Clive Crook, FT and National Journal columnist has a great essay on the problem of measuring whether Europe is superior to the U.S., or vice versa. One of the problems in this game, which pits the American right against the left, is that, frankly, it’s easy to romance Paris and Milan, and ignore Crook’s birthplace, Bolton, in Lancashire, England. It’s also easy to conflate the bejeweled cities with the entire realm: but Paris with France and France with Europe. As Crook writes:
“‘Europe’ is a dangerous generalization, whichever side in this discussion you intend to take. It is not one country, but many. You cannot even say exactly how many, because the region is a fluctuating idea that depends on your notions of geography and the period under consideration. Within Europe — as within the United States — there are rich areas and poor areas; places that are growing and places in decline. And within Europe, political borders still matter a lot. Forms of government and economic arrangements — levels of taxation and public spending, the role of trade unions, the scope of economic regulation — all vary.”
It seems more sensible, given such variation, to measure on the level of the state; so where, then, does France rank? It would be unfair to spoil the result by stealing the punchline, so here’s the link.