Saturday, May 25, 2013

Europe or the USA?

The difference we were discussing is the disproportionate number of Fortune 500 companies that the United States has compared to other regions, when looking at companies with revenue above $100 billion, the United States has  of the companies, and the European Union has 18 and the United States has 19. This means that there are 27,777,778 Europeans and 16,315,789 Americans per Fortune 500 company. The largest economy in the EU is Germany and there are 5 companies on the list, or 16,000,000 Germans per Fortune 500 company. Italy has 15,000,000 Italians per Fortune 500 company. Well there goes one urban myth out the window. This would say that Italy has an economy more competitive than Germany by number of Fortune 500 companies. The US isn't an outlier on that account, our size gives us an advantage, but per capita the number of gigantic companies is on par with Europe. The advantage I personally see most with the US is that most things (except food) are less expensive at home than in Europe, but besides that the US and Europe today are on a pretty level playing field, except of course that countries in Europe have universal health care in one form or another, a more equitable distribution of income, and cheaper college, which makes comparing the status of the two for how it will be for an average individual more complicated and multidimensional.

Americans tend to have yards and Europeans don't, but this can mostly be attributed to our population densities which are very different (excluding Russia, Scandinavia and the Baltic States). The USA has 34 people per square KM, and Ireland (the least dense country in the EU excluding the above) has 65 people per square KM. The EU as a whole has a population density around 116 people per square KM, so that explains why Americans tend to have bigger yards at lower prices than Europeans, we have more land per person! Excluding Alaska the US has about 44 people per square KM, still lower than most European nations. When it comes to quality of life, this is an important statistic with large trade offs. A lower population density (America) means larger yards. A higher population density (Europe) means shorter travel times. Depends which you prefer.

So basically, when it comes to my time in Europe the differences I have noticed so far is: 1. Education is of similar (in some ways better) quality and is given a lot more money meaning that people here don't have to spend nearly as much money out of pocket to get a degree, because that is where their tax money goes. 2. Prices are more expensive, and this isn't due to taxation or tariffs. This is probably due to the amount of oil that Europe gets from Gazprom as opposed to other sources, and when Europe becomes energy independent I expect prices will drop. The price of natural gas here in Georgia is really low because of the Baku-Turkey natural gas pipeline which greats a glut of supply which decreases the price here. Once a renewable energy source is found that is economical in all circumstances and is able to be marketed in a competitive fashion, prices will drop across the board. 3. Europe is of a similar quality of living in most other ways. Their cost of living in Northern Europe is close to that of the United States, and the purchasing power of the average Swiss citizen is higher than that of the average American. Their higher wages for the person in the middle combined with their more equitable distribution of income mostly offsets the higher costs. These points are critical to understanding the differences between the American and European economies and quality of living, and frequently forgotten.

So, which is better, Europe or the USA? With similar purchasing power indexes and similar rates of highly successful companies and similar rankings on ease of doing business (best in the world) I have to say that I think both Europe and the USA are wonderful places to live. I love my country, I love Europe, and I love Georgia. Our cultures have their differences (Most Americans drink filtered tap water, most European drink sparkling water) and their similarities (historically Christian societies with growing rates of Eastern religions, agnosticism, and atheism, immigration being debated, racists and human rights defenders battling it out on both sides of the Atlantic). We have dark period in our history (Trail of Tears, Holocaust) and eras of great prosperity. We are highly developed economies and the envy of the developing/undeveloped world along with Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, etc. We are all democratic in our government, and our economic systems are extremely similar (except for how we treat public goods like health care and education).

For me, I like being in both Europe and the United States and (with an exception of mass transit where Europe is the clear winner) for the most part can't say I prefer one over another. We both have amazing cultures (Doctor Who, Monty Python, countless movies, and Star Trek, Big Bang Theory and countless movies again) similar food, and differences in what we have to offer (Europe has no Yosemite, America has no authentic Medieval castles and churches). If someone in a third world country had to choose between the two I would say it would be a tough choice. As an American, I find it hard to say which one is clearly better, it depends on what you value most.

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