work for are smaller companies with 10-100 employees max.

Big enough to provide bennies but small enough so you can negotiate for yourself, and avoid the stultifying rigidity of the big beast corporations.

Posted by: lauraw at July 29, 2005 11:41 AM (PMuPr)

29 ace, I realize this is anecdotal, but my point was I have a choice now.

Way back in the mists of antiquity, when I was schlepping luggage for Delta at DFW, I didn't have a choice. The union steward decided whether there was going to be any overtime, and who was going to get it. "College-boy" didn't make the list (neither did anybody that irritated him).

And back when I worked for a defense contractor, and spent a lot of time with the Customs Service in DC, I noticed the work day was more defined by who you were sharing a ride with than the workload (i.e. people showed up later than I was used to and left earlier).

Of course, it was cool, cause in the summertime, the Smithsonian museums had extended hours, and being across the street I got to explore most of them throroughly.

Posted by: Dave in Texas at July 29, 2005 11:50 AM (pzen5)

30 A 'trade-off' one is forced to make is not a trade-off. I used to work in Academia (state university) and got 8 hours vacation per month, 9 hours sick leave. After three years it goes to 9 and 10, after five years 10 and 11, and up and up, with a larger and larger amount of carryover each year. If you stayed there for 25 years you'd end up earning 42 days off, over two months including weekends. Of course state law said we had to be paid 15% below market price for whatever our positions were, which I was just fine with (save the taxpayer money). Problem was, even taking off whenever I chose I ended up with more and more vacation time saved up, as a young, married guy with no kids yet I couldn't use it fast enough. So I went into the private sector, less vacation but much more money, why not make it now while I'm young and full of vinegar, squeeze that brass ring for all the bling bling that comes out, I can always go back to the luxurious pace of Academia when my time becomes more dear (after kids). I have a choice, and wouldn't give it up for anything.

Posted by: Tom at July 29, 2005 11:58 AM (qKLkh)

31 Don't most people want to work hard when they're young and full of energy? I left graduate school with more energy than I could harness and would have hated the French model. Work is supposed to be self-actualizing, and if you hate your job, leave it. Life is too short, and healthy adulthood is WAY too short, to waste at something you don't enjoy.

The French model is only appealing if you pre-suppose that work is a drag and that less work is therefore more healthy. My experience, a few work-a-holics excepted, is the opposite. Working hard is extremely healthy. It focuses the mind, teaches a wide variety of skills, makes us a part of something larger than ourselves, introduces us to new people, and allows us to enjoy our free time in a way that is impossible when we idle all day.

I suspect that many people who think I'm naive are justifying their own unhappy careers to themselves. This is the most vibrant, interesting economy in which to seek and sustain employment. The options are endless if you have the right attitude. Inertia is a powerful force, but in the words of George Elliot: "It's never too late to be the person you could have been." But this is only true in an economy that values the variety of options necessary to ensure we can each find our niche. France isn't such an economy. I hope they enjoy their vacations. They'll never know what they could have made of themselves.

Posted by: Ranting Raven at July 29, 2005 12:06 PM (5UO9n)

32 Man, what a bunch of whiners. I've worked 6 and sometimes 7 days a week, 51 weeks a year for 9 years. And, personally, I don't care. I'll be retired by 45. Then when all you shmucks are still working 46 weeks at 50, I'll be working 0.

America is great because you have a choice. You can pick any job that fills your "time-off" requirements, or you can work for yourself and work for the biggest bastard of a boss you could ever expect. But then you also get to retire early.

Boat drinks, bitches. Thats what its all about, boat drinks.

Posted by: Mooseman at July 29, 2005 12:09 PM (lgsd5)

33 Let's take note of the fact that Paul Krugman thinks France is a model for us, and revisit the matter in another decade or two. In a contest of Mark Steyn versus Paul Krugman, I'm with Steyn all the way.

Posted by: Ghanima at July 29, 2005 12:10 PM (HctKP)

34 Plus, attorneys get four weeks off. Not that it's easy for them to take it all.

Posted by: someone at July 29, 2005 12:12 PM (sJVel)

35 Most computer programmers I've ever worked in an office with were effectively "vacationing" about 4-6 hours a day anyway...

I know I produced more in the 2am - 4am period working at home in one day than most others would produce in a month at the office.

Posted by: tony at July 29, 2005 12:14 PM (98ED/)

36 Vaction time is an interesting metric, and in my own career I have gone from literally zero vacation time (sick days only, and I only accrued four days a year) to having nearly a month in total. I paid my dues for almost twenty years to get where I am now, and I've never taken my "perks" for granted.

