The European Model in Action

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 \AM\.\Wed\.

As I mentioned, I’m currently reading Thomas Geoghegan’s Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? Geoghegan’s day job is as a labor lawyer, so naturally there’s a good deal of discussion of German employment law practices and how they differ from America’s. At one point, for example, Geoghegan tries to explain the American system of employment at will to a group of German students:

I’d thought that, in the first class, I’d explain how, in the U.S., people could be fired for any reason at any time, or for no reason at all. “Here’s an example. I work for you for twenty-nine years, one year from retiring. One day I wear a yellow tie to work. You say, ‘I don’t like your tie. You’re fired.’ In the U.S., you can do that.”

The students are, understandably, incredulous, to the point that G is forced to backtrack a bit:

“Sure, we fire people for no reason, or for the color of their ties – yes, we do. But we don’t do it every day.”

It’s true that people don’t get fired every day for wearing a yellow tie. In fact, I’ve never heard of someone getting fired for wearing a yellow tie. The closest thing I can think of to the yellow tie story was a story from the 1990s in which a guy at a supermarket was fired for wearing a particular team jersey the day of the Superbowl (the owner was apparently a fan of the other team). That caused a decent sized stink; big enough that if something like the yellow tie incident were to occur, big as this country is, I think I would hear about it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Do Americans Work Too Much?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 \AM\.\Tue\.

I’m in the middle of reading Thomas Geoghegan’s Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life. The book is part travelogue, part prosecutors brief against American-style capitalism and in favor of European-style social democracy. It’s a very enjoyable read. Many of Geoghegan’s arguments are backwards or loopy (his claim, for example, that the reason Americans have plastic surgery is to avoid being laid off gets more points for creativity than for persuasiveness). But Geoghegan is a good writer and comes across as a really likable guy, and many of the point he makes warrant at least further reflection.

Geoghegan’s main argument in favor of Europe has to do with work/life balance. Yes, Americans tend to be richer than Europeans. But they also tend to work a lot less.:

# 1 Australia: 1,814 hours
# 2 Japan: 1,801 hours
# 3 United States: 1,792 hours
# 4 Canada: 1,718 hours
# 5 United Kingdom: 1,673 hours
# 6 Italy: 1,591 hours
# 7 Sweden: 1,564 hours
# 8 France: 1,453 hours
# 9 Norway: 1,337 hours

That’s not the whole story, of course.*

Read the rest of this entry »


Taxes, American Style

Monday, September 27, 2010 \AM\.\Mon\.

A while back Harvard economist Greg Mankiw caused a bit of a kerfufle when he noted that the amount of tax revenues raised by the United States per capita wasn’t much different than the amount raised in Europe. Tax rates in the United States are lower than in Europe, but per capita income is also higher in America, and the two facts seem to largely cancel each other out. Here, for example, are the per capita tax revenues for a handful of developed countries:

France .461 x 33,744 = 15,556
Germany .406 x 34,219 = 13,893
UK .390 x 35,165 = 13,714
US .282 x 46,443 = 13,097
Canada .334 x 38,290 = 12,789
Italy .426 x 29,290 = 12,478
Spain .373 x 29,527 = 11,014

Now granted, European countries tend to spend their tax revenues differently than we do in the U.S. For example, we spend more on defense, whereas they spend more on welfare. However, to some extent Europe’s apparently larger welfare state is an optical illusion. It looks bigger than it is, because the rest of the economy is so small.

Read the rest of this entry »


Christine O’Donnell on Tolkien and Women

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 \PM\.\Tue\.

In a recent column, Maureen Dowd heaps scorn on Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell for her admiration of famed Catholic writer J.R.R. Tolkien. That is according to the Christian Science Monitor. I confess that I am unable to comprehend most of what Dowd writes, so that when I read the column in question all I see are a series of impressionistic comments that have little apparent logical relation to each other.

