If only we had been more like Europe…

“If you think Europe is a place where lots of able-bodied adults just sit at home collecting welfare checks, think again.”  – Liberal economist Paul Krugman, January 2008

“…a wide gap has opened up between Europe and the U.S. in the most revealing indicator of economic well-being, GDP per capita. For the U.S. in 2008… the figure was $47,200; for Germany, $35,400; France, $33,100; Italy, $31,252. In other words, the average American produces 43% more than the average Frenchman.”  – Wall Street Journal columnist James Glassman, August 2010

“But the next time a politician tries to scare you with the European bogeyman, bear this in mind: Europe’s economy is actually doing O.K. these days, despite a level of taxing and spending beyond the wildest ambitions of American progressives.”  – Liberal economist Paul Krugman, January 2008

“In probably the most detailed study of national happiness, the Gallup World Poll surveyed tens of thousands of respondents in 155 countries… The poor, benighted U.S. finished an impressive 14th… Germany was No. 33; Italy, 40; and France, 44.”  – Wall Street Journal columnist James Glassman, August 2010


About Jamal Kheiry

Public relations consultant with experience in domestic and international journalism and public relations. At it since 1995.
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4 Responses to If only we had been more like Europe…

  1. Jamal Kheiry says:

    Great stuff – thanks for the additional explanation. Regarding cherry-picking of the countries, all I did was quote other folks; it’s not my analysis. Your points regarding the economic indicators are noted and well-received, as well as your pointing to the fact that Mr. Glassman cherry-picked his countries for happiness ratings. Much appreciated.

  2. “in the most revealing indicator of economic well-being, GDP per capita”
    … uh no, this is a terrible indicator; please try again.

    If you’re going that route try taking median household income… but of course then you have to factor in for things like government services, pensions, and health-care… that are free in Europe.

    Also you’re cherry-picking countries because there are other European countries with higher levels of happiness then the U.S.

    • Jamal Kheiry says:

      I won’t claim to speak for Ira Glassman, who authored the quote you’re referring to, but I question your characterization of per-capita GDP as “terrible.” I’m no economist, but I’ll quote somebody who is: “A declining size of both families and households over time means that intertemporal trends in household income can be very misleading, as are intergroup comparisons, since household size differs from group to group, as well as over time.” (- Thomas Sowell)

      For example, real income per African-American household rose only seven percent between 1967 and 1988, but per-capita real income rose 81 percent during that same period; the figures paint very different pictures, and the picture painted by household income is quite a bit more dreary than per-capita. So I genuinely (not rhetorically) ask, why would per-capita not be a good indicator?

      • Ok… sure, I’ll bye that… median household income is also a terrible indicator. But in any event taking the median is going to be better than averaging as you do in GDP per capita measurements.

        Example: 2 economies… 10 people each, in one everyone makes 5$ even, in economy 2 one guy makes 52$ everyone else makes zero. By GDP per person economy 2 is has better welfare, by median income economy 1 is better. Which has higher societal welfare? (Note you cannot aggregate individual levels of welfare anyways … but academic irrelevancies aside, you see my point)

        Furthermore, the rest of my comments on your analysis hold. You need to take into account where spending is going (in the U.S. healthcare holds a higher portion but we have worse health results than Europe)… so you can’t just compare GDP per person. If all you could buy was sticks and poop in one economy it wouldn’t matter how much money you had… Also access to public goods matter significantly and public goods are undervalued in measurements of economic activity because of how they are priced versus when they are held by private monopolies.

        Further… there is no way to defend the fact you are cherry picking countries as plenty of European countries have higher happiness than the U.S. (If you were going for size you could have included Spain… or just done an average per-person Euro measurement)

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