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Kicken it in sunny Southern France
December 4, 2005 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Unions are much of the source of the E.U. vs. U.S. lifestyle difference.
posted by jeffburdges (54 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Prescott paper(.pdf) that is (likely) referenced in the story.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:37 AM on December 4, 2005


One obvious result of this is that America is richer than Europe. [...] Because Americans spend more hours at the office than Europeans, they spend fewer hours on tasks in the home: things like cooking, cleaning, and child care. [...] Instead of doing these jobs themselves, Americans pay other people to do them.

Mo' Money, Mo problems, I guess. Though, The Onion had already beat them to this story.
posted by betaray at 11:18 AM on December 4, 2005


... and likely the other referenced paper (abstract only) by Alesina, Glaeser, and Sacerdote.
posted by rkent at 12:31 PM on December 4, 2005


A lot of "Folk Wisdom" in that article, and far too few statistics.

"One obvious result of this is that America is richer than Europe"
America or Americans? The mean wealth in America is skewed by a small but very rich upper class. There is a huge portion of the population who will never make enough money to enjoy the luxuries their European counterparts do, no matter how long their work weeks.
posted by Popular Ethics at 1:32 PM on December 4, 2005


British people work just as much as Americans, but don't eat in restaurants (thus creating jobs). The food in restaurants in Europe is just much more expensive. I don't entirely know why this is, though I do know that all those "wonderful" jobs created in the food industry in North America (where I used to work) involve grinding work for poverty wages - you couldn't have fed and housed an individual on my wage, let alone a family.
posted by jb at 1:44 PM on December 4, 2005


Popular Ethics: From the wikipedia page you linked to:


The Gini coefficient measured for a large geographically diverse country will generally result in a much higher coefficient than each of its regions has individually. For this reason the scores calculated for individual countries within the E.U. are difficult to compare with the score of the entire U.S.



Considered together, Hungary and Denmark have a higher Gini score than the U.S. as does the entire European Union if all member states are lumped together. Conversely, when each state or geographical region in the U.S. is considered separately, the Gini scores will generally be lower than those calculated for the entire country.


Comparing the US and the EU is difficult. The US is one large, roughly 3/4s culturally homogenous society with 2 very significant cultural and ethnic minorities who do not have economic equality with Europe, which is a large number of people with very different cultures that speak different languages and have very different histories. Comparing with individual countries in the EU doesn't work that well either. The US is 3-4 times as large as the single largest country in the EU and comparing the US to Sweden or whatever country you chose is strange. Sweden has a population that is about 1/30th the size of the US.

There are some interesting matches between the two though. The productivity one per hour being interesting. Regardless of the differences it looks like if you want to make people rich then get them to work more, obvious really. The really difficult part is when you start wondering if you want to work more and if it is that good an idea.

The other thing is, given that productivity is roughly equal, perhaps all the economists talk about how labour market reforms make people and the economy 'more efficient' is really BS to just push for whatever system economists want in place for whatever reasons i.e. which think tank is paying them to reach a conclusion or what their own cultural biases are.
posted by sien at 2:06 PM on December 4, 2005


Yep a lot of Folk Wisdom, misleading generalization supporting the idea that being richer necessarily implies having more money, suggesting that unions have condemned workers to poverty giving somewhat more relaxed lifestyle as a compensation.

The paper rkent reffered to seems better to me (btw, scroll down the page to get the full paper PDF) but to actually track down its accuracy would take me more time then I can afford to.

One working hypothesis: it could be that the inefficiency problems plaguing very big business could also plague societies, when considering the coordination and work division problems. It could be that after a certain number of hours worked is reached, each additional hour doesn't produce as much as it costs.

Externalities are also likely to be involved, for instance additional stress caused or exacerbated by work related stress could lead to undesiderable consequences ; for instance an "angry" parent coming home adversely affects family or couple interaction, thus leading to more stress then is later imported into other work situations by the (previously unaffected) partner or companion.

As for the argument "more job positions = more wealth" this equation is quite wrong : consider any task made of (for instace) three parts each one called A,B,C the task being ordinarily done by 3 workers.

Now the three workers hire 3 more other workers to tend to their houses ; of course this represents a cost for the first three workers which are more likely to ask for an higher wage . If they employer agrees to reduce his profit (which is unlikely unless they're going to make profit our of this) they'll receive the raise, otherwise the cost of the house tenders will reamin on the shoulders of the first 3 workers.

