Goddam Godless Slackers

Okay, that was fun, picking fights with my colleague is good entertainment but it’s a luxury, a rare, truffle-like item that only occurs once every few years. Life is not all holiday, as Niall Ferguson has just been reminding us, so it’s time for me to get back to the hard graft of saying something substantive. Well no not substantive – I don’t know how to do that – but anyway not frivolously internecine.

Check out this piece of reactionary nonsense from the aforementioned Ferguson. I’d seen links to it here and there but didn’t bother reading it, because the links merely talked about Europe and holidays and laziness and how much better the US is – and I’ve seen that kind of thing often enough before, thanks, I don’t feel much need to read it yet again. But José del Solar informed me that there’s more to it than that, so I changed my mind.

No doubt Ferguson is just doing it to get a rise out of people like me – or doing it for other reasons too but confidently hoping also to get a rise out of predictable people like me. He must be, because it’s such a silly thing to say. Such a correlation not causation remark. He can’t mean it all that seriously…surely. Weber notwithstanding.

The article starts from the (as I mentioned) unoriginal observation that Europeans get longer holidays and better coverage for illness than Americans do. He regards this as a terrible vice in the Europeans rather than as a respect for people’s needs, and he regards the contrasting frenzied overwork of Americans as a splendid thing rather than as a horrible necessity caused by having ruthless bastards as employers, who are aided by lobbyists who prevent the government from enacting worker-protections by paying large ‘campaign contributions’ i.e. bribes.

This is the nicest bit:

In the U.S., of course, the approach is different. Workers who consistently miss work because they are feeling under the weather are given the chance to miss it on a permanent basis — by being fired.

He says that with approval, note, not with revulsion or even regret. A pretty sentiment. But then he goes from the ruthless to the peculiar.

You see, the most remarkable thing about the transatlantic divergence in working patterns is that it has coincided almost exactly with a comparable divergence in religiosity, both in terms of observance and belief…[M]ore than twice as many North Americans as Europeans attend religious services once a week or more. I do not say this is the sole explanation for the fact that London today is lethargic while New York toils away as usual. But there is surely something more than coincidental about the simultaneous rise of unbelief in Europe and the decline of Weber’s work ethic.

And? What follows from that? Perhaps that godbothering employers think they have encouragement from a deity to gouge every bit of work out of their employees that they possibly can, while atheists have an idea that while the factory and office are great fun, still, there are other things it is desirable to do in life and a walk in the Alps might be nice at this time of year.

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