We're All in the Same Gang

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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.

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  1. Healthcare mortality rates are always tricky. OTOH, the US tends to engage in more and more accurate preventive screening, which tends to catch dangerous cancers early but also catches benign cancers or suspicious places that end up being nothing but cause worry. That can increase survival rates without really increasing real health. Of course, most national health care proponents like to claim that we’re doing too little preventive medicine, not that we could save by not doing as much screening.

    OTOH, when it comes to infant mortality rates, the US tends to try and save babies born prematurely at an earlier age than in Europe, where they’re considered stillbirth. The US is more often able to rescue the very premature, but they don’t get counted as mortality in European statistics. OTOH, the US has more premature births for various somewhat mysterious reasons. (Health of the mother seems to be one.)

  2. There’s an old statistical “paradox” about hospitals that have better survival rate for any particular disease or severity of disease, but worse overall survival rates. Why? Because all the hardest cases are sent there to the best hospitals, so they have so many of the tough cases that their overall numbers look worse.

    Any mortality comparison, whether it makes the US look good or bad, should be taken very skeptically.

  3. NPR did a segment this morning on Britain’s gross income inequality, and the widening gap between rich and poor.

    “How can that be possibe, in egalitarian, heavily regulated Britain?”, I thought to myself.

  4. Spend some real time around Europeans and you’ll realize how similar we all are. If you magically were suddenly able to speak perfect French you could get dropped into a town in France and feel very culturally comfortable. I don’t think the same could be said, of, say, Japan.

  5. John,

    OTOH
    OTOH
    OTGH

    when there are 3 options.

  6. If you magically were suddenly able to speak perfect French you could get dropped into a town in France and feel very culturally comfortable.

    This is begging for an anti-french joke, but I dare not speak it.

  7. Epi,

    I dont know – when I lived in Switzerland, in may ways it seemed like a US state with too many German speakers. But, I never could adjust to meat dishes ALWAYS having sauces.

  8. s/may/many/

  9. Epi,

    I’m sure it’s the little things that make us different rather than large looming cultural differences that shock us. New Yorkers remind me of the English with their assholery. French people remind me Floridians or Californians with their polite interest in how much everything sucks in a given locale.

  10. “I don’t think the same could be said, of, say, Japan.”

    I disagree. It is possible that before WW2 you might have a point but Japan’s contact with Westerners in general and Americans in particualar since that time has made Japan, for all relavant purposes, Western. I would be very comfortable in Japan if I spoke and read the leanguage. BTW, if you are interested in a good libertarian themed Japanese manga you may want to check this out
    http://www.onemanga.com/Akumetsu/1/00/

  11. Damn, I really wish I could go back and edit my posts, I made 2 glaring spelling errors. Arrgghhh

  12. Any stats beyond 2000?

  13. Japan is still very culturally different from us, even if they’ve changed through contact with us. We and the Europeans share a common cultural heritage extending back 2000+ years from Rome, and even further if you consider Greece.

    As Naga said, we’re so close that the tiny differences seem huge.

  14. “The Narcissism of Minor Differences”

    That book title perfectly captures the H&R community.

  15. Is it because we don’t hate the jooos, libertymike?

  16. “Japan is still very culturally different from us, even if they’ve changed through contact with us. We and the Europeans share a common cultural heritage extending back 2000+ years from Rome, and even further if you consider Greece.”

    I’ll remember that while Watching .HACK/SIGN on my Sony TV and eating Sushi out of my Mr. Bento Box.

  17. Is it because we don’t hate the jooos, libertymike?

    Speak for yourself, big nose.

  18. Warty, Naga’s a spic, not a kike. Get your racism straight, you disgusting mick (just guessing).

  19. DHS Thinks I’m a Terrorist,

    Does libertarian themed Japanese manga have the same amount of pantie shots as non-libertarian themed Japanese manga?

