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The Decline And Fall Of Europe by Fareed Zakaria (WaPo)

Cartoons and riots made the headlines in Europe last week, but a far less fiery event, the publication of an academic study, may shed greater light on the future of the continent. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), headquartered in Paris, released a report, "Going for Growth," that details economic prospects in the industrial world. It is 160 pages long and written in bland, cautious, scholarly prose. But the conclusion is clear: Europe is in deep trouble. These days we all talk about the rise of Asia and the challenge to America, but it may well turn out that the most consequential trend of the next decade will be the economic decline of Europe.

It's often noted that the European Union has a combined gross domestic product that is approximately the same as that of the United States. But the E.U. has 170 million more people. Its per capita GDP is 25 percent lower than that of the United States, and, most important, that gap has been widening for 15 years. If present trends continue, the chief economist at the OECD argues, in 20 years the average U.S. citizen will be twice as rich as the average Frenchman or German. (Britain is an exception on most of these measures, lying somewhere between Continental Europe and the United States.)

People have argued that Europeans simply value leisure more and, as a result, are poorer but have a better quality of life. That's fine if you're taking a 10 percent pay cut and choosing to have longer lunches and vacations. But if you're only half as well off as the United States, that will translate into poorer health care and education, diminished access to all kinds of goods and services, and a lower quality of life.

Funny, my diary a couple of days ago about the US having a lower GDP per capita, when adjusted for inequality, came from that same report. Wanker.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 14th, 2006 at 05:08:13 PM EST

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