Life spans of Europeans and Americans 100 years ago, on average, were about half of what they are today. People mostly began working in their early teens and continued until they died. Societies didn't need to take care of their elderly, they buried them. Young people 100 years ago were not in their mid-twenties before they received enough education to be employable, as they are today. Many found jobs before graduating from middle school. While I certainly do agree that both the USA and Europe need to shrink their governments and entitlements, times are so different today than they were 100 years ago, I'm not sure that we can make serious comparisons just using economic statistics, without considering human differences today.