- The Washington Times - Friday, November 25, 2005

Princeton professor and columnist Paul Krugman deservedly won Forbes.com’s “Dunce of the Week” award for his July 29 New York Times column “French family values.”

Mr. Krugman asks, “But are European economies really doing that badly? The answer is no.” He adds: “Americans are doing a lot of strutting these days, but a head-to-head comparison between the economies of the United States and Europe — France, in particular — shows that the big difference is in priorities, not performance. We’re talking about two highly productive societies that have made a different tradeoff between work and family time.”

Mr. Krugman’s assertion is basically this: The income gap, about 40 percent, is not due to lower efficiency in Europe. It is the result of Europeans working less than Americans. Not because they can’t find work, but because they work fewer hours, preferring to spend more time with their families and on leisure.

Contrast Mr. Krugman’s nonsensical argument with New America Foundation senior fellow Joel Kotkin’s findings in “America still beckons,” published by American Enterprise magazine (October-December 2005). Mr. Kotkin says Europe has weakened considerably. “Since the 1970s, America has created some 57 million new jobs, compared to just 4 million in Europe (with most of those in government). For the last quarter-century, the United States has enjoyed consistently higher rates of economic growth and productivity than European countries, and the gap has been widening. The United States is now at the forefront in many critical global industries, particularly finance, technology and entertainment.” Europe’s “portion of world GDP dropped from 34 percent to 20 percent between 1913 and 1998, while the United States held its own at about 22 percent of global GDP.”

In the same edition of American Enterprise, Karl Zinsmeister’s article, “Europe learns the wrong lessons,” says, “In France, Italy, Germany and Belgium approximately a quarter of all workers under 25 are currently unemployed.” High minimum wages and employment protection regulations make it nearly impossible to fire people, thereby making it costly to hire them. Europe’s stagnation and decline might explain why its best brains are leaving in droves. Mr. Kotkin says: “Some 400,000 EU science and technology graduates currently reside in the United States, and barely 1 in 7, according to a recent European Commission poll, intend to return.”

Not only the best brains migrate to our country; poor people come too. There’s an important difference between the world’s poor who come to America and those who go to Europe. The poor tend to prosper much more here than in Europe. U.S. success and European jealousy might explain some of the anti-Americanism, particularly virulent among Europe’s elite.

Mr. Zinsmeister reports that, when “asked which countries are the biggest threat to world peace, Europeans name the U.S. as often as North Korea and Iran (each are picked by 53 percent). Countries characterized by Euros as less menacing than the U.S. include Syria, Iraq, Russia, China, Afghanistan and Libya.”

Olaf Gersemann’s article in American Enterprise, “Europe’s not working,” says: “Nearly every top politician in Germany is on record giving a grave, smug warning about the danger of letting ‘American conditions’ seep into the German economy. In Germany’s economic debate, ‘American conditions’ is code for stiff economic competition, low taxes, minimal state intrusion, and limited duration welfare payments.”

Many of our elites share Europeans’ anti-Americanism. They’re also against “American conditions” and want Europe’s high taxes, very regulated economy and socialized medicine here. They also want to share Europe’s lack of will to protect itself.

In the past, Europeans were unwilling or unable to protect themselves against Nazism and communism. Now they demonstrate an unwillingness to protect themselves against Islam hell-bent on conquering the West. We just might have to pull Europe’s chestnut out of the fire — again.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University and is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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