I think virtually every sentence of this Jacob Weisberg column from earlier in the week is tendentious. But I wanted to highlight one particular sentence, which seems to illustrate the informal rule of American journalism that any old wild assertion about the evils of big government Europe is within bounds: ” A government that constitutes half of a country’s economy, like those in Western Europe, produces a very different society over time than one that eats up only a third of the economy.”
Based on Weisberg’s sentence, how many countries “in Western Europe” would you estimate have taxes at or above 50 percent of GDP? It’s not totally clear how many countries are even in Western Europe. But let’s take that to mean non-Communist Europe before 1989—Portugal, Spain, Ireland, UK, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, and Finland. How many of them have “a government that constitutes half of a country’s economy?” A dozen? Ten? Five? Four?
Would you believe that according to the OECD the answer is zero!
Indeed, a whole bunch of Western European countries—Greece, Ireland, Germany, Portugal, the UK, Luxembourg, Spain, and the Netherlands—including the largest Western European country appear to be below 40 percent of GDP.