Economists are from Mars, Europeans from Venus

John Thornhill at Economists are from Mars, Europeans from Venus:

A Martian economist visits earth. Not only does its arrival prove — as many suspected — that some economists really do live on other planets, it also provides fresh perspectives on our world.

Earthling economists chatter excitedly to our visitor about the stunning growth rates in China. This miracle economy of the 21st century has overtaken France and the UK to become the world’s fourth biggest. Europe is the past; the US is the present; and China is the future, they proclaim. The centre of economic gravity in the world has shifted decisively towards north-east Asia.

Our Martian friend scratches its heads. “When my economics professor last visited earth in 1945 he told me that the Europeans had just experienced a terrible civil war in which 36m people had been killed, including many of their most brilliant minds. Now you tell me that 60m French people produce almost as much economic output each year as 1.3bn Chinese, who have been the dominant economic power for most of your planet’s history. What is more, the French can do this while working 35-hour weeks and producing 246 different types of cheese. How did this economic miracle come about?”

The earthling economists stare at each other and then down at their feet. “We don’t normally look at things that way. We tend to say that Europe is suffering from ‘eurosclerosis’, you know, low growth, high unemployment, bloated welfare states and a looming demographic crisis.”

“Maybe I need to talk to historians rather than economists to see how all this came about,” says our Martian friend, blinking his eyes and flitting back several months in time to hear a lecture in Washington on The Future of Decadent Europe.

(Via Mark Thoma )

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