Western European countries, for whom fossil fuels don't seem to be an identity politics issue like in the US, are also making more progress in electrifying their transportation and developing renewable generation - like those massive offshore turbines in the North Sea, or the more comprehensive EV charging networks.
Again, they seem to have stronger incentives: high gas/petrol prices, higher population density, tense relations with Russia - their big petroleum and natural gas supplier, and the desire to gain an advantage in clean energy technology while the US is seemingly regressing.
Perhaps states that have taken the problem seriously - wind in Texas, Iowa, EVs in CA, WA, NY, will carry the torch for the US without the Federal government's support.
It has at the individual level too for most individuals. Try to get someone to consider flying less. Look at the size of vehicles on the road. How much meat we eat. Air conditioning to point of needing sweaters in the summer and heating to wearing shorts in the winter.
All personal choices anyone can make, no legislation necessary. We can blame fossil fuel companies, and they are abusing their power, but we have a long way to go as individuals before legislators see that regulation will result in more votes, not less.
The amount of waste is unreal and disgusting. I was laughed at the other day by a coworker because I commented on how much energy we waste by doing this. He said, "But you don't have to pay for it. Who cares?"
That about sums up the attitude here in Texas.
I wear thin sweaters to work during the summer. Last summer, I went inside a gas station after work to grab a snack. The outside temp was anywhere from 90F to 110F. The woman behind the counter asked if I had a medical condition, because, "Who wears a sweater during the summer?" I laughed and explained how my office building is an ice box.
(b) setting up the infrastructure to produce clean energy is not purely clean itself.
Until you can account for every last gram of toxic solvent, mine tailings, electricity consumed during manufacture, and CO2 produced during transport from e.g. solar panels, it's not entirely clean. It's just better than the alternative. Not using the energy is always cleaner.
That idea really excites me! If our energy sources are both clean and abundant, that opens up a lot of doors to technology that previously had uncomfortable tradeoffs. For example, high-energy-consumption recycling instead of mining new raw materials; right now it can be a bit of a wash (sure, we're mining less, but we're burning coal to power the process), but post-scarce-clean-energy it becomes way less of concern. Likewise with a lot of automation tasks. Very exciting!
I work from home so I have the A/C set to be fairly cold. I enjoy a specific brand of bottled water. A major online retailer sells this water cheaper than my local store. I drive a car that gets about 15mpg because I enjoy driving it. I generate approx 13 gallons of trash per day. This is mostly shipping materials and grocery packaging.
All of these examples are the direct consequence of prioritizing myself. There simply has to be a stronger (perhaps economic) incentive that will change the behavior of people like me.
The solar power more or less makes us net neutral, even when factoring in the electricity for the car.
- The solar power will pay for itself in less than five years.
- We don't have an electric bill to speak of. (There is an eight dollar a month charge for just being hooked up to the grid.)
- We pay very little to run the Leaf. (We pay nothing when we charge at home, but sometimes we charge on the road.)
I'm surprised by this outcome. I started out trying to do the right thing but ended up doing something that benefited me financially.
I think people don't realize the happiness and emotional reward that comes with acting on your values in the face of resistance.
That's why my podcast http://joshuaspodek.com/podcast focuses on leadership first. The joy, fun, meaning, value, purpose, and community parts of acting on your values are what make it fun. I'm in it because my food is more delicious, though it's cheaper too.
Crossing the finish line of a marathon is similar. It costs me money and causes me pain, but it's one of the best things I've ever done. People can live life for comfort and convenience, but for me the best things come from activity.
Taken to its logical conclusion, one could follow anyone around and claim they aren't doing the most right thing. The "right thing to do" is a scale, not binary, and it often conflicts. E.g. right thing to do for self health, vs environment, vs for my customers, vs for my employees, vs for my family (and time with them), vs happiness (for self and others), etc. GP is right, you have to align "right thing to do" with "prudent thing to do" and it becomes viable. Otherwise, to many it comes off as preaching as though they are bad people when they only optimize for other right things.
Now I don't drive but I use public transport. However I'd be okay with biking if we had a much better bike lane system in Oslo, Norway where I live. When I lived in the Netherlands I biked everywhere. It was often faster to do than public transport. It felt safe and it gave me about 1 hours of exercise each day.
