Thursday, September 15, 2005

Europe: the world’s tidy, slick, and chilly departure lounge

Joel Kotkin, writing in The American Enterprise Institute’s journal points out the simple fact of an overlooked aspect of immigration: that transiting between parts of the developed world.

«Yet even as the European masses headed to this side of the Atlantic for a better life, some intellectual and social elites insisted that Europe’s culture was better than anything found in the United States. As an intellectual, cultural, and artistic center, Europe was unsurpassed. That belief remains powerful today. Some, like American writer Richard Florida, have even suggested that some of the brightest and most culturally sophisticated young Americans—the much-ballyhooed “creative class”—may in the future seek their fortunes in Europe. Glowing journalistic anecdotes about cities such as Prague, Berlin, Paris, London, and Dublin have suggested that significant numbers of America’s best and brightest may end up expatriating themselves to the continent.
[ … ]
New Yorkers have a perfect one-word response for such claims: fuggedaboutit. Europe may be a great place to visit, but U.S. emigration to the continent is paltry—while the reverse flow from Europe to the United States remains at consistently high levels even with the somewhat bothersome screenings imposed after 9/11. While Europeans are no longer the primary immigrants to the U.S. (that role having been taken over by Latin Americans and Asians), they remain an important factor in the continuing re-invention of America.»
It’s awfully hard for proponents of the European social model (whatever that is this week) to argue the inferiority of the US as they always seem to lead to when the numbers don’t bear it out.
«The future doesn’t look much brighter for the continent. Under current conditions, according to the European Central Bank, the Euro Zone’s overall growth potential is roughly half that of the United States. The wishful notion that the E.U. would overtake the United States as the world’s “most competitive, knowledge-based economy” by 2010, much discussed at the time of European unification, has now been dismissed, even by many Europeans themselves, as wildly over-optimistic.

Under such circumstances, the United States remains a tremendous lure for many Europeans, especially younger, educated individuals. This is particularly true in technological fields, where Europe’s best brains are leaving in droves. Some 400,000 E.U. science and technology graduates currently reside in the United States, and barely one in seven, according to a recent European Commission poll, intend to return. “The U.S. is a sponge that’s happy to soak up talent from across the globe,” observes one Irish scientist.
Similar perspectives can be found in a host of other cutting-edge industries, including financial services, where, with the exception of London, New York has an almost unparalleled global appeal. Attempts to build a new European financial center in Frankfurt—sometimes called “Mainhattan” after the river running through the western German city—or in Paris, have failed to meet even modest expectations.
[ … ]
Amidst all this, it is perhaps not surprising that a powerful new wave of European immigration to the U.S. is taking place. This trend began in the 1980s, with fashionable affluents from West European capitals, and expanded to include many Eastern Europeans after the fall of communism. The wave has gradually grown to include Russian Jews, refugees from the Balkans, and new Italian, German, British, Greek, Polish, and other immigrants. Eastern European immigrants constituted one out of four New York immigrants in the late 1990s. They have also become an important factor in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston. Even relatively out of the way places like Utica, New York and St. Louis have been revitalized by waves of European immigrants from new places like Bosnia.
All told, European immigration to the United States jumped by some 16 percent during the 1990s. Europe’s percentage of total immigrants to the U.S. rose crisply between 1998 and 2001. Visa applications dropped after 9/11, but then increased last year by 10 percent. The total number of European-born Americans increased by roughly 700,000 during the last three years, with a heavy inflow from the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, Romania, and France. These new immigrants have dispersed across many parts of the country, but have been especially drawn to New York, California, and Florida. Today’s westward human flow across the Atlantic is more critical to the future of the United States than mere numbers can indicate. In contrast to many of our other immigrants, newcomers from Europe, particularly those under 40, tend to be highly educated. And while frivolous “Eurotrash” socialites may gain the attention of the press, most young European migrants are hard-working, professionally serious, and ambitious.»
Olaf Gersemann writes in the same edition that:
«BERLIN—They call themselves “The Happy Unemployed,” and they fight “the dictatorship of wage dependency”—at a very leisurely pace.

Europeans who are unable to get work find the experience as stressful as Americans do. A German government report describes the personal afflictions that have sprung up amidst the country’s economic stagnation: “Depressive moods, general dissatisfaction with life, fear, helplessness and hopelessness, low self-esteem, resignation bordering on apathy, a low level of activity, social isolation, and loneliness.”

The inescapable reality is that the economies of the major countries on the European continent are basket cases: They produce the unemployed by the millions. Even more frightening, European economies are creating a new kind of stratified society, in which a substantial and growing minority is shut out from the labor market permanently through absurdly high minimum-wage requirements and overly strict regulations (like the employment protection laws that can make it almost impossible to fire people).»
It also doesn’t help that leftists ion the continent take comfort in the statements of an American economist who is so incredibly tainted by his political feelings as to be misleading:
«Princeton economist Paul Krugman, when recently comparing Europe and the U.S. in the New York Times, wrote that: “The big difference is in priorities, not performance.” Krugman’s assertion is basically this: The income gap is not the result of lower efficiency in Europe. It is the result of Europeans working less than Americans. Not because they can’t find work, but because they work fewer hours, preferring to spend more time with their families and on leisure activities. »

The cultures are diverging, and seemingly for good. The problem is that the Unites States is accomplishing socially what lefty Europe is intending to do, and failing at. At the same time pointing to the U.S. as failing the poor and the week when it’s succeeding in raising the standard of living of huge numbers of people.

Even over the course of 20 years of this pattern, many still maintain that same argument while a puzzled European public senses more distance with the ‘class in charge’.
«True, measured simply as GDP per hour worked, productivity is not much higher in the United States than, say, France. But what Krugman doesn’t mention is that America is close to full employment, whereas in Europe millions of poorly educated people can’t find an employer willing to pay them the artificially high minimum wage or willing to take a chance on such hires because they may be impossible to fire in the future. In other words, Europe seems to be so productive only because a large portion of its people are simply left out of the productivity statistics (and working life).
If labor productivity in Germany and in the U.S. continues on the same path as from 1996 to 2003, per capita income in Germany will grow by only 44 percent by the time American incomes double in 2026. Put differently, within a generation, Americans will enjoy twice the economic status that Germans do.»
Sooner or later the Old Europe’s political class will notice, and likely face their greatest fear – to be replaced by a different view. The public is not likely to look back kindly of those who held on stubbornly to social policies that grew unviable for so long. Perhaps a self-interested concern for their own legacy is what is lacking.

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