Written on January 28th, 2015
Written on June 2nd, 2010
THOMAS GEOGHEGAN, a graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law School, is a labor lawyer with Despres, Schwartz and Geoghagen in Chicago. He has been a staff writer and contributing writer to The New Republic, and his work has appeared in many other journals. Geoghagen ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary to succeed Rahm Emanuel in Congress a candidate, and is the author of six books including WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?, THE SECRET LIVES OF CITIZENS, and, most recently, WERE YOU BORN ON THE WRONG CONTINENT?
In his new book, WERE YOU BORN ON THE WRONG CONTINENT?, today's guest makes a strong case that European social democracies - particularly Germany - have some lessons and models that might make life a lot more livable. Not only that, they could help us keep our jobs.
In comparison to the U.S., the Germans have six weeks of federally mandated vacation, free university tuition, nursing care, and childcare. But you've heard the arguments for years about how those wussy Europeans can't compete in a global economy. You've heard that so many times, you might believe it. But like so many things, the media repeats endlessly, it's just not true.
According to Geoghagen, "Since 2003, it's not China but Germany, that colossus of European socialism, that has either led the world in export sales or at least been tied for first. Even as we in the United States fall more deeply into the clutches of our foreign creditors-China foremost among them-Germany has somehow managed to create a high-wage, unionized economy without shipping all its jobs abroad or creating a massive trade deficit, or any trade deficit at all. And even as the Germans outsell the United States, they manage to take six weeks of vacation every year. They're beating us with one hand tied behind their back."
We're hearing a lot about the trouble Europe is in. The debt crisis in Greece, and perhaps Spain, Portugal, and Italy, is threatening the Euro and the European Union. What's really going on? How did it happen? How bad is it? How will they deal with it? And what does it mean for the rest of the world and for the US in particular?
We'll deal with those issues this Sunday, but that's not all. While the bad news of this Euro crisis makes headlines in the US, a quiet and successful revolution taking place in Europe does not. Europe seems to be finding a way to make capitalism and democracy work for people, not just for corporations. I think this is a critical unreported story in terms of its potential impact. Here's just a few things you may not have heard about.
The European Union, 27 member nations with a half billion people, has become the largest, wealthiest trading bloc in the world, producing nearly a third of the world's economy - nearly as large as the U.S. and China combined. Europe has more Fortune 500 companies than either the US, China or Japan.
European nations are rated by the World Health Organization as having the best health care systems in the world. Yet they spend far less than the United States for universal coverage, even as U.S. health care is ranked 37th.
Europe leads in confronting global climate change with renewable energy technologies like solar and wind power, conservation and "green design," creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the process. Consequently, Europe's ecological "footprint" (the amount of the earth's capacity that a population consumes) is about half that of the United States for the same standard of living.