That I think is the basic difference between us and the French (or European) model. We *earn* what we get; the Europeans feel it is *owed* to them as some kind of basic human right.

The point (for me) has always been this: feel free to fuck off if you want, but don't expect me to support your lazy ass.

Posted by: Monty at July 29, 2005 12:18 PM (cB/4p)

37 And then they have a heat wave (consisting of 80+ degree temps) in which 10,000 people die, and families neglect to claim their loved ones at the hospitals.

Viva la France.

/Fuck Krugman.

Posted by: fat kid at July 29, 2005 12:20 PM (yHxMk)

38 If you want more vacation time, find an occupation that offers it (like teaching). And Krugman completely ignores the trend, which has the French slipping further and further behind in GDP per capita. Check out Friedman's recent column on "The Way of the Leprechaun" for more on this. The fact of the matter is that the French are going to have to give up their cherished six weeks of vacation, or accept second-world status.

Posted by: Brainster at July 29, 2005 12:24 PM (hEScd)

39 once more anecdotal,

I work with a woman who is from Nuremberg. She's been in the US about 16 years. Mid 30s, middle manager in an IT organization. Her husband is a young comm engineer. Combined income around $140k.

She lives in a pretty nice house out in the country. 2900 square feet on 10 acres of lovely Texas hill country. Swimming pool, movie stars. Well, stars anyway.

Her uncle back in Nuremberg is a bank executive, near retirement. Top wage earner - 250k (USD).

And he cannot fathom that she lives in such luxury. In fact, he thinks she's lying. There is no way she could live on such land in such a house, cause it would take twice what he earns to buy it in Nuremberg.

Granted, US regional differences and all, this was a long way of saying our purchasing power as it relates to std. of living is pretty good. Not that things are everything.

Posted by: Dave in Texas at July 29, 2005 12:27 PM (pzen5)

40 Of course hourly productivity per worker is higher in France than in the US. Employment vacancies appear at the margin when the expected productivity of a worker equals the cost of hiring that worker. Given the horrendous costs imposed on employers in France by the Welfare State, that point necessarily occurs at a higher productivity level than in the US. Those members of the labour pool that don't come up to the bar are what is technically known as 'unemployed'. The higher per-hour productivity of France is gained at the expense of appalling unemployment statistics. That there are more jobs at the low-productivity end of the market in the US than in France (thus lower average hourly productivity per worker) is a mathematical consequence of the fact that those low-end jobs exist in the first place.

What is most important is total productivity averaged over the entire population, and here the French are in very poor shape (the Germans are in an even worse one). It's a truism in economics that median productivity is the determinant of median wages. The higher wages that higher median productivity in the US attracts have two, competing effects. Thought experiment: you're given a 10% pay rise. What do you do? You could do nothing, and just take home 110% of your previous pay. Or you could think, "hmm, I'm getting paid more per hour, so at the margin I can substitute leisure (which now appears overvalued) for work and make even more." Finally, you could say, "I was happy with what I had before, so I'll work 91% of the hours I used to and take home the same amount while enjoying more leisure." But in all cases, higher income has increased your choice.

Posted by: David Gillies at July 29, 2005 12:33 PM (L4GhX)

41 The first time I took a boat ride, I was eighteen years old. I had never had so much fun in my whole young life. I still remember my face hurt from smiling all day.

At that time I thought to myself "This is what money is good for."

Luxury is a wonderfully satisfying thing when you earn it for yourself. Everybody should have the opportunity to.

Posted by: lauraw at July 29, 2005 12:46 PM (PMuPr)

42 ChrisG made a good point that many American jobs could be done in less time. But the expectation is 40 hours and minimal vacation time because 19th Century factory workers had it so....Also, the all-important benefits are tied to "full-time work" at businesses that can afford to grant benefits still.

Krugman DID note 2 great advantages of the French system over ours, even if they fucked up and let 10,000 seniors no one apparantly wanted die.

First, the French student graduates with a skill, a job awaiting - unless they are in the 10% going to university. And 1-2 years ahead of Americans in Math, reading ability, and the sciences.

Because French schools are good across the country, the French family doesn't have to worry as much about getting its children into a good school district.

American schools are so backwards that we are now discovering families forced to homeschool. American schools are now among the worst in the advanced world.

