De franske og hollandske folkeafstemninger om EU-forfatningstraktaten har fået amerikanske kommentatorer til at se nærmere på, hvordan det egentlig går i Europa, når man sammenligner med USA. Det er et emne, vi kan lide.
Men de kan ikke lide, hvad de ser. De ser–ligesom Rumsfeld, der talte om et "Old Europe" og et "New Europe"–et kontinent, der er ramt af det samme, som man for en generation siden kaldte "den engelske syge". Stagnation, højere ledighed, kombineret med højere skatter og mere regulering.
Forskellene i udvikling mellem USA og Europa har været påfaldende i to årtier, men man behøver såmænd ikke at se længere end en lille bitte tabel fra Wall Street Journal forleden for at bemærke, at der ikke kun er tale om et fortidigt fænomen:
Two Economic Models: Rates for 2003-05 (1Q)
Unemployment 5.6% 8.7%
Growth 3.7% 1.5%
"Vissevasse!" kunne man sige. "Hvad er en forskel på 2 pct. mellem venner?" Et enkelt år: ikke så meget. Længere tid: ganske meget. Lad os se på to personer, A og B, der i år 0 begge har en indkomst på 200.000 kr. Men i de kommende år vokser A's indkomst med 3,7 pct. om året, mens B?s vokser med 1,5 pct. Efter ti år tjener A ca. 287.000, men B tjener synligt mindre, ca. 232.000 kr., om end dog kan følge med lidt. Efter 18 år–den tid, det tager et lille barn at blive voksen–tjener B kun 2/3 af A (ca. 261.000 kr. mod 385.000 kr.). Efter 33 år er A's indkomst det dobbelte af B's (663.000 kr. mod 327.000 kr.).
Så uanset hvad nogle siger, er det tilsyneladende størrelsen, det kommer an på! WSJ argumenterer i en leder om emnet for, at det netop er disse forskelle i vækst, der nu får europæerne til i utilfredshed at "nikse" EU-forfatningen:
"No one knows for sure to what extent economic anxiety influenced the decisive "Non!" by French and Dutch voters against the new European Union Constitution this week. But one thing is certain: The French and much of the rest of the European Union have much to be economically anxious about.
The French unemployment rate has hovered around 10% for nearly a decade, and almost half of the jobless have been out of work for at least a year. If the U.S had an unemployment rate as high as France, there would be about six million more non-working Americans–the equivalent of placing every worker in Michigan on the jobless rolls.
Our point here isn't to engage in gratuitous French-bashing. The truth is that the economic anemia afflicting France has become the standard bill of health to varying degrees in virtually all of the nations of Old Europe, particularly Germany and Italy. Once upon a time the intellectual elites in Europe and the U.S. trumpeted the economic accomplishments of European social welfare state policies. Today the conclusion is nearly inescapable that this economic model simply doesn't work to create jobs, wealth or dynamism. …
[The] U.S. has substantially outperformed Old Europe in wealth and job creation. The economic growth rate of the European Union nations since 2003 has limped along at about half that of the U.S. In the 1980s and '90s the U.S. created about 40 million new jobs; Western Europe created some 10 million, well over half of which were in the public sector. If this divergence in economic performance continues for 40 years, the American worker will be roughly twice as wealthy as his European counterpart."
WSJ argumenterer videre, at forskellene ultimativt skyldes Europas mere udprægede tendens til centralisme og styring:
"The Europeans have created a vast constellation of domestic policy interventions that are cloaked in the seductive rhetoric of compassion, fairness and cultural sophistication. These policies include highly generous welfare benefits for the unemployed; state ownership and subsidy of key industries (such as Airbus); rules that make it difficult to hire and fire workers; prohibitions against closing down plants; heavy protections of labor unions against competitive forces; mandatory worker benefit packages that include health insurance, child care allowances, paid parental leave, four to six weeks of vacation; shortened work weeks; and, alas, high taxes on business and labor to pay for these lavish benefits. In sum, European nations penalize work and subsidize non-work, and, no surprise, they have gotten a lot of the latter and far too little of the former. By contrast, the U.S. model–allegedly cruel and "laissez-faire"–has done much better both by economic growth and worker opportunity. ..
