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View Full Version : An open letter to all proponents of the European welfare state



Mota Boy
04-17-2005, 08:06 PM
Or, The U.S. is definitavely better than Europe at everything sans multilingualism.

Click here (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/17/weekinreview/17bawer.html?incamp=article_popular_3&oref=login) for the link, taken from the Sunday Times' story "We're Rich, You're Not. End of Story."

Selective quotes, emphasis mine:


All this was illuminated last year in a study by a Swedish research organization, Timbro, which compared the gross domestic products of the 15 European Union members (before the 2004 expansion) with those of the 50 American states and the District of Columbia. (Norway, not being a member of the union, was not included.)

After adjusting the figures for the different purchasing powers of the dollar and euro, the only European country whose economic output per person was greater than the United States average was the tiny tax haven of Luxembourg, which ranked third, just behind Delaware and slightly ahead of Connecticut.

The next European country on the list was Ireland, down at 41st place out of 66; Sweden was 14th from the bottom (after Alabama), followed by Oklahoma, and then Britain, France, Finland, Germany and Italy. The bottom three spots on the list went to Spain, Portugal and Greece.

Alternatively, the study found, if the E.U. was treated as a single American state, it would rank fifth from the bottom, topping only Arkansas, Montana, West Virginia and Mississippi. In short, while Scandinavians are constantly told how much better they have it than Americans, Timbro's statistics suggest otherwise. So did a paper by a Swedish economics writer, Johan Norberg.

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.

Most recently, the Danish Ministry of Finance released a study comparing the income available for private consumption in 30 countries. Norway did somewhat better here than in the KPMG study, lagging behind most of Western Europe but at least beating out Ireland and Portugal.

The thrust, however, was to confirm Timbro's and Mr. Norberg's picture of American and European wealth. While the private-consumption figure for the United States was $32,900 per person, the countries of Western Europe (again excepting Luxembourg, at $29,450) ranged between $13,850 and $23,500, with Norway at $18,350.

You have fifteen minutes alloted for a rebuttal.

Mota Boy
04-17-2005, 08:26 PM
Wait.... I'm kinda messed up. But where does any of that information talk about social welfare. It mostly looks like output per person and economic growth to me.
I'm not talking about social welfare specifically, but the overall status of the welfare state. I don't doubt that the least among my country suffer more than the least among Europe. If you read the article, though...


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. When my mother-in-law went to an emergency room recently, the hospital was out of cough medicine. Drug addicts crowd downtown Oslo streets, as The Los Angeles Times recently reported, but applicants for methadone programs are put on a months-long waiting list.

Even in Scandanavia, where the social welfare system is most lauded, basic services are outmoded. Another big aspect of the article is that few Norwegans can afford to dine out for lunch, which is more common than not even among me and my fellow (American) employees, who barely earn more than minimum wage.

I'm not claiming that America has a better welfare system, but that our relatively capitalist economy (as opposed to a welfare state) is, on the whole, a much better system than, say, WCM and Sic claim.

Betty
04-17-2005, 09:46 PM
All crazy talk!

RXP
04-18-2005, 01:20 AM
I think all us social justice people are talking about the down and outs of society. Figures that take averages for the whole country from $5/hr to $300,000/yr employees scew things somewhat.

I haven't read the article, don't have time right now but i'm gonna print it out and read it on the train into work. I'll give a more detailed reponce later.

Donkey Kong
04-18-2005, 04:05 AM
@Motaboy: And what do you want to say us with this post? That the Americans are still the kings of the world?

Vera
04-18-2005, 11:31 AM
You can't rid the Europeans of their superiority complex as EU is doing a fantastic job feeding it, but the same things goes to America, I guess.

Things are not great. Even in my little Nordic welfare state. Cutting mental health centers to build sports halls and money money money, every group in the society needs it, students, the elderly, and there's never enough. Small schools closing, libraries in small towns closing as well, not enough people, not enough resources, people moving to bigger cities for jobs, for a future, high employment rate in northern parts of the country.

Things are not great. Things are not perfect. Health services overbooked etc etc.


As far as I understand, the money is concentrated differently in here than over there. There aren't that many millionaires in here. There aren't that many poor people, either. Larger middle-class, so to say.

The dining-out thing could just be prices. I know for a fact that prices have risen since euro came into play. If I want to eat properly outside, it's 20 euros. That's 26 dollars. A proper lunch would cost me 10-14 euros. That's 14-17 dollars. I don't know what kind of prices you guys have over there, but in my understanding America has a lot of places to eat and even the not-so-fast-food joints aren't all that expensive.



I don't know. I'd still rather live here.

Mota Boy
04-18-2005, 11:59 AM
As far as I understand, the money is concentrated differently in here than over there. There aren't that many millionaires in here. There aren't that many poor people, either. Larger middle-class, so to say.
However, the purchasing power of your middle class seems to be more on par with our lower class. I got lunch today at a Chinese place - Sesame chicken, egg roll, fried rice and a fortune cookie - for $4.53. If I pay more than seven or eight bucks for a regular lunch I feel cheated.

What's really funny is that this suddenly reminds me of the scene in "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" where The Boss is trying to explain purchasing power to people living in a country with a protected market and how, even though they get paid more, because prices are higher they can't buy as much. The confused individuals stare at him blankly for a bit and then respond with "...but we make more money."