Nor does the French family, with guaranteed access to excellent health care, have to worry about losing health insurance or being driven into bankruptcy by medical bills.

Some 40 million people in America have now been directly affected by medical bankruptcy, and the numbers are increasing as American costs exceed Europes by 40% with only about 70% Americans covered by health care, vs. Frances 100%. And no plan covers long-term care or nursing homes, as France does.

And the care in France is not inferior in the aggregate. Though conservative Republicans beam about exclusive hospitals and clinics in America that cater to the world's wealthiest (along with the Swiss Indian and Singapore ones...) as a sign of "inferior" andvanced Asian or European public health care systems.....France has lower child mortality, higher cancer survival rates, longer life expectancies than America does. As do most other top Euro, Asian nations.

Yes, America does offer the finest, most expensive care money can buy....the problem is lesser Americans don't have the money and do without until they are in crisis or are among the indigent welfare, illegal alien, and prisoner populations that qualify for free care.

Posted by: Cedarford at July 29, 2005 12:54 PM (6krEN)

43 The French have been at the top of the "productivity per wrok hour" ranking for over 10 years... This is news to Krugman? Talk about grasping at straws! Did he mention this during the Clinton years?

Economically, this measure is nonsense. Despite the concept of an hourly wage, only a small part of the US economy (and practically none of the French economy) is actually paid on a hourly basis. Krugman treats us like none of us have gone through ECON101 and have no understanding of opportunity cost.

Posted by: JFH at July 29, 2005 12:56 PM (arxyn)

44 If all this family time is so great, why is the birth rate in France well below replacement and dropping like a rock?

That does not suggest contentment and great expectations for the future.

Posted by: Gary S at July 29, 2005 01:02 PM (7kwMD)

45 Non? Perhaps we are tso contant and ve have zuch grate expectation pour le future zat we do not need to worry about hafing les children. We haf them, or we do not as we like.

Believe me, cowboy, it iz not zat we are not have le sex.

Posted by: vonKreedon at July 29, 2005 01:12 PM (u8Zgq)

46 Ah, Cedarford, you give away the socialist game:

"First, the French student graduates with a skill, a job awaiting - unless they are in the 10% going to university" ...

If you're a graduate of a "grande ecoles" you're set for life... otherwise, be happy with you vacation. I've seen this attitude in the US by a French company, once they determined what the equivalent "grande ecole" was in the US. And it's been a disaster.

Posted by: JFH at July 29, 2005 01:14 PM (arxyn)

47 I'm probably repeating someone else here, but isn't saying that the French choose to work less a little too broad a description of the situation, considering that the choice for many French people is not made by themself, but by the union that represents them, and has negotiated for its members an X hour work week?

Posted by: Tim Higgins at July 29, 2005 01:31 PM (6pS7K)

48 Dave in Texas - yeah, well in NY 140k a year allows you to live in a clean 1 bedroom apt, eat out some and save some $$ so you can get the f*ck out of here.

Cedarfop - and what about all those good little froggies who graduate with a very expensive education and then can't get a job because the cost of hiring a new worker is too high?

Also, if we had the French university and testing system there would be almost NO black and hispanic enrolment in universities - it would be WAY lower than it is today.

I will grant that the Europeans are better at gov't-type jobs than Americans are. Things like gov't clerk, airport inspector and even teacher are sort of the job of last resort for Americans - looked down upon by all and sundry, and the kind of people that take these jobs, and their performance in them, reflects that. The trade off is that we have fantastic entrepreneurs and inventors, and they have a better civil service - because they care about it, take pride in it and good people actually want to work there. I can live with a shitty DMV, but when it comes to airport security I can die with shitty screeners. Teachers are a bit more complex - there are good, dedicated, motivated teachers - but the unions and 'crats just beat all the life out of them.

For a whole bunch of reasons Americans are not Europeans, and trying to impose one system on the other simply will not work. We need to make our government labor system for critical jobs (like teacher) more flexible, to reflect the wider economic model - ie pay good teachers a lot more, based on results achieved, and shit-can the bad ones. Make it so that a 22 year old with a good undergrad degree WANTS to be a teacher - and five years later still wants to go to work every day. The Euro-collectivist model DOES NOT motivate Americans - w/r/t teaching it does seem to work in France, but not over here.

Vive le difference.

Posted by: holdfast at July 29, 2005 01:49 PM (jvO9O)

49 Before we spend too much time on the debate let's agree that Krugman's analysis was flawed. I just spent a couple of hours detailing why.

