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Cowboy Capitalism

European Myths, American Reality

By Olaf Gersemann
About the Book

2006 Templeton Enterprise Award Winner

Americans work three jobs just to make ends meet, and unemployment is low only because so many people are in jail.” That’s what most European (and many American) pundits believe. While the U.S. economy may create more growth, Europeans think they are better off when it comes to job security, income equality, and other factors. But does European‐​style “comfy capitalism” really deliver better results than American “cowboy capitalism”?

Olaf Gersemann, a German reporter who came to America, checked the facts and discovered that the common perception in Europe and elsewhere of America’s economic model is either wrong or misleading. The greater market freedoms in the United States create a more flexible, adaptable, and prosperous system than the declining welfare states of Europe. Contrary to what one might expect, continental Europe’s welfare states provide no meaningful advantage compared with America. In clear and accessible terms, Gersemann separates the economic myths from the reality.

Cowboy Capitalism is a provocative and devastating rebuttal to the stereotypes promoted by the likes of Paul Krugman and Michael Moore.

About the Author

Olaf Gersemann is the foreign news editor for Financial Times Deutschland. Prior to that, he was the Washington correspondent for Wirtschaftswoche, Germany’s largest economic and business weekly. Before joining Wirtschaftswoche in 1996, he studied economics at Cologne University and Trinity College, Dublin, and worked for the German financial daily Handelsblatt. In 2001, Gersemann was awarded the Ludwig Erhard Prize, the most prestigious German economic reporting prize for journalists under the age of 35.

What Others Have Said

“This is a comprehensive, indeed truly encyclopedic, comparison of economic conditions and policies in the United States with those in Germany, France, and Italy. Gersemann, a German journalist based in the United States, provides detailed evidence to support his devastating rejection of common European fallacies about the American economy. A real treasure trove of thoughtful analysis.”

—Milton Friedman, Nobel Laureate in Economics

“Citizens in all Western democracies want to provide more publicly financed welfare than they are willing, privately, to finance by taxes. The result is sluggish economies. In Old Europe the crisis is more acute than in the United States. This book documents the dramatic differences and stresses the proclivity of Europeans to denigrate the American experience rather than to acknowledge their own plight.”

—James M. Buchanan, Nobel Laureate in Economics

““For those experiencing angst about the U.S. economy, Cowboy Capitalism provides all the salve needed. Author Olaf Gersemann compares the ‘comfy capitalism’ of Europe with the U.S. brand and declares Uncle Sam the hands‐​down winner.”

U.S. News & World Report

“Gersemann pulls no punches in debunking prevalent European myths about the American economy. But Cowboy Capitalism is not about trumpeting American superiority; it’s about helping Western European countries achieve the robust growth and job creation their citizens deserve.”

—Henry M. Paulson, Jr, Chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs Group

“This book offers an excellent comparison of U.S. capitalism with the ‘social’ model of Germany, France, and Italy. It is also a penetrating study of anti‐​market propaganda. Olaf Gersemann shows that the features of the American model that are attacked most by European critics from both left and right are those which continental Europe actually needs in order to overcome the social problem of high unemployment and to make the European economy more dynamic and competitive. The book displays a rare combination of clarity, passion, and moderation. I highly recommend that this book be widely read on both sides of the Atlantic.”

—Leszek Balcerowicz, Former Finance Minister of Poland

“Gersemann combines the accuracy and incisiveness of a scholar with the verve and wit of the best kind of journalist. His readers will be fascinated from the beginning and enlightened by the end.”

—Steven Landsburg, author of The Armchair Economist