On Working Less and the Pursuit of Happiness

A discussion with any American liberal still has to turn out differently. After telling them that I am originally from France, I receive a big “Wow! France! I love France! The food and the art de vivre!” Generally, they instantly become best friend forever with me, until I discuss my philosophical and/or political views.

“Oh how I envy you, with your 4 weeks of paid vacations and 35-hour work week!”

I am still amazed at the number of Americans (liberal or not) that I have met who think life is easy and sweet in France. Supposedly, we work less and accomplish more. We know that relaxation is important, taking the time to follow one’s passions and not always work, work, work!

Agreed, some people are more productive than others, and can accomplish more in less time than some other people. Not all are though.

Some do work less indeed, whether they like it or not is another problem. With an official unemployment rate of nearly 11% (and nearly 25% among young people age 15-24), a large part of the population can follow their passion.

If you are wondering with what money someone would follow one’s passion if they are out of work or underemployed, you might want to ask the question to Representative Nancy Pelosi. When questioned about the comment of Teamsters’ President James P. Hoffa on how ACA is “destroy[ing] the foundation of the 40-hour work week,” she smiled and declared that it was “a liberation” for the American people:

“Overwhelmingly, for the American people, this is a liberation, this is life, healthy life, liberty, the freedom to pursue your happiness, which could be follow your passion for good rather than follow your palate and be constrained by your policy. It’s about wellness. It’s about prevention, it’s about a healthier America.”

[As an aside, can someone explain to me what she meant by “follow your palate”?]

I assume she is talking about ACA (the Affordable Care Act [sic]) as a liberation, and not the reduced working hours many people have been subjected to due to ACA. Even then, I can’t help but wonder how someone, even someone healthy (supposing for a second that ACA would be the miracle she seems to claim it is), could follow their passion and pursue their happiness without being able to sustain themselves. Of course, Ms. Pelosi will evade these details, something only commoners might care to worry about.

I won’t discuss here the fact that for many people, following one’s passion or happiness, is working at the job they have chosen to do and this is precisely what life and liberty imply to them. This will deserve another post.

What are the consequences though? It is summed up in the title of an article on this page: “Why Everyone Wants to Work in France (But No One Wants to Hire There).”

Although the article is, in my sense, somehow making the French employees’ “rights” look like an advantage to be sought (droits acquis or “acquired rights” is an expression the French will use ad nauseam to cling to an unfair advantage they receive at the expense of others), the result is clear: no one wants to hire there. Add to that something that is not listed in the article, the fact that it is extremely difficult to fire someone in France (and if possible, it is always expensive), and you’ve got yourself the recipe for decades of slow growth and high unemployment. The Government will step in and “create” jobs, some will argue: yet again, something France has tried already.

It seems that many an American who wishes to live the nice life we (supposedly) live in la douce France, are about to get a taste of it. Then maybe, these will understand why the discussion on how sweet life must be in France always left a bitter taste in my mind and why there is no such thing, even in France, as “free” healthcare (via the Acton Institute Blog):

In the waiting room of the Family Health Center on Portland Avenue, Kelli Ramirez, an uninsured restaurant server, appears to be a perfect example of someone ready to benefit from the Affordable Care Act.

“I don’t have any (insurance). I can’t afford it. I come here,” Ramirez said.

Yet, Ramirez, 35, is not embracing the ACA, even as it makes her eligible for free health insurance.

“I don’t like it,” Ramirez said. “I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all,” because she is already paying a steep price for her free health insurance.

“I got my hours cut in half because they put a new computer system in orders,” Ramirez explained…

Ramirez said her hours have been cut from 32 per week to 16 per week, though a superior was working to add more to her schedule.

“They only have so many people that can be full time because of the cost of health insurance,” Ramirez said, defending her employer. “And so now most of us that are working lower jobs are going to have to get a second job just to be able to make it.”

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One Response to On Working Less and the Pursuit of Happiness

  1. Pingback: Obamacare: Not Just After Your Insurance, After Your Snacks Too | The Song of Broken Glass

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