Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

5 Myths About Sick Old Europe

by Gag Halfrunt Sun Oct 7th, 2007 at 11:55:00 AM EST

Steve Hill wants the Washington Post's readers to know that Europe is not, in fact, a collapsing socialist hellhole.

In the global economy, today's winners can become tomorrow's losers in a twinkling, and vice versa. Not so long ago, American pundits and economic analysts were snidely touting U.S. economic superiority to the "sick old man" of Europe. What a difference a few months can make. Today, with the stock market jittery over Iraq, the mortgage crisis, huge budget and trade deficits, and declining growth in productivity, investors are wringing their hands about the U.S. economy. Meanwhile, analysts point to the roaring economies of China and India as the only bright spots on the global horizon.

But what about Europe? You may be surprised to learn how our estranged transatlantic partner has been faring during these roller-coaster times -- and how successfully it has been knocking down the Europessimist myths about it.


Via Atrios, who comments:

This article provides a useful corrective to the myths of Yurpean economic disaster.

But aside from simple economics, most conservative commentators write about a fantasy place which does not even exist. You can't call what they do caricature because the have no comprehension of the place they're pretending to describe.

Mebbe a few of them should actually get a passport.



Display:
And the myths are:
1. The sclerotic European economy is incapable of leading the world.

  1. Nobody wants to invest in European companies and economies because lack of competitiveness makes them a poor bet.

  2. Europe is the land of double-digit unemployment.

  3. The European "welfare state" hamstrings businesses and hurts the economy.

  4. Europe is likely to be held hostage to its dependence on Russia and the Middle East for most of its energy needs.
This WaPo article should be widely read in Europe. Americans are still going to believe we're "Eurotrash" no matter what, but what we believe abut ourselves is much more important and has a real economic impact.

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 7th, 2007 at 12:56:24 PM EST
This article does a great job of explaining to Americans that since 2000, Europe has been kicking the USA's ass economically.
by paving on Mon Oct 8th, 2007 at 07:55:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This article was mentioned by Quentin in today's Salon
.
It is nevertheless worth being put up as a diary in order to make it better known. Thanks!

See also this video

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sun Oct 7th, 2007 at 02:57:16 PM EST
5 Myths About Sick Old Europe
Mebbe a few of them should actually get a passport.

Mebbe a few of them should actually get a life.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Oct 7th, 2007 at 04:39:09 PM EST
That's still higher than U.S. unemployment, which is 4.6 percent, but let's not forget that many of the jobs created here pay low wages and include no benefits. In Europe, the jobless still have access to health care, generous replacement wages, job-retraining programs, housing subsidies and other benefits. In the United States, by contrast, the unemployed can end up destitute and marginalized.

Here's an interesting question.

How hard would it be to create a methodology to deflate the deflate the differences caused by differing definitons and the like?

Phrased as another way.

What constitutes the condition of unemployment?

Is Clintonian welfare to work merely a restatement of the Victorian workhouse?

Is what's really needed a measure of full participation in the economy.

That is to say that those wages that pay less than "maintenance" a la Wealth of Nations should be excluded from any measure of employment because they represent a case employers have managed to drive wags below their natural level?

Isn't this the substantive meaning of the unemployment measure?  Employment is meant to offer a measure of economic independence rather than trapping the individual in a dependent relationship.  Remember that in 19th century UK and US, up until the middle of the century there was often a wealth requirement before one could vote.  The last state to end the property requirement was Rhode Island in 1841, where there was something akin to a small scale civil war called the Dorr Rebellion.  In the UK the disenfranchisement of the working class lead to the rise of the Chartists a working class movement aimed at expanding the vote to people excluded by electoral law at the time.

This relationship between democracy in a nation's economics and political democracy should not be lost.  If we look upon equality in social relations (that is the extent to which the relationship between individuals is more or less equal an horizontal rather than unequal and vertical, think of the relevance of the internet in this regard) as  neccesary for political democracy to function.  Then these methodological differences in the way that that the unemployment rate is calculated matter.  Because it tells us the extent to which a nation has fulfilled its obligation to provide for the common welfare of its citizens.  

Meta-theoretical concerns aside, it seems like there should be a recognition that in any objective sense the condition of a single mother forced to take a job that provides  a wage (perhaps) 60% of the poverty level is not in any way equivalent to work that grants pay and benefits that allow the worker to participate fully in the economic, social, and political life of the nation.

If we harmonize these measure so that the distortions created by questionable differences are unmasked, what does this tell us of the significance of the difference between liberal America and Social Europe?

I think a rework of Colman's classic series on this issue into a letter to the editor of the Washington Post is in order.


And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon Oct 8th, 2007 at 08:55:36 AM EST
Meta-theoretical concerns aside, it seems like there should be a recognition that in any objective sense the condition of a single mother forced to take a job that provides  a wage (perhaps) 60% of the poverty level is not in any way equivalent to work that grants pay and benefits that allow the worker to participate fully in the economic, social, and political life of the nation.

I think debunking the old mythology and creating a new one is very much what we should be about - hence the provisional Free Market Unicorn scoop, which I hope will do exactly that.

The point is that the mythology is - quite possibly deliberately and consciously - slanted and biased politically.