Here is what he should have written:

1. The French economy is stagnant and does not generate enough jobs for its citizens. The French unemployment rate is 66% higher than that of the U.S.

2. Being an unemployed Frenchman is not a choice or side affect of French worker’s spending more time with their families.

3. Most importantly, French people are not more happy or satisfied as their American counterparts as Krugman suggests. In fact, its quite the opposite.

I detailed all of these arguments using many of Krugman’s same sources.

The only people in the world who believe the French are having happy family fun seem to live in the ivory towers of downtown New York.

Posted by: Insider at July 29, 2005 02:14 PM (IWRGF)

50 holdfast, granted .. s'why I said regional differences. I get it.

Point was, that kind of income in MOST of the US buys a very comfortable lifestyle.

Posted by: Dave in Texas at July 29, 2005 02:45 PM (vdmJU)

51 BTW, Luskin (or, rather, the guy he approvingly quotes) makes a pretty bad error: (from Monty's link, above)

"Unemployment is assessed thru BOTH the unemployment rate AND the average unemployment period. Both numbers are two times higher in France than in the USA or U.K. So, in fact, France's unemployment is FOUR TIMES higher than in America or Great Britain."

If the meaning of "unemployment rate" is intended to be the usual one (percentage of the workforce that is unemployed at any particular moment), then multiplying (or adding!) the two factors of 2 to obtain 4 makes no sense whatsoever. The only reasonable thing, if anything, would be to divide one by the other, obtaining the result that French workers, on average, become unemployed roughly as often as American ones (but because they then stay unemployed twice as long, they get counted as unemployed twice as often).

Posted by: Stumbo at July 29, 2005 03:15 PM (gw8w6)

52 If I wanted more vacation time, I'd become a teacher.

Posted by: Trevor at July 29, 2005 03:37 PM (GtBBB)

53 One too many snarks about all the time the slacker teacher's union members get off; competent teachers, my mother for instance, work over ten hour days and some weekends during the school year and then work up lesson plans, create support materials, and attend conferences and workshops during the summer, if not teaching summer school.

Posted by: vonKreedon at July 29, 2005 03:58 PM (wQYDC)

54 ChrisG - I hope you don't think that your attitude isn't being broadcasted to your colleagues and bosses, so you may get what you think you want a lot sooner than you think.

Whilst wiling away those extra 25 hours a week, why not ask for more work to do or think up some things that would enhance the company.

People who succeed in life don't try to coast from one vacation to the next.

Posted by: erp at July 29, 2005 04:31 PM (o552d)

55 France sucks. What product does France produce that you can't live without? Name something, come on. See? France sucks.

Posted by: Sue Dohnim at July 29, 2005 04:37 PM (tnsUn)

56 The French GDP growth rate has been significantly below the US rate, on average, for at least the past twenty-five years.

French unemployment is about 11%. Unions, and the wine industry face extreme problems and stage demonstrations. The French economy is tanking.

The French reproductivity rate is below that needed to sustain the population level, part of the reason for which is economic performance. Per capita income and the standard of living is significantly below that of the US, and falling.

Krugman's cited "vacation norming" test is insufficient to explain these differences. Try looking instead at the European Social model.

Posted by: Robert at July 29, 2005 04:57 PM (vns6Y)

57 If everything is so peachy keen with the frogs, how come they're comitting suicide at rates ~2X the US's?

Doesn't sound like all that wonderful socialism, free time, and surrender monkeyism has translated into happiness for them.

Posted by: tony at July 29, 2005 04:58 PM (98ED/)

58 Sue Dohnim - France sucks. What product does France produce that you can't live without? Name something, come on. See? France sucks.

World's best perfume, champagne, highest rated (still) wines. Cognac. Most 3star-rated restaurants. Best electrical circuit breakers. High art, song, culture, fashion design. And so on.

Now, what does the shitty little country you love so much produce that the world cannot live without? Holocaust guilt? China does appreciate them, however, for selling China the stolen American military technology the Chinese find hard to live without.

Posted by: Cedarford at July 29, 2005 05:09 PM (6krEN)

59 Australia: 38 hour week pretty much standard, as is four weeks vacation. National health care as well as private insurance of a very high standard. Unemployment rate 5% and trending lower. Continuous economic growth for the last 15 years, mostly above three per cent. Not sure about productivity per hour, but given very competitive mining and agricultural sectors with practically zero tariffs or government subsidies, I'm willing to bet that it's better than France. Standout performances in most OECD categories.

