The Corner

Wsj Editorials

Two good ones today. Reg Req’d. The first is on the 9/11 Commish. The second on the ever-declining (in relative terms) wealth of Europe. I’ll post a chunk of that one because it’s harder to get to on the site:

The growing split between the U.S. and Europe has been much in the news, mostly on foreign policy. But less well understood is the gap in economic growth and standards of living. Now comes a European report that puts the American advantage in surprisingly stark relief.

The study, “The EU vs. USA,” was done by a pair of economists — Fredrik Bergstrom and Robert Gidehag — for the Swedish think tank Timbro. It found that if Europe were part of the U.S., only tiny Luxembourg could rival the richest of the 50 American states in gross domestic product per capita. Most European countries would rank below the U.S. average, as the nearby chart shows.

The authors admit that man doesn’t live by GDP alone, and that this measure misses output in the “black” economy, which is significant in Europe’s high-tax states. GDP also overlooks “the value of leisure or a good environment” or the way prosperity is spread across a society.

But a rising tide still lifts all boats, and U.S. GDP per capita was a whopping 32% higher than the EU average in 2000, and the gap hasn’t closed since. It is so wide that if the U.S. economy had frozen in place at 2000 levels while Europe grew, the Continent would still require years to catch up. Ireland, which has lower tax burdens and fewer regulations than the rest of the EU, would be the first but only by 2005. Switzerland, not a member of the EU, and Britain would get there by 2010. But Germany and Spain would need until 2015, while Italy, Sweden and Portugal would have to wait until 2022.

Higher GDP per capita allows the average American to spend about $9,700 more on consumption every year than the average European. So Yanks have by far more cars, TVs, computers and other modern goods. “Most Americans have a standard of living which the majority of Europeans will never come anywhere near,” the Swedish study says.

There’s more, though I’m a bit more skeptical about the numbers in the part on inequality.

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