by Bruce Thornton
Thursday, March 5, 2015
The slow-motion crisis of the European Union is the big story that rarely gets the attention it deserves. Even an event like the recent terrorist attack in France that left 17 dead is often isolated from the larger political, economic, and social problems that have long plagued the project of unifying the countries of Europe in order to harness its collective economic power, and to avoid the bloody internecine strife that stains its history.
On the economic front, the E.U.’s dismal economic performance over the last six years was summed up in a December headline in Business Insider: “Europe Stinks.” The 2008 Great Recession exposed the incoherence of the E.U.’s economic structure, particularly its single currency, which is held hostage by the diverse economic policies of sovereign nations. The data tell the tale. The E.U.’s GDP grew 1 percent in 2013, anemic compared to the U.S.’s 2.2 percent. In December 2014, unemployment in the E.U. averaged 11.4 percent, while in the U.S. it was 5.6 percent. We are troubled by our labor force participation rate of 62.7 percent, a 36-year low. But in the E.U., it was 57.5 percent in 2013. Our recovery from the recession may be slow by our historical standards, but it is blazing compared to the E.U.’s.
The E.U.’s economic woes have many causes, but intrusively regulated economies and outsized government spending on generous social welfare transfers are two of the most important. Despite the rebuke of such policies delivered by the recession, government spending as a percentage of GDP has actually increased in the E.U., from 45.5 percent in 2007 to 49 percent in 2013, even as many Europeans decry the harsh “austerity” measures called for by countries like Germany. Greece, the E.U member increasingly in danger of being forced to exit the monetary union and thus risk its unraveling, has nonetheless raised its government spending from 46.8 percent in 2007 to 59 percent in 2013.
As Josef Joffe of Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper summarized in January, “These ailments are deeply embedded in economies that lag behind on investment, innovation and competitiveness . . . Europe as a whole is beginning to look like Greece writ large. But the long-term data whisper to Europe as well as to Greece: Reform or decline.”
To continue reading: http://www.hoover.org/research/eu-experiment-has-failed