Vera
04-18-2005, 12:23 PM
Helsinki is sadly one of the most expensive cities in Europe atm.

wheelchairman
04-18-2005, 01:54 PM
What I enjoy about reading European books on America (well Danish, I can't say for the rest of Europe), is that they are all shocked that America has a homeless population. A large homeless population.

I grew up in Eugene Oregon. Not a particularly large town, yet there were more homeless people there, than all of Copenhagen. The homeless here, are country-less people who drift from nation to nation (they are usually Eastern European immigrants who can make enough money playing instruments for a month on the streets, to live alright in their own nation for a year. Still something I disapprove of though.)

Although I would say that your comment on the purchasing power of the middle class of Europe is way off. I as a student, seem to be able to afford as much as most people in the American middle class could. Should I find lunch for 4.53$ a day, I'd be pleased at the amount of available income my budget would have. (One should also remember, that the US Dollar has been incredibly poor lately.)

I can only speak from my own experiences. Should I want to be a millionaire, I'd chose to live in America, obviously. One can avoid paying most taxes, relatively local access to cheap labor, and other things that are just neat when you are rich, own capital, and want to make more capital.

Being poor, I'd chose Europe. One can work oneself up from the bottom far better in the European system. Because in America, if you land at the bottom, you have almost no chance of getting out of it again.

Jesus
04-18-2005, 05:13 PM
You have fifteen minutes alloted for a rebuttal.

W00ps, me kind of late, but according to a lot of Americans us euros are lazy so...



While the private-consumption figure for the United States was $32,900 per person, the countries of Western Europe (again excepting Luxembourg, at $29,450) ranged between $13,850 and $23,500, with Norway at $18,350.


So according to the CIA factbook the US (and Norway) has a GDP per capita (purchasing power parity) of 37,800 USD. Then this dude (or girl ) says that the average private consumption figure (is that a new fancy way of saying disposable income?) in the US is 32,900 USD per capita. This is a difference of 4900 or 12.9% with the GDP per capita. I don't think the average tax rate of the GDP in the US is this low. So this appears to be some BS. (although the average disposable income should be higher in the US because of a lower tax rate, otherwise the situation in the US is crappier than I thought)

Like Tripboy said it basically says nothing about social welfare (or the availability of social services either....).

Thus, I hope this was written as an OP-ED or some free lance crap otherwise the NYT is trying to catch up with the WSJ in the race to the bottom.

Norwegian Cat
04-19-2005, 11:39 AM
What about it? The U.S. has still huge problems... I mean, it's a capitalistic empire, and that means problems with: education, depression, drugs, immigration, terrorism, corruption, etc...

wheelchairman
04-19-2005, 12:48 PM
So a capitalistic empire automatically attracts those things?
Fantastic depth there. What I hate most about being in Europe, is that Europeans have this tendency to think they are smarter than you (or me, for example, I am American and I don't really bother to hide it) simply because they are European.

Mota Boy
04-19-2005, 12:55 PM
So according to the CIA factbook the US (and Norway) has a GDP per capita (purchasing power parity) of 37,800 USD. Then this dude (or girl ) says that the average private consumption figure (is that a new fancy way of saying disposable income?) in the US is 32,900 USD per capita. This is a difference of 4900 or 12.9% with the GDP per capita.
The dude didn't just state that, he cited studies which backed him up. And I'm sure that there are multiple ways to rank and multiple ranks of countries out there - I didn't expect this to be the definative study, but it did raise some interesting questions - specifically, if the general population has a lower standard of living, the economic growth is suffering and basic services still aren't fully accounted for, is it worth it? (as opposed to having basic services not fully accounted for and upwards of one percent of the population, at various times, homeless and a large number without health care but a better economic outlook on the whole?)

And again, I said "welfare state" in relation to various European nations' relatively more state-controlled economies as a whole, not specifically their welfare structures.

N.C. - I didn't say that it didn't. Almost all countries have those problems in various forms. I wasn't talking about those issues, however, I was talking about handling the economy.

Jesus
04-19-2005, 03:19 PM
The dude didn't just state that, he cited studies which backed him up.

Point being? Logic says it's impossible, the average taxrate of the gdp per capita in the US is probably a bit below 30%. Thus it's just mathematically impossible to have that much private consumption, since the disposable income is lower. Well it's possible if you're all racking up a huge consumer debt which would make the number even more pointless.
I can't find the so called study of the danish ministry of finance online though, even though they have most of their publications online. I can easily find the ones from the neo-liberal business think tank and the hurray for global capitalism blogger though, both of which didn't help me.



And I'm sure that there are multiple ways to rank and multiple ranks of countries out there

Sure, penis size for instance (africa would win it by a couple inches), something the writer of the article would enjoy I suppose.



- I didn't expect this to be the definative study, but it did raise some interesting questions -
Not really, seemed like some standard pravda article.



specifically, if the general population has a lower standard of living, the economic growth is suffering and basic services still aren't fully accounted for, is it worth it?
If you're talking about most of the old skool eu members, they don't have an average living standard that's lower than the US (HDI), so yeah I say it's worth it. Sure their GDP is lower, which is pretty obvious if one knows history. Hardly an argument against the welfare state, it's actually a fucking stupid argument. Just like saying soviet Russia's economic policies sucked because they did worse than the West.
And giving up a bit of economic growth to create the conditions in which humans can develop is something which I don't really mind.

RXP
04-22-2005, 09:27 AM
Pretch it Jesus! Should e-mail in that counter argument to the paper. Those fucking yanks.