Politics & Policy

Imitators

Why would Tiger Woods want to be Phil Mickelson? And other questions . . .

If anyone suggested that Tiger Woods should try to be more like other golfers, people would question the sanity of whoever made that suggestion.

Why should Tiger Woods try to be more like Phil Mickelson? If Tiger turned around and tried to golf left-handed, like Mickelson, he probably wouldn’t be as good as Mickelson, much less as good as he is golfing the way he does right-handed.

#ad#Yet there are those who think that the United States should follow policies more like those in Europe, often with no stronger reason than the fact that Europeans follow such policies. For some Americans, it is considered chic to be like Europeans.

If Europeans have higher minimum-wage laws and more welfare-state benefits, then we should have higher minimum wage laws and more welfare state benefits, according to such people. If Europeans restrict pharmaceutical companies’ patents and profits, then we should do the same.

Some justices of the U.S. Supreme Court even seem to think that they should incorporate ideas from European laws in interpreting American laws.

Before we start imitating someone, we should first find out whether the results that they get are better than the results that we get. Across a very wide spectrum, the United States has been doing better than Europe for a very long time.

By comparison with most of the rest of the world, Europe is doing fine. But they are like Phil Mickelson, not Tiger Woods.

Minimum-wage laws have the same effects in Europe as they have had in other places around the world. They price many low-skilled and inexperienced workers out of a job.

Because minimum-wage laws are more generous in Europe than in the United States, they lead to chronically higher rates of unemployment in general and longer periods of unemployment than in the United States — but especially among younger, less-experienced, and less-skilled workers.

Unemployment rates of 20 percent or more for young workers are common in a number of European countries. Among workers who are both younger and minorities, such as young Muslims in France, unemployment rates are estimated at about 40 percent.

The American minimum-wage laws do enough damage without our imitating European minimum-wage laws. The last year in which the black unemployment rate was lower than the white unemployment rate in the United States was 1930.

The next year, the first federal minimum-wage law, the Davis-Bacon Act, was passed. One of its sponsors explicitly stated that the purpose was to keep blacks from taking jobs from whites.

No one says things like that any more — which is a shame, because the effect of a minimum-wage law does not depend on what anybody says. Blacks in general, and younger blacks in particular, are the biggest losers from such laws, just as younger and minority workers are in Europe.

Those Americans who are pushing us toward the kinds of policies that Europeans impose on pharmaceutical companies show not the slightest interest in what the consequences of such laws have been.

One consequence is that even European pharmaceutical companies do much of their research and development of new medications in the United States, in order to take advantage of American patent protections and freedom from price controls.

These are the very policies that the European imitators want us to change.

It is not a coincidence that such a high proportion of the major pharmaceutical drugs are developed in the United States. If we kill the goose that lays the golden egg, as the Europeans have done, both we and the Europeans — as well as the rest of the world — will be worse off, because there are few other places for such medications to be developed.

There are a lot of diseases still waiting for a cure, or even for relief for those suffering from those diseases. People stricken with these diseases will pay the price for blind imitation of Europe.

The United States leads the world in too many areas for us to start imitating those who are trailing behind.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

© 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

Thomas Sowell — Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author, whose books include Basic Economics. He is currently senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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