Sago Boulevard

Friday, July 29, 2005

French Motto: Work Less and Have More Fun

I'm not an economist and I know very little about France. So those of you who know more about the subject, feel free to correct me if I'm way off. That said, Paul Krugman's comparison between American and French economic cultures seems to be missing something.
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.

Krugman's main point is that "to the extent that the French have less income than we do, it's mainly a matter of choice." While French workers have less "disposible income" than their American counterparts, they compensate by spending more time with family. This, argues Krugman, is a conscious descision on the part of French culture and one that should not be dismissed out-of-hand. Citing a "new study of international differences", Krugman writes that "government regulations actually allow people to make a desirable tradeoff - to modestly lower income in return for more time with friends and family."

It seems to me that an important issue is being ignored. America's capitalist culture is behind much of the technological and scientific advacements that we export to the world (there's a reason I don't own a French-made computer, a French-made television, or a French-made car). What does French reliance on technology developed in more capitalist-friendly countries (US, Japan, India) say about the viability of an economy that prides itself on working less and having more fun?