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Europe: A Continent Full of Lovely Countries

By Matthew Yglesias on January 24, 2009 at 8:38 am

"Europe: A Continent Full of Lovely Countries"

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Mitch McConnel warns that passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, permitting workers to form unions through a majority sign-up process rather than an election rigged by employers, would “Europeanize America”

My colleague Pat Garofalo correctly observes that it’s hardly just Europe that has more organizer-friendly labor laws—it’s pretty much everyplace you look including Canada, Australia, and all the rest. One might also add that the United States had a much higher level of union density back in the immediate postwar decades when growth was both more rapid and more broadly shared than it’s been in recent decades.

Beyond that, though, there’s some nice places in Europe. The big European economies of Germany and France both feature a lot of legislation aimed at deterring or preventing people from working long hours which, naturally, reduces overall output in exchange for increasing leisure time. Their workers are, however, highly productive—unions and all. And the small northern European countries such as Finland, the Netherlands, and Denmark combine high levels of unionization and a strong social welfare state with labor markets that feature more American-style flexibility. The result is societies that are wealthier than France or Germany but with much more equally shared wealth than we have in the USA. Relative to, say, Kentucky, Europe is a continent full of countries featuring better educated, healthier, longer-lived people, with lower poverty rates and dramatically fewer poor children. It isn’t, however, as friendly to the interests of rich people or business managers.

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