Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

American dream vs. European daydream

It is no secret that Europeans think themselves wealthy and, by and large, think they are much better off economically than the U.S. Not so, writes Bruce Bawer, for The New York Times. While his focus is on Norway, where everyone seems to think they are wealthy, yet have the lowest disposable income in all of Old Europe, there is more interesting info in this piece. And note this: "Economic growth in the last 25 years has been 3 percent per annum in the U.S., compared to 2.2 percent in the E.U. That means that the American economy has almost doubled, whereas the E.U. economy has grown by slightly more than half. The purchasing power in the U.S. is $36,100 per capita, and in the E.U. $26,000 - and the gap is constantly widening."

Discussions - 5 Comments

Americans are richer than Europeans. We win. Hooray! childish and lame.

Given the disdain that Europeans often express for us unsophisticated, backward Americans, it is a big deal that we do a better job of managing our affairs than they do. How often do Leftists point to Europe as the one place we should emulate? Frankly, there is a reason our ancestors left Europe, and I for one am happily shed of them.

So, S. Cook, this isn’t childish or’s important social comparison in a world where copying successful models has become increasingly common.

It’s strange to read about this here at NoLeftTurns. Isn’t this the site that saw Thomas Frank’s What’s The Matter With Kansas? as the crudest of class warfare agitation? Isn’t this the site that pushes the idea that if people are happy even if they have little (esp. in the way of property or money), we shouldn’t question their happiness or their choices? Wouldn’t you be filled with glee to read of low-income, low-wealth southern red-state Bush voters who felt happy and rich?? As Mr. Schramm paraphrased from the article, "everyone seems to think they are wealthy." Instead of questioning their self-appraisal, shouldn’t we be celebrating it? What do we want to do, convince them that they’re actually poor and unhappy?

I suspect that the organization Bawer cites, Timbro ("the free-market think-tank of Swedish enterprise"), is about as impartial - or should I say "fair and balanced" - on these matters as NoLeftTurns is.

I get the distinct impression that there is a large swath of the United States that Bawer has never seen. Speaking almost laughably like a caricature of a spoiled aristocratic brat getting a glimpse of the ’other side of the tracks’, he scoffs: "They hang on to old appliances and furniture that we would throw out. And they drive around in wrecks." Who is the "we" of which he speaks? Certainly he’s not talking about some of the neighbors I’ve had in Ohio and Louisiana. And in Norway most people pack their lunch!! Oh, the horrors! No 3-martini lunches?? ;)

As for his anecdotal evidence to portray Norway as a hellish dystopia, I find it rather unconvincing. He says:

"In Oslo, library collections are woefully outdated, and public swimming pools are in desperate need of maintenance. News reports describe serious shortages of police officers and school supplies." And? In the States, we’re closing libraries (I’m sure this concerns the right - "BUY a book at Barnes & Noble!"), I’ve seen plenty of pools in bad shape here ("We just installed our own pool, no problem!"), and aren’t American conservatives ALWAYS bemoaning a shortage of police officers, especially when the impoverished multitudes start to get dissatisfied with their poverty status? As for the schools and health care comparisons, well, in the U.S., the only way kids are getting new textbooks it seems is when the "intelligent design" zealots are tampering with the biology texts.

It’s worth noting that Mr. Bawer - apparently a gay man who lives with his partner in Norway, where gay marriage has been legal since ’93 - wrote a piece for the Times in ’02 giving a rather dreamy account of riding on Norway’s state-owned railway. He said that "Everything was clean, bright and functional." and "the train ride was smooth throughout." Taking this train, he visited far northern cities of only 225,000 people. Most cities of this size in the U.S. don’t have train stations (for passengers, at least), and are lucky to have Greyhound service. Mr. Bawer noted the Norwegians’ "nearly religious awe for their land." in the same travel piece and, interestingly, steered travellers to a pub where "a half-liter of beer runs about $3.50 to $4." But, back to the train, he did complain that he ended up with one of the few seats that faced backwards. Wah.

Wow, I remember a time when socialists used to claim that their economic system as the one best designed to produce wealth. I feel old.

Well, Chris L., I guess we hit a nerve! Yes, Timbro is roughly comparable to the American Enterprise Institute, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they "lied" about these statistics. Some things are harder to lie about, such as Sweden having to ratchet back its welfare programs because of its sagging economy (this in the mid-1990s). The EU has had so-so economic growth, it does have very high unemployment, and the public services could be better given how much the government takes from the average citizen. And, in many ways, Europe is the backward one, not the United States.

On the other hand, the American system just keeps moving on, despite the protests of socialists everywhere and their prophecies of doom and depression. Why? Because capitalism works, and if you can hold off the predatory State, it continues to work.

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