    (Eagerly awaiting the arrival of my Mezzo Forte and Pani Poni Dash DVDs…)

  20. Epi,

    I’m not sure what I am. Mostly Scottish/Irish with some amigo thrown in from one of my grandmothers.

  21. For the record, Episiarch. Connecticut=Massachusetts. You’re a masshole. Sorry buddy.

    *takes off running*

  22. Congratulations on finding more evidence to shore up your most cherished dogmas! God forbid that you would ever have to question one of them for even a minute. Cherry pick, cherry pick and keep the faith pure! Assholes.

  23. Naga-

    Thankfully, Jehovah blessed us with a sense of humor to paper over our narcissistic minor differences.

  24. Mister DNA,

    To be honest I am a recent convert to the Manga religion. But you might like this page.

    http://www.onemanga.com/Akumetsu/1/23/

  25. For the record, Episiarch. Connecticut=Massachusetts. You’re a masshole. Sorry buddy.

    Except I’m in Seattle now, Naga, which I suppose makes me some sort of west coast asshole.

  26. Yeah, I like blowing homeless guys under the overpass. What of it?

  27. DHS,

    Thanks for the link; I’m more of an anime nerd than a manga geek, but that site has some manga versions of shows I like.

  28. Seattle? Well, manwhores and their manginas are in high demand these days. Best of luck to you.

  29. plus Europeans smell funny

  30. “Thanks for the link; I’m more of an anime nerd than a manga geek, but that site has some manga versions of shows I like.”

    No problem, I am just now getting into both myself. I started out by falling in love with the music for the .hack series and bought several of the books and one of the DVD’s. It reminds me of a cross between Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen and Alice in Wonderland. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant – especially the character development. I also like the Ranma 1/2 series.

  31. Episiarch is right: We and the Europeans are quite similar. Much more so than either wants to admit.

    As for Japan, my brief visit there impressed me more with the similarities than the differences, but I agree, they aren’t just an eastern branch of Westernism.

    Episiarch, have you tried Wild Ginger yet? I really liked that place when I was there.

  32. Naga, I prefer “handsome companion”.

  33. I disagree. It is possible that before WW2 you might have a point but Japan’s contact with Westerners in general and Americans in particualar since that time has made Japan, for all relavant purposes, Western. I would be very comfortable in Japan if I spoke and read the leanguage.

    My opinion, cultural differences would be noticed in a lot of places outside the U.S. depending on what one looks for. My mother, being European, I notice the differences. The way I look at it, it’s like what Vincent Vega said in Pulp Fiction…it’s the little differences.

    Japan, on the other hand would be more pronounced. Yes, the Japanese love many things western, but there are still some significant cultural differences in their approach to many things.

    I always say a good early warning sign of cultural differences: Watch another country’s porn.

  34. ProL’s right; Wild Ginger’s spring rolls are the awesome. People are usually surprised at how many really good restaurants are in this city.

  35. ProL, I have been to Quinn’s, Txori, Umi, and others, but not Wild Ginger.

  36. People are usually surprised at how many really good restaurants are in this city.

    One of the best restaurant cities in the country. A little pricey, but still very good, and very progressive.

  37. Paul,

    Pricey indeed. I’m worried about some of my favs unless this freaking recession clears up soon. Blackbird Bistro in West Seattle closed, and so did Typhoon downtown. They had a great happy hour!

  38. I call bullshit, selective selection of facts.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality

    The Gini Coefficient is the most commonly used measure of inequality at the national level, and as you can see as determined by that radical leftist agency the CIA the U.S. is twice that of Sweden, France, etc.

    And I’m almost cringing to see if this guy Baldwin included 2nd world nations from Europe. I’m going to check it right now, please let the guy have at least enough intellectual cred to not have included fucking Serbia and such…Fingers crossed…

  39. Props where its due, he seems to exclude these nations.

    But some he includes, well, I don’t know any fellow liberal who thinks Spain or Greece are fucking models for the U.S.

