How impressive are the Anglo-Saxon economies?
One of the strong arguments put forward by neo-liberals is that deregulated market economies may not be fair but they bring home the bacon: if we learn to stop worrying about inequality, we will be happy to accept policies and greater prosperity. The English-speaking countries have gone furthest in doing this, powering faster growth – the ‘Anglo-Saxon model’.
Today, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics brought out the latest set of their wonderful series of international data. (Every time I use the BLS website I’m green with envy.) I was looking at their table for GDP per capita, by country. This has figures for 1960 and 2010, so we can see how each country has performed over a long period and whether the English-speaking countries stand out. I used their table to calculate the growth in per capita GDP (so any errors are my own):GDP per capita, 1960 and 2010, converted to U.S. dollars using 2010 PPPs, percentage increase (*)
That doesn’t really need much extra comment from me. Now, it’s important not to over-interpret this table. For one thing, the BLS table doesn’t include a figure for Ireland in 1960, and if they were included Irish growth would almost certainly be pretty impressive.
More importantly, this table shows how less rich countries have caught up with the countries that were rich in 1960. That’s especially true of the Asian countries, but it’s also true to a lesser extent for the European and North American countries.
But that isn’t the point. The neo-liberal line has been that the superior performance of the Anglo-Saxon model is blindingly obvious and only those of us with left-wing blinkers can’t see it. And it simply isn’t so – countries we’re taught to sneer at, like Belgium and Italy, have had far superior growth over the long run, as well as the Scandinavian countries and Germany, which we’re used to seeing doing better than us.
(*) This table originally understated each increase by 100 percentage points – this amendment does not affect the pattern of results or the point of the story.