A Less Industrious Nation

I continue to wonder about human nature, because I can observe people world-wide in ways that were never possible in the past before international TV, and the Internet..

We can observe the difference in Europe between the cultures of Greece and Spain, long under socialist rule and now under independent rule but not conservative – and both driven into the depths of fiscal insanity by the welfare state.

We can see our own European brethren, the British, so far in debt that it makes even Spain and Greece seem moderate, and the Conservative government is running behind in all polls because of their moderate austerity. Britain would be a basket case had it entered both the European Union and the Euro, but it cut its losses by not accepting the Euro, so Britain can manipulate its currency separately – although there is an obvious limit to that!

And we see Germany, which has some of the welfare state mentality, but coupled with high productivity, and a workforce still trying for excellence – much like the United States, Japan and China.

It is the work ethic, or lack of it that differentiates most economies. There is a point at which work ethic tips from productive to non-productive, and so we see Britain, of whom it was once said that if three men met at a street corner they would build a car. Today, their great British marques are foreign owned. Rolls Royce and Bentley motorcars are now owned by BMW, and Jaguar and Land Rover are owned by TaTa of India!

(Oh, how the British have fallen!)

Many years ago I had the opportunity to introduce to a small libertarian group I belonged to, the Senior VP of a Fortune 500 company who had showed his brilliance by hiring me as an independent contractor to successfully take a company away from a very famous man whose name you would recognize. His speech was about how he sited his Fortune 500 companies overseas – he managed some 16,000 foreign employees – and he said that certain cultures were simply incapable of ‘getting up, and showing up.” He said that the first criteria he examined was the tendency of a workforce to be on time.

He had an interesting background before becoming a Senior VP of a Fortune 500 company. He had been a professor of Law at a university in Washington state, had won two Fulbright scholarships to study law in Japanese at the University of Tokyo, became a Japanese lawyer – no small feat for a European ancestry Caucasian-American, and he had written law books in Japanese!

When the Fortune 500 company wanted someone who could bridge the US-Japanese trade cultures, they found the right man!

His comments on work ethic, or work culture, is something that is observable. The Spanish have never been hard workers, nor the Greeks, and the British once were and are no more, while the Germans have always been industrious, as have been the Americans, the Japanese and the Chinese.

An industrious nation can afford x amount of social welfare, but at some point the siren call of “something for nothing” can tip that nation from industrious to lazy. Obviously, there are always industrious people, and lazy ones in every society but every society has a demonstrable work culture as well. The rabid nature of some nations seems to signal its economic downfall.

One of my friends runs a shop employing more than 20 people in North County, and in his hiring practice he never hires anyone who, when asked if they have any questions about company policy, mentions time off, vacation time, sick time, etc.

That is a wise policy.

I mention this only because each generation in the US appears to be less and less industrious. I fear we are nearing a tipping point.

The most recent SAT scores showed the lowest reading scores in 40 years, and that is just one indicator. The number of people on food stamps is another, and still another is the HUGE increase of people on Social Security disability.

The safety net is becoming a hammock.



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