The idea that’s constantly promoted by the left and by The New York Times, National Public Radio and much of the U.S. media — that Western Europe is simply a better place to live than America, kinder to workers, with better services and amenities, longer vacations, and an easier life — has always driven me nuts. Why? Because if you look at basic economic indicators of wealth — income, purchasing power, size of residence, home ownership, vehicle ownership, etc. — Western Europe is more akin to Mississippi or West Virginia than Silicon Valley or Connecticut. Now someone points out that is a crock — and it’s an NPR reporter spouting off in The New York Times. What are the odds of that?
Adam Davidson writes:
G.D.P. per capita (an insufficient indicator, but one most economists use) in the U.S. is nearly 50 percent higher than it is in Europe. Even Europe’s best-performing large country, Germany, is about 20 percent poorer than the U.S. on a per-person basis (and both countries have roughly 15 percent of their populations living below the poverty line). While Norway and Sweden are richer than the U.S., on average, they are more comparable to wealthy American microeconomies like Washington, D.C., or parts of Connecticut — both of which are actually considerably wealthier. A reporter in Greece once complained after I compared her country to Mississippi, America’s poorest state. She’s right: the comparison isn’t fair. The average Mississippian is richer than the average Greek.
The European economy did not recover from the worldwide oil shock of 1973 nearly as quickly as its American counterpart. For more than 25 years (phase two), as its population aged, Europe’s economy grew more slowly than the United States’. Its active capitals belied bloated businesses that were losing contracts to U.S. competitors or growing suburban ghettos filled with a permanently unemployed underclass.
Even its major successes — like Germany’s impressive machine-tool and automotive-industrial sectors — were refinements of old ways of making money rather than innovations in new industries. Western Europe played a remarkably small role in the computer and Internet revolutions.
European leaders like to mock the U.S. for its inequality and lack of social safety net [but....] for now, it looks as if Europe is headed for a two-tier society without any plan for improving the lot of the lower tier.
An American at the 50 percent mark of income/wealth is way more affluent than a Frenchman or German or Japanese at the same level in their society. If this is news to you, that’s no surprise. The default view of the U.S. always emphasizes our smaller social safety net, not our greater wealth. Why? The obvious answer is that 90 percent of journos identify as Democrats, the people who are much more likely to believe that Western Europe is heaven on Earth. It ain’t.