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Economic mirror sets unnerving reflection

Published on February 25, 2011 3:01AM

Last changed on March 25, 2011 7:39AM

From The Daily Astorian

The always-insightful Economist magazine recently undertook the interesting exercise of comparing the size of U.S. state economies with their nearest peers among foreign nations. The result is simultaneously reassuring and humbling.

The magazine's effort was spurred by the oft-cited statistic that California's prerecession economy by itself was larger than all but perhaps five entire nations. It might now still be in the top 10 if it were a country by itself, though it's possible its ranking has slipped even further.

More interesting for non-Californians, The Economist looked at how all states compare. It is flattering to think that even relatively modest individual states generate nation-sized economies, but some of the parallels may puncture overly optimistic self-assessments.

Oregon, for example, is on par with Pakistan in economic terms. Notwithstanding the fact that it is a troubled place that may unwillingly play host to Osama bin Laden, Pakistan is a dynamic nation with many nice people. But we doubt that Oregon officials will soon ramp up an ad campaign along the lines of "Oregon: America's Pakistan."

Washington state equates most closely to Greece, the virtually bankrupt Mediterranean nation whose deep financial morass could eventually contribute to breaking apart the European Union. Since Washington state faces a multibillion dollar budget gap in the current legislative session, the comparison seems particularly timely.

Elsewhere in our region, proud Idaho has about the same size economy as Sudan, Nevada about equals Peru, Montana's sister economy is little Lebanon and the 98,000 square miles of Wyoming have about the same economic might as 25,000-square-mile Lithuania, one of the tiny Baltic countries liberated from the Soviet Union a couple of decades ago.

As for California, it currently about equals chronically dysfunctional Italy. At least Italy still makes excellent clothing.


To see the ranking, go to http://www.economist.com/node/21014355


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