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 pre-recession 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 farther.)

More interestingly 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.

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

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

As for California, it currently about equals chronically dysfunctional Italy. At least Italy still makes excellent shoes, or so we hear.

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