Wow – Twice In One Week

Dean Baker catches Tom Friedman looking very silly, indeed – again. Of course, this recent column will not make Friedman look silly to any of his regular readers who are both not informed through other means already and too incurious to doubt Friedman’s statements of fact, because Friedman sounds so convincing when he pontificates thusly on things he knows little about, like the debt crisis engulfing the Eurozone (particularly Greece):

Germans are now telling Greeks: ‘We’ll loan you more money, provided that you behave like Germans in how you save, how many hours a week you work, how long a vacation you take …'”

Baker’s point is that there are indeed people who know already (or are willing to research before they opine about) things like Greek’s debt crisis and comparative working hours in various European countries. It’s just that Tom Friedman isn’t one of them. As Baker notes:

If we look to the OECD data, we see that the average number of hours in a work year for Germans in 2008 (the most recent data avilable) was 1430. This compared 2120 hours a year for the average Greek worker. This means that if Germans want the Greeks to be more like Germans in the number of hours a week they work and the length of their vacations then they want the Greeks to work less, not more.

Friedman supporters (presumably, or possibly just conservatives) have rushed to Friedman’s aid in the comments, pointing out that 70% of Germans are employed, versus 62% of Greeks, and suggesting that fact means too many Greeks are “sitting on their hands.” But in Greece – as here – very few of  the unemployed are actually to blame for their lack of employment; fewer still prefer it to working for a living. The government may have mismanaged things recently, or even over a long period, in order for such high unemployment to be present, but it’s hardly the case that 8% of Greeks (compared to Germans) are sitting around not working because they WANT to. Believing that comforting old canard would require, for example, here in the States, one to believe that the number of lazy people has nearly doubled from only a few years ago…and that it will likely drop again over the next few years. Viewed in that light, it’s easy to see what a transparently false rationalization such arguments are — but that never stops the defenders of the “bootstraps theory” – or, apparently, Tom Friedman’s fans – from making it.