It depends on what's important to you!
November 18, 2004 5:39 AM   Subscribe

The European Union is the world's largest superpower: of course, militarily the US is still dominates, but this article (Salon day pass required) argues that in terms of economy, personal freedom, the welfare of its citizens and human rights the EU is far and away number one. Via DailyKos.
posted by sic (85 comments total)
 
For those that are simply too busy to view the ads to get a day pass, after clicking on the link paste this into your address bar and you will go directly to the full article.

http://www.salon.com/news/cookie.html
posted by sic at 5:42 AM on November 18, 2004


I forgot to add this link to the full text of the possible European Constitution.
posted by sic at 5:53 AM on November 18, 2004


Cue "Oh yeah!?! America is better!!!" in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...
posted by moonbiter at 6:25 AM on November 18, 2004


I recently attended a talk at the London School of Economics by Javier Solana (ex Sec General of NATO, now on the European Security Commission) about a proposed EU Human Security Force, a division-sized volunteer military-civilian force drawn from all member states with the express purpose of providing security and creating infrastructure in areas of strife - not warfighting (the civilian component would include lawyers, doctors, engineers, policemen, etc). The sole mission would be restoration of order and basic human security. (White paper here)

I'm not convinced they're going to be able to get it pushed through, but it was refreshing to hear people in power discussing it as a serious proposal.

Now try to imagine Donald Rumsfeld announcing the creation of a similar force drawn from America's armed forces.
posted by LondonYank at 6:29 AM on November 18, 2004


This article from the New Yorker compares American and Europeans' average height over time. It argues that "height variations within a population are largely genetic, but height variations between populations are mostly environmental... That’s why the United Nations now uses height to monitor nutrition in developing countries."

"In the First World War, the average American soldier was still two inches taller than the average German. But sometime around 1955 the situation began to reverse. The Germans and other Europeans went on to grow an extra two centimetres a decade..., yet Americans haven’t grown taller in fifty years."

The article attributes this trend to a better standard of living in Europe, and all the crap Americans willingly consume. I don't know... jobs, vacation time, great environment, not to mention policies that support a lot of the issues I actually care about... As an American I definitely cast a jealous eye towards Europe sometimes.
posted by xammerboy at 6:41 AM on November 18, 2004


This is really interesting, but something I partially felt was going to be an issue myself. In some sense, it might be a good thing that the world has competing "superpowers" yet they're competing in different fields. Russia and the U.S. was a problem because it was a direct military superiority conflict. The U.S. and Japan was a problem beacuse of competing economies during the 80's.

With the recent election, I think it's clear we've lost the global culture war, and save for the bold Stem Cell initiative in California, we're at risk of losing the science war over the next generation.

The U.S.'s current isolationism makes rival entities becoming superpowers inevitable. What worries me is that outside of military power, the U.S.'s only major superior resource is just that... it's massive level of resources (steel, lumber, etc.) But since we import more than we export, that kills any advantage we have with it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:43 AM on November 18, 2004


I think it's worth bearing in mind that the countries within the EU are incredibly varied in culture, infrastructure and standard of living. You're going to have a completely different life in Sweden as opposed to Greece, for example.
posted by Summer at 6:52 AM on November 18, 2004


I suspect that if the EU continues to grow in power, it will be a good thing all around. The US tends to be at its best when it is competing with other countries.
posted by unreason at 7:03 AM on November 18, 2004


The same is true of the United States, Summer. You're going to have a completely different life in metropolitan New York as opposed to Wyoming, for example... Non-USians would be well advised not to dismiss this whole "red state / blue state" as mere hyperbole. My experience (as a foreign business traveller, anyway) is that Italy and Spain are a lot more alike than, say, Washington D.C. and Nebraska.
posted by JollyWanker at 7:06 AM on November 18, 2004


By my cherry-picked variables, I can prove that the world's super power is actually Lichtenburg.
posted by Seth at 7:13 AM on November 18, 2004


True, JollyWanker, but I still reckon you'd get a far bigger culture shock as a Swede visiting Greece than as a New Yorkian visiting Wyoming.

Italy and Spain share a lot of culture and history. The same is true of Sweden and Norway, Britain and Ireland etc etc. But as a Brit, I get quite a culture shock visiting rural Spain.
posted by Summer at 7:13 AM on November 18, 2004


> Italy and Spain are a lot more alike than, say, Washington D.C and Nebraska

Except that people from DC and people from Nebraska can actually understand each other. Most people from Spain can't communicate with most people from Italy except via hand gestures. Weird, huh?
posted by Turtle at 7:16 AM on November 18, 2004


Also from Daily KOS:

Bush Team Thinking of Eliminating Deduction for Health Insurance for Corporations

The Bush administration is eyeing an overhaul of the tax code that would drastically cut, if not eliminate, taxes on savings and investment...To pay for [it], the administration is considering eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns and scrapping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, the advisers said.

Oh crap, indeed.
posted by fungible at 7:23 AM on November 18, 2004


By my cherry-picked variables, I can prove that the world's super power is actually Lichtenburg.

