Bernie Sanders Is (Sort of) Right about Europe Being a Role Model for the United States

Reblogging for future reference. Be sure to read to the end (not the video, but the parts about the pro-market European countries).

International Liberty

Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s pseudo-socialist senator, thinks that America can learn from Europe.

He’s right.

But he’s also wrong. That’s because he thinks that Europe is a role model to emulate rather than a warning signal of mistakes to avoid. Needless to say, that’s borderline crazy.

Heck, even President Obama has pointed out that the United States out-performs our European counterparts.

In his Washington Post column, Robert Samuelson warns that it would be a mistake to follow the European model of more taxes and additional regulation. He starts with (what should be) an obvious point about businesses responding to incentives.

We can learn from Europe about job creation, but many Americans may reject the underlying lesson. It is: If you price labor too high — pay workers more than they produce — businesses will slow or stop hiring.

He then points out that bad incentives in Europe are leading to…

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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1 Response to Bernie Sanders Is (Sort of) Right about Europe Being a Role Model for the United States

  1. I’m always a little curious about the use of economic growth (I’m assuming the author is using GDP) as a benchmark for a country’s health. But measures like GDP don’t actually tell you very much. A country can have a high GDP if the majority of people are experiencing economic prosperity, or it can have a high GDP if a very small minority is experiencing obscenely high economic prosperity while everyone else is suffering. The GDP doesn’t indicate which is the case (or where on the continuum).

    I haven’t lived in Europe in so long that I don’t feel comfortable commenting about the situation there, but I do live in Canada, where we have a year’s paid parental leave, several weeks of maternity leave, and a single payer healthcare system. When I compare the way I am able to live with the way that people in a similar economic/social bracket in the States are able to live, the difference is quite pronounced. My family straddles the poverty line for a family of our size in our area, yet we have a fair amount of financial security, and a big part of that is that we don’t have to worry (as much) about a single illness ruining us. And, of course, not needing health insurance through an employer has freed me up to be able to stay home with my son, and to start working on starting my own business now that he’s going to be starting school. That’s a pretty big deal for our family, of course, but it’s also a big deal for the economy at large, since it means that I am not taking up a job that can now go to someone who wants it, and, if things work out with my business, I’ll be able to compete in the marketplace and generate wealth.

    Which brings me to my second issue with the article – the use of unemployment figures. It’s misleading because, again, unemployment figures don’t tell you much. Countries count unemployment differently: some only count people who are actively looking for employment but haven’t found it yet (as opposed to people like me, who dropped out of the workforce intentionally), some count everyone who isn’t working between the ages of majority and retirement, some factor in underemployment (such as people with a PhD working at minimum wage because they haven’t been able to better work, or people who are employed part time but want to work full time). So is the US unemployment rate really that much healthier than the EU’s, or is there a confound? The article doesn’t say.

    The biggest issue I have with privileging economics in these discussions of national health, though, is that it doesn’t explain *why* GDP or employment are good things. Who/what is that economic growth achieving? Who/what is it working for? If families are stressed out and unhappy working long hours and unable to take the time to bond with their babies, what does it matter to them if their country’s GDP is high? If people are forced to work in a traditional job so that they can be insured, instead of being able to take time out to spend with their families or start a business, what does it matter to them that unemployment is low?

    If we assume that people serve the economy, than these measures make sense. But if we start with the assumption that the economy serves the people, then we must look to other measures, like overall happiness, suicide rates, medical health / lifespan / infant and maternal mortality, literacy, child poverty, etc. None of which are ever mentioned in that article, even though they are very relevant to the question – particularly since the US fares so poorly in all of these measures compared to the EU.

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