    In fact, the Greeks are certainly a model only for cavemen. I mean, what have the fucking Greeks ever done for civilization?

  40. MNG,

    Besides NAMBLA?

  41. “The Gini Coefficient is the most commonly used measure of inequality at the national level, and as you can see as determined by that radical leftist agency the CIA the U.S. is twice that of Sweden, France, etc.”

    I can tell that you’re description of the CIA as “radical leftist” is sarcastic – but, may I ask, how do you define “leftist”? Garet Garrett (1878-1954), would indeed have described it as leftist, after all, from his perspective, meddling in the affairs of another country was something a leftist like Woodrow Wilson might do. So, how do you define “leftist”? The CIA does use the power of government to achieve a desired social goal does it not? How is this not “leftist”?

  42. However, normally I post under the nick MNG.

  43. Nice reading comprehension, MNG. The article clearly states that there is larger income disparity in the US, but less wealth disparity. It makes sense that a society with stagnant class structure would have more wealth concentration than a more dynamic society with its cycles of building and losing wealth.

  44. Episiarch,

    I think I see a pattern here. Tell me, are you eating at these places, or just drinking?

    You should try Wild Ginger. It’s been years since I’ve been there, but I really liked it. Also, the last time I was there, some CBS news (local) chick was hitting on me (I was previously accounted for, though this was pre-Mrs. Libertate)–maybe she’s still there.

  45. I knew it! I knew we were as good as the Europeans!

  46. The Gini coefficient is a far from perfect measure of equality. The US has a much more diverse set of regions than most of europe. We have areas like New York vs. places like Nebraska. The gini coefficient of europe as a whole is larger than any of the constituent members for this reason (though its still smaller than that of the overall US) This is a statistical artifact, not a meaningful realization.

  47. “meddling in the affairs of another country was something a leftist like Woodrow Wilson might do”

    Yeah, he must have been a leftist because conservatives have never advocated meddling in the affairs of another country, only Wilson who is the epitome of liberalism.

    “This is a statistical artifact, not a meaningful realization.”

    I’d say it’s a meaningful realization (observation really); that there is a great deal of variation between the poorer parts and richer parts of Europe, just as such variation within the US is an important observation. Given what its supposed to be measuring there’s little surprise or dismay that throwing the wealthier nations (of the EU) in with the poorer nations of the EU would create a score higher than any individual nation of the EU…

  48. “Yeah, he must have been a leftist because conservatives have never advocated meddling in the affairs of another country, only Wilson who is the epitome of liberalism.”

    Nope, he was a Conservative. War is the health of the state.
    http://mises.org/story/2751#4

  49. But you still haven’t told us how you define “leftist”.

  50. Or why the CIA isn’t leftist.

  51. Woodrow Wilson was not only a Leftist, he was also a progressive – and a racist.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wilson-quote-in-birth-of-a-nation.jpg

  52. Why can’t they make a good anal lube that doesn’t taste like shit?

  53. MNG, I believe that the Stimulus Bill has funds directed towards the study and development of better tasting anal lubes.

  54. Nice reading comprehension, MNG. The article clearly states that there is larger income disparity in the US, but less wealth disparity. It makes sense that a society with stagnant class structure would have more wealth concentration than a more dynamic society with its cycles of building and losing wealth.

    When I was a management consultant I worked under an American partner who was black, and a Norwegian project manager. They’d often debate differences between the U.S. and Europe and the partner always insisted he could never have achieved what he did if he had grown up in the more ossified class structure of Europe.

  55. Given what its supposed to be measuring there’s little surprise or dismay that throwing the wealthier nations (of the EU) in with the poorer nations of the EU would create a score higher than any individual nation of the EU…

    Considering the the United States are a union of sovereign states, whats the difference?

    New York is to Mississippi as Germany is to Greece

    Or something.

  56. As an American living in Ireland I’m here to tell you that:
    a) I prefer American income inequality to European class immobility and
    b) cultural differences are a big deal, even between Anglophone countries. People can adapt, but feeling at home? Nuh uh.

