July 29, 2005

Princeton Economist/Times Columnist Makes (Not So) Tacit Case For Socialism

...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....

I wish, however, that Doc Krugman had lingered over this passage in the column: 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.

Well, sure. But what's the history of how those government regulations came about? Did they produce these desirable conditions of education and health care, and the accompanying decreases in competition, anxiety, threat or were they produced by such desires? Structural reciprocality makes this difficult to discern, but at a minimum, might it be fair to suggest that certain forms of government are more amenable to such desires?

Or, to put it another way, could a nation choose such governmental regulations if they were never actually on offer? Or is that what the word "revolution" means?

Posted by jane at July 29, 2005 02:32 AM | TrackBack