Europe is having a terrible time Ė except compared with probably every other continent and any time in history. Look at crisis-stricken Spain, for instance. The average Spaniard now lives to 82, seven years longer than in 1980
. (Most countries where people can expect to reach 82 are European, says the World Health Organisation.) Today that average Spaniardís income, despite years of crisis, is still nearly double what it was in 1980
. And across Europe, daily life has tended to get gradually more pleasant. For instance, crime rates have kept falling in most western countries despite the crisis. British streets havenít been this safe in more than 30 years, according to the UKís Office of National Statistics.
Itís important to realise that most peopleís lives arenít affected by the latest twist in the eurozone crisis. A good new breast-cancer drug often does more for collective happiness than a good new prime minister. And those gains get shared out most fairly in Europe. Thatís why seven of the 10 best-rating countries on the World Economic Forumís gender gap index are European
. So are six of the top 10 least corrupt in Transparency Internationalís corruption perception index. And when the CIA ranked 136 countries for income equality, the 17 most equal were all European. No wonder Spain and even Greece outrank Qatar on the United Nationsí human development index.
Most emerging economies lag decades behind us: Russian, Brazilian and Chinese average incomes are still below half those in Greece, according to the World Bank. Nonetheless, the relative rise of new countries engenders paranoia. The American pundit Thomas Friedman often says China and India are ďeating our lunchĒ. But since the global economy isnít a zero-sum game, itís more accurate to say that the Chinese and Indians are making our lunch.
Itís also notable how well European democracies have held up under five years of crisis. In 1981, when shots were fired in Spainís parliament, that average Spaniard still worried about a fascist coup. Today every western European country is a secure democracy. Contrary to predictions, Europeís far right hasnít risen en masse during the crisis
, notes the London-based research and advisory group Counterpoint. Nor has western Europe experienced a big terrorist atrocity since 2005.
A decade ago, American pundits were predicting that anti-Semitism or vengeful Muslim immigrants or both would rip Europe apart. Indeed, in 2004, the American ambassador to the European Union, Rockwell Schnabel, said continental anti-Semitism was ďgetting to a point where it is as bad as it was in the 1930sĒ. That claim was always ludicrous, but its ludicrousness should now be plain even to Schnabel. In short: several dogs havenít barked in Europe this crisis