I gotta say, the cleverness in the way you suggested this analysis is faulty without actually suggesting or providing any insight or meaningful opinion whatoever was very well-done.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:25 AM on November 18, 2004


But how ofen do people from Spain and Italy communicate with each other compared to people from DC and Nebraska?
posted by goneill at 7:25 AM on November 18, 2004


Except that people from DC and people from Nebraska can actually understand each other. Most people from Spain can't communicate with most people from Italy except via hand gestures. Weird, huh?

What are you talking about? I can't even unnerstan' them dam' yankees that live North of the Mason Dixon line!

i'll see ya'll later, fixin to go git me a Coke from the soda pop machine
posted by Hands of Manos at 7:29 AM on November 18, 2004


By my cherry-picked variables, I can prove that the world's super power is actually Lichtenburg.

If you have to combine the resources of Luxemburg and Lichtenstein to get some amalgam Superpower, then you're cheating.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:29 AM on November 18, 2004


You're going to have a completely different life in Sweden as opposed to Greece, for example.

And in terms of standard living, there are many counties and regions in some of the vast tracts of the US where median income is below even that of some of the poorest of the Eastern European countries, even the ones not yet integrated within the EU. The superpowers are regionalized and hybridized down to the smallest scale.

And as for the communication issue, a common language is possibly over-rated. People from different cultures and regions can appear to use the same words but their weltanschauung is different. They use the same words but they are laddered to different substructural concepts. Therefore while they feel they are communicating successfully, in fact they are merely broadcasting.

This is particularly evident in the current political discourse in the US between progressives and regressives.

Given Ireland's proxmity to the English-speaking part of the UK, and its comparatively recent adoption of a version of English as the common tongue, it was perhaps inevitable that it was an Irish person, George Bernard Shaw, who noted the (often mis-attributed and now-hackneyed) "England and America are two countries divided by a common language".

When you have visible language difference you work hard to overcome them. That's why the EU puts such emphasis on translation, and on understanding. Constitutions are analyzed in many different languages to tease out the syntactic and semantic variations implicit and explicit. People have been arguing over the variation in the shades of meaning between the Irish-language and English-language versions of the Republic of Ireland's consitution for decades.

In the US, I think too many people from far-distant geographic and political worlds take it for granted that just because they are using a roughly similar English-derived grammar and lexicon that they are really communicating well.
posted by meehawl at 7:37 AM on November 18, 2004


Hah. Good one Mayor. You got me.

And XQWhatever... how do you expect one to deconstruct this piece when it is based on the writers opinion? He has already concluded they are morally superior, and since that is a matter of subjectiveness, how does one refute it in any meaningful way?
posted by Seth at 7:38 AM on November 18, 2004


The contact between the citizens in different EU countries is growing very very fast. Iniciatives like the Socrates-Erasmus higher education program are making it more and more likely for students to study "abroad" within the EU. At the university here in my tiny corner of Spain we have many Brits, Germans, Italians, French, etc. studying alongside the Spanish kids, in Spanish. It's very cool. And of course many Spanish students are flocking to Germany and the Netherlands, among other countries, to study. This opportunity to live and study in other countries is helping young people to overcome their ignorance about the neighboring cultures and helping to create a new more universal experience that tends to bond generations. One of the positives of the EU is that it is bringing people together; the cultural divides are narrowing. Although I'm not completely sold on the idea, it seams that the cultural divide within the US is actually widening.

This is not unimportant.
posted by sic at 7:39 AM on November 18, 2004


Daily Pos = Piece of S----.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:47 AM on November 18, 2004


Silly rabbit, all the world's just a cultural colony of the US.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:50 AM on November 18, 2004


xammerboy, Germans may be growing taller than Americans, but does that really make 'em bigger? The U.S.'s annual military budget (FY04) is $466 billion while Germany's is a miniscule $39 billion. So size queens, if girth counts, it depends on what we are measuring.

(Tongue-in-cheek aside, I agree with you regarding the new -- as I'll call it -- Euro-envy: I'm a blue stater/European-American who finds I am feeling smaller, and also more European than American, every day...)
posted by jellybuzz at 7:51 AM on November 18, 2004


Ireland Leads World for Quality of Life according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.
posted by Ljubljana at 7:55 AM on November 18, 2004


KarisKaramus should watch his language (and his spelling).
posted by lagado at 7:57 AM on November 18, 2004


If we are going to cast this in a Europe-versus-U.S. framework (as the Salon article does) there is a big variable missing here--demography. The population of Europe is leveling out or falling, while that of the U.S. continues to grow. Add the much greater productivity of American workers and it is hard to see how any pan-European whatever can win the alleged "global conflict for moral and economic supremacy." Here is an Economist article about the trend.

On the other hand, how many here even feel there is such a conflict between the U.S. and Europe?
posted by LarryC at 7:58 AM on November 18, 2004


Italy and Spain are a lot more alike than, say,

not really, no. with the possible exception of an unhealthy obsession with soccer, no. but then, the Chinese are soccer-mad, too. so we're all lin ked. or maybe not -- whenever I'm in Beijing I can never find any good bullfights.
posted by matteo at 7:59 AM on November 18, 2004


Larry C, guess you haven't finished the article yet ;) Page 4 speaks of your issue and other EU problems:

For all the grandeur of its new vision, Europe still has relatively high unemployment and relatively sluggish economic growth. The continent faces major structural problems, most notably a declining birth rate and a long-standing hostility to immigration, which has led to a population that is aging much faster than America's. While the European welfare state is certain to remain generous by American standards, significant renegotiation of rights and benefits will be necessary unless this demographic time bomb can somehow be defused.