You feel better from getting exercise, you save money and time. So once cities and authorities actually plan for green living it isn't very hard to do so.
Yet in my native Norway, the green shift has been much more about making life miserable for those who drive, while making few benefits for those who use public transport or drive.
A particular bad development, is ever more centralization by the government in the same of efficiency and saving money. It means pharmacies, doctors offices, police stations, hospitals are made fewer and placed further and further apart. This means public services you used to be able to walk to or bike to, now requires a car.
All this happens while government keeps harping on people needing to use their car less.
There is a lot of things I think our government is really good at in Norway, but transport is an area we utterly suck at. I am very envious of the Dutch.
People like you might want economic incentives, but what they actually need is a better education.
But I do hope that consumers start to choose better habits, because if we don't, we're going to hit a wall sooner or later.
Simply prioritizing yourself and only caring about economic incentives would motivate stealing when you know you won't get caught.
You sound as if you know your waste is hurting other people. You have your values, but if I lived as you describe, knowing my externalities needlessly hurt people would eat me up inside -- no right, wrong, good, or bad, just my personal values. I would change simply to feel better about myself and my role in my community, local and global. Just because people can't see how I'm affecting them, I still am.
If you don't value how you affect other people, my view is to live and let live and hope that people who care enough to act outnumber people like you enough that your waste doesn't hurt that many people.
I suspect that if you started changing a few things, you'd find the emotional reward to change more. I created my podcast http://joshuaspodek.com/podcast for people to hear leaders doing just that.
My experience and observation say otherwise. I have no incentive not to litter when I know no one will fine me. Still I get up and walk trash to garbage cans. Even with all the litter around, most people still walk trash to garbage cans instead of littering.
Most people don't shoplift even when they know they wouldn't get caught. Most people stop at red lights in the middle of the night when no one is around. Etc. Etc.
I've found living by my values the greatest incentive. The alternative is to try to accept that my comfort and convenience come at the cost of others' health and resources, which ate me up inside.
I think most people value clean air and water enough that when the culture shifts, they won't need material incentive.
Laws will follow behavior, not the other way around.
It is also a question of habit and social norms. A lot of what we claim is internal moral values, is really just social conformism. We don't throw garbage around and shop lift in large part because we don't want to be worse people than everybody else we know.
We see this in countries with a lot of cheating on taxes. It is hard to break out of, because nobody wants to pay taxes while knowing that none of their friends pay. Nobody wants to be the lone sucker doing the good deed. On the flip side you don't want to cheat on taxes if you know everybody else is really particular about paying it.
So I think the establishment of social norms is very important. And to do that one might need to create incentives and rules to kickstart people. As the norms develop you could cut back on the incentives and rules.
I've seen this in my native Norway. Fathers and mothers could split the maternity leave. Although almost no father took advantage of this. It simply wasn't an established social pattern. Your boss would look funny at you if you did it. Then the government mandated that some weeks should be taken by the father otherwise those weeks were lost and could not be used by the mother.
Within few years the social norms around father staying home looking after kids, changed radically in Norway. Hence government policies DO matter for how personal values and behavior develops.
Beliefs like this are why I focus on leadership first. There are many examples where we choose difficult things because of the reward
- Sports and exercise
- Learning and personal growth
- Writing free software
- Having children
- Going to the moon
Many other examples. They generally turn out to have other benefits, but they are challenges. Yet we love them.
With all problematic behaviours, citizens fall into three groups: 1) those who refrain out of a healthy sense of personal responsibility; 3) those who persist out of a pathological understanding of personal freedom, and then 2) those who refrain only because they fear personal consequences (ostracism, fines, jail time).
My suspicion is that a well-written, well-hated law can push a healthy chunk of people from pompous group 3 into reluctant group 2. As the next generation sees less of the problematic behaviour growing up, group 3 shrinks smaller and smaller over time.
That's how progressives ended slavery, got women to vote, made gay marriage mainstream, banned public smoking, and how we are now reining in the war on drugs; it's not clear why it shouldn't work to address energy decadence and meat overconsumption.
"Get on board or we'll screw you over", which is exactly the dynamic a "well-hated" law creates, is not how a healthy society is run.
NY-SAFE is an example of a "well hated law". How is it working outside the areas that wanted it in the first place? Culture isn't shifting very much as far as I can tell.