All of this but strangely enough with a conservative government for the last 10 years. It doesn't follow that socialism is the answer or that France is the model.

Posted by: sc1 at July 29, 2005 05:13 PM (sDDb0)

60 Now, what does the shitty little country you love so much produce that the world cannot live without?

Really good software, particularly retail automation and data warehouse modeling.

Plus a support organization you can actually talk to in the month of August or on fucking Bastille Day.

Posted by: Dave in Texas at July 29, 2005 05:37 PM (5rsVD)

61 Now, what does the shitty little country you love so much produce that the world cannot live without?

How about advanced life saving drugs? How about the best armour piercing ammo - used/copied by all NATO forces? How about more Nobel prizes per capita than any other country - and more than the Arab world in total.

World's best perfume - well, I guess your boyfriend stinks so much he needs it

champagne - for poofs, have a real drink

highest rated (still) wines - I guess Aussie and California are good enough for a barbarian like me

Cognac - f' it - drink scotch

Most 3star-rated restaurants - Ok, I'll give you this one

. Best electrical circuit breakers - surely the Chinese can learn to copy them

. High art, song, culture, fashion design. And so on. - exactly - nothing that anyone would really miss - and most of the good stuff is at least 100 years old - what have they done lately. France is a nice museum, not a real country any more.

Posted by: at July 29, 2005 05:57 PM (jvO9O)

62 And why are you so quick to defend the French Cedarfart?

Is it because the Italians did more to disrupt the Holocaust than the froggies did?

You claim to be a defender of America, don't you know that DeGaul reportedly kept some American POWs he inherited from the Vichy, rather than freeing them.

Not to mention that France has stabbed us in the back far more than Israel ever has.
XYZ, WWI (where the Frogs fled the lines leaving it to the USMC to do the work),WWII, Libyan Bombing run, Oil for Food/Iraqi arm sales, The UNSC Iraq War resolution and the list goes on.

Posted by: HowardDevore at July 29, 2005 06:47 PM (2W7Zd)

63 wtf is a "Vacation"?

Posted by: francis at July 29, 2005 09:44 PM (gWG8s)

64 The French economy is not the model we want to copy. Even though the French stock market is up 17% this year, compared to our paltry 1%, most European economists envy and marvel at the U.S. economic engine.

The fact of the matter is, aside from longer work weeks, American's enjoy a much higher QUALITY of life than the French.

Because of our high productivity-- innovation and open markets have enabled us to consume whatever the heck we want at cheaper prices than in France.

Plus-- the vacation argment is absurd. Most people in business that I know, including myself, can take as many days off as they want.

Unlike France, America is a country loaded with small businesses -- independent of the state dole.

Posted by: HundredPercenter at July 29, 2005 09:58 PM (bPVCX)

65 "Because French schools are good across the country, the French family doesn't have to worry as much about getting its children into a good school district."

Cedarford, this is the precise opposite of the truth. The French education system is horribly centralized and "tracked." Extensive testing at a young age effectively decides a child's future by puberty. The rulers and managers of the country and its industry all graduate from the same (few) school(s). Think the Ivy League Effect times 100.

Posted by: Knemon at July 29, 2005 10:52 PM (QaHR7)

66 "Also, if we had the French university and testing system there would be almost NO black and hispanic enrolment in universities - it would be WAY lower than it is today."

holdfast, something tells me that'd be A-OK with the 'Ford.

Though maybe he just hates one particular minority?

What's the deal, Cedarford, are you an equal opporunity racist or do you just focus in on The Chosen?

Posted by: Knemon at July 29, 2005 10:55 PM (QaHR7)

67 "One too many snarks about all the time the slacker teacher's union members get off; competent teachers, my mother for instance, work over ten hour days" ...

And that's precisely the problem; in most states it's impossible to reward and promote the good, hard-working ones like your mom on an other than seniority-first basis.

Or so the right-wing slime machine tells me. I'm just a caveman.

Posted by: Knemon at July 29, 2005 11:00 PM (QaHR7)

68 The majority of teachers, in my experience as both a student and a parent, are competent and hard working and underpaid. It's not the Union, it's the legislatures that prevent teachers getting paid what they deserve for the fundamental service they provide us.

