Tom Barrett Watch: Here’s What You Suddenly Need to Know About Luxembourg

Luxembourg and Milwaukee have quite a bit in common.

News broke today that Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee’s 17-year mayor and favorite khaki model, is on the verge of being nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.

Luxembourg! There’s a country you hadn’t thought about in a while, if ever!

Mayor Tom Barrett; Photo by CJ Foeckler

If this appointment on its face seems like a nice, easy (albeit cobblestoned) ride into retirement, the information we’re about to present to you about that country probably isn’t going to change your mind. I mean, this job appears to be even easier than being re-elected to mayor in Milwaukee, which only one elected mayor has failed to do in the past 105 years. (Socialist Daniel Hoan holds that distinction, losing his 1940 re-election bid to Carl Zeidler, and to make up for that slight we named the biggest landmark in the city after Hoan.)  

OK, let’s get Luxembourg-y!


Luxembourg is really small. For a country.

Its 633,622 residents (as estimated this spring) lived in an area just under 1,000 square miles wedged in between Belgium, France and the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. That’s just a hair bigger than Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties combined. It’s the smallest European country but for a few of the city-states like Liechtenstein, Monaco and Vatican City. One little corner of it, the 50-acre Luxembourg American Cemetery, is home to Gen. George S. Patton’s final resting place. Luxembourg’s residents speak French, German or Luxembourgish, a distinct dialect that’s kind of a mashup of the two. 

City map Luxembourg; Illustration by Getty Images





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Luxembourg is wealthy.

The country’s gross domestic product (the sum of its economic output) is about $62 billion, which is roughly on par with metro Milwaukee’s figure of about $60 billion. The residents of its capital, also called Luxembourg, earned a per-capita income of about $88,000 per capita on a purchasing power parity model that allows comparison across economies. That’s one of the highest in the world. Milwaukee’s figure for the same metric is about $58,000. The country’s economy is driven by financial services, accounting for more than a third of its business activity, followed by manufacturing and tourism. Agriculture is a small sliver of the economy.

Flag of Luxembourg waving in the wind; Photo by Getty Images


Luxembourgers like to drink.

As if the comparisons to the Milwaukee area were not strong enough already, there’s this. Luxembourg sells the most alcohol in Europe per capita, although that’s said to be influenced by the large number of tourists and folks who cross the border to buy booze. BUT! In a recent survey, more than a third of Luxembourgers said they get drunk at least once a month, the third-highest level of besottedness in Europe. (Watch out on the sidewalks of Denmark, folks.)


Not much happens there!

No, you newshounds haven’t really missed much here. The Associated Press’ news feed for Luxembourg topics holds just a smattering of low-level stories, though the prime minister was hospitalized with COVID-19 this summer. The State Department describes relations with Luxembourg as very strong, so… yeah, this seems like a pretty sweet job? Hey, Mayor Barrett, enjoy the European vacay!

The Luxembourg countryside near Alscheid. Photo by JWH/Wikimedia Commons




Executive editor, Milwaukee Magazine. Aficionado of news, sports and beer. Dog and cat guy. (Yes, both.)