And it also has something to say about the productivity issue on page 3:

Much of American "productivity," Rifkin suggests, is accounted for by economic activity that might be better described as wasteful: military spending; the endlessly expanding police and prison bureaucracies; the spiraling cost of healthcare; suburban sprawl; the fast-food industry and its inevitable corollary, the weight-loss craze. Meaningful comparisons of living standards, he says, consistently favor the Europeans. In France, for instance, the work week is 35 hours and most employees take 10 to 12 weeks off every year, factors that clearly depress GDP. Yet it takes a John Locke heart of stone to say that France is worse off as a nation for all that time people spend in the countryside downing du vin rouge et du Camembert with friends and family.

Read the article, it's interesting, if not necessarily right...
posted by sic at 8:07 AM on November 18, 2004


That rebuttal of productivity doesn't seem very solid. I mean, essentially what he's saying is "Yeah, I know that they seem to have more productivity, but they don't, if you consider that most of their productivity is spent on stuff that I personally don't like."
posted by unreason at 8:13 AM on November 18, 2004


Also, the declining birth rate combined with the growing immigration begs the question as to whether tomorrow's Europe will have anything in common with today's. You may see quite a culture change. And when you consider that a large portion of European immigration is from conservative cultures, you have to wonder whether Europe is going to continue to have inclusive, socially liberal values.
posted by unreason at 8:15 AM on November 18, 2004


On the other hand, how many here even feel there is such a conflict between the U.S. and Europe?

The fact that the US and Europe comprise much of the first world is a more important point than any rivalry they may have. When push comes to shove the rich will act with one mind.
posted by Summer at 8:16 AM on November 18, 2004


The U.S.'s annual military budget (FY04) is $466 billion while Germany's is a miniscule $39 billion

It's a good idea to take into account the fact that the US population is over 6 times larger than Germany's population, so per person, the US spends $1330 of your hard earned dollars on the military, whereas they only spend $433 per person in Germany.
posted by BigCalm at 8:31 AM on November 18, 2004


The population of Europe is leveling out or falling, while that of the U.S. continues to grow. Add the much greater productivity of American workers and it is hard to see how any pan-European whatever can win the alleged "global conflict for moral and economic supremacy."

It is in interesting aspect of recent human migrations that having generally eliminated or displaced the aboriginal inhabitants within its territory, the population of the US has been literally exploding within its conquered territories with extreme vigour. Ecologists such as Alfred Crosby long ago remarked that US population growth has consistently exceeded European population growth for centuries. Indeed, during the early 18th and early 19th centuries, before the great city plagues became endemic within the US, social scientists of that era marvelled at the almost uncanny fecundity of US females.

Anyway, population growth is all well and dandy and the US is currently growing at the same rate or more than many of the developing nations that regularly get castigated for failing to manage their growth.

However, such breakneck growth does not come without a price and all countries face a limit to their carrying capacity. Much of the interior and south of the US is at best marginal land and its inhabitation is only made possible through massive capital inflows from the north east and coastal areas. It's an open question as to how long these outflows will be maintained given the current developing political dynamic. More critically, many of the marginal lands are also extremely arid and only sustained through ongoing, accelerating aquifer depletion.

The question of how the US will economically sustain its vast and growing population in marginal lands without aquifer supplies has yet to be satisfactorily addressed. I note that most of the current EU territory consists of regions of relatively high rainfall or close proximity to such regions and so agriculture there does not depend on ice-age-derived subterranean water sources to anything like the same degree.

It should also be noted that the EU does not rely simply simply on organic growth from within. It continues to expand its territory through anschluss or acquisiton. This method of growth compares with the US method of importing labour through immigration. oth have their merits and demerits for an economy.
posted by meehawl at 8:32 AM on November 18, 2004


Much of the interior and south of the US is at best marginal land and its inhabitation is only made possible through massive capital inflows from the north east and coastal areas. It's an open question as to how long these outflows will be maintained given the current developing political dynamic.
posted by meehawl at 10:32 AM CST on November 18


When people make comments like this, it is time for people to step away from the insular and hyper world of internet politics, and go out and experience a little reality tog get perspective.
posted by Seth at 8:36 AM on November 18, 2004


Sic, I did RTFA, I swear on the mathowie. And I am sympathetic to the argument that Europeans enjoy a better quality of life in many of the ways that matter to me. There is a lot we Americans could and hopefully will learn from Europe. But the author is too quick to gloss over the immensity of the coming demographic divide.

Some key points from the Economist: "America's fertility rate is rising. Europe's is falling. America's immigration outstrips Europe's and its immigrant population is reproducing faster than native-born Americans. America's population will soon be getting younger. Europe's is ageing... By 2040, and possibly earlier, America will overtake Europe in population and will come to look remarkably (and, in many ways, worryingly) different from the Old World."

