In the wake of the recent “no” vote on the EU constitution by the French and the Dutch, the question arises about European efficiency. You’d think Europe, because of its adoption to of the highly efficient metric system, would have a higher productivity than the United States. But it doesn’t. No cigar. No cookie.
After much investigation, research, and employing the Olympic Committee to bribe every official in sight, I have been able to reach the following conclusions about why American productivity still trounces its European rivals:
* A4 paper and more
I don’t get why Europeans need to use bigger paper. Standard letter-sized paper seems fine — but this A4 paper that Europeans use is huge! All that paper being wasted surely decreases their efficiency.
European business cards are also much larger. What’s the deal? That not only means more paper but it also means larger wallets. More waste.
* Work, Siestas, Vacations, and Sabbaticals
Americans just work a lot harder than Europeans. And unlike Europeans, we don’t take as many vacations. We also don’t take a siesta at 2:00 pm every day. Nope — we work all the time (except when we are watching reality TV). When is the last time you saw a Frenchman check his voice mail while on vacation in Nice? Or an Italian who passes on wine during dinner because she has to be at work early the next day?
* Learning Different Spoken Languages
Americans generally know only one spoken language — English. All the energy that normally goes into learning other spoken languages can be focused on learning other useful things like computer languages or the language of Wall Street.
If you assume a brain can only hold a finite amount of memory before it runs out of storage, learning fewer spoken languages can be a huge advantage (especially if everyone else learns English).
I know what you are thinking — spoken like a true American.
Update: lest anyone think I’m serious … this was filed in the “humor” section …
Ha, ha… but serious.
A4 rocks. I used to think the A4 vs. letter distinction was just arbitrary, and resented the difference-for-differences’ sake… then I recently learned that the whole set of euro/ISO standard paper sizes are a thing of beauty in their consistent proportions. See for example:
I’ve mucked with a lot of flyers, newsletters, and publications over the years, so I envy any young European his menu of logically-related paper sizes… even as I prefer our generally cheaper technology, materials, and labor.
Tyler Cowen at MarginalRevolution forwarded a wry theory on why Europeans appear to work less than Americans a while back: they have to spend more time outside “work” on personal chores because it’s harder to buy time-saving goods and services. (It’s just a conjecture, and like your observations, probably a bit of envious wishful thinking… see: http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2005/05/who_really_work.html ).
I wonder if there’s been any rigorous study, not strictly anecdotal, on whether and how much multilingualism trades off against other competencies. Under either “brain volume” or “opportunity cost” analyses, it’s just as plausible as it is politically incorrect. But it’d be really hard to design a good study… so many confounding factors, selection biases, etc.
Ok, let’s be serious one second. You – are – right! As a French man brought up abroad, struggling to have his beloved country running the right side up… I do agree totally with you… except may be on the A4 paper size. It was a joke if I understood you well.
The thing is, French politicians, flatter themselves with the fact that France has the better efficiency per head… in the world! Ok. Let’s not discuss this statistical fact and just read this: Yes, but how many of us do work! This is the key!
French people have such social a safety net that they even push the concept up to the top: they do consider “chomage” (unemployment) as a career element. Of course! Unemployment gaps are so well paid that workers have no reason to go back to work.
Things are (hopefully) changing with the charismatic Dominique de Villepin as prime minister. He wants to put France at work. It has obviously been the case for the last 30 years. And neither left nor right wings party did succeed in this one generation time gap.
I could talk about that for hours.
I just wanted to raise my point.
Nevertheless France is a beautiful country, but not for businessmen.