Likewise in spending thousands to upgrade from an average 25 mpg car to a 35+ mpg car, only to drive down the road alongside coal-rolling semis that believe DEF is a conspiracy.
I'm really curious about this as well. I drive an old Honda Accord that gets ~22-26mpg. In Texas I can choose to only purchase renewable energy, but how much environmental impact will be had from my purchase from an electric car compared to keeping this nearly two-decade-old car running? What is the point where this car is better left as recycled metal vs. keeping it running?
- How much you have to drive. The more you drive, the more you can offset the embodied carbon footprint of the EV, and the more fossil fuels you offset.
- How fast your decades old ICE car deteriorates, and therefore decreases in efficiency and increases its operational pollution emissions.
- The embodied carbon footprint of the vehicle parts you replace through maintenance of an old vehicle.
High range EVs with large batteries cancel their embodied footprint in 18 months with a typical drive cycle, even lower if you are mostly using renewably sourced electricity. Lower range EVs take even less time 
It sounds to me like from your situation (old car, renewable power available) the numbers already suggest you should do it now. From the report linked below, driving an EV in Texas today is like getting 52 mpg with an ICE car. If you're using only renewables it is multiple times more efficient (see equivalents for CA and NY)
My casual observation is that smaller countries just have a lot more good options when it comes to transit because the total distances are much smaller.
In the continental europe most of the urban centers predate the automobile hundreds if not thousands of years, thus the existing infrastructure does not use the private automobile as one of the key design constraints.
Not so in the US, where huge areas were populated and zoned specifically with the support of the automobile as one of the key constraints.
Once the infrastructure has been built using one design constraint, it's really expensive and difficult to unravel it.
(My review, if anyone is interested: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2114423486)
What's more, if you think of the EU as a comparison for the US, with the individual counties as analogues for US states, it seems to explain even less. Belgium and Massachusetts are the same size but over has much better transit options than the other.
Secondarily, Belgium can define it's own national policy, while MA must compromise with the rest of the country, including CA, WY, MT, and NY, all of which have very different economic and practical concerns.
The US's size is not a unique problem, but, it is a problem, and the governmental structure we have chosen does pose some unique problems.
If you want to talk about density or uniform distribution... Why is Australian public transit so much better than American public transit?
America's governmental structure isn't unique either. There are other countries with the same kind of federalism.
And similar rebuttals can be made for virtually all other explanations.
I guess what I'm really getting at is that in the real world there are no easy solutions or explanations to problems despite the penchant in places like HN and Reddit to try to reduce explanations to a single paragraph. America's problems are likely due to a complex interaction between federalism, its geographic size, its traditional wariness of cities, its first mover advantage turning into obsolete infrastructure, and many other factors besides. But it is hard to know that the relative importance of any of those things actually is.
If you say Belgium can make its own policy, you are almost certainly making an off the cuff comment. There are dozens, possibly hundreds, of Europe-wide rules and regulations on transit that limit what Belgium can do. Belgium has to work across borders just like Massachusetts does. From Directive 95/19 on safety certification to Directive 2005/47 on the working conditions of workers on services that happen to cross a border. Since 2007 every European railway undertaking
is able to off er rail freight services on every line
in every EU country.
It is a mistake to paint a picture where Belgium has unlimited unilateral decision making powers.
I would guess it's because Australia is, like, 99% uninhabited and uninhabitable or borderline uninhabitable, which probably means they can focus resources almost exclusively on the few densely populated areas. Additionally Australia's urban population seems to be significantly higher than America's (~89% vs ~80% according to 5 seconds of Googling I just did) so there's probably greater political will for investing in urban areas, and that political will probably also isn't resisted/sabotaged by an electoral system that grants hugely disproportionate representation to non-urban areas that have little to gain from realistic/economically sensible investments in public transportation.
american exceptionalism at its finest. :)
My state, about the same land area as France has a population density of 39/sq-km, right at the median value for the states. France has density of 122/sq-km. Population density is lower here, where people actually live, than in many locations in Europe or Australia. This may, in part, explain public transportation issues in the USA.
Totally agreed on the dollars for transit part, though. Still way too much emphasis on making cars' lives easier in Boston at the expense of everyone else.