And again, I think the article premise that "the United States finds itself in a new cold war, one being fought simultaneously on economic, political and cultural fronts" is hyperbolic. If we really want to look down the road--way down the road--to find the next global rival to the U.S., isn't it more likely to be China or India, with growing economies and populations?
posted by LarryC at 8:39 AM on November 18, 2004


Europe is, essentially dying. Enjoy the comfy life while it lasts...
posted by ParisParamus at 8:45 AM on November 18, 2004


Studies have shown that 99% of American high school students can't find Lichtenburg on a map.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:45 AM on November 18, 2004


It should also be noted that the EU does not rely simply simply on organic growth from within. It continues to expand its territory through anschluss or acquisiton.

I've been recently wondering how the addition of the 10 eastern european countries will effect this widely publicized demographic issue. It seems to me that intra-EU immigration, East to West may allieviate many demographic problems in the western european countries. I also have to believe that eventually the immigration laws eventually will allow for a more open migration flow. Here in Spain, one of the frontlines of the immigration pheonomenon, one can already see how cities like Madrid and Barcelona have changed their complexiones in the past decade, not to mention the agricultural regions that are dependent on immigrant labor.

On preview: Larry C.: just kiddin about the article, your point point is valid regardless, but demographics are a tricky thing to forecast because so many factors can change between now and 2040 as to make an extrapolation somewhat pointless. The article is at times hyberbolic, although it's tough to ignore the strained and sometimes outright hostile relations betwen the US and the EU in the past 4 years.
posted by sic at 8:49 AM on November 18, 2004


as a Brit, I get quite a culture shock visiting rural Spain.

I'd also like to add that, as an Irish person, driving across the US I've encountered some extreme culture shock in some regions of Nevada, Wyoming, etc probably just as severe than I did in, say, rural Catalonia or Morocco. Or Belize fo rthat matter. The aspects of poverty and peonage that I saw in some of the poorest regions of Nevada and some of the native american concentration camps, sorry, reservations, were very similar to those I saw in rural Belize. There were more strip malls, of course. Then you drive an hour and hit Vegas, which in its way probably as alien a concept as, say, the Vatican City. Then you drive some more and hit Mormon Land, where after some degree of thought I finally realised that in its rejection of the triune concept of the Christian God and the filioque clause, its pseudo-Docetism, and its emphasis on a later revelation, Mormonism is very closely related to Islam as a hybridized descendent religion of Judeo-Christianity.

I am perhaps getting off-topic, but I think my point is that the US is far more complex and differentiated than the rather homogenized representations promulgated by media. It's easy to see that someone from Spain probably looks and sounds different than someone from, say, Sweden, but quantifying that difference is difficult. And then relating that difference to similar observations about people from different USian cultures will also present challenges, especially since lots of USians *seem* to be so similar, at least in their languages, their patterns of consumption, their religosity, and their modes of production.
posted by meehawl at 8:51 AM on November 18, 2004


When people make comments like this, it is time for people to step away from the insular and hyper world of internet politics, and go out and experience a little reality tog get perspective.

I've seen these marginal lands for myself. I've also seen the formerly fertile and now arid regions of North Africa that during the height of the Roman Era 2000 years ago were the breadbasket and economic engines of Europe. Their ecological similarities are startling.
posted by meehawl at 8:53 AM on November 18, 2004


I have a question:

From the article, it seems as though it's the younger Europeans who are really getting out there and making things (like anti-Dubyaism) happen. Our young Americans seem to mostly be anti-dubya as well. However, young Americans are overshadowed by a dominate and much larger set - the baby boomers. Did Europe experience a similar phenomenon to our baby boom? If not, is a lot of this problem explained simply by demographics?

I had not considered this before this article.
posted by Yellowbeard at 8:59 AM on November 18, 2004


Gosh darn it. The EU isn't a superpower any more than NAFTA is. Whilst we have an (IMHO unfortunate) corpus of shared law we have no shared culture or language. Any power that the EU has is only borrowed power from its component states, not power in its own right, and this is indeed the way it should be. People across the EU signed up to a trade body, not a superpower, no matter how much certain French and German politicians yearn for the days of empire...

/rant
posted by prentiz at 9:02 AM on November 18, 2004


"In the First World War, the average American soldier was still two inches taller than the average German. But sometime around 1955 the situation began to reverse. The Germans and other Europeans went on to grow an extra two centimetres a decade..., yet Americans haven’t grown taller in fifty years."

Presumably, there is some ceiling to the amount of growth that can be affected by diet and environment, so doesn't it make sense that Germans would be catching up to Americans as their standard of living catches up to ours? Having lived in Germany for a few years, I think it's safe to say that it's almost there, although I suspect that the inclusion of East Germany has pushed back their progress a bit.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:05 AM on November 18, 2004


Europe is, essentially dying. Enjoy the comfy life while it lasts...

The World is, essentially dying. We've fucked it up. What's your point? I reckon we all enjoy the comfy life while it lasts. Our Grandkids will hate us.
posted by twistedonion at 9:11 AM on November 18, 2004


What's your point?

