Mark Steyn really doesn’t like people who take holidays on a regular basis. And that means us Europeans.
But Paris in August, like London ”over Christmas,” is in itself a symbol of flight — flight from work. In 1999, the average ”working” German worked 1,536 hours a year, the average American 1,976. In the United States, 49 percent of the population is in employment, in France 39 percent. From my strictly anecdotal observation of German acquaintances, the ideal career track seems to be to finish school around 34 and take early retirement at 42. By 2050, the pimply young lad in lederhosen serving you at the charming beer garden will be singlehandedly supporting entire old folks’ homes. If tax rates were to be hiked commensurate to the decline in tax base and increase in welfare obligations, there would be no incentive at all to enter the (official) job market. Better to stay at school till 38 and retire at 39. That’s why America’s richer, and why, though the Europeans preen about their kinder, gentler society, customers of Amazon.com have pledged more money to disaster relief in the Indian Ocean than the French government.
Argh, is there even any point in arguing – it hardly seems worth it. Yes we love lots of holidays, its great. So there. Beats working your ass off.
Oh and Steyn has more on the stinginess thing, and he even mentions humble Ireland:
Jan Egeland, the Norwegian bureaucrat who’s the big humanitarian honcho at the UN, got the ball rolling with some remarks about the “stinginess” of certain wealthy nations. And Clare Short piled in, and then Polly Toynbee threw in her three-ha’porth, reminding us that ” ‘Charity begins at home’ is the mean-minded dictum of the Right”. But even Telegraph readers subscribe to the Great Universal Theory. On our Letters Page, Robert Eddison dismissed the “paltry $15 million from Washington” as “worse than stingy. The offer – since shamefacedly upped to $35 million – equates to what? Three oil tycoons’ combined annual salary?”
Mr Eddison concluded with a stirring plea to the wicked Americans to mend their ways: “If Washington is to lay any claim to the moral, as distinct from the military, high ground, let it emulate Ireland and Norway’s prompt and proportionate attempts to plug South-East Asia’s gaping gap of need and help avert a further 80,000 deaths from infection and untreated wounds.”
If America were to emulate Ireland and Norway, there’d be a lot more dead Indonesians and Sri Lankans. Mr Eddison may not have noticed, but the actual relief effort going on right now is being done by the Yanks: it’s the USAF and a couple of diverted naval groups shuttling in food and medicine, with solid help from the Aussies, Singapore and a couple of others. The Irish can’t fly in relief supplies, because they don’t have any C-130s. All they can do is wait for the UN to swing by and pick up their cheque.