James Leroy Wilson's blog

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Meaningless Statement Award

Walter E. Williams quoting Joel Kotkin:

Europe's "portion of world GDP dropped from 34 percent to 20 percent between 1913 and 1998, while the United States held its own at about 22 percent of global GDP."

1913? 1913?

I don't doubt that Europe blew it big time in many ways throughout the 20th century. But this must be compared to population as well. According to this, Europe had 24.7% of the world's population in 1900, and just 12% in 2000. USA/ Canada went from just 5% to 5.1%. It is safe to say that, per capita, Europeans contribute more to world GDP than they did in 1913, while the USA, though far more productive than Europeans both then and now, has not appreciably increased its share of world GDP per capita.

That Europe is losing population may be another sign that it is "blowing it," but it seems to me that, accounting for population, Europe prospered far more than Williams and Kotkin would give it credit for.

This is not to defend European-style socialism, or even GDP measurements. I point it out as an example of a misleading statistic that, to me, looked silly on its face.

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