Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? | Thomas Geoghegan

Summary of: Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life
By: Thomas Geoghegan


In the book ‘Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life’, Thomas Geoghegan challenges the negative stereotypes surrounding European countries and their economies. He discovers that Western Europe has much to offer in terms of lifestyle, social benefits, and work-life balance compared to the United States. This summary explores various aspects of European life, such as taxation, work culture, public transportation, education, and the media, and contrasts them with the American way. Get ready to reevaluate your perception of Europe and learn about the advantages the European model has to offer.

The Real State of Europe

The media often portrays Europe as a gloomy place on the verge of financial collapse, citing the continent’s high unemployment, low wages, and high labor costs. However, personal experience reveals a very different reality. The author’s travels through Zurich showed a beautiful city with content citizens. The American travel columns paint a vivid picture of the true condition of the European economy, describing an aesthetic that American cities just can’t match. To learn about the real state of Europe, turn to the travel section instead of the financial pages.

Taxation, Welfare and Public Good

Europeans pay higher taxes but enjoy better returns in the form of social benefits like healthcare, education, generous holiday time, and well-paid maternity and paternity leave. Americans pay lower taxes but have fewer social benefits. Most of their tax dollars go to the private sector or military. The US Government earns enough through foreign weapon sales. Nevertheless, the American public faces issues like lesser public pensions, poverty, and limited access to affordable healthcare due to healthcare, insurance, and pharmaceutical companies’ private interests.

In this book summary, the author compares the American and European tax systems, scrutinizing how each society benefits from their respective national taxes. Despite Americans paying fewer taxes than Europeans, they have limited social benefits in healthcare, education, and other public goods. In contrast, Europeans enjoy generous benefits in these areas. An illustration is that most of American taxes go to their private sector or military. Ironically, even though the government sells a lot of weapons to foreign countries, American taxpayers still face issues with lesser public pensions, poverty, and healthcare since most of their taxes are spent on private sectors like insurance, pharmaceutical, and healthcare companies. In conclusion, the author argues that the benefit that each society receives from taxation is more crucial than taxation alone.

The European Professional Lifestyle

European professionals enjoy a better quality of life than their American counterparts due to factors such as effective public transportation, shorter commutes, defined working hours, and greater job security. Europeans have greater access to affordable education and better long-term benefits. On the other hand, Americans prioritize bigger homes, which results in longer commutes and higher living costs. The American dream of “land of opportunity” may not be applicable to everyone, as European professionals seem to have a better quality of life.

The Dark Side of American Prosperity

While GDP and low unemployment rates suggest economic success in the US, closer examination reveals otherwise. Extreme weather events and debt burden put a strain on the economy and the standard of living for most Americans. Unemployment rates are also high for underemployed college graduates. A deeper understanding of the data reveals that the US still has a long way to go in terms of economic prosperity, despite its perceived success.

The Winning Policy of Social Democracy in Germany

Germany’s social democracy, or “Rhineland capitalism,” is admired throughout Europe for its effectiveness in settling disputes within companies. It is in stark contrast to the violent tactics often taken by powerful workers’ unions in France. Germany’s economic success is due to focusing on offering high-end, high-value goods and engineering services instead of stressing about beating unions or competitors on cost. Their political leadership in the European Union and high global export sales have put them in a position of power, even surpassing the once dominant US companies. Social democracy appears to be the key to their growth and prosperity, yet Germany remains a “weak” state by design with few regulations placed on private corporations, allowing disputes to be resolved internally.

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