Indefinite Pessimism

August is coming up, and yes, Europeans go on vacation for a long time. Peter Thiel calls it “Europe’s famous vacation mania” in his book Zero to One, in the excerpt below:

Indefinite Pessimism

Every culture has a myth of decline from some golden age, and almost all peoples throughout history have been pessimists. Even today pessimism still dominates huge parts of the world. An indefinite pessimist looks out onto a bleak future, but he has no idea what to do about it. This describes Europe since the early 1970s, when the continent succumbed to undirected bureaucratic drift. Today the whole Eurozone is in slow-motion crisis, and nobody is in charge. The European Central Bank doesn’t stand for anything but improvisation: the U.S. Treasury prints “In God We Trust” on the dollar; the ECB might as well print “Kick the Can Down the Road” on the euro. Europeans just react to events as they happen and hope things don’t get worse. The indefinite pessimist can’t know whether the inevitable decline will be fast or slow, catastrophic or gradual. All he can do is wait for it to happen, so he might as well eat, drink, and be merry in the meantime: hence Europe’s famous vacation mania.

— Thiel, Peter; Masters, Blake (2014-09-16). Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (p. 63). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I agree with him. I have sat in many a café in Germany and chatted with intellectuals, and the feeling of powerlessness when facing world affairs is overwhelming. Here is a nation that not so long ago wanted to rule the world and turned out to be one of the most aggressive of all, yet now it seems almost paralyzed.

But they all get many weeks of guaranteed paid vacation.

Vacation is an entitlement.

And that’s one of the reasons I am not there.

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