Every car at the moment contains a person. Objectifying people so it is easier to hate on them is not nice. People should realize by now that it is not just privileged rich assholes that drive cars. A well working personalized point-to-point transport system (cars plus roads) can save the person working 70 hours a week at two low paying jobs much precious time.
So basically if MA wasn't up to it's neck in corruption it would be able to get more done with its dollars.
I assure you. Everyone in MA who pays attention knows this just like everyone knows water is wet. The problem is that nobody in MA pays attention.
Belgium must compromise with the rest of the EU on many topics.
For what it's worth the United States is actually larger in landmass size than China: 9.834 million square km in the US vs. 9.597 million square km in China. But China has over quadruple the population.
Yes, and they are evenly spread out across the country, right?
What you conveniently leave out, and which turns all these kinds of arguments based on a "total area / total population" numbers into absurd exercises in futility in showing anything useful, is that you have some few mega regions:
Even a country like Germany has extremely uneven population, never mind countries like China or Russia. There is nothing special in the situation the US finds itself in at all - especially not since the enormous population shifts of the 20th century from rural areas to cities.
When I lived in the US (for a decade), the area I lived in was the SF Bay Area, several places. This is far more densely populated than area in Germany where I grew up (former East Germany). And yet, I could not do anything or get anywhere without a car. It has next to nothing to do with population density - in the US you are forced to drive for distances where you would walk, use a bike or public transit in areas with less pop. density in other countries.
Even during my brief first visit to the US end of the last millennium, which was a three month tour of the continental US (NY to Alaska, to Arizona, CA to FL) the "must... use... car!!!" bug got to me too. Towards the end I caught myself getting into the car and driving <200 feet to drop some waste into a wastebasket (from the car window of course) on a shopping mall parking lot... it seemed the natural thing to do, I had to deliberately catch myself and consciously think about what the hell I was doing to recognize the absurdity. After only two months in the country.
Not evenly — but the population in the US is in fact much more geographically dispersed than in most of Europe, India, and East Asia. These measurements are not what you claim ("total area / total population"); here is a map of population density per square kilometer over the globe: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_density#/media/File...
It's true that there are a few areas in the US that have high density. But from a federal funding standpoint, the US unfortunately has to contend with the fact that its population is widely dispersed over a large area compared to most other highly developed nations.
It also does not explain the car addiction at all, because it would make much more sense to connect wide-spread centers using trains, for example.
Also, most transport is local - and as far as it is not combining it into larger "packages" (train, ship, large trucks) would be more efficient.
I'm also a bit amazed at your response. Your initial comment, the one I replied to, is only about comparing total area and total population. I find it at least a little bit disingenuous how you dug deep to come up with a new version of the argument.
I find the effort in many comments to point out how the US is "special" and "different" from all the rest of the world very weird. I would not find it as weird if it looked like a detached analysis, but it seems to be mostly emotional. Why? So strange. What's the big deal, what do you lose, if you come to the conclusion that it's of course true that all problems are local and none are completely the same, the variability and the base problems are not actually different? What's the big deal? Isn't it enough to look for "exceptionalism" in the achievements and possibilities, why does it have to also be true for such mundane stuff at any cost (e.g. suffering quality of arguments)?
The US is special because its cities were either built to be pedestrian-hostile, or were made so during the Depression years when the transport companies went bust.
Now, in addition to the mindset shift, I think you'd need to rebuild entire cities/metroplexes to make the public transport work.
Case in point: the South Bay Area, where I live now. Sure, you can add trains (at a huge cost). But once you get off the train station, where do you go? The sidewalks are those narrow strips separating the roadway from the parking lots adjacent to stores, they are no joy to walk on, and it will take you forever.
Where in Europe you have:
[store][sidewalk][roadway, 2 lanes][sidewalk][store]
Here, you have:
[business][parking lot][impenetrable hedge][sidewalk][roadway, 3 lanes][uncrossable median][roadway, 3 lanes][sidewalk][impenetrable hedge][parking lot][business]
Then, due to the zoning regulations you don't have stores and cafes right next to place where people live - you have huge blocks with nothing in them but houses, houses, houses.
Ditto for business districts.
It's not enough to have public transport, one needs to rethink entire cities from ground up to make them walkable, bikeable - and accessible by public transport - even if it exists.