Posted by: vonKreedon at July 30, 2005 05:30 AM (wQYDC)

69 That was the easiest set up and knockdown of Seedy that I've ever seen. Thanks guys.

Posted by: Sue Dohnim at July 30, 2005 05:37 AM (tnsUn)

70 Well experience is anecdotal vK. I know lots of good hard working teachers too. But they are so because they love their work and the kids, not because there's any incentive to be good at it. And Texas schools are relatively free of the union leeches that live off the dues of other educators around the country.

Now if the NEA wanted to contribute to helping teachers instead of electing Democrats (who ignored teachers when they were in control of the state houses too), they could contribute with ideas and solutions instead of rhetoric. How about getting away from this ridiculous summer off stuff (so the kids can go work on the farms)? Higher teacher to student ratios, less hours at the school per day, and some incentives to perform? Nobody wants factories or warehouses running at 75% of capacity - it's a waste of resource.

The fragmentation of the AFL-CIO is an indication of where unions are headed (and have been for decades). They could contribute to industry instead of stealing from it.

Posted by: Dave in Texas at July 30, 2005 08:17 AM (Bih3T)

71 vonKreedon,

Teacher's unions have a certain amount of bargaining leverage. They have (by and large) chosen to use that leverage to secure, in many cases, virtually inpermeable job security. They could use their power to secure higher wages at the expense of job security (i.e., giving administrators more leeway in punishing and rewarding teachers based on their performance), but they have decided they would rather make sure that a bunch of crappy teachers should get to keep their jobs, while the many excellent teachers in their ranks go unrewarded for their skills.

Posted by: Tim Higgins at July 30, 2005 12:20 PM (6pS7K)

72 If teachers think they can do better in another profession - then by all means they should leave teaching. Nobody is putting a gun to their heads forcing them to teach rather than open up a Jiffy Lube and actually work for aliving.

If enough of them leave, salaries WILL rise accordingly.

Seriously - with plumbers making $50/hr (or more) in many areas, why would anyone in their right mind want to be a teacher unless they're looking for lots of vacation time and an easy ride? "dedication to the teaching profession" fell by the wayside many decades ago.

Posted by: tony at July 30, 2005 01:06 PM (98ED/)

73 Anyone who thinks serious French employee work that little is insane. It's mainly the little people like chain store clerks who get the benefit. If you are a manager at a for profit company, you have to put in your free overtime like anywhere else.

Posted by: Aaron at July 31, 2005 07:03 AM (w6l/q)

74 "The majority of teachers, in my experience as both a student and a parent, are competent and hard working and underpaid. "

You've been lucky.

Posted by: Knemon at July 31, 2005 10:55 AM (QaHR7)

75 I spent two years as an expat working in Puteaux near Paris, and the developers in our group worked just as hard as any group I've worked with in the US. However, they had some sort of funky exemption to the 35 hour rule.

And in general, it's not that complex a question. Just ask yourself: would I like some unpaid time off? If the answer is yes, Krugman has a point; if no, he's full of it.

Posted by: John Nowak at August 01, 2005 06:36 PM (DTHaM)


Most of you have not learned to understand the thesis of a paper.  Never does Krugman argue that France is more econmically competitive or that there is some competive advantage to establishing regulatory controls that reinforce cultural norms or social standards...in fact he states quite the opposite in his opening acknowledgement that France trails in economic measures.  The point of the article is to dicuss how we measure and qualify a society, what is important, which goes into policy decisions.  Is is bext to maximize economic output or incorporate other qualities in to what is condisered well-being.  Yes, there tends to be a relationship between level of afluence and what is described as well-being and standard of living, bu this is absolute...especially with the rise of global "free trade" where we absolutely see growing disparities between the havs and have nots, internationally and within localities.  There is no cherry pcking of data, just use of some general factors and statistics to present a debate!  IT would be nice if you also had a fundamental understanding of the economy besides ideological frameworks with distinct political context and societal societal outcomes (rule by wealthy elite).  Do some research.

Posted by: ollirrap at January 15, 2009 07:47 AM (WpQer)

77 When choosing a pair of cheap foamposites shoes, one of the obvious choice that you should consider is foamposites for sale. This company has gained a great reputation as a manufacturer of quality shoes and indeed its copper foamposite shoes are one of the best in the market. Whether you are looking shoes for American football, baseball, tennis, football, lacrosse, basketball and cricket, there is surely a type of shoes that is appropriate for you.

Posted by: foamposites for sale at April 04, 2012 05:57 AM (QlGjB)

78 They could contribute to industry instead of stealing from it.jocuri fete

Posted by: James at June 12, 2012 01:03 AM (52E4K)

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