OP, (and others who have voiced similar opinions) I believe that you are thinking about this backwards...
rank 25 with a level 31 physical level
rank 21 friends have their physical level closer to 39
When I add myself to the dataset...
All-crafts/gathers and most combat:
Highest rank is 30 and it's Botanist (can't fight ANYTHING with that). Leather, Alchemy, and Archer are 20, Carpenter and Weaver are at 18, Gladiator is 15, others (including all other combat classes except Marauder) are between 6 and 13 and physical level is 41
Now, first off, I'm not trying to argue with you about this point (it's unnecessary to my argument), but comparatively, unless there is some MAJOR data that you ... accidentally ... failed to mention. I don't see how your friends are only TWO physical levels below me, when my Botany alone counts for 9 ranks of work above them. I think your idea of "closer" when you say "closer to 39" may be stretching things a bit. But again, that is besides the point that I'm trying to get to (slowly)...
So... who has the highest combat rank? The NON-crafter.
Who can fight harder mobs and get more valuable loot drops? The NON-crafter.
Where is that money going to go when new equipment or repairs are needed to keep fighting harder mobs? Crafters.
Where is the Crafters' money likely to go when they need loot dropped by difficult mobs? The NON-crafter.
And the economy goes round, and round, and round....
Crafters have to spend a lot of time at their craft in order to keep you adequately equipped (by the numbers some people quoted to support your argument a whole **** of a lot of time, though us more full-time crafters say it SHOULD take you less time... so you either accept what we're saying, or have to figure we spend ABSURD amounts of time crafting
That time is time taken away from hunting mobs, joining parties, chatting on linkshells, and instead it's generally spent sitting in a guildhall toiling away not really able to chat with anyone with the occasional exception of trying to find other crafters who make the odds and ends for the interdependencies of the recipes... and let's face it... if you think the time is bad... you are going to HATE some of the interdependencies.
But the game NEEDS players to do this! YOU need crafters to do this... at least if you LIKE having the weapons and armor that lets you go out and fight mobs
Sooo... after spending all that time NOT fighting mobs... crafters get a reasonable BONUS to their level so they have slightly better stats (but they haven't raised their combat rank at all, via combat YOU raise both at the same time), just so that they can still hang with their friends who have been out fighting mobs and whooping it up in parties. And let's be clear, once you hit the level cap... that's it, no more bonus... and eventually, you too will hit the level cap. So there is no PENALTY to you for not crafting... your physical level is still higher than your rank, you aren't being kept from hitting rank or level 50, some people did it in a MONTH. And you will probably hit RANK 50 before your crafter friends.
You are not being dealt a PENALTY, neither to your rank nor to your level.
Instead, in exchange for the vast amounts of time they spend contributing to the economic system of the game, Crafters are being given a BONUS, ONLY to their level and it is ONLY viable to level cap.
Also, that bonus is limited by the fact that even IF they have a much higher physical level than you, and therefore many more stat points to spend, because their rank is lower their STAT CAP keeps them from being absurdly more powerful than you regardless of level... and most crafters have to spend points in stats that do not (usually) apply to their combat class' effectiveness anyway, so some of those points are just an investment BACK into crafting.
This is all a matter of perspective, try looking at it from the other side of the mirror, instead of claiming persecution. You're looking at their physical level like they have some GINORMOUS advantage when it comes time to party up, but that just isn't the case.
I don't suggest doing so, but I bet you could easily beat your friends to the endgame if you forego the crafting you hate so much and just start partying with other people... but if they're your friends, why would you want to do that?
My honest suggestion is: Relax, take a breather for a bit, and answer this question....
"If my friends are into crafting, there must be something in it for them, can I either find out what that is for myself, or can I figure out some way to help them that I enjoy?"
Or, you know, you could hold onto your persecution complex, maybe get a bad attitude to go with it (because crafting isn't going to go away), get all spiteful and hateful and stuff ragging on a portion of the game that your friends like, maybe alienate them (and maybe part of the community that also enjoys it)... you know... stuff like that.
It really is your choice. Fun is mostly a matter of attitude, and we're all here to have fun (I hope).