The Economist (May 9th - May 15th 2009)
145 Pages | English | PDF 4,3 MB | Audio 144 MB | MP3
Europe's new pecking order
There has been a change in Europe's balance of economic power; but don't expect it to last for long:
If there is to be an argument about which model is best, then this newspaper stands firmly on the side of the liberal Anglo-Saxon model—not least because it leaves more power in the hands of individuals rather than the state. But the truth is that the governments on both sides of the intellectual divide could go a long way to making their models work better, without changing their underlying beliefs.
On the continental side, there is nothing especially socially cohesive about labour laws that favour insiders over outsiders, or rules that make the costs of starting a business excessive. Even Colbert might admit that Europe’s tax burdens are too onerous today, particularly since they are likely to have to rise in the future to meet the looming cost of the continent’s rapidly ageing populations.
For the liberals, even if the cycle swings back in their direction, the financial crisis and the recession have shown up defects in the way they too implemented their model. Getting regulation right matters as much as freeing up markets; an efficient public sector may count as much as an efficient private one; public investment in transport, schools and health care, done well, can pay dividends. The pecking order may change, but pragmatism and efficiency will always count.