Europe is better than the US
Well, it is the NYT, so I can’t vouch for it:
But G.D.P. per capita (an insufficient indicator, but one most economists use) in the U.S. is nearly 50 percent higher than it is in Europe. Even Europe’s best-performing large country, Germany, is about 20 percent poorer than the U.S. on a per-person basis (and both countries have roughly 15 percent of their populations living below the poverty line). While Norway and Sweden are richer than the U.S., on average, they are more comparable to wealthy American microeconomies like Washington, D.C., or parts of Connecticut — both of which are actually considerably wealthier. A reporter in Greece once complained after I compared her country to Mississippi, America’s poorest state. She’s right: the comparison isn’t fair. The average Mississippian is richer than the average Greek.
The story of how Europe lost its flexibility can be told in three stages. First came rapid growth that economists called “convergence.” With a lot of help from the U.S., Europe developed massive industrial capacity in the postwar years. Many of Western Europe’s economies grew so fast that governments could easily afford health and unemployment insurance and other benefits that, by U.S. standards, were remarkably generous. Most observers expected that its wealth would soon “converge” upon that of the U.S.
But the European economy did not recover from the worldwide oil shock of 1973 nearly as quickly as its American counterpart. For more than 25 years (phase two), as its population aged, Europe’s economy grew more slowly than the United States’. Its active capitals belied bloated businesses that were losing contracts to U.S. competitors or growing suburban ghettos filled with a permanently unemployed underclass.
Even its major successes — like Germany’s impressive machine-tool and automotive-industrial sectors — were refinements of old ways of making money rather than innovations in new industries.