What gives ? That they're actually financing the low cost of their production AND also creating a lot of useless jobs if the house cleaning and tending jobs were NOT given to highly efficient and specialized companies/workers would could ask for less exploiting technical advancements and economies of scale.

But everybody loves his own "mexican" cleaning the house as he's also some kind of status symbol and an good politically correct excuse of giving job to the needy ones.
posted by elpapacito at 2:19 PM on December 4, 2005


sien - Canada and the US are quite alike, and the US has a significantly higher GINI than Canada, about 40 versus about 30.
posted by jb at 2:31 PM on December 4, 2005


Interesting article. But this is simply wrong:

In terms of productivity—that is, how much a worker produces in an hour—there’s little difference between the U.S., France, and Germany.

France has a significantly higher gdp/hour worked - $50.08 to the US's $44.34. Germany's ($43.22) is comparable to the US's, but that's all of Germany. The US's current GDP/hour worked is just slightly above West Germany's 1997 number of $43.78. Absorbing a third world country can wreak havoc on your income stats.

(Why is an interesting question. I'm partial to elpapacito's capitalization argument above - Germany certainly feels more automated and high-tech than the US. But shorter working hours themselves ought to cause an increase in hourly productivity - you buy your leisure on the margin, and presumably the 40th hour is less productive than the 1st.)

Lot's of interesting national econ stats available here.
posted by bonecrusher at 2:46 PM on December 4, 2005


If only those cruel European unions were willing to allow their members to be forced to work longer hours, have fewer holidays, and take wage cuts to be more like the Chinese, we could be rich! Somehow the argument doesn't quite ring true.

A more honest article would discuss the more powerful American employers (made more powerful by the lack of a social security safety net for the unemployed) who are responsible for breaking the trade unions, and forcing American workers to work longer hours and take fewer holidays than their European counterparts. It might also mention the fact that millions of Americans have no health care plan.

Of course, no such article would ever appear in the corporate press in either the US or Europe, whereas turgid, sycophantic articles like the linked one appear with dreary regularity in every mainstream newspaper in Europe.
posted by cleardawn at 2:47 PM on December 4, 2005


One should also factor in the quality of living index, just because a country is 'richer' than another doesn't mean that everyone in that country benefits from that richness.
posted by mk1gti at 2:55 PM on December 4, 2005


In terms of productivity—that is, how much a worker produces in an hour—there’s little difference between the U.S., France, and Germany.

Productivity metrics compare value to costs. How does one estimate the true value of something no one wants, like French automobiles? I'm not trying to be snarky here, I really would like to know.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:29 PM on December 4, 2005


I like bonecrusher's suggestion that not all hours are equally productive. Oh, the Onion article is priceless too.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:49 PM on December 4, 2005


Productivity metrics compare value to costs. How does one estimate the true value of something no one wants, like French automobiles? I'm not trying to be snarky here, I really would like to know.

Contemporary economists stray away from "true values". Whatever price the market will bear for, say, a Citreon C5, well that's its value, so far as neo-classical econ is concerned.

The productivity values above are all from OECD's PPP-weighted (purchasing power parity) GDP numbers. PPP weighting compares the relative costs of a basket of goods (something like 2500 different goods and services) across national borders, in an attempt to determine what X dollars, or pounds, or euros or whatever, will really buy.

Where does this weird idea come from that French cars are undesireable? They're everywhere in Germany (as well as France, natch). I'd kill for a Smart - techincally DaimlerChrysler, but manufactured in France.
posted by bonecrusher at 3:52 PM on December 4, 2005


Bonecrusher-- I just got back from Vancouver, BC and those lovely microcars were all over the place. IA-very much-W-your C.

Also, my absoulte dream car is the Citroen DS. It's 1/3 Jaguar, 1/3 bathtub, and 1/3 bullfrog-- pure automotive perfection, in other words.

/tangent.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:14 PM on December 4, 2005


"It is obvious that the new Citroen has fallen from the sky".
posted by funambulist at 4:37 PM on December 4, 2005


Where does this weird idea come from that French cars are undesireable?

Prejudice, sometime finding some proof in a batch of malfunctioning cars , but the fact it was limited in time is ignored. Similarly some people think that Americans are puritanical hypocritical gun toting simpletons, italians are
mafiosi and so on.