If you don't respond to the rather trite and predictable ejaculations of the ParamusBot, eventually it will tire of trolling and fade away. Or be rebooted. Either way it's a rather sad implementation of a wannabe Turing-capable intelligence and not really worth engaging with.
posted by meehawl at 9:16 AM on November 18, 2004


See also "Europe's Alternative Work Time".

The sort of difference between urban and rural areas in the US mentioned above can be found of course everywhere, including inside each EU country... In the EU intra-national differences pile up on top of inter-national differences.

BTW the US is as inhomogeneous as other countries... Certainly the differences between the Mediterranean coast of France and Alsace are greater than that between Wisconsin and Arizona as far as culture (and to an extent language) is concerned... And I won't even start about Basques, Northern Ireland and Corsica...

People across the EU signed up to a trade body, not a superpower
Prentiz, no disrespect, but when did people across the EU hire you as their spokesperson? To me (and I suspect quite a few others) the European project will remain meaningful only as long as some sort of political unification is still on the cards.

As for demographics... It's probably a bad idea to extrapolate from the current Baby Bust to 40 years in the future... Things change...
Here in Greece which was (and still is) among the hardest hit by the demographic transition, the fertility index rose slightly in the past two years (it reached 1.4 from 1.23 apparently). What's more interesting is that, if you include non-citizen (legal immigrant) birth rates, the fertility index is at 2.2 which is slightly more than the 2.1 required to sustain a fixed population...
posted by talos at 9:33 AM on November 18, 2004


I love how Seth complains about how something has no data or science behind it and uses his own first-hand opinion, with no supporting evidence to supposedly to dispute it. I laughed soooooo hard.

Examples of how morally inferior the United States is can be found everywhere, but especially in the actions of our morally bancrupt president who is conducting an illegal premeditated war in order to provide no-bid sweetheart business deals for friends and other wealthy contributors.

The proof is right on the surface, but is impossible to see with blinders on.
posted by terrapin at 9:34 AM on November 18, 2004


For those who want to dig a little deeper, there's also 40 minutes interview of T.R. Reid here (RealAudio), one of the authors cited in the Salon article (via Viewropa).
One thing I find slightly disturbing in the original article is the way the author insists on framing the EU-US relationship as a "war". I understand it's an easy way to get the message through but I still wish there were a better paradigm to describe the situation. Indeed, a major point of Reid's interview is his description of both systems as being extremely interdependent.
Also, a point that the Salon article seems to miss is the incredible unifying power of EU regulations (and Reid says a couple of interesting things about the way the EU wields this power).
posted by elgilito at 10:20 AM on November 18, 2004


That rebuttal of productivity doesn't seem very solid. I mean, essentially what he's saying is "Yeah, I know that they seem to have more productivity, but they don't, if you consider that most of their productivity is spent on stuff that I personally don't like."

Actually, no. It's a kind of 21st-century Keynesianism, ironically enough. Keynes's idea of pump-priming, resolved to its most vulgar, entails paying one group of people to dig a hole during the day, and another group of people to fill it in during the night.

There's certainly an aspect of that to, say, the fast-food industry and its diet industry. (Or, more controversially, the defense industry and its counterparts: make expensive things with which to blow stuff up, then employ people to rebuild what's left.) Which is all good if you want to get a depressed economy jump-started, but not particularly good for long-term development on the macro level. As Keynes pointed out, such self-negating aspects of the economy are only useful when money can't be spent more productively.

The article itself is very American, in that it overgeneralises in that 'if it's Tuesday, it must be Belgium' bus-tour-of-Europe style. But the broad point is valid: and EU expansion, especially to more 'traditionally' Catholic countries and, hopefully, to Turkey at some point, will make all the crowing about birth rates look very silly indeed.

But what's significant isn't what the EU can actively achieve as an institution, but what it makes possible for individuals. Even with language and cultural barriers, it's now possible to travel and work freely from Finisterre to Vilnius. For less than the price of a cab ride home from central London, you can jump on a RyanAir flight at Stansted and get off in some remote location 50 miles from a big European city (but you get the point). The EU enables synergies. Who'd have imagined, ten years back, that Ireland would be the computer hardware capital of Europe? Not me. But there y'are. Sick of the Northern Line, and fancy trying to make it in Helsinki or Bratislava? Well, you can have a go. Europe is much more 'there' than 'elsewhere' nowadays.

Did Europe experience a similar phenomenon to our baby boom? If not, is a lot of this problem explained simply by demographics?

Not in the same way. Remember that rebuilding (and rationing) continued in Europe right through the 50s. The population's aging, but in different ways (and many people who went from school to factories haven't made it to retirement age).

In passing, has the ParaBot ever produced anything other than clichés? A link, perchance?
posted by riviera at 10:21 AM on November 18, 2004


Did Europe experience a similar phenomenon to our baby boom?

well, yellowbeard, in Europe there weren't too many adults left after WW2 to produce much of a baby boom, it was more like a "pop" than a boom.

it's the 30 000 000 dead adults that has left the larger legacy over here.
posted by three blind mice at 10:24 AM on November 18, 2004


Riviera! Your last comment was just absolutely spot on and to the point and I thank you for that.

