23 December 2012

The Decline of Europe - Not

From time to time over the last few years I have heard serious pundits bemoan the relative decline of Europe. It is a sentiment which infuriates me.

It is true that Europe commands a declining share of global GDP. That is a fact we should welcome not fear. For at least 50 years the rich countries of Europe have promoted the development of the poor countries in other continents. The fact that so many are now making progress is a cause for celebration not anxiety.

The thought is prompted by an execrable book I picked up in Waterstones while Christmas shopping. For Europe is a federalist manifesto which declares on page one that:
We are being overtaken by the emerging economies at lightning speed.
The first problem with this perspective is that it is morally and politically wrong. The fact that poor countries are catching up is a major human achievement.

Source: IMF
The second problem is that the statement is factually wrong. Per capita GDP in the EU is double that in Russia, 4 times that in China and 8 times that in India. Even fast growing China will need decades to catch up.

Don't get me started on this one:
...we are still required to compete against economic and political powerhouses of the calibre of China, India, Brazil, Russia or the United States.
There is so much nonsense in that phrase I don't know where to begin. I'll just point out that the rise of poorer countries does not harm us and indeed holds many opportunities for developed countries.

The authors of this terrible book are serious politicians: Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Liberal faction in the European parliament and former prime minister of Belgium and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the Green faction in the same parliament and former soixante-huitard.

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