All in Europe

Why is German Manufacturing So Good?

For years, Audi advertisements have used the slogan “Vorsprung durch Technik.” Only a fraction of the millions who have read or heard the words know what they mean (“Progress through technology,” is the answer). The ad campaign works because people associate German design and manufacturing with quality, precision, and technical brilliance. Whether it’s Carl Zeiss lenses, BMW motorcycles, Bosch dishwashers, or Lamy pens, people buy German with the expectation of excellence. How did Germany get so good at manufacturing?

Why is Russia So Big?

If you visit russianrailways.com, you can buy a ticket from Moscow to Vladivostok. It’s a journey of almost 6,000 miles that takes you across eight time zones all the way to the Pacific Ocean in seven days. Russia is much larger than any other country. The next three biggest—Canada, the USA, and China—are less than 60% its size. Why is Russia so big?

How Did Sweden Get its Welfare System?

If you believe that governments should look after their people, you’ll love Sweden. Sweden’s welfare system—the benefits the state gives to its citizens—may be the best in the world. Swedes live longer than people from almost every other country and they are happier, too. Part of the reason is their solid social safety net. How did Sweden get it?

Can Communism Work?

In 1991, this question seemed like an easy one to answer. The Soviet Union had just come to an end, the other Communist states in Eastern Europe were no more. Since then, the remarkable growth of China has made the question more complicated. In 1991, the average person in China lived on US $360 a year. Now, the figure is US $8,500. When America’s capitalist economy dived into recession in 2008 and China’s didn’t, Chinese officials were quick to argue that their system was superior. So can Communism work?

Why Are the Streets So Wide in Paris?

Paris used to be known for its narrow, grimy streets. Cramped conditions and filthy water encouraged the spread of cholera and typhus. This was the Paris where Les Misérables of Victor Hugo’s imagination lived. Hugo set his story in 1832. By the time Hugo died in 1885, Paris was being called the most beautiful city in the world. What happened? How did Paris change so fast? And what was the point of all those new, wide streets?

Why is Europe So Secular?

Going to church is an essential part of every tourist’s trip to Europe. Whether they are in Barcelona, Prague, or Paris, they shuffle quietly into some of the most stunning buildings in the world. They look at statues, stonework, paintings, and stained glass. The especially curious might attend a service. If they do, they will wonder why almost everyone there is, like them, a tourist. Europeans attend religious services less than people anywhere else in the world. Why?