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Europe vs. the US

Naked Capitalism:

Reader Alex C sent a link to an article in the Guardian by Mark Weisbrot in which he surveys some recent findings aht disproved cherished myths about the US economy. Two are related to the widely-held fantasy that America is a land of dynamic entrepreneurship. In fact, a recent study found that the US ranks low among advanced economies in the proportion of people employed by smal businesses. The likely culprit? Lack of universal health care. But you won't see that on the agenda of organizations like the right-leaning Kauffman foundation, whose mission is to promote entrepreneurship and innovation. And I must say from my own sample that most of the self-employed people I know did not have a career goal of starting a business, but out of necessity, due to job loss or being badly stymied at their employer and unable to land comparable new work.

A second element of the entrepreneurship myth is that the US is a land of economic mobility, that if you work hard and apply yourself, you can improve your economic standing considerable. Again, the US scores poorly in by international standards in economic mobility. The have-nots tend to remain have-nots.

In addition. the high level of US carbon production is due to a surprisingly significant degree to our lifestyle, working long hours to consume, rather than "consuming" more vacation as Europeans do.

The vacation part was interesting. Here's more from the Guardian article:

On the other hand, most Americans pay a high price for the institutional arrangements that bring us these mythical successes. We have the dubious honour of being the only "no-vacation nation", ie no legally required paid time off and of course some weeks fewer actual days off per year than our European counterparts enjoy. We have a broken healthcare system that costs about twice as much per capita as that of our peer nations and delivers worse outcomes, as measured by life expectancy and infant mortality. We are near the top in terms of inequality among high-income countries and at the bottom for parental leave policies and paid sick days. The list is a long one...

There is another area where the comparison between the American and European model has serious implications for the future of the planet: climate change. "Old Europe" uses about half as much energy per capita as the US does. A big part of this difference is because Europeans, in recent decades, have taken much more of their productivity gains in the form of increased leisure time, rather than working the same (or longer) hours in order to consume more.

We estimated that the US would consume about 20% less energy if it had the work hours of the EU-15. This would have a significant impact on world carbon emissions. Furthermore, when the world economy recovers, there are a number of middle-income countries that will approach high-income status in the not-too-distant future (South Korea and Taiwan are already there). Whether they choose the American or the European model will have an even bigger impact on global climate change.

More from a different Naked Capitalism post:

It was conventional wisdom in the US and UK financial press that Europe was dong a hopelessly bad job of responding to the economic downturn, that it needed to do vastly more in the way of fiscal stimulus, that it was consigning its citizens to continued recession, and the Te Germans in particular were to blame for their conservatism re emergency fiscal measures. German readers begged to differ, pointing out the Germany (and the rest of Europe) has large automatic stabilizers (very generous unemployment insurance, for instance), making discretionary fiscal spending less necessary.

I was traveling along the Danube and Rhine in June, and saw far fewer signs of distress (like vacant retail stores) then I see is TARP-supported Manhattan. I thought this was merely sample bias, the vagaries of being in tourist areas (albeit before tourist season was in full swing) and discounted my impressions.

Turns out my sample may not have been so unrepresentative. The Wall Street Journal reports that Europe appears on the cusp of a bona fide recovery, with France and Germany both showing decent second quarter growth, while the US is trying to pretend that "things are getting worse less quickly" is tantamount to recovery.

Now are any of the Euro bashers about to give the EU authorities some credit? I doubt it.

And this disparity, if it persists, points to a much deeper issue. The US chose to deregulate across a wide range of activities and let the devil take the hindmost. Europe cares more about institutional frameworks and collective outcomes. US commentators regularly describe Europe [as] sclerotic. But if the EU winds up delivering better growth, what justification do we have for a system that seems best at redistributing income to [the top?]

By fnord12 | August 14, 2009, 3:19 PM | Liberal Outrage