Thursday, February 02, 2012
We need more entitlement! Why your work habits are keeping America down.
Over on Billionaire To Be Author Patrick Dilloway's blog today, the esteemed Grumpy Bulldog took a strong stand in favor of people being entitled, and drew a rebuke from Author Michael Offutt, who likewise will be a billionaire soon. I then weighed in with this comment, which I liked enough to reprint here.
But read Dilloway's blog post, and read his blog in general because he's a great writer. And read Offutt's blog, too, while you're at it.
Dilloway's post was about how perhaps Americans need to be entitled more, and the Chinese, too, to improve their working conditions and standard of living. I agreed with him -- because it's not that hard to do to make life better, and because the way Americans are working themselves is bad for us and our economy. Here's my comment, as a whole:
Many people are spoiled -- but think of the numbers of people you see every day who aren't insisting on a non-Chinese, Windows 7 laptop. Those are the quiet people you don't notice, the ones who feel it's okay with them if their dinner took a few minutes longer to arrive because the restaurant is busy and so they don't bitch and moan and insist on a free lunch.
I'm with Grumpy. the US is 13th in average hours worked per year per full time worker:
at 1778, which is about 34-35 hours per week on average. That may seem low, but the countries above us tend to be third-world or emerging economies (except for Greece, which, WTH, Greece? 2nd hardest working country in the world, but can't pay your bills? Get it together, land of Aristotle!) while first-world economies slack around; the lowest is the Netherlands at 1377, or just under 27 hours per week. So okay, in the Netherlands, they're always all high, but West Germany is second lowest, at 1409.
So the Germans work nearly 400 hours less per week than we do!
I haven't heard that the German culture is especially fat, or lazy, or otherwise falling apart, or entitled, and they are (so far as I can tell, based exclusively on listening to "Planet Money") kind of the model of economic brilliance.
This past recession, a/k/a The 2nd Great Depression, is harder to pull out of in part because so many workers are working harder for less money. In 2009, US workers produced an average of $63,000 or so per year in wealth:
Which is way above the average median household income for 2009 ($39,231) which means in 2009 -- the height of Great Depression 2: Electric Boogaloo -- workers were producing an average of $24,000 in wealth THAT THEY WEREN'T TAKING HOME, and that was way ahead of everyone else in the world.
By 2011, that productivity was staggering -- and costing jobs. In 2011, corporations earned an average of $11,000 in profits PER JOB,
and the economy was outproducing the pre-depression economy by 0.14% -- but doing so with 7,300,000 fewer people employed.
In other words: We're working ourselves to death and producing sky-high profits to do so.
I work about 45-55 hours per week. So do most of the lawyers in my firm. Imagine if we were to work just 40, and take those extra 5 hours per week and hire another person. I would-- theoretically, I'll come back to this -- take a 12.5% paycut (reducing my pay by the same amount I reduce my time) and so would everyone else, but we'd hire someone else who would then make what we make, so 11 people would do the work that 10 now do and we'd all leave here at 5 p.m. every day.
Now: about that 12.5% paycut. If our corporation -- it's an S-Corp -- holds true to the average, then we make $11,000 in profit for every person who's employed here. That's PROFIT, not gross. We employ 33 people. So our firm on average can expect to make $363,000 profit off our employees. Which means we could hire a new employee, pay him, say, $60,000, and reduce the firm's profits by only 1/6, or 16% or so. That means everyone in the firm could retain their same salary, and the firm's overhead would be 1/6 closer to its profits, but we could hire a new guy and pay him 60,000 a year and go back to working 40 hours per week.
If people, including my lawyers, felt a little more ENTITLED, they might say "Why am I here on a Sunday when you could hire some new guy and reduce your bonus at the end of the year by 1/6 and I could spend time with my family?"
(The good news is: I discourage my employees from doing that. I try to encourage them to leave at 5, and we're probably going to hire two new people. But that's beside the point.)
But people are afraid and there's 7,300,000 people out there waiting to take our jobs, all because we run our society in such a screwy, heads-over-heels way.
I'm always pointing out to people that if we all just behaved rationally, we could have a nicer life. Lawyers, in particular, could have it cushier than we already do. We could, for example, agree that we will NEVER schedule anything on a Friday, so we could all take Fridays off and so could our clients or we could have easy, casual days in the office.
But even if 99.9% of us agree to do that, there's going to be one jerk/loser out there who schedules a deposition for Friday, and then everyone's going to do it.
In short: we could hire more people, all take minor cuts in pay or profits, live a more modest life that might mean we could only upgrade our cell phones 2 of every 3 years instead of every year, and have three weeks of vacation plus half-days on Fridays. But people are stupid.
WE NEED MORE ENTITLEMENT!