For those Americans who have visited Paris: did it look poor and backward? What about Frankfurt or London? You should always bear in mind that when the question is which to believe — official economic statistics or your own lying eyes — the eyes have it.Regarding his first question, of course not. Visiting as a tourist, most places I've seen in Europe are inhabited by people with serious cash. All of the locals look fabulous and people dress in expensive clothes and eat out in expensive restaurants where the food is top-notch. But coming into town you pass through the suburbs, where most of the locals live and few tourists venture. You get a mere glimpse of these "suburban" high-rise dwellers, particularly in Paris. Tino puts Krugman in perspective.
If you stop and think about this for a second the problem becomes apparent. These are not representative cities, they are three of the absolutely richest areas of Europe!Tino is absolutely correct. What Krugman did was like visiting Munich and Detroit and making economic assessments of the two countries solely based upon what you saw within the core of those two cities. That's not to say that quality of life is worse in Europe... it's just different, and Krugman doesn't lay it out truthfully.
According to Eurostat, which contains GDP per capita figures for European regions, each inhabitant of London produces 65.3% more than the UK average. The figure for inner city London, the area most American visiting would see, is an 279%. That is not a typo. Inner city London is the richest region in Europe. Paris has a per capita income 272% higher than the French average. Lastly Frankfurt, the financial hearth of continental Europe, has a per capita GDP 278% higher than Germany as a whole. (Stockholm earns 37% above the Swedish average, for those curious).
These figures overestimate the wealth disparity somewhat, since cities contain more jobs than people, especially important for financial centers (one reason why Luxembourg is so rich). But statistics are not fooling us, central Paris is rich, which our eyes would confirm. The suburbs and most of the rest of France is not. The correct comparison for Frankfurt would be Manhattan, not the US average.
Someone tell me why Krugman is feted when he clearly pulls a lot of stuff out of his ass for his columns.