I have to say that RyanAir flights, as cheap as they are, are still a pain in the arse when you arrive in an airport that is 150 kilometers from the city you actually want to visit :)
posted by Sijeka at 10:43 AM on November 18, 2004


Isn't this whole argument somewhat pointless? There's room for both the US and Europe in the world economy. It's improbable that the US and the EU will ever actually make war against each other. There's no real reason that the two will ever be in a serious confrontation with the other. Isn't this sort of chest beating ultimately meaningless? There's no win condition here, where the best power will receive a shiny gold star for good performance. If both countries are doing ok, and both are happy with the way they themselves do things, is there any real reason to fret about which one is the best, other that irrational jealousy?
posted by unreason at 10:49 AM on November 18, 2004


unreason - the reason we acknowledge progress of this nature and label it as "better" is b/c we are no longer living in a world where what we do in the US only impacts the US. we live in a world where the lifestyles of people on one side of the globe can have a huge impact on the lives of people on the other side and eventually back on ourselves. this might not matter to some people but a global effort to build a more perfect nation is ultimately an effort to prolong our own existence.
posted by ggggarret at 11:11 AM on November 18, 2004


I think the argument is not who can kick who's ass, but more the very philosophical basis of Europe and the US. In essence it is all about values. There are certain rights, privileges and responsibilities that we take for granted in developed societies. The real question is how you deal with certain issues like individual rights, free market values, justice, freedom of expression and minorities.

These articles explore the different ways of dealing with these issues. It depends what you think is important.

I don't see the EU as a super power that rivals the US, but as another idea for political grouping. EU isn't a country or even a federation, it is some other form of association. It is something very new and for that reason very exciting.
posted by jlbartosa at 11:12 AM on November 18, 2004


I think the EU is great. However, "superpower" is generally used to refer to a) military might, and b) economic impact, not to a wonderful quality of life/human rights record/fantastic television song contest/all the other things that make Europe great.

I would say that, in the "superpower" sweepstakes, the results are:

#1 -- US
#2 (with a bullet) -- China
#3 -- EU

and I don't see the EU moving out of #3, ever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:16 AM on November 18, 2004


I tend to see EU as a source of inspiration of a politically 'better' world with values that actually have to deal with society and humanity and how we want people to be treated, as opposed to money, capitalism, and personal gain.

That being said, let's not kid ourselves, Europe for the most part is based on money and a capitalist system (the monetary side of Europe, or Eco Europe), and I don't think we talk about cultural exchanges and tolerance enough (even if things might change with the Constitution).

But sometimes I look at what Europe has become in the past 60 years and I can;t believe that we 'actually made it'.

I remember being a pupil in class and our teachers would tell us things like 'You are so lucky to be part of the generation that will actually be able to see the European dream becoming true, don't you realise it?'.

Now I do.
posted by Sijeka at 11:20 AM on November 18, 2004


It's a good idea to take into account the fact that the US population is over 6 times larger than Germany's population, ...

Uh, not to pick nits but no, it's not. It's more like 3.5 times that of Germany. So you'll need to almost double your numbers.

Population of Germany: 82,424,609 (July 2004 est.)
Population of the US: 293,027,571 (July 2004 est.)

There's room for both the US and Europe in the world economy. It's improbable that the US and the EU will ever actually make war against each other. There's no real reason that the two will ever be in a serious confrontation with the other.

Of course there is, and it's the oldest reason for war in human history: competition for resources.

I find the article framing the issue as a "New Cold War" a bit stupid, but the fact is that the EU and the US are going to compete with each other in a variety of spheres. Whether this remains a friendly competition or one that turns aggressive depends on the a lot of factors. Let's hope that it remains friendly, because as weak as the EU is militarily, it's stronger than Iraq ever was.
posted by moonbiter at 11:28 AM on November 18, 2004


Daily Pos = Piece of S----.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:47 AM PST on November 18


Wow. You ARE a clever monkey.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:29 AM on November 18, 2004


On a selfish level, I hope Europe doesn't change, because I like the way it feels to go there. But more objectively, Europe is as prosperous as it is because of the infusions of creativity, culture and entrepreneurship which come from the US.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:38 AM on November 18, 2004


Let's hope that it remains friendly, because as weak as the EU is militarily, it's stronger than Iraq ever was.

I think I used this example before, but your invocation of Germany/US statistics prompts me to revisit it. During the 20-year lull between conflict phases of the Great European Civil War, Germany became one of the weakest (military-wise) countries in the world. By 1932 its forces amounted to little more than a civil guard. Within a decade it had re-armed and was undoubtedly the strongest single military power in the world. It took the combined resources of the British Empire, the Soviet Union, and the United States to defeat it in a war of economic attrition that lasted over half a decade.

I think the lesson is that any one of the medium-sized industrialised nations could, if it chose, become a formidable and aggressive military power. That they have chosen not to, and to act in concert, is the reason many of us enjoy a life of relative calm generally unknown to most people throughout history.

