The Work Ethic. Westerners were the first people in the world to combine more extensive and intensive labor with higher savings rates, permitting sustained capital accumulation. For hundreds of years, these killer apps were essentially monopolized by Europeans and their cousins who settled in North America and Australasia. They are the best explanation for what economic historians call "the great divergence": the astonishing gap that arose between Western standards of living and those in the rest of the world....Westerners not only grew richer than "Resterners." They grew taller, healthier, and longer-lived. They also grew more powerful. By the early 20th century, just a dozen Western empires—including the United States—controlled 58 percent of the world's land surface and population, and a staggering 74 percent of the global economy....Who's got the work ethic now? The average South Korean works about 39 percent more hours per week than the average American. The school year in South Korea is 220 days long, compared with 180 days in the U.S. And you do not have to spend too long at any major U.S. university to know which students really drive themselves: the Asians and Asian-Americans. The consumer society? 26 of the 30 biggest shopping malls in the world are now in emerging markets, mostly in Asia. Modern medicine? As a share of gross domestic product, the United States spends twice what Japan spends on health care and more than three times what China spends. Yet life expectancy in the U.S. has risen from 70 to 78 in the past 50 years, compared with leaps from 68 to 83 in Japan and from 43 to 73 in China.
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The Market Oracle