The Therapy Sessions
Friday, June 03, 2005
The economic growth rate of the European Union nations since 2003 has limped along at about half that of the U.S. In the 1980s and '90s the U.S. created about 40 million new jobs; Western Europe created some 10 million, well over half of which were in the public sector. If this divergence in economic performance continues for 40 years, the American worker will be roughly twice as wealthy as his European counterpart.
The Europeans have created a vast constellation of domestic policy interventions that are cloaked in the seductive rhetoric of compassion, fairness and cultural sophistication. These policies include highly generous welfare benefits for the unemployed; state ownership and subsidy of key industries (such as Airbus); rules that make it difficult to hire and fire workers; prohibitions against closing down plants; heavy protections of labor unions against competitive forces; mandatory worker benefit packages that include health insurance, child care allowances, paid parental leave, four to six weeks of vacation; shortened work weeks; and, alas, high taxes on business and labor to pay for these lavish benefits.
In sum, European nations penalize work and subsidize non-work, and, no surprise, they have gotten a lot of the latter and far too little of the former. By contrast, the U.S. model--allegedly cruel and 'laissez-faire'--has done much better both by economic growth and worker opportunity.
Why is it so obvious from this side of the pond?