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But my question to you is "Is this what life is about?" Would you rather work extended hours and weekends just to have the biggest house on the block, even you are rarely at home, instead of spending more hours with your children and friends? I bet you do. Enjoy your life!

This question gets to the heart of the matter. Choices have consequences. I can work less, but I'll also make less.

There is a movement in the U.S. that rejects the hamster wheel of wild consumerism. It's made up of tired out yuppies who burned out while working fifty hour weeks to pay for three ton SUVs and five thousand square foot houses. They move to the country, work part time, grow their own vegetables, and generally seem to be very happy. Their simplistic lifestyle has cut away a lot of what makes modern people work so hard.

They probably are happy but I'm concerned about how it affects the economy as a whole, especially relative to other global economies If the odd duck or two heads for the hills it doesn't affect society. What happens when a large percentage of the population wants to live in tin shacks in the woods so they have more time to read Henry David Thoreau?

It's not that extreme in Europe but the answer is much the same. The economy declines relative to other countries in the world. The global economy is a competition. There are winners and there are losers. The living standards of some countries will improve relative to the world mean and other countries will lose ground. Turning one's nose up at the thought of competing, looking at it as a base struggle that is beneath you does not change the existence of the competition. It just means you have chosen to stand still while others race past you.

And standing still is exactly what the major countries of Europe have decided to do. It didn't start out that way. In fact the same thing might have happened to America, but the Great Society and the War on Poverty lost out to the war in Vietnam. With a lack of funding the structures of the U.S. welfare state couldn't be built very high.

Europe didn't have a stupid war stealing capital from the construction of their welfare states, so they forged ahead, building a system that helped the weakest amonst them. But a curious thing happened on the way to the Workers' Paradise, the able bodied people who were supposed to fund the unfortunate decided that a life of sloth looked appealing.

There is a law of the universe that is just as binding as the ones about death and taxes, the TANSTAAFL law. There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. If you want to live the Life of Riley someone else has to pay for it. And that is the heart of the problem with the current European attitudes about work.

The problem has gone beyond people lamenting the fact that there are few jobs. The condition has been so longstanding that the people have come to see the good side of the situation. With no job, or fewer work hours, or longer vacations they can spend more time in pursuits of leasure. It's a belief that has fed upon itself, producing a spiral of less work and less productivity.

Over the past thirty years the Europeans have bred out the qualities of a society that make a competitive economy.

Why does one country advance economicly and another stagnate? Why do some groups of people prosper no matter what country they are in? Why is it that Koreans and Chinese can come to America with little to no money, have such a hard time with the language that most never learn to speak English very well, but still manage to start businesses and have children who get into the best universities and enjoy living standards better than the native population? Why have the Jews done so well for themselves in scores of countries over a couple of thousands of years?

My belief is that it is culture. Cultures that place value on education, hard work, and competitiveness flourish. Those that lack those qualities degrade, and Europe has chosen to devalue the last two. That choice is not sustainable.

It's a choice that will make Europe steadily lose ground economicly to other nations in the world. The Europeans may not be worse off in the future, but will they be better?

Take a list countries ranked according to standard of living and go down the list until you find the place where you wouldn't want to live in any of the countries below it. People could have done this at any time in history. The lists would have been different. Countries would have moved up or moved down, some becoming better places to live and others dropping below your point of toleration. The question any country should ask itself is are we falling toward that point.

Looking at things from an economic perpective, the Middle East was once best place to live in the world; would you want to live there today?

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