Where Europe Soars
Europe is too often the forgotten continent of global business. Business people are willing to forgive America its failings because of the glamour of its superstar companies. And they are willing to overlook the emerging world’s rampant corruption and dismal infrastructure because it is growing so fast. But Europe? They regard it as synonymous with aging populations and overmighty governments, sluggish growth and missed opportunities, the euro crisis and public-sector deficits.
Mention European high technology in Silicon Valley and you will be met with a sneer. Mention European competitiveness in Washington — or at least the conservative half of Washington — and you will hear a lecture on Euro-socialism. The blogger Jennifer Rubin recently dismissed European countries as “economic basket cases” in an offhand comment in The Washington Post: an absurd verdict, to be sure, but one that reveals the prejudices of a surprising number of Americans. If anti-Americanism is the default position of the brain-dead left, anti-Europeanism is becoming the default position of the brain-dead right.
It is high time we took a new look at the old continent. Germany is currently the world’s most successful mature economy. It grew by 3.6 percent last year, in contrast to America’s 2.9 percent, and, if the International Monetary Fund is to be believed, Germany is destined to grow faster than the rest of the G-7, in terms of gross domestic product per head, over the next five years. But there are numerous examples of excellence on the rest of the continent as well.
There is almost no area of economic life where Europe cannot produce a world-class company: engineering (Siemens and Daimler); petrochemicals (Royal Dutch Shell and, for all its recent problems, BP); banking (HSBC Holdings and Santander); pharmaceuticals (GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca) and retailing (Ikea and H&M).
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