  57. “How can that be possibe, in egalitarian, heavily regulated Britain?”, I thought to myself.

    Silly man, don’t you know that Britain was perfect before that awful Thatcher woman took over. 🙂

    It’s odd how often you hear that, especially while searching for ways in which New LIEbour has attempted to change anything and return to the good old ways of union dominance and doctrinaire socialism. I often wonder if the Brits didn’t elect Toady Bliar because they thought he might be more like Mrs Thatcher than any of the moronic Tories were (in much the same way as Yanks voted for Clinton because he was more like Reagan that Bush was).

    Oh, and Morris, care to actually provide some evidence, cherrypicked or not, to knock the shoring out from under our “most cherished dogmas” when you post?

    Otherwise it pretty much just looks like you can’t stand the fact that some people don’t accept your most cherished dogmas.

  58. Connecticut=Massachusetts

    that is so wrong. why do you think we have both Connecticunts and Massholes. the tiny differences are HUGE.

  59. “Considering the the United States are a union of sovereign states, whats the difference?”

    The difference would be, as Domo himself noted, that the European en masse gini, while being higher than any single Euro nation, is still better than the US en masse one.

    Don’t get me wrong, because I quible with the point about inequality doesn’t mean I am a Europhile. Far from it. I hate people that think Europe is better than we are. I call bullshit. Historically it certainly isn’t true (we’ve had problems, but nothing like Nazism, Communism, etc). And even now we are better than them on many measures (look at their kowtowing to Muslim extermists in their midsts, and their willingnness to squelch free speech for “good causes”). We also do all the fighting for them, so they can afford to have more charitable safety nets.

  60. As a member of the European middle class who was once a member of the American middle class, I can also tell the median earner is way better off in material terms in the US than in Europe. We’re a two-income family with no clothes dryer because we can’t afford the f@cking space, let alone the electricity. That’s just the beginning of the primitive lifestyle even reasonably well-off people “enjoy” in this progressive continent of enlightened economic policy.

  61. Why is income equality a desirable goal, again?

  62. Why is income equality a desirable goal, again?

    Because MNG is going to cut of limbs by hatchet, axe, and saw since he’s into that shit.

  63. “Why is income equality a desirable goal, again?”

    Because some people feel bad when others have a lot more than they do. They feel better when everyone has an approximately equal amount, even if it’s less overall.

    Really, when it comes to those who harp on inequality though, how do they justify leaving all those in third-world countries out of the equation? I don’t know why arbitrary political boundaries should be an obstacle to universal healthcare- if someone in Mississippi deserves free healthcare, then why doesn’t someone in Namibia deserve it too? I have yet to see a democrat propose that bill though.

  64. “‘Why is income equality a desirable goal, again?’

    Because some people feel bad when others have a lot more than they do. They feel better when everyone has an approximately equal amount, even if it’s less overall.”

    How about because some people feel bad when others have a lot less than they do, but rather than working to resolve that personally they instead create an enforcement system to extract wealth from others so that the others solve the “problem” and they won’t have to deal with the issue themselves.

  65. Since we are talking about cultural differences, could be that I’m am statical anomaly since I’m from west Texas, but I have far more values in common with my Chinese wife (child raising, family, earning and spending of money, and work ethic), than I do with the European engineers that I work with. My ancestors let that continent for a reason, I will respect that decision.

  66. Quote

    ‘NPR did a segment this morning on Britain’s gross income inequality, and the widening gap between rich and poor.

    “How can that be possibe, in egalitarian, heavily regulated Britain?”, I thought to myself.’

    I think you’ll find Britain is very similar to the US in terms of regulation, tax levels and aside from health and education public spending as well. Why is there this obession with assuming all of europe is socialist and lumping the UK in with the continent when its pretty much just a smaller version of the USA?

  67. You selfish short sighted scum.

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