Another case in point: Seattle. Lacking a good train system, they made the buses work with dedicated bus lanes, which make the buses fast - faster than traffic.
This works because the city has not been developed in the sad way I described above.
As for the suburban wasteland, which makes up huge chunks of the US population-wise, you can throw all your trains and buses at it, and it will be but a drop in the bucket.
Disclaimer: lived half my life in the US, half my life in urban Ukraine. Big fan of public transport, but drive most of the time - and when I don't, I bike, outrunning public transportation in most cases on distances up to 6 miles or so.
EDIT: see the urban sprawl point below:
> The US is special because its cities were either built to be pedestrian-hostile, or were made so during the Depression years when the transport companies went bust.
The original argument is based on "nature", things outside of human control. Your argument is 100% under human control, a self-made problem. What perplexes me is that the "nature" (inevitability) argument always comes first, but when prodded (like I did here) there is the attempt to shift it it elsewhere. I don't like that style, as I said, this seems to be mostly emotions-driven and I don't quite get why there is this attempt at any cost to paint the US situation as "special". Everyone and everything is "special" if you dig deep enough. The point is, are the difficulties any worse than elsewhere in magnitude and complexity? I don't think so. You only argued about the US, but the point of "being special" here has the meaning of "it's more difficult", and I don't think that is justified at all.
As for your question:
>are the difficulties any worse than elsewhere in magnitude and complexity?
I firmly think that this is the case - a century of bad urban planning is hard to undo. You don't have that in Europe (cities are old, the layout makes public transport viable and necessary), you don't have in 2nd world countries (a lot of growth happened under central planning that bet big on public transport because it couldn't provide enough cars for its citizens).
Huge cities in the US are different from cities in Europe. Even when a European city has suburbs, taking a train to the city center makes sense because you can get around the city center without a car. That is not the case in Houston or Dallas, for example. You wouldn't want to walk there.
Yes, these problems are man-made - but they are entrenched and systemic to a scale that I'm unaware of.
I guess what I am saying here: we need to understand the scope of the problem. It's not that it's more difficult to make trains running in Dallas than it is in Paris.
It's that we need to rebuild Dallas from ground up for that train to make sense there due to the way it grew in the past 70 years.
TL;DR: screw-ups are hard to undo.
There is plenty of research around public transit indicating the opposite: higher density increases transit viability, because public transit requires high demand per kilometer in order to be financially viable. For example, to quote this  highly cited paper:
"There are well documented empirical thresholds of density below which transit is unpractical for users and financially unsustainable for operators."
Or even just the opening line of the introduction:
"The counterpoint to the correlation between low-density sprawl and automobile dependence is that between high density and more transit use."
Connecting through "nothingness" is not an advantage: it costs actual money to build transit even through "nothingness" — labor and materials are not free, and even what you term "nothingness" is typically owned by someone and land rights still need to be acquired — and no one wants to go there. It would be cheaper to build transit between Popular Point A and Popular Point B if the vast "nothingness" between them was removed altogether — aka, high density.
> They still are just as distributed
You're taking the "sparse population distribution" argument pretty far out of context. The point is that they're sparse, not the total landmass size.
> I find the effort in many comments to point out how the US is "special" and "different" from all the rest of the world very weird. I would not find it as weird if it looked like a detached analysis, but it seems to be mostly emotional. Why? So strange. What's the big deal, what do you lose, if you come to the conclusion that it's of course true that all problems are local and none are completely the same, the variability and the base problems are not actually different? What's the big deal? Isn't it enough to look for "exceptionalism" in the achievements and possibilities, why does it have to also be true for such mundane stuff at any cost (e.g. suffering quality of arguments)?
Thanks, but I think my posts in here have been pretty data-focused and detached.
> You're taking the "sparse population distribution" argument pretty far out of context.
May I suggest a mirror?
> Thanks, but I think my posts in here have been pretty data-focused and detached.
Not at all, unless you think that going out of your way to find any "data" at all and then pretending that it shows what you say it does (which it doesn't do - at all!) is "data-focused and detached".
There is nothing in the US situation that makes it any more difficult than for the rest of the world. No, the US does not have "special" problems that make transportation more difficult than elsewhere, apart from self-inflicted wounds (another commenter mentioned