Og det handler også om EU:
"We have consistently supported European integration, especially the liberalizing and efficient force of the euro. But most of the economic maladies that face France and Germany today are incidental to whether the EU itself gains or loses power in the months and years ahead. In many ways the European Union has always been the right answer to the wrong question. The common market was originally established with economic goals in mind: to reduce trade barriers (which has been a good thing), followed years later by a single, stable currency (another good thing).
But the Brussels bureaucracy has to this day purposely ignored the Continent's central ailments: high tax rates, bloated welfare benefits and industrial policies that pick winners and losers, usually the latter. Those topics are essentially taboo in Brussels, which has pursued an economic "harmonization" strategy in part to inhibit the benign impact of tax cutting and tax competition among member countries by creating a de facto multi-state cartel. The nations that have prospered the most in recent years–Ireland in the 1990s, now the nations of Central Europe–are those that have resisted the harmonizing orders. Europe is now paying a high price for this failed experiment with welfare state socialism. Today's populist revolt against economic integration in France and Germany suggests that these nations remain mysteriously impervious to the need for change."
I New York Times (der næppe kan kaldes et loyalt redskab for Bush-administrationen eller en forlængelse af den religiøse højrefløj) har David Brooks i sin ugentlige klumme nogle beslægtede overvejelser. I en kommentar til den amerikanske venstrefløjs politiske udspil siger Brooks:
"[These] have already been enacted in Europe: generous welfare measures, ample labor protections, highly progressive tax rates, single-payer health care systems, zoning restrictions to limit big retailers, and cradle-to-grave middle-class subsidies supporting everything from child care to pension security. And yet far from thriving, continental Europe has endured a lost decade of relative decline.
Western Europeans seem to be suffering a crisis of confidence. Election results, whether in North Rhine-Westphalia or across France and the Netherlands, reveal electorates who have lost faith in their leaders, who are anxious about declining quality of life, who feel extraordinarily vulnerable to foreign competition – from the Chinese, the Americans, the Turks, even the Polish plumbers.
Anybody who has lived i
n Europe knows how delicio
us European life can be. But it is not the absolute standard of living that determines a people's morale, but the momentum. It is happier to live in a poor country that is moving forward – where expectations are high – than it is to live in an affluent country that is looking back.
Right now, Europeans seem to look to the future with more fear than hope. … The core fact is that the European model is foundering under the fact that billions of people are willing to work harder than the Europeans are. Europeans clearly love their way of life, but don't know how to sustain it. … This is the chief problem with the welfare state, which has nothing to do with the success or efficiency of any individual program. The liberal project of the postwar era has bred a stultifying conservatism, a fear of dynamic flexibility, a greater concern for guarding what exists than for creating what doesn't."
PS. Jeg har tidligere i flere avisklummer refereret til de interessante arbejder af de to svenske økonomer, Fredrik Bergström og Robert Gidehag: Bogen Sverige versus USA: En analys av tilväxtens betydelse (2004) og rapporten EU versus USA (2004). Begge kan anbefales, og det samme kan Olaf Gersemanns bog om et beslægtet emne, Cowboy Capitalism: European Myths, American Reality (2004).
Sverige versus USA: En analys av tilväxtens betydelse (2004) og rapporten EU versus USA (2004). Begge kan anbefales, og det samme kan Olaf Gersemanns bog om et beslægtet emne, Cowboy Capitalism: European Myths, American Reality (2004).Sverige versus USA: En analys av tilväxtens betydelse (2004) og rapporten EU versus USA (2004). Begge kan anbefales, og det samme kan Olaf Gersemanns bog om et beslægtet emne, Cowboy Capitalism: European Myths, American Reality (2004).