Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Latins and Teutons

So why can't the Greeks be more like the Germans? That should sort all the problems out, surely.

Matthew Iglesias writes in Slate:
Blaming the whole mess on the comparative torpor of Latins places a convenient moral framework around complicated economic questions, and affirms prior beliefs about who does and doesn’t work hard ... It’s true that Germans and Greeks work very different amounts, but not in the way you expect. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the average German worker put in 1,429 hours on the job in 2008. The average Greek worker put in 2,120 hours. In Spain, the average worker puts in 1,647 hours. In Italy, 1,802. The Dutch, by contrast, outdo even their Teutonic brethren in laziness, working a staggeringly low 1,389 hours per year.
 He continues with an old truth:
 ... countries aren’t rich because their people work hard. When people are poor, that’s when they work hard.
As Amartya Sen has written
... cultural generalizations ... can ... present astonishingly limited and bleak understandings of the characteristics of the human beings involved. When a hazy perception of culture is combined with fatalism about the dominating power of culture, we are, in effect, asked to be the slaves of an illusory force.
Hat tip John

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