On January 22, 2010, New America invited Steven Hill and Diana Furchtgott-Roth to debate whether the United States should adopt European-style reforms to revitalize the economy and bring a higher quality of life to the American people.
Steven Hill began his defense of European policies by pointing out and refuting misconceptions about the European economy. People often think that Europe has a weak economy. But as Hill observed, Europe produces one-third of the world’s output and its economy is almost as large as China’s and America’s combined. European countries are often rated in the top twenty nations within the World Economic Forum’s Index of Global Competitiveness. While sustaining a competitive, developing market, Europe also manages to provide free healthcare, inexpensive or free college education, and social security that provides for 80-90% of senior citizens’ living costs. America actually lags behind Europe in its life expectancy, prison rates, social mobility, and economic equality.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, however, was much more skeptical of Europe’s successes. She argued that Europe’s economies were inefficient and slow. Although workers are given a generous amount of benefits, employers are then discouraged from hiring new workers. Immigrants have a hard time assimilating in Europe because it is difficult for them to find jobs and contribute to society. In addition, workers are attracted to the benefits of a job, rather than to a job itself, leading to a lack of initiative and productivity. She conceded that free healthcare is a benefit to many but asserted that the quality of healthcare is still much better in the America, pointing to the significantly higher cancer survival rates in the United States. Similarly, college education in Europe is very inexpensive yet most Europeans desire, instead, to travel to American universities where they may receive a superior education.
Ultimately, both sides agreed that there are many lessons to be learned from post-World War II Europe that could benefit the American people in the 21st century.