Since the 1950s or so the US, China, and (before its demise) the Soviet Union have been generally careful only to pick fights with military powers that were almost insignificant in relation to them. Iraq is a classic example. Put the country under seige and aerial bombardment for over a decade, comprehensively destroy its economic and military infrastructure, then mop it up and claim "Mission Accomplished". We all know how that one worked out.

The great "superpowers" of today have got to where they are primarily by avoiding open conflict with each other, or with anyone even remotely threatening. That's not "superpower", that's "balance of power", and it reminds me of the Concert of Europe of old. During that time and because of the general avoidance of mass conflict, the strength of certain jingoistic militaristic Empires was popularly emphasized and endlessly recycled in the popular press.

However, when general war finally began breaking out in Europe, the shallow pretensions of some of the Empires (the British Empire and the Ottoman Empire especially) was exposed. The Crimean War was a wake up call, especially for the "minor" power of Germany.
posted by meehawl at 11:42 AM on November 18, 2004


Europe is only as good as it is because PP occasionally comes to visit. Why we can almost feel the IQ rising slightly every time he leaves.
posted by longbaugh at 11:56 AM on November 18, 2004


...we have no shared culture...

posted by prentiz at 9:02 AM PST on November 18



Are you serious? We have no shared culture?
posted by Lleyam at 12:02 PM on November 18, 2004


Thankfully, longbaugh, with the Internet, that NEVER has to happen. I AM ALWAYS IN YOUR DEN. MU HA HA HA.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:02 PM on November 18, 2004


As a European, here's my take on this: screw superpowers. We've just had 45 years of the cold war between the two superpower blocks - the West vs the Warsaw pact. I'm not looking forward to a future dominated by a couple of new superpowers (say the US, EU, China) and the rivality between them. We deserve something better. Among some of the people who support the EU project there's a lot of envy against the USA ("we're gonna show the Yanks"), but if we can't find any better raison d'être for EU than competing with the US for superpower status, we should just give up.
posted by Termite at 12:30 PM on November 18, 2004


Termite, what you just said is brilliant and I couldn't agree more.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:07 PM on November 18, 2004


we do have a better raison d'etre though. Promoting debates and peace keeping. Cultural exchanges. Stability. Helping developping countries.

That's not nothing.
posted by Sijeka at 1:32 PM on November 18, 2004


"superpower" is generally used to refer to a) military might,

where does Al Qaeda stand in your little sweepstakes then?
Before God knows Superpower no. 1 of your Top 3 is fighting a very expensive war against Al Qaeda, not against China (nor against Europe, until President Jebby attacks France in 2009). and the jury's still out on whether the US is winning or not. following your method, Al Qaeda is a Superpower, too.

nonlinear war is a bitch, I know. but still, 1950 categories don't help much today
posted by matteo at 1:39 PM on November 18, 2004


"Before God knows" should read "Because God knows"

my bad
posted by matteo at 1:44 PM on November 18, 2004


Thanks, matteo, for your usual thoughtful insight.

And, no, terrorists (or "freedom fighters") cannot be superpowers.

Superpowers traditionally don't do very well against terrorists/freedom fighters, anyway--viz. British Empire vs. Colonists, British Empire vs. Boxer Rebellion, British Empire vs. Stern Gang, US vs. Viet Cong, Soviet Union vs. Chechnyans, etc., etc.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:50 PM on November 18, 2004


Does anyone in Europe need an Anthropologist? I have other talents. My fiance is an Architect.... Anyone?

/rats. sinking ships. you know how it is...
posted by Yellowbeard at 2:01 PM on November 18, 2004


Europe has some good things going for it, but you cannot long combine 37 hour work weeks less 6 week vacations, full-pension retirements at 62, and a 1.1 fertility rate. The math just doesn't pencil.

My personal view is that Europe ought to open itself to mass immigration from China and India, to the combined extent of U.S. immigration from those countries and from Mexico. It'll be a counterbalance to the demographic death spiral in the white population and to the cultural confrontation implicit in the increasing Muslim population.
posted by MattD at 2:14 PM on November 18, 2004


you cannot long combine 37 hour work weeks less 6 week vacations, full-pension retirements at 62, and a 1.1 fertility rate.

What seems natural and customary in one era can seem positively absurd in another. I'm sure that during the long battle between capital and labour in the 19th century (when the masses were agitating to take advantage of the benefits of mass industrialization and the harnessing of fossil fuels) there were naysayers who said:

"You cannot long combine less than 12-hour days, six days a week, less 1 week of indolent, paid-for leisure, plus paid retirements and a fertility rate below 4.0. Our mills demand more workers!"

There were probably long articles in the broadsheets of the day from Economists and Men Of Science pointing out the absurdity of creating a leisure economy, and the wastefulness of not working labour to the maximum extent. Surely any country that enacted such lunatic regulations would be doomed to poverty and desolation! And as for the idea that children over 6 be *not* inducted into labour? Why the very thought reeks of Fabianism dammit!
posted by meehawl at 2:32 PM on November 18, 2004


35 hours and 6 weeks holidays work fine in france and actually -ohmygod- created jobs.

the right wing gvt tried to say it was not true.

but it is.
posted by Sijeka at 2:35 PM on November 18, 2004


Hey, we know all this. That's why we're farting out the CO2 as fast as we can, to melt the poles and glaciers, shut down the gulf stream that warms Europe, drown the Low Countries and push their energy costs to unthinkable levels. And what do we lose in the process? Mainly southern Florida. Y'know, where the blue counties are. It's win-win, I tell you!
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:03 PM on November 18, 2004


what do we lose in the process? Mainly southern Florida. Y'know, where the blue counties are.

