Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Minor Musing: Stop Confusing Continents With Countries

The Financial Times reports that during last night's debate,
. . . . Mr Romney said a “welfare society creates greater equality, but it creates poverty … I do not want America to follow the path of Europe. Europe isn’t working in Europe!,” he declared.
It's a line that's sure to play well in South Dakota.  I'm surprised that the South Dakota War College crew hasn't put the clip on their site along with a Thune comment that mentions socialism.

I really would like someone to explain to me how people who frequently assert, perhaps rightfully, that "East River" and "West River" should be divorced into separate states because of irreconcilable differences can believe that a whole continent somehow shares the same culture, values, and economic realities.

Granted some countries in Europe are having problems, but the continent is not a monolith.  Writing in the New York Times Magazine, Adam Davidson points out,
In 1994, Denmark modernized a system, which came to be known as “flexicurity,” that offered American-style flexibility (layoffs, transitions into new lines of business) coupled with traditional European security. Laid-off workers were offered generous benefits, like 90 percent of their last salary for two years and opportunities to be retrained.
And it worked incredibly well. After Denmark’s unemployment rate sank to among the lowest in the world, the flexicurity model spread throughout Europe. It has been successfully implemented, in locally appropriate ways, in Norway, Sweden and Finland. But in other countries — like Germany, France and Spain — similar reforms faced stiff resistance from workers who preferred the old way. Several countries applied the measures in a two-tier system: people who already had jobs were protected by pretty much the same old rules, while the unemployed — who were often younger — were offered less secure work at lower pay. Greek unions insisted on so much security and so little flexibility that now the country has neither. Flexibility has done little to help Italy, which remains effectively two countries. There is a rich nation in the north where workers earn great salaries in highly productive and competitive industries; many people south of Rome are living in a broken, developing economy that’s considerably poorer than Greece.
In short, Europe may share a common currency, but countries implement different economic policies and have  experience different results.  I realize, it's fun to stretch facts and create bogeymen.  Hollywood does that quite well with many horror films.  I'd prefer the politics to be a bit more fact based and nuanced.

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