This is Labor Day weekend, but not in Europe. They celebrate Labor Day on May 1st; the date Communist governments celebrate their stranglehold over the masses. But that’s not the only way we differ from Europeans in our view of labor. Put simply, Europeans work less than we do.
French law, for example, limits the workweek to 35 hours. The same is true in many European countries, and as a result they produce less than we do. Overall output per worker in France and Germany is 10 percent to 20 percent lower than in the U.S., according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
How does this affect life in Europe? Well, I still love to visit Europe, but I wouldn’t want to live there. It doesn’t take long to discover that their standard of living is lower than ours. Even in England, most everything costs about twice as much as here, and the salaries are generally lower, too. That’s mostly because of a huge Value Added Tax (VAT) that they stick on anything you buy. They use the VAT to pay for government services, primarily socialized medicine. But government services always cost more than what the private sector makes or provides, and that’s why the whole system is less efficient.
Now before you gloat too much, realize that it could happen here. Not only are we spending a lot more on government “services” than we used to, but some of our private service standards are slipping, too. Of course, a lot of this is anecdotal, but have you noticed how contractors seem to be a lot less concerned about customer satisfaction than they used to be? Here’s an e-mail I received a while back from a friend who lives in Massachusetts:
“Planning to rebuild our deck. Contacted 2 carpenters asking for quotes.
First guy came on time. Took lots of measurements, shot the breeze with us, played a bit of catch with the kids, and told us the job would be $4,700.
Second guy pulls up 45 minutes late (with no apology) in a Mercedes. Makes no attempt to hide the fact that he was annoyed by the kids, and announces that the job—the very same job, same materials, everything, would cost $16,000.
Gee, How do you choose?”
Now, the great thing about this country is that we have the right to choose; prices and services aren’t all standardized, as they are when the government “provides” them. Labor works better in this country because there’s competition that keeps people honest and caring. But the more we crowd out that competition and standardize costs, the more we’re going to reduce competition and get stuck with rip off artists, like the contractor my friend told to hit the road.
Let’s praise labor on the Labor Day . But let’s also praise our free enterprise system that keeps labor honest.
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David Asman is the host of "Forbes on FOX" which airs on the FOX News Channel, Saturdays at 11 a.m. ET.