He's got a point:

Using computer models, scientists have created a series of maps that show areas susceptible to rises in sea level. The above map shows that a 6-meter (20-foot) rise would swamp Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and the entire Florida coastline, in addition to parts of Orlando and other inland areas.
posted by meehawl at 3:14 PM on November 18, 2004


35 hours and 6 weeks holidays work fine in france and actually -ohmygod- created jobs.
the right wing gvt tried to say it was not true.
but it is.


As counterintuitive, unsupported assertions go, that's damn fine.
posted by trharlan at 3:42 PM on November 18, 2004


http://hussonet.free.fr/rttaco.pdf

first line is, translated, 'between 1997 and 2001, 1.7 millions jobs were created.'

you're welcome.
posted by Sijeka at 4:09 PM on November 18, 2004


US vs. Viet Cong, Soviet Union vs. Chechnyans

apples, meet orangians


Thanks, matteo, for your usual thoughtful insight.

you're so mean to me

posted by matteo at 4:36 PM on November 18, 2004


Lordy, I wish I had the right to reside and work in the EU. I spent a couple of years there roaming around being a drunken polyglot scribbler in my youth, and I miss it so. Any Yurps out there want to marry me (er... and my wife)?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:13 PM on November 18, 2004


Just as an aside, people might be interested to know that one of the recent additions to the New Europe - Latvia - not only has the world's first Green Prime Minister, but also a female President...
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:29 PM on November 18, 2004


I've worked in Europe and North America. My observations aren't exactly scientific, but Europeans seem to get as much done as North Americans in a year, they just press more into their work days. Hell, if I had better flex time and permission not to answer my phone before 10 am, I could perform my 40hr/wk job in about 25-30hrs.

As a pretty happy North American, I find this whole-- "Europe's a living graveyard" a joke. There's a lot more good science in the U.K. than there is many red states. I'd bet that Ireland has a much better future than Florida.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:37 PM on November 18, 2004


Not only that, I think the entire argument that "productivity is the measure of all things" is myopic. There are many measures of success in life, and to describe how successful a people and a nation are based solely on their GDP is, to my mind, foolish.

I would much rather be in second place productivity-wise and have 12 weeks of vacation a year, than be in first place and have (if I'm lucky) 2. We are not worker ants, people.
posted by moonbiter at 10:46 PM on November 18, 2004


Any Yurps out there want to marry me (er... and my wife)?

If you like Spain, me and my wife might consider it. What's the dowry like?
posted by sic at 10:59 PM on November 18, 2004


Just as an aside, people might be interested to know that one of the recent additions to the New Europe - Latvia - not only has the world's first Green Prime Minister, but also a female President...

I did not know that. Cool! I really should get around to learning who the leaders of the new countries are...

By the way, what do the Europeans here think of the new European Commission? I was happy to see that they dumped the Berlusconi's homophobic Italian from the final list.
posted by sic at 11:07 PM on November 18, 2004


I'd bet that Ireland has a much better future than Florida.

Irish residents in the US are making the exact same bet.
"It's the complete reversal of the American dream," said Adrian Flannelly, chairman of the Irish Radio Network in New York, who has served on an Irish government task force on returnees. The exodus from the city, he said, signals a historic shift in a relationship that is part of the city's backbone, inscribed in the subways and bridges built by Irish immigrant labor in past centuries.

Michael and Catroina Condon, both naturalized American citizens who spent 19 and 11 years in New York, respectively, say Ireland's style of prosperity promises a better life for their children. After the birth of their first baby, they said, they rebelled against the toll of seven-day workweeks to pay rising costs in a sluggish American economy.

"It's longer hours, less money, and a lot of the time you see people working for their wage just to pay their rent, to pay their health insurance," said Ms. Condon, 31, who was a corporate secretary in Manhattan before returning in September to Mullingar, in County Westmeath. Her husband, a carpenter, is starting his own business, and she envisions a wedding-planning enterprise.

The exodus is hard to quantify, but unmistakable, according to observers in the travel agencies, real estate offices, moving companies and pubs that cater to Irish New Yorkers in the Bronx and Queens. Christina McElwaine, a spokeswoman for the Irish Consulate in New York, said the reversal seemed unprecedented in scale.

Some Irish immigrants have always gone back home, of course, and in 2002, after several years of strong economic growth and declining emigration, Ireland's census recorded 26,000 more Irish who returned than left.
(NYTimes story: original link is now pay-to-read, so read the whole thing courtesy of the copyright busting right-wingers at FreeRepublic. The lack of reading comprehension on display in some of the comments is priceless.)
posted by riviera at 11:33 AM on November 19, 2004


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