Periscope Depth

and they showed me a world where I could be so dependable

Here’s why I don’t do well at political talk.

I read a pretty interesting article on how America can fix its health care system (c/o hugh_mannity). It brings up a lot of interesting points – Americans spend more per year than any other industrialized country on health care, but American life expectancy and infant mortality are abysmal, blah blah. Some interesting suggestions surface; I nod at some, shrug at others.

Then I get to this one:

Americans tend to work longer hours than people in other rich countries. Europeans, for example, work 300-350 fewer hours each year on average. Laws guarantee them sufficient time off, including a minimum of four weeks of paid vacation a year, and shorter weekly working hours. This leaves them more time to select foods carefully, eat more slowly—and, as a result, eat less—while exercising and sleeping more.

My first thought: “laws? Really? That’s your first instinct – ‘there oughta be a law’?”

Taking for granted that working fewer hours per year would improve my health – which makes sense, though I haven’t seen any studies – I have a remarkably simple solution: work fewer hours per year. I have already implemented this solution and my health, as a result, thrives. With my Economics background I could probably get a job at a major consulting firm if I wanted. I could follow the path that nearly a third of my peers have taken and enroll in law school. I could get on the management track and start supervising people. All of those paths would guarantee me a much higher paycheck. But I choose not to take them, because I like working 40 hours a week and no more.

This mindset has baffled me for about a decade now: the incomplete syllogism of “something bothers me; ergo, it should be illegal.” If something bothers you, quit doing it! I’m not talking about harmless things that other people do but which you can rationalize as “harmful,” like gay marriage or smoking weed or teaching kids that evolution is a fraud. That’s a whole other argument. Rather, I’m talking about behaviors that you have total control over, like the kind of food that you eat or how many hours you work.

I don’t want to imply that the law has no effect on health, mind you. The article I linked above talks about some changes to the law which would undoubtedly improve American health, like ending sugar subsidies. But even there I can feel my enthusiasm starting to wane. Why do I care about “American” health? America is a continent full of strangers. I have a hard time getting worked up about changes that don’t affect the hundred-odd people I know personally and care about (my monkeysphere, if you will).

Maybe that’s just me, though.

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