Tuesday, August 16, 2005

How Americans see it

A couple of rather wry comments caught my attention this morning. One is by Dan Mitchell of Heritage Foundation who also contributes a large part of the Market Center Blog.

Dr Mitchell refers back to a story on EUObserver that growth in the eurozone in the second quarter was 0.3 per cent, slightly stronger than expected, though not as good (0.5 per cent) as that of the first quarter.

In fact, the EUObserver piece is quite up-beat, considering that the figures are somewhat low:
“The European economy appears to be regaining some momentum and the indications are that things will continue to improve in the second half of the year, the European Commission announced yesterday. Presenting its growth figures for the second quarter of 2005, the Commission said that the euro zone had grown by 0.3%, a much stronger performance than most analysts had expected, although weaker than the 0.5% seen in the first three months of the year. The figures were helped by some surprisingly strong economic growth from Italy, which has rebounded from recession but were dragged down by stagnation in Germany, Europe's largest economy. The Commission also said that growth should be higher in the fourth quarter of the year (September to December), forecasting 0.4%-0.8%.”
As Mitchell points out wryly:
“This lackluster performance would be horrible news in the U.S., but European economies are so over-taxed and over-regulated that this is seen as good news … Low expectations seem to be the norm in Europe. Nations like France and Germany celebrate if unemployment drops below 10 percent. And this is the "compassionate" system left-wingers want in America.”
Indeed so. It is, of course, the “compassionate system” that, we are told by the likes of Mark Leonard, is the envy of the world. A bit like the National Health Service, I imagine.

On another “European” subject, this morning’s Wall Street Journal Europe [subscription only] carries an editorial on Chancellor Schröder’s wonderful electoral ploy of bringing a bogus military threat to Iran and announce that he is violently (but peacefully) against it.

As our readers will recall, Schröder pompously announced that no German government under him would take part in a military exercise of that kind. As the WSJE puts it rather unkindly:
“But as a military matter this is meaningless, since no one in Washington – much less Teheran – would expect German participation in a possible strike against Iran, if only because Germany lacks the military assets to do any good. Like most of the rest of Europe, Germany long ago outsourced its own defence to the US, even as it demands that Washington outsource the decision over the use of these defence forces back to Europe.”
Put like that, the whole fracas seems extraordinarily entertaining, though the underlying problems of not presenting a united Western front to the Mullahs of Iran or any other rogue regime, is serious.

Angela Merkel has mentioned before that she would be much friendlier to the American government but she has also consistently made it clear that the substance of German foreign policy will not change. Of course, as Bill Jamieson pointed out in last Sunday’s Business, Merkel’s victory is not yet assured. Foreign policy has nothing to do with it. It’s the economy, stupid.


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