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Byline: R. M. Schneiderman

Which national models fare better?

United States vs. France

France and the United States have long held different ideas of how to balance economic growth with security. And as the crisis unfolded on Wall Street, eventually leading to global recession and major job losses, some analysts championed the French system of greater state protection despite its restrictions on trade and the rigidity of its labor laws. But while many economists would now argue that America needs to beef up its social safety net, the French system still has significant weaknesses. "The U.S. recognized the problems in the financial markets more quickly," says David Wyss, an economist for Standard & Poor's. "The French tried to shove them under the rug." While the effects of the financial crisis are still playing out statistically, Newsweek's Best Countries list ranks the U.S. higher than France both in terms of quality of life and economic dynamism. This is due in large part to the fact that American unemployment rate is slightly lower, while productivity and purchasing power remain higher than in France.

Germany vs. United Kingdom

Germany is an outlier among rich nations. While countries like the U.S. and particularly the U.K. now create most of their wealth in the service sector, Germany is still a manufacturing powerhouse. The big question in the wake of the financial crisis was whether Germany, with its reliance on exports, was more vulnerable to a global slowdown. The answer was ultimately no. Growth continued in emerging markets like China and Brazil, big buyers of high-end German machinery, while the U. …