It's just stuff one outta deliberately disregard.
posted by elpapacito at 4:48 PM on December 4, 2005


British people work just as much as Americans, but don't eat in restaurants

Not this British person, dude. I work waaaay less than every American I know and my God I eat in restaurants all the time no matter where I am in the world.

I still get a real good laugh out of how little standard annual leave most Americans get compared to most Europeans. I've worked in an American company for the last four years, but with the delightful bonus of being paid in sterling and still having my UK leave allowance (currently 28 days plus public hols - not the best I've ever had, but it serves, it serves)

But hey, the US economy kicks ass. The US standard of living kicks ass. Big cars, big house, nice straight teeth, mmm, mmm, and shrinks are quite reasonably priced if you're a yuppie. All this obviously compensates for greedhead-driven wage slavery. I should probably quote some figures here so that Americans can feel justifiably smug about how great America is in this regard. Because hey, we all know how much they like to do that stuff, don't we? Hell, it's almost like they left the word "overcompensation" out of Webster's dictionary.

*Snork*. Don't mind me, I get like this on Sundays. No wait... I'm like this all the time. D'oh!
posted by Decani at 4:54 PM on December 4, 2005


Fiat Multipla
Some French cars are undesirable!
posted by blue_beetle at 4:56 PM on December 4, 2005


blue_beetle: that's not French, it's Italian, the infamous Fiat Multipla. The French are not that sadistic.
posted by funambulist at 5:06 PM on December 4, 2005


Americans are definitely work-crazy. But, having lived in France, I've seen the alternative, with its overregulated, underambitious, complacent citizens, and don't find it more appealing. In the US, should you desire, you can teach, get decent or better pay, and long vacations. You can work for a government office, which is somewhat Euro-like. And then there's the Big Question: how much does Europe depend on the US as an economic engine? Would Europe be as affluent without the US? I don't have a firm answer to this question, but I suspect Europe would be a good deal poorer without Savage America...
posted by ParisParamus at 5:12 PM on December 4, 2005


elpapacito: I think it's more likely it was implied "no one" meant "no one here in the US"...

For the rest of us...

Papa? Nicole!
Va va voom...
dum du du du dum...

...yeah no one wants French cars. They won't even advertise them anymore. *sobs*
posted by funambulist at 5:13 PM on December 4, 2005


Giving the derail is complete, lemme add Multipla rocks. Extremely spacious, comfortable, excellent for families. I wish I could find an used one to buy, but as Taxi drivers bought most of them it's no surprise there are almost none on the market.
posted by elpapacito at 5:13 PM on December 4, 2005


Another factor that should be mentioned is the reason unions exist or thrive in the first place.

The most primary reason is abuse by employers. Absent this abuse, there is no impulse to unionize.

However, once unions exist, they want to expand in their market to the point of monopolization, as much as business would like to do so with its product or service. If unions are allowed to pressure the less-willing to join, or if government mandates that employees must belong, an imbalance is created.

An employer friendly to its workers is forced into antagonism by a union, just by the nature of what a union does. The union is compelled to want more than is offered, to show it has a purpose. And its demands are cumulative, or else it "loses". This is why long-unionized industries have bizarre work rules and perquisites.

So, again comparing unions in Europe and the US, in Europe, unions are mandatory, almost para-government organizations of long standing. But in much of the US, there are "right to work" states, meaning that unions must rely on abusive employers to get a foothold, once again.

If an industry can give its non-union workers enough of what they want, then it can usually out-compete a unionized competitor; which in turn gives the non-union company the ability to continue to be good to its employees.

And every company that isn't union puts pressure on every company that is union to stay competitive. The company can then present to the union the figures, to counter demands by the union. Few unions are willing to sacrifice the employer company with non-negotiable demands.

(One recent example of unions that did was an airline that went bankrupt because its unions refused to agree to benefit cutbacks. The now unemployed workers were shocked to discover that nobody else in the airline industry came anywhere close to the benefits that they had had, and had no interest in hiring anybody at far above market value.)
posted by kablam at 5:13 PM on December 4, 2005



ParisParamus -

And then there's the Big Question: how much does Europe depend on the US as an economic engine? Would Europe be as affluent without the US? I


Europe is a net exporter of both goods/services and capital to the US. Without the rest of the world, US gdp would have to fall by at least 6%. That's what a current account deficit is.
posted by bonecrusher at 5:29 PM on December 4, 2005


When the nuclear apocalypse comes, we can count on ParisParamus being there to tell us how it was France's fault for not being more like the US. It's comforting.
posted by funambulist at 5:36 PM on December 4, 2005


Economic dependancies are rarely win-lose. I suspect the US benefits from Europe as much as Europe benefits from the United States, although looking at WTO data: Europe does $3 trillion of trade with itself, compared to North America (740 billion with itself). Europe sends $300 billion of merchandise to the US and the US sends 200 billion to Europe. (These stats don't have services data, which I believe are tipped toward the US).

