In the meantime, light has been thrown on the numbers Ross Douthat presented in the OpEd Robert's initial post refers to. I find this light fairly typical of how American conservatives approach European Social Democracy nowadays. The numbers seem to becoming from a longish commentary
from John Manzi in National Affairs
From 1980 through today, America's share of global output has been constant at about 21%. Europe's share, meanwhile, has been collapsing in the face of global competition " going from a little less than 40% of global production in the 1970s to about 25% today. Opting for social democracy instead of innovative capitalism, Europe has ceded this share to China (predominantly), India, and the rest of the developing world.
These are the numbers Ross Douthat uncritically picked up.
A more critical blogger by the name of Jonathan Chait e-mailed Manzi
to check what he means by "Europe" and "European Social Democracy". Manzi replied that it includes all
of Europe -- including Eastern Europe, which was governed by communists in the 1970s and 80s. If Manzi's numbers say anything, they say something about the failures of communism, not social democracy. (Which is irrelevant of course, since nobody wants to introduce communism -- not in America, not in Europe.)
Yet there is more: As Jonathan Chait also points out, a nation's share of world GDP reflects its population as well as its productivity. Ross Douhat had conveniently forgotten to mention that America's immigration policies had been a lot more open than Europe's. By doing so, Douhat has overstated American productivity.
And that isn't the end of it, either. After Manzi tried to rebut Chait
, citing the dataset
he used in the process, Paul Krugman gave Manzi's numbers another round of review
. He found that even under Manzi's flawed premises, Europe's numbers don't look quite as bad as he makes them look. Manzi, then, must have made even more mistakes -- Krugman isn't sure which, but guesses that he included Eastern Europe in Europe's GDP of the 70s, but not in Europe's GDP of today.
Paul Krugman wrote:
It’s probably not a deliberate case of data falsification. Instead, like so many conservatives, Manzi just knew that Europe is an economic disaster, glanced at some numbers, thought he saw his assumptions confirmed, and never checked.
And that’s the real moral of the story: the image of Europe the economic failure is so ingrained on the right that it’s never questioned, even though the facts beg to differ.
I couldn't have summed it up better myself.