The Future of Europe: Reform or Decline
A provocative argument that unless Europe takes serious action soon, its economic and political decline is unavoidable, and a clear statement of the steps Europe must take before it's too late.
Unless Europe takes action soon, its further economic and political decline is almost inevitable, economists Alberto Alesina and Francesco Giavazzi write in this provocative book. Without comprehensive reform, continental Western Europe's overprotected, overregulated economies will continue to slow—and its political influence will become negligible. This doesn't mean that Italy, Germany, France, and other now-prosperous countries will become poor; their standard of living will remain comfortable. But they will become largely irrelevant on the world scene. In The Future of Europe, Alesina and Giavazzi (themselves Europeans) outline the steps that Europe must take to prevent its economic and political eclipse.
Europe, the authors say, has much to learn from the market liberalism of America. Europeans work less and vacation more than Americans; they value job stability and security above all. Americans, Alesina and Giavazzi argue, work harder and longer and are more willing to endure the ups and downs of a market economy. Europeans prize their welfare states; Americans abhor government spending. America is a melting pot; European countries—witness the November 2005 unrest in France—have trouble absorbing their immigrant populations. If Europe is to arrest its decline, Alesina and Giavazzi warn, it needs to adopt something closer to the American free-market model for dealing with these issues.
Alesina and Giavazzi's prescriptions for how Europe should handle worker productivity, labor market regulation, globalization, support for higher education and technology research, fiscal policy, and its multiethnic societies are sure to stir controversy, as will their eye-opening view of the European Union and the euro. But their wake-up call will ring loud and clear for anyone concerned about the future of Europe and the global economy.
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From what is happening now (Euro debt crisis), we can say that this book's prediction is ... true. The Europe is trapped in the political swamp as described in the book. How stupid we are: we know what's wrong, but don't have the gut to reform. Well, it's not an academic book, but I still hope to see more data in the next revision.
This book deals with several major policy problems that Europe and Europeans are facing today. The usual suspects include non-competitive research and universities, mishandling of the increasingly multiethnic societies, liberalization of markets, high price of the social state, rigid labor market, to name just a few. There seems to be an increasing amount of literature and critical articles dedicated to these issues, in a stark contrast to the inability of European politicians to get a firm grip on them. Even though this book claims that Europe should not necessarily adopt Anglo-Saxon social and economic model, it is hard to escape this conclusion when reading the actual comparisons with the UK, US and other "Anglo-Saxon" countries.
One big policy issue that is not being discussed here deals with the collapse of the European family and its roots in the dismantling of the Judeo-Christian religio-ethical tradition. A good place to start reading more about this is George Weigel's "The Cube And The Cathedral: Europe, America and Politics Without God"
Additional criticism of this book concerns its editing. There are numerous spelling and other mistakes, and several graphs and charts are not all that clear. Otherwise, it is a very readable and engaging book.
2 Handling a Multiethnic Society
3 Americans at Work Europeans on Holiday
4 Job Security Job Regulations and 14 Million Unemployed
5 Technology Research and Universities
6 Competition Innovation and the Myth of National Champions
7 Interest Groups against Liberalization
8 The Judicial System and the Cost of Doing Business