Fumnabulist, the knee-jerk vitriol to Paris is harder to justify in reasonable discussive threads. This is what he said: "But, having lived in France, I've seen the alternative, with its overregulated, underambitious, complacent citizens, and don't find it more appealing."

I feel that does decent justice to the french pretty, but you're welcome to provide personal
posted by stratastar at 6:05 PM on December 4, 2005


experience.
posted by stratastar at 6:07 PM on December 4, 2005


In the US there are few jobs that offer benefits near the level of most european employers. In the EU there are fewer opportunities to work your way to success through long hours.
The european benefits are experienced by nearly everyone (with the exception of the unemployed as noted in the article) while in the US many people fail to share the hard work/reward because they are in low paying jobs.
So, the US model offers big rewards to a few, while the EU offers more moderate rewards, but to nearly all.
My own opinion is to take the time off whenever it is offered (currently at 25 days annual leave) as a day off even with no money to spend is still a better proposition than working.
posted by bystander at 6:37 PM on December 4, 2005


"Europe is a net exporter of both goods/services and capital to the US. Without the rest of the world, US gdp would have to fall by at least 6%. That's what a current account deficit is."

No, my point isn't reducable to numbers. It's would/how much less vibrant would Europe be without the without the more liberal US market? Would it have created its own Microsoft and Apple if there wasn't a US to do it for them? Etc, etc, etc. Now, you can argue that, if there wasn't a US, there wouldn't be a need to be more productive and vibrant, but I'm not sure. I don't have an answer to this question; I'm just posing it.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:02 PM on December 4, 2005


100+ hour work weeks is common in the tech sector in the USA, and 2 weeks vacation to help you relax. Horrible.

After 7 years of working with ATT Wireless (Now Cingular) national operations, I just got put on Administrive leave and they are looking at a way to fire me without a layoff package.

Wish I had a union that would watch my back, the pay might be nice, but some time with the kids would be better.
posted by IronWolve at 8:39 PM on December 4, 2005


ParisParamus: And likewise how would the US go without German cars, European grad students and Asian grad students. And how would Europe go without US dynamism. Or Europe and the US without Japanese electronics and cars etc? The world is very interdependent.

The different variations on capitalism, socialism and laws between the EU, Japan and the US produce different qualities. It does get a bit subjective on which is better. US 'finance capitalism' seems to exploit rapid change better while European 'bank/state capitalism' produces stability that can produce better quality things, i.e. BMW and Japanese 'zaibatsu capitalism' produces organisations that produce good electronics and nice Toyotas.

It's just a bit annoying to see people laud one type over the other in thinly veiled pride and chauvanism and not recognize the benefits in other forms. People here must remember the 1980s when we were all meant to be just like the Japanese. The same is now happening with the US.
posted by sien at 8:53 PM on December 4, 2005


And likewise how would the US go without German cars, European grad students and Asian grad students

We'd do just fine with Asian cars, Asian grad students, and Asian grad students, thanks.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:14 PM on December 4, 2005


But olives. We'd be fucked without European olives. Cheese, too. And the English language is pretty nice, I guess.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:15 PM on December 4, 2005


Much of this discussion is merely prejudice and generalisations. Pound for pound, the average European economy and worker is quite on par with the US worker and economy. There are richer countries than the US in Europe, as well as poorer (just like some states of the US). Productivity, product quality, innovation, entrepeneurialism, all of these things can be shown to exist on either side of the Atlantic.

Where Europe does differ is that generally there are more regulations and higher taxes, which are reinvested in the people.
posted by wilful at 10:07 PM on December 4, 2005


People are expecting a James Surowiecki column to, you know, make sense?
posted by Sonny Jim at 11:19 PM on December 4, 2005


Unless you're stuck in Lib-News land you know Europe is on the ropes.
posted by HTuttle at 12:24 AM on December 5, 2005


IronWolve,

100+ hour work weeks common in the IT sector? Do you have any research, even self-report, to back that up?

