Hard-Working Germans vs Lazy Italians? Not so Much.

My buddy Ole has a great line that I’ve been following and quoting as a mantra for businesspeople for a couple of decades:

Hire the lazy.

By which he means (and I mean), hire people who will figure out how to streamline and automate the boring and repetitive parts of their jobs, so they can do interesting, creative, and productive work instead. I want my employees to spend a good amount of their time making their current jobs obsolete. If they can succeed at that valuable task, believe me, we’ll find plenty of other things for them to do.

Which is just a lead-in to this graph from Matthew Yglesias:

The Italians aren’t lazy and feckless; they work really hard compared to increasingly liesure-lapping Germans. If anything the Italians are foolish. They should have been paying a lot more attention to boosting their productivity over recent decades.

But it’s quite possible that they simply prefer stomping grapes with their feet; it’s what they want to do with their lives. It increases their well-being, and they’re willing to sacrifice monetary income to that end. (Yes, there are also undoubtedly many dumb inefficiencies that could be corrected.)

What economic system would give them the freedom and liberty to make that choice, without being severely punished at some point by the financial markets? Does one exist? Added: Could the Italians pull it off, long-term, if they had their own currency?

A more general question: should people be punished more for foolishness, or laziness? Should we incentivize people to work smart, or work hard?

Hard-Working Italians vs Lazy Germans | ThinkProgress.