Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Your Perspective Is What Needs "Change"

It must be a bitter disappointment to those in the media and in politics who have been dying to use the word “recession” that, for the second quarter in a row, there has been no downturn in the economy, though growth has been slow.

Alarmists have been reduced to quoting other alarmists on the supposedly impending recession but that is still not the real thing.

The definition of a “recession” is very clear and straightforward: Two consecutive quarters of negative growth. We have not yet had one consecutive quarter of negative growth.

The fault-finding brigades of critics of the American economy and society are among the reasons why there is so much talk about how we ought to do things that are being done in Europe.

We need to understand America first, before we start imitating Europe.

The American economy produces the largest output in the world — more than Japan, Germany, and Great Britain combined.

Measured by purchasing power, output per capita in the United States is the highest of any large nation.

There are some very small places like Luxembourg or the Cayman Islands with higher purchasing power per capita but, as Professor Benjamin M. Friedman of Harvard put it, places like Luxembourg are “technically countries but are more like large suburbs.”

Luxembourg’s total population is about the same as that of Long Beach, California. Wal-Mart has more employees than the total population of Luxembourg.

Some other small places like the Cayman Islands are tax havens that attract the wealth of people who are not really Cayman Islanders.

Among countries at all comparable to the United States in size or population, none has achieved as high an output per capita. New Jersey produces more than Egypt. California produces more than Canada or Mexico.

Amid a general undermining of American economic performance, it is hardly surprising that so many people think we should imitate what the Europeans are doing — whether in the economy, in foreign policy, or in other areas.

We can always learn particular things from other countries, whether in Europe, Asia, or elsewhere. But imitating Europeans when they are not doing as well as Americans makes no sense.


-- Taken from Thomas Sowell, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, for the National Review.