There are various angles of attack:

  1. Debunking by evidence (the theories rarely work as stated)

  2. Debunking by assertion of authority (this is exactly how they're created in the first place, and it's enough to turn the game around and simply state they're discredited often enough in the correct social register without having to do a great deal more)

  3. Debunking by mud slinging (nasty, but effective)

  4. Debunking by exposure of bias (point out who benefits, and optionally also who funds the 'research')

  5. Debunking by argument and engagement (the most work, and probably the least effective because the goal posts will always be moved)

You can see how this works with the Euro, which supposedly has gone from flapping around like a half-dead feeble thing to a rampaging monster in the space of six months or so.

All that's happened is that the approved narrative has changed from 'Weak Europe' to 'Out of control Europe'.

It should be simple enough to turn this around and point out that free-market policies result in the kind of financial disaster that's crippling the US - etc.

The key point isn't really to clock the facts correctly, it's to match the slightly condescending tone that the right always uses.

I suspect the combination of the tone with a checklist of pre-chewed sound-bite narrative hit points is far more influential than the facts ever are.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Oct 8th, 2007 at 11:08:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I may add:

6.  Stop giving them the benefit of doubt.

I, for one, am fed-up with interpreting, editing, revising, and transforming their incoherent prose into something resembling rational thought.  (Ref: this thread in Jerome's "Even Cato & etc" diary of yesterday.)  Why the devil should we spend our time and energy making their case intellectually respectable?

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Oct 8th, 2007 at 11:34:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]

That is to say that those wages that pay less than "maintenance" a la Wealth of Nations should be excluded from any measure of employment because they represent a case employers have managed to drive wags below their natural level?

Isn't this the substantive meaning of the unemployment measure?  Employment is meant to offer a measure of economic independence rather than trapping the individual in a dependent relationship.

This is a GREAT idea, and something that should be pushed. It needs a catchy name (underployment or something), and a basic study to get some numbers out.

I expect that numbers will be pretty high in all countries, but even higher in some.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 8th, 2007 at 11:56:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unemployment is bad because it indicates the economy isn't using its resources optimally. What is this "economic independence" thingy? Sounds like communism to me.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 8th, 2007 at 12:00:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unemployment is bad because it indicates the economy isn't using its resources optimally.

Human dignity isn't Pareto efficient?

My thoughts on this may be found in my new sig below.


And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon Oct 8th, 2007 at 07:11:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
SEWs and SIWS.

No need to reinvent the wheel.

The European Union has an established policy combating social exclusion.

Philosopher Axel Honneth thus speaks of a "struggle for recognition", which he attempts to theorize through Hegel's philosophy. In this sense, to be socially excluded is to be deprived from social recognition and social value. In the sphere of politics, social recognition is obtained by full citizenship; in the economic sphere (in capitalism) it means being paid enough to be able to participate fully in the life of the community.

Thus, we come to SEWs and SIWs.

Socially exclusive wages (SEWs) are those that deny the employed the ability to fully participate in the life of the community, thus in substance denying them the equality and human dignity requisite to the democratic society.  To allow the persistence of SEWs permits the diffusion of anti-democratic norms that promote unequal social relations mediated by things rather than interpersonal relation.  Labor is commodified, and the sacred nature of human life is denied through the imposition of anti-social market logic.

Socially inclusive wages (SIWs) are those that permit the employed to participate fully in the life of the community, granting them positive rights.  The promotion of SIWs through its insistence on egalitarian social norms based upon the belief that vertical economic relationships are contrary to the fundamental basis of the democratic society.  Equality.

It would be a huge project, but I think that at the NUTS II level you could parse out the cost of decent housing, the cuisine constituting the local social norm, and such cultural and educational activities as are deemed constitutive of the civic experience.


And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon Oct 8th, 2007 at 07:08:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since I agree with the gist of the article I feel it's even more important to look at some of the weak points.

 1) Lack of sources.
For example the author asserts that the EU is "...producing nearly a third of the global economy" without telling us what exactly he is talking about. GDP?
He compares unemployment figures and budget deficits between the US and EU without references.
That of course doesn't invalidate his points, but it won't convince anyone who thinks Europe is a socialist hellhole.

 2)More importantly he seems to think that there is some sort of distinct European model which involves an extensive welfare-state and economic equality. But at least in the minds of our political leaders there seems to be no such thing. Across most of Europe "reform" means increased liberalization, deregulation, and rolling back the welfare state.

by generic on Mon Oct 8th, 2007 at 10:01:39 AM EST
More importantly he seems to think that there is some sort of distinct European model which involves an extensive welfare-state and economic equality. But at least in the minds of our political leaders there seems to be no such thing.

Having worked with economists and experts from many countries, I have always been stricken by the act that, whereas the Europeans question the very existence of a European social model, all non-Europeans claim there is one. What makes us differ is that it is not a single model, but what I would call a meta-model, i.e. a comprehensive set of principles which apply across almost all European countries, even if it translates into different national models. This set of principles include:

  • (more or less) free* education
  • (more or less) free universal healthcare
  • national social protection schemes
  • national retirement pension schemes
  • social dialogue and collective bargaining
-...

*when i say free, I mean not user-paid.

I nevertheless agree with you: some economic and political leaders, helped by the main media, are pushing hard to undo this "model"...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Mon Oct 8th, 2007 at 10:28:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]