That would be 14+ hour days, 7 days per week. People would barely have time to sleep, commute, eat, and keep up basic hygiene; forget even the most basic household chores. I'd be VERY surprised if this were "common".

My own experience does not bear your claim out. I've worked in IT for 5 years, 3 different employers, and no one has worked anything like 100 hours weeks on a routine basis. Even at the web development start-up, which was high-pressure, do-or-die.
posted by parrot_person at 1:19 AM on December 5, 2005


It's would/how much less vibrant would Europe be without the without the more liberal US market? Would it have created its own Microsoft and Apple if there wasn't a US to do it for them?

It's impossible to determine. Also your argument is one sided ..consider the following : would U.S. have harbored the creation of Microsoft and Apple without Europe the way europe was ? Or would U.S. have done nothing ?

I think nobody can offer but an illusion of an answer to your question, unless one can travel back in time and check the "what if" scenario.

People here must remember the 1980s when we were all meant to be just like the Japanese. The same is now happening with the US. Exactly, some actually consider the japanese invention of JIT model (Just in Time) as japanese revenge on U.S. for the atomic bomb. Ridicolous eh ? Eh...not so much.

We'd do just fine with Asian cars, Asian grad students, and Asian grad students, thanks.
posted by Kwantsar at 6:14 AM CET on December 5 [!]


Isn't if funny when one speaks for 300 million people, mein fuhrer ?

Unless you're stuck in Lib-News land you know Europe is on the ropes. posted by HTuttle at 9:24 AM CET on December 5 [!]

Because of course if you hear Rep-News land they'll tell you Europe is bad, so that U.S. in comparison will look less of a piece of manure. But hey if my poop stinks my neighboour poops stinks twice some mine stinks half ! The shit reps (and some dems) buy into never cease to amuse me and yes I'm that easily amused sometimes.
posted by elpapacito at 7:59 AM on December 5, 2005


Isn't if funny when one speaks for 300 million people, mein fuhrer ?

A completely unnecessary response to a lighthearted comment.
posted by Kwantsar at 8:04 AM on December 5, 2005


Metafilter: A completely unnecessary response to a lighthearted comment.

Kablam, your description of "how unions operate" misses one key factor. Under capitalism, employers are FORCED to pay the lowest possible wages to their staff. If they don't, they'll be out-competed. Plug that fact into your model, and you'll see why unions are associated with healthy, rich societies, whereas non-union labor is found mostly in poor, broken economies.

It occurs to me that these US v Europe debates always pretend that the two started on an equal footing. They didn't. America has vast untapped natural resources, whereas Europe has been systematically mined, deforested, and overfarmed for the last two thousand years. America's current wealth owes more to geography, and to the good ecological husbandry of the original inhabitants, than it does to capitalism.

The same applies to comparisons between the US and USSR. People tend to forget that Russia was always a backward, impoverished country, mostly icy desert, while America was always a land of plenty. Yet by 1950, Russia had developed its economy to such an unprecedented extent that they could compete on almost equal terms.

If America, rather than Russia, had become socialist in 1917, imagine how fantastically rich ordinary Americans would have been by now.

Instead of Microsoft, an international, state-funded Open Source organization would have created vastly superior software, available free to everyone. Instead of SUVs for the rich, the world's best public transport system would be available free for everyone. Instead of the US Marines, the US People's Peace Corps would be active around the world, helping everyone implement an ecologically sound, co-operative, democratic, locally-run, happy, healthy society.

Americans would lead the world in education, humanitarianism, and free health care, instead of being universally regarded as self-satisfied, warmongering, obese, money-worshipping imbeciles.

Imagine all the people, sharing all the world... oo-oo, oo-oo-oo...
posted by cleardawn at 9:43 AM on December 5, 2005


A completely unnecessary response to a lighthearted comment

You find Asians to be particularly laughable ? Or the cars ? Or the combination thereof ? Really because I missed the punchline, Mr Petronius arbiter of taste.
posted by elpapacito at 9:52 AM on December 5, 2005


would U.S. have harbored the creation of Microsoft and Apple without Europe the way europe was ? Or would U.S. have done nothing ?

Well, we know that Microsoft wanted to use its market position to muscle through its own proprietary online service, as opposed to something that was created by a Briton in Switzerland, and popularised by a project funded by the US government.
posted by holgate at 9:56 AM on December 5, 2005


Live to work, or work to live?

