We're All in the Same Gang


A fascinating piece in Prospect by UCLA professor Peter Baldwin arguing that Europe and the United States have far more in common than most critics assume. For instance, on economic equality:

It is universally observed that America is an economically more unequal society than Europe, with greater stratification between rich and poor. Much of this is true. Income is more disproportionately distributed in the US than in Western Europe. In 1998, for example, the richest 1 per cent of Americans took home 14 per cent of total income, while in Sweden the figure was only about 6 per cent. Wealth concentration is another matter, however. The richest 1 per cent of Americans owned about 21 per cent of all wealth in 2000. Some European nations have higher concentrations than that. In Sweden-despite that nation's egalitarian reputation-the figure is 21 per cent, exactly the same as for the Americans. And if we take account of the massive moving of wealth offshore and off-book permitted by Sweden's tax authorities, the richest 1 per cent of Swedes are proportionately twice as well off as their American peers.

On health care, Baldwin recognizes the problems inherent in the current system, but challenges the European myth of 40 million uninsured Americans dying in the streets:

Yet despite the too large fraction of those who are not insured, Americans are relatively healthy and well-serviced by their healthcare system-to judge by disease survival rates. For diabetes, heart and circulatory disease and strokes, the incidence rates and the number of years lost to sickness are firmly in the middle of the European spectrum. And for the four major cancer killers (colorectal, lung, breast and prostate), all European nations have worse survival rates than the US.

Read the whole thing. And keep an eye out for Baldwin's forthcoming book on the subject, The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe are Alike (Oxford).

Headline reference, for the uninitiated.