Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I think in would be most enlightening to us Americans if there were some links or postings about the relative standards of living of Europeans as against the US.

By this I mean not just the raw data (per capita income, etc.) but, things like availability of health care, child care, retirement security and employment career prospects.

The data for not only the median but how those at the bottom fare compared to the average would also be interesting.

It's my guess that the poorest off in places like France are, on average, better off than the poorest in the US and that the imbalance between the rich and the rest of us is less pronounced.

I also think this may have implications for the challenges of global competitiveness and social stability.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 12:34:42 PM EST
http://tinyurl.com/akdzd Here's a listing by the World Health Organization ranking health care systems around the world.  France shows up at number one with the US not even showing up in the top 20..or 30 but at number 37. And the states due to so much budget cutting continue to kick poor kids off the medicaide health care programs that were covering them, had provided some sort of safety net.

"People never do evil so throughly and happily as when they do it from moral conviction."-Blaise Pascal
by chocolate ink on Fri Aug 19th, 2005 at 11:14:07 PM EST
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I'll probably be banned for pointing to such a source, but here's an undoubtably unacceptable report that discusses the question of comparable poverty levels:
(See page 22.)
by asdf on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 05:43:56 PM EST
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*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 05:59:51 PM EST
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by asdf on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 06:08:45 PM EST
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At the wrong date.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 06:19:25 PM EST
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15000 heat wave deaths.

I've got to go fix an outlet in my kitchen. With luck I'll survive the experience and will be able to continue this productive discussion!  :-)

by asdf on Sat Aug 20th, 2005 at 06:24:22 PM EST
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Well, the heat wave is not a bright mark for France, but it remains unclear at this point what could have been done to avoid it, beyond having AC in every single house, which is maybe not the cheapest way to save lives...

  • the heat wave really was unusual, in that not only daytime temperatures were extremely high, but so were night time temperatures. It was the fact that the bodies never had a moment of respite from the heat for several days and nights running that killed the weaker ones. That was  extremely unusual. As critics of France don't usually believe in globa lwarming, there is no sense in planning for such a freak event to happen again, right?

  • post hoc studies have shwon that the vast majority of deaths happened to people that were well taken care of, either with their families or in rest homes with enough staff. The fact that the media coverage focused on the few that were isolated or on the difficulties that ER rooms (real enough, these) does not invalidate that general fact;

  • mortality in 2004 was extraordinarily low, thus suggesting that the 2003 heatwave "anticipated" some deaths. (And don't call me callous, I am just talking statistics. As a matter of fact, a colleague's mother dies during the heat wave, something pretty much unexpected as she was in good health).

So the real lessons of that catastrohpe were as follows:

  • the government found to its detriment that it could not close down completely in August, and that it needed to be able to react to real needs when they arose (they did not in 2003, which created confusion, lack of coordination and poor inforation all around, and that's also why it became a big story). This year, like last, the government is visible during August...

  • ER services need to be reinforced. Like in the US, they have become the first port of call for a number of people that do not have full coverage and cannot go to a doctor - or whose doctor is on holiday that month. They were overwhelmed that month and need more support. A plan was prepared, although I cannot really tell you that the situation has been solved yet.

  • practical stuff that can be done in a heatwave had now been publicised more widely (take baths, drink a lot of water and the like), and public buildings are encouraged to have at least one "fresh" room.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Aug 21st, 2005 at 04:01:39 AM EST
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Thank you for your calm and well-reasoned answer.
by asdf on Sun Aug 21st, 2005 at 10:14:31 AM EST
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Shorter Timbor: Americans have more stuff, and that's because they pay less tax.

Do you agree that the best measure of poverty is the number of cell phones, cars, or dishwashers that you own?

Do you also agree with the "less tax is always better" promoted by that think tank?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Aug 21st, 2005 at 04:42:38 AM EST
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I don't know anything about that think tank, and from the sounds of what they write they appear to be on the libertarian fringe.

But your question about number of cell phones is exactly what makes comparison of different economies so difficult. As I see it, there should be a three step process.

1.) Define some kind of metric based on things that you can measure: GDP, life expectancy, number of cell phones, number of vacation days per year, or whatever.

2.) Decide whether that metric is measuring something desireable or undesireable.

3.) Adjust whatever economic controls you have available to attempt to either increase or decrease the metric.

So if you think that the so-called "unemployment rate" metric is an indicator of something that is "bad," then you would work to make it lower. If you think that the per capita GDP is "good," then you would work to make it higher.

To make this work, the very first thing that must be accomplished is the definition of metrics that measure things we are interested in. The current debates are about things like "unemployment rate" (argued against by Krugman in one instance because of discouraged workers), "per capita GDP" (which measures things like cell phones), and "health care ranking" (which takes into account how much is spent--as a negative--but fails to account for massive failures of the system). And then when those metrics are defined, they must be measured over carefully chosen time periods that do not put undue emphasis on things like local recessions.

What are those fair metrics?

by asdf on Sun Aug 21st, 2005 at 10:24:39 AM EST
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Fellow-dutchman Jasper Emmering had a very informative series of posts on this comparison

    ...Save democracy from direct elections
by FransGroenendijk on Sun Aug 21st, 2005 at 09:02:30 PM EST
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