Whatever the European social policy you may be advocating for, the almost inevitable, and usually instant, response from ill-disposed interlocutors is to bring up Europe’s apparent unemployment problem and wonder if that’s the future you’re securing for the United States. Well, let them. The latest round of OECD employment data shows (PDF) that Europe has almost entirely closed the employment gap with the United States: The difference is now 1.1 percent, attributable entirely to low female workforce participation among women in Italy and Spain. Indeed, if you factor out the disadvantage conferred by our massive incarceration rate, they may well be ahead.
Notice here that we’re talking about employment rates: The United States often has lower unemployment rates for the simple reason that we cease counting people when we consider them no longer looking. But if you look at the more telling side of the coin — the actual percentage of the population employed in gainful labor — we’re basically tied. And yet they all have health care…
Absolutely right. Europeans have that darn health care (although you’ll likely hear horror stories about waiting lists in England, nobody mentions the great care offered in France), they employ just as many people as the United States, and their money is worth more than ours.