Why Americans Work

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Don’t miss this piece by Dylan Scott on what the recent CBO Obamacare dust-up tells us about the state of the American work ethic. One key point referenced in the piece is that autonomy, the ability to choose your job, move jobs, start your own company is a central part of what Americans aspire to.

We’ve talked a lot about ‘job lock‘. But there’s another part of this equation which Theda Skocpol references. We tend to think of the US (in contrast to Europe) as a nation of small businesses and strivers and entrepreneurs. But that’s objectively not the case, at least in one key sense: the small business and self-employed sectors are bigger in Europe than they are here.

Here from a morning email from Skocpol …

It is true that Americans, especially professionals, put in longer work hours in a formally reported sense. That will not really be affected much by ACA.

The more important contrast between Europe and USA is that they have larger small business and self-employed sectors that we do (see this link). Counterintuitive, until realize that we stand out for chaining people to large corporate health care plans. ACA IS designed to change that.

Much of what you are writing now presumes that “work” is a job at a big business. But why is it not “work” if a person is self employed, employed in a start up small business, or does those things part time?

And why is it not “work” if a woman goes part time so she can care for children or an elderly relative?

ACA is not going to spread laziness and non-work in America. It is going to let people be flexible to choose to do entrepreneurial ventures or combine family work and wage work in new ways. The best studies (see attached SSN brief) suggest an 11% boost for entrepreneurial work after health reform is fully implemented. That is huge.

It’s far more than just a partisan riposte to say that Obamacare will spur entrepreneurship and a more dynamic economy.

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