Steven Hill said [letters, July 23] that the average Western European worker enjoys a better quality of life than the average American. Take it from an average American who lived in Italy for three years in the local economy: That is untrue.

The average Italian may work fewer hours and have more vacation time, but he or she would be thrilled to have central heating and air conditioning, a consistent supply of electricity, appliances of American size and quality, drinkable tap water, and local grocery stores full of fresh meats and other products at affordable prices.

My Italian neighbors all drank bottled water, owned portable gas heaters that they moved from room to room for heat and had no air conditioning. They cursed every time they had to fill the tanks of their undersized cars with gasoline costing about $5 a gallon.

I'll take our lower quality of life over Europe's any day. And I love Italy!

ROBERT W. LEWIS

Alexandria

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Steven Hill said that "Italians and other Europeans are doing better than Americans (except the millionaires) are." The facts tell a different tale.

Italy's unemployment rate is nearly twice as high as that of the United States, and its inflation rate is higher as well. What's more, these problems are caused not by chance but by those state-mandated benefits that Mr. Hill extolled. While the mandates may be nice for those fortunate enough to have work, they also make it prohibitively expensive for businesses to hire.

Perhaps that's why, according to Tom G. Palmer of the Cato Institute, "Two-thirds of Americans who lose their jobs find new ones in less than three months, whereas two-thirds of unemployed Germans take longer than six months and nearly half take over a year to find new jobs."

At least all those jobless Europeans aren't "overworked" like their American counterparts, although one would imagine they'd be quite "stressed out."

LOWELL RUDORFER

Potomac