Təˈmātō… Təˈmätō… EU… US… Whose Right?

On Easter Sunday, last week, I enjoyed a wonderful meal with my parents at the home of some very good friends. The conversation led into economics and politics, a realm where I kick into overdrive as if on autodrive, and I appreciate that my parents allowed me the rant without diverting the topic to something more genial, as I also value that my hosts heard me out without condemnation and with great interest (especially in light of their bent toward christian-conservative, neo-conservative preferences).

Nonetheless, the real digression occurred after I made the statement, “the problem with Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary is that he’s trying too much to preserve too many free-market elements in the financial sector when the free market failed thoroughly,” and my host offered, “Well, free-market capitalism is the foundation of this nation and has made us the wealthiest, strongest, greatest country on the planet.”

My head cocked coyly like a puppy dog attempting to make sense of the gibberish heard coming from its master’s mouth, and I asked, “Oh, really? Humm…”

” You don’t think so, Steven?” queried my host as I debated shutting up or saying what I knew. I’ve grown tired of listening with-no-retort to the trite patriot pabulum spewed by all conservatives and the vast majority of Americans, so…

I said that there are many levels to measure greatness and, of course, these are mitigated by one’s own values and preferences. Since there’s no end to discussion of values (independence and individualism versus cooperation and community), let’s check out facts of performance and outcomes.

My preference, I asserted, was with the EU as “great,” flawed but great. As with most Americans, the facts startled my hosts — not that they were changing their endorsement, but preconceptions certainly changed. So, below I share some of the data points we discussed.

For a highly taxed, regulated, welfare-oriented, diverse society (all anathema to Republicans and supposed indicators of stagnation), the EU27 seems to:

  • prosper and equitably share the rewards,
  • balance a strong manufacturing capacity with technological and service industries,
  • and quietly lead the world in many commercial and technological sectors,
  • even while maintaining a large economic elite
  • and being the world’s luxury manufacturer in autos, watches, cameras and lenses, yachts, jewels…

Europe is a continent with many different traditions and languages, but also with shared values such as democracy, freedom and social justice. The EU defends these values. It fosters cooperation among the peoples of Europe, promoting unity while preserving diversity and ensuring that decisions are taken as close as possible to the citizens, though many Europeans would argue this point.

In the increasingly interdependent world of the 21st century, it is more necessary than ever for every European citizen to work together with people from other countries in a spirit of curiosity, openness and solidarity… And these qualities would serve America well, too.


  • EU maintains the world’s largest Economy with a GDP over $18 Trillion, 31% of the world’s total economic output (1) see footnoted charts below
  • EU economy exceeds the US by $4 Trillion
  • EU Population is more than 500 million citizens, 50% larger than the US
  • EU population size is third behind China and India
  • EU nations are eight of the top ten nations by per capita income, with US at eighth (2)
  • EU Gini Coefficient shows it to have one of the most equitable distributions of income; US ranks with China and South America (3) (4)
  • EU nations compose 17 of 20 top nations in the Human Development Index, US at tenth (5)
  • EU is the largest international aid donor in the world at more than .36% of GDP
  • EU maintains a military budget second only to the United States
  • EU maintains the largest peace-keeping force deployed around the world
  • EU is the largest exporter of goods, second largest importer, and biggest trading partner to nations such as the USA and China
  • 163 of the top 500 largest corporations measured by revenue (Fortune Global 500) have their headquarters in the EU
  • European Airbus is the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world with more than 50% market share
  • –manufactures the largest commercial aircraft in the world
  • –manufactured the fastest commercial aircraft in the world
  • Eurocopter is the largest helicopter manufacturer in the world with more than 51% market share
  • European Aerospace manufactures the largest share of booster rockets and launchers
  • –EU maintains the largest market share of commercial space launches
  • –EU maintains the second largest space agency in the world
  • EU Shipping Fleet is the largest shipping power in the world
  • –8700 EU-flagged ships
  • –EU ships carry 23% of the world’s tonnage
  • –EU employs over 190,000 seafarers
  • EU manufactures the largest percentage of freight, passenger, and luxury ships in the world
  • –Europe maintains over 40% of the world maritime market, including ship maintenance, repair, and conversion
  • –Europe maintains the largest fleet of “stealthy” warships in the world
  • –EU employs more than 350,000 ship production workers
  • Europe is the world’s largest automobile producer, manufacturing 40% of the world’s production
  • European Train and Rail production holds largest world market share at 60%
  • –EU manufactures the fastest trains in the world
  • –EU manufactures the most energy efficient high-speed trains in the world
  • –EU manufactures the only commercial MAGLEV (Magnetic Levitation) trains in the world
  • EU maintains a larger economy than the U.S. yet is only 17% of the world’s total energy use compared to 25% for the U.S.
  • –29% of EU energy is derived from nuclear power
  • –15% of EU energy is derived from non-nuclear, renewable sources*
  • –44% of EU energy is derived from renewable sources* and nuclear, combined
  • –EU targeting non-nuclear, renewable sources* to comprise 21% of energy usage by 2010-2012
  • 2008 Renewable energy production includes biomass, hydropower, geothermal energy, wind energy and solar energy.

Footnoted Charts:




Gini Coefficient is the measure of distance from equality in incomes


Gini Coefficient, World, CIA Report 2009




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