America the Exceptional

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Dardedar
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Re: America the Exceptional

Postby Dardedar » Mon Apr 07, 2014 3:34 pm

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"Only 48 percent of Americans report feeling sexually satisfied, according to a Durex survey. That's compared to 64 percent of Italians
and a whopping 90 percent of lovers in Spain. Spanish men were also rated the best lovers in an international survey. American men didn't make the top 10, but were the fifth worst.

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"I'm not a skeptic because I want to believe, I'm a skeptic because I want to know." --Michael Shermer

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Dardedar
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Re: America the Exceptional

Postby Dardedar » Mon May 19, 2014 9:49 am

Art Hobson just wrote an excellent article for the paper, reproduced below:

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Commentary: Why Is U.S. No Longer In The Top Tier?
By Art Hobson
Posted: May 18, 2014

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America emerged from World War II as the leading nation, but today this is far from true. We need to recognize this and ponder it.

America still has the largest overall economy (although China will soon pass us), the second-highest per capita gross domestic product (after Norway) and by far the world's largest military establishment. But we are no longer among the top tier of nations. One recent demonstration of this is the Social Progress Index based on data gathered by international economists and development experts led by Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School. The SPI ranked 132 nations in three categories: "basic human needs" such as nutrition, water, shelter and safety; "foundations of well-being" such as basic education, health and ecosystem sustainability; and "opportunity" such as personal rights, freedom, inclusion and advanced education. More than 50 indicators were entered into each category.

As expected, money counts. Nations with per capita gross domestic products of more than $15,000 received scores of 70 to 90 on the SPI's 100-point scale, while nations with per capita GDPs less than $10,000 received scores between 30 and 70. One fascinating result is that, above a certain point, money actually doesn't count. For nations having per capita GDPs of more than $20,000 per year, there is no correlation between GDP and SPI ranking: Once per capita GDP reaches this figure (far less than America's $45,000), additional economic development makes little difference.

America is the leading example of a rich nation with mediocre social progress. Despite being second richest and despite our high ranking in the category of "opportunity" (because of our excellent higher education), our overall SPI ranking is 16th. We fall squarely into a group of 13 second-tier nations that include the Czech Republic, Portugal, Spain, Estonia and Slovenia. It's worth pondering the 10 nations forming the SPI's top tier: New Zealand, Switzerland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Denmark and Australia. Also above us in the rankings are, in order, Austria, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, and Ireland.

Why have we dropped so far from our previous "number one"? Michael Green, SPI's executive director, replies, "What you've got [in America] is a bunch of very marginalized people." Basic human needs such as access to water and sanitation are worse in the U.S. than in other nations with similar GDPs. Other areas where we fall far behind include personal safety where we rank 31st, access to basic education where we rank 39th and especially health and wellness where we rank 70th -- comparable to many much poorer nations -- despite spending far more per capita than any other nation on health care. We're certainly not a top-tier nation, and in many ways, we're not even second-tier.

We must be doing something very wrong.

I'm sure this will draw charges of anti-Americanism, but I think this nation seriously needs more honest self-criticism. I do love my country: My eyes never fail to well up at any competent and reasonably traditional performance of the national anthem, as well as at much of America's heroic past. I was a boy during World War II and have always supported U.S. troops -- even when I haven't supported U.S. wars. I frequently thank U.S. veterans, even when they fought in wars such as Vietnam and Iraq with which I disagreed.

I will always love America, but she is losing her way. She is in need of serious change and of serious criticism. We need, for example, to ask what those top-tier nations are doing that is working so well, and whether we might emulate them. It's not anti-American, after all, to learn from others.

One obvious advantage of the Top 10 is the largest of them (Canada) has only 35 million people -- fewer than California at 38 million. It is certainly easier to organize a smaller nation. This is one reason some of us advocate maintaining a smaller U.S. population by encouraging low birth rates and low immigration rates.

We could certainly profit by emulating the top-tier nations in having greater respect for government, higher taxation of the rich, more generous welfare, government-paid health care, greater attention to pre- and early-school education, restricted access to guns, no death penalty, reduced incarceration and greatly expanded mental health services to name only a few. Such "liberal" policies are strongly opposed by most Republicans, most Southerners and most conservatives. But such policies are clearly among the reasons the top-tier nations perform so much better than us.

We need to rethink some of our traditional opinions.

Commentary on 05/18/2014
"I'm not a skeptic because I want to believe, I'm a skeptic because I want to know." --Michael Shermer


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