February 3rd, 2005



An excellent article here comparing the US and Europe (and their opinions of each other) , from the NY Review of Books.
A few snippets:

The US is an excellent place to be rich. Back in 1980 the average American chief executive earned forty times the average manufacturing employee. For the top tier of American CEOs, the ratio is now 475:1 and would be vastly greater if assets, not income, were taken into account. By way of comparison, the ratio in Britain is 24:1, in France 15:1, in Sweden 13:1.[2] A privileged minority has access to the best medical treatment in the world. But 45 million Americans have no health insurance at all (of the world's developed countries only the US and South Africa offer no universal medical coverage). According to the World Health Organization the United States is number one in health spending per capita—and thirty-seventh in the quality of its service.

The picture in education is very similar. In the aggregate the United States spends much more on education than the nations of Western Europe; and it has by far the best research universities in the world. Yet a recent study suggests that for every dollar the US spends on education it gets worse results than any other industrial nation. American children consistently underperform their European peers in both literacy and numeracy.

Europeans work less: but when they do work they seem to put their time to better use. In 1970 GDP per hour in the EU was 35 percent below that of the US; today the gap is less than 7 percent and closing fast. Productivity per hour of work in Italy, Austria, and Denmark is similar to that of the United States; but the US is now distinctly outperformed in this key measure by Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, ...and France.

The modern American economy is not just in hock to international bankers with a foreign debt of $3.3 trillion (28 percent of GDP); it is also increasingly foreign-owned. In the year 2000, European direct investment in the US exceeded American investment in Europe by nearly two fifths. Among dozens of emblematically "American" companies and products now owned by Europeans are Brooks Brothers, DKNY, Random House, Kent Cigarettes, Dove Soap, Chrysler, Bird's Eye, Pennzoil, Baskin-Robbins, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

There are more small businesses in the EU than in the United States, and they create more employment (65 percent of European jobs in 2002 were in small and medium-sized firms, compared with just 46 percent in the US). And they look after their employees much better. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights promises the "right to parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child" and every West European country provides salary support during that leave. In Sweden women get sixty-four weeks off and two thirds of their wages. Even Portugal guarantees maternity leave for three months on 100 percent salary. The US federal government guarantees nothing. In the words of Valgard Haugland, Norway's Christian Democratic minister for children and family: "Americans like to talk about family values. We have decided to do more than talk; we use our tax revenues to pay for family values."

To the Bush administration "Islam" is an abstraction, the politically serviceable object of what Washington insiders now call the GWOT: the Global War on Terror. For the US, the Middle East is a faraway land, a convenient place to export America's troubles so that they won't have to be addressed in the "homeland." But the Middle East is Europe's "near abroad," as well as a major trading partner. From Tangier to Tabriz, Europe is surrounded by the "Middle East." A growing number of Europeans come from this Middle East. When the EU begins accession talks with Turkey, it will be anticipating its own insertion into the Middle East. America's strategy of global confrontation with Islam is not an option for Europe. It is a catastrophe.

Timothy Garton Ash would probably not dissent from much of the preceding analysis. In his engaging new book he actually goes further than Rifkin and Reid in certain respects. As an international citizen, he notes, the Uni-ted States is irresponsibly delinquent. The EU gave away $36.5 billion in development aid in 2003. The US managed just one third that amount—and much of that foreign aid either went to Israel or else came with strings attached: nearly 80 percent of all American "development aid" obliges recipients to spend the money on American goods and services. On Iraq alone the US spent eight times the amount it gave in overseas aid to everyone else. The US is the meanest of all the rich countries on the OECD's Development Assistance Committee. The Europeans are by far the most generous.

The US contains just 5 percent of the world's population (and falling), but it is responsible for 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gas output per annum. Each year our atmosphere has to absorb twenty metric tons of carbon dioxide for every American man, woman, and child; but just nine tons for every European.

..And he balances his remarks about the US with some well-aimed shots at the Common Agricultural Fund—noting that while in the year 2000 the EU donated $8 per head to sub-Saharan Africa, it managed to set aside, in the form of subsidies, $913 for every cow in Europe.

Internet longing

I feel strangely bereft.  I just went looking for hatsofmeat.com and it's no longer there (and probably hasn't been for quite some time).  I did find this, but the original site has vanished into the ether.  I wonder how many other wonders of the web have gone, never to return.
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If you're wondering why my journal is sadly short of links (and I believe that some, like theferret) read me largely for linking goodness, then you should have paid more attention to the previous two mentions that pointed out that they were now over at andyduckerlinks, where you can find such things as the book of Zogg which made me laugh an awful lot (after I stole it from heron61)).  Go, add it to your friends list, and bathe in the linky goodness.

Or don't, and enjoy life here in the peace of a link-less world.
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