IMO, many US (and Canadian) people live to work. Their work is their life. They do not value vacation time, time at home, time to themselves.

Personally, I think that's insane.

Work enough to live well. Then spend every other possible moment of your life actually living well.

Work is not the point of life.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:59 AM on December 5, 2005


I don't actually know anybody who isn't running their own business and yet works more than 50 hours a week. That's some sucker bullshit right there.
posted by wakko at 10:17 AM on December 5, 2005


Wakko: do you know many lawyers?

It's interesting to see that, even in a profession that requires you to work stupid hours, American law firms still have a reputation in Europe as being the places to go to improve your salary but kiss goodbye to (what remains of) your life.
posted by patricio at 10:42 AM on December 5, 2005


patricio: and the salary isn't exactly good for the workhours invested I imagine. Let see...there's no promise of success while one keeps working like a madman, who wins from that constantly and with little risk ?
posted by elpapacito at 11:20 AM on December 5, 2005


Under capitalism, employers are FORCED to pay the lowest possible wages to their staff.

That's pretty simplistic. Employers pay what the market will bear and based on what they want out of their workforce. Some, like Costco (where the majority of workers aren't unionized), will pay more money for loyal and experienced employees while others such as Wal*Mart pay much less.
posted by gyc at 11:53 AM on December 5, 2005


gyc: I agree, it's ridiculously simplistic to judge organizations on a single numerical value. However, under the capitalist system, that's exactly what happens. An organization offering higher profits will tend to attract shareholders away from an organization offering lower profits - irrespective of any social or quality advantages.

To take your example, that's why walmart will eventually swallow costco, other factors being equal.

Furthermore, if company A is paying its workers more than company B for the same work, then company A's shareholders can sue the directors for breach of fiduciary duty.

Unfettered capitalism is a race to the bottom. Eventually, one man will own everything, and then capitalism is revealed as what it was trying to be all along: an absolute tyranny. Even Republicans realise this, which is why they prefer cartels to monopolies.

Properly fettered capitalism, on the other hand, with strong unions and a strong state regulation system, can be a pretty good system - like France for example, which is why the US media never miss a chance to portray France as a poverty-stricken hellhole. Suits me - Paris is a much nicer place without them.
posted by cleardawn at 5:04 PM on December 5, 2005


You find Asians to be particularly laughable ? Or the cars ? Or the combination thereof ? Really because I missed the punchline, Mr Petronius arbiter of taste.

Now you're just being a dick.
posted by Kwantsar at 8:57 PM on December 5, 2005


To take your example, that's why walmart will eventually swallow costco, other factors being equal.

Well, no. For your conclusion to be properly justified, you have to make many, many, many more assumptions than a c.p..
posted by Kwantsar at 9:00 PM on December 5, 2005


Not true, Kwantsar. Capitalist competition gravitates, in theory, towards maximum efficiency in terms of the bottom line - that's hardly controversial.

In practice there are always delaying factors - the inefficiencies in the system. Without those inefficiencies - such as tariffs, unions, safety regulations, anti-monopoly laws, environmental regs, and so on - capitalism efficiently sucks everybody's wealth into the pocket of the richest person, at which point, all you're left with is a mediaeval absolute monarchy.

In other words, it's the "inefficiencies" that actually make capitalism a livable system, and the more the Right removes those inefficiencies, the less livable it becomes.
posted by cleardawn at 2:41 PM on December 6, 2005


Not true, Kwantsar. Capitalist competition gravitates, in theory, towards maximum efficiency in terms of the bottom line - that's hardly controversial.

Not controversial, but wrong. What you describe happens in commodity markets, but not in markets with differentiated products. Remarkably, you've ignored the consumer altogether.

Honestly, cleardawn, I don't understand why I ever quibble with you.
posted by Kwantsar at 12:41 PM on December 7, 2005


stupid pointless pedantic point: medieval monarchies were not absolute. They were quite unabsolute - kings had to deal with all sorts of pesky people and institutions that cut into their authority (other lords, the Church, city corporations). You are thinking of early modern (17th/18th century) absolutist monarchies (and even then, apparently they weren't very absolute - but they were substantially more so than medieval monarchies).

That said, commodities markets are very significant (oil, grain, natural gas), shape the whole of the economy, and cleardawn has a good point.
posted by jb at 6:03 PM on December 7, 2005


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