Today is

   "A word to the wise ain't necessary --  
          it's the stupid ones that need the advice."
					-Bill Cosby

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

If only the U.S. were more like Norway?



Blogger Amanda said...

norway is like the european canada.

April 19, 2005 3:44 PM  
Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

Ten years ago, I befriended a Danish family on assignment in the US for 3 years. In Denmark, another "rich" country, families have at most 1 car (the tax on cars is 100%), so car-less family members bike to work all year, even in the snow. This family was thrilled to have multiple cars in the US. The teenage son was very bummed to learn he not only would not have a car when they went back, but he would no longer be allowed to drive. Here in the Commonwealth, you can get a driver's permit before the age of 16.

And, the wife said when she got back home, she definitely wanted one of those microwaves that came standard in her US rental house.

But perhaps the saddest thing of all was what she said about her sons. The 2nd son, an infant when they arrived, got so much more love and attention than the first, because here she could not work. The older son grew up in day care, where the youngest would go when they returned. The family seemed surprised by the close feelings of actually raising their own kid. NOBODY stays home with their kids in Denmark.

I heard later that it was a BIG adjustment when they went back and the younger son refused to speak anything but English for quite a while, though he did not speak English in the US!

April 19, 2005 6:52 PM  
Blogger alex said...

The reality is considerably more complex then the article lays out. I won't address the personal anecdotes - similar things could be said about America - drug addicts on city streets, anyone? - and instead I'll address the statistics.

The story comes in two layers:

GDP per capita in the U.S. is considerably higher than in the EU, as this article points out.

GDP per capita per work hour is about the same in the US as it is in the EU. See here for example for some data.

Therefore, to the extent that Europeans are poorer they are poorer because they work less.
EU-skeptics, like this article, always do the trick of quoting the first fact but not the second (sorry for the sweeping overgeneralization)

Of course, this is not the end of the story: do Europeans work less because they chose to? Or because they have to, due to the inflexible structure of their economy? Would they work longer hours if they could?

A recent survey (sorry, cant find a link) found that Europeans spend much of their spare time on tasks Americans usually pay others to do (cleaning the house, gardening, mowing the lawn, etc). Of course, this does not conlusively prove anything, as these activities may also be done for enjoyment.

But this is a complex issue where articles that present only one side of the issue are, in my opinion, unhelpful. If you are already familiar with the various research that compares the economy, you won't end up getting any new knowledge; on the other hand, if you are unfamiliar with it, you will end up with the wrong impression that statistics give a conclusive verdict for one side.

April 20, 2005 12:10 PM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

Thanks for the statistics on GDP per capita per hours worked.

You seem to be ignoring, though, that the point of the article was to correct what seems to be a one-sided perception among Norwegians (and perhaps Europeans in general) that they have it so much better than people in the U.S.:

"OSLO — THE received wisdom about economic life in the Nordic countries is easily summed up: people here are incomparably affluent, with all their needs met by an efficient welfare state. They believe it themselves. Yet the reality - as this Oslo-dwelling American can attest, and as some recent studies confirm - is not quite what it appears.

Even as the Scandinavian establishment peddles this dubious line, it serves up a picture of the United States as a nation divided, inequitably, among robber barons and wage slaves, not to mention armies of the homeless and unemployed."

The author cites more statistics than just the GDP per capita statistics, but I'm sure you're correct that the picture is more complex than this writer would have us believe. It seems, however, that he meant the article as a corrective to the "received wisdom" in Norway and in Europe generally.

April 20, 2005 7:04 PM  
Blogger alex said...

I read it as more of a "dispatches from norway" type of deal, but as you are the one who has spent time in a literature program, perhaps I ought to defer to you on matters of reading and interpretation.

Lest I be guilty of presenting a one-sided picture - there were plenty of arguments I did not mention - the links and comments on this post provide many arguments, statistics, and statistical fallacies related to the debate.

April 20, 2005 10:51 PM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

It's been my experience that people who have spent time in a literature program are the LAST you should defer to in matters of reading and interpretation -- and I include myself in that caveat.

Thanks for the link -- I'll look at it now.

April 20, 2005 11:17 PM  
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