Anyway, if you’re interested in Ms. O’Donnell’s thoughts on Tolkien and feminism, here is a C-Span recording of her talk on the subject (and here is a Catholic Exchange article on the same subject).


Space Alien Followers vs. Pope Benedict (No, Seriously)

Monday, September 13, 2010 \PM\.\Mon\.

A prophet, who now goes by the name “Rael,” once encountered space aliens who told him the secret of life. Later, his followers, “the Raelians,” set up an advocacy group to expose pedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church. But the group’s work was frustrated when Pope Benedict XVI (a.k.a. Joe Ratzinger) covered up the crimes of Catholic priests, in an effort to discredit the Raelians and suppress their message.

If I were writing fiction, this would be about the point where Tom Hanks holds a black light up to a window in Washington National Cathedral to reveal the precise location of Area 51. But before he can tell anybody, Al Pacino (heretofore unobtrusively sitting in a pew, drinking a glass of orange juice) makes Hanks an offer he can’t refuse.

But this isn’t fiction; this is the real world. In the real world, there is only one way to handle this kind of massive conspiracy, cover-up, and intrigue: a lawsuit.

And so it is that today, on the thirteenth of September in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, that Pope Benedict XVI finds himself sued in the High Court of Justice: Queen’s Bench Division, for tortious interference with business…

Full story here.


The Ground Zero Mosque and Religious Freedom

Saturday, September 11, 2010 \AM\.\Sat\.

Here’s another guest post by David Jones, a former Muslim and Iraq veteran.

———————

On the anniversary of 9-11 I feel it’s time to have a serious dialogue about Islam and religious freedom in the U.S. It is my hope that my Catholic brethren and anyone else who reads this article will finds my position a reasonable one to hold.

If anyone on this planet understands the concerns of those who are against the building the Ground Zero Mosque, I do. This includes not building it near Ground Zero out of respect for all those that lost their lives there. I am absolutely convinced that most Americans don’t have a clue about Islam though. Many are completely ignorant as to what it really teaches and the threat it poses to both Europe and the U.S. Islam by its nature is an ideology which is inherently political. In many regards it is a closed system, which is not open to reality. It does not organically develop as Catholicism has done throughout its history. Islam considers itself to be a completed (and total) system to be imposed on the rest of the non-Muslim world by any and all means necessary, both through peaceful and non-peaceful means. Therefore it struggles with this concept of religious freedom. If your system or ideology is closed, how can you really be free? Many good Muslims are attempting to answer this question though and many others related to it. We should be open to dialogue with them. We should offer our friendship.

Read the rest of this entry »


How the Drug War Leads to Actual War

Thursday, September 9, 2010 \PM\.\Thu\.

As readers of this blog are no doubt aware, I am not a huge fan of the recently passed Arizona immigration law, SB 1070. The Arizona law has mainly been justified as a means of combating violent drug gangs from Mexico. I frankly don’t see how the law helps in this regard, but no one should mistake my opposition to SB 1070 for sanguinity on the topic of Mexican drug and gang-related violence. Drug related violence is up sharply in several regions of Mexico over the last few years, and there is always the danger that violence could spill over into the United States.

Why is drug violence up so sharply in Mexico? Ironically, the cause seems to be an upsurge in attempts by the Mexican government to suppress the drug trade. Since his election in 2006, Mexican President Calderon has made going after the drug cartels one of his top priorities. The cartels have responded in kind, murdering anyone they perceive as a threat.

The idea that anti-drug efforts are causing an increasing drug-related violence can be hard to stomach. After all, the law enforcement officials fighting against the cartels are heroes, whereas the cartels themselves are made up of profoundly evil people. Suggesting that the increased violence is the result of anti-drug policies may thus seem morally perverse. My claim, however, is not moral but causal. The drug cartels have existed in Mexico for a long time. Yet it was only when the government stepped up anti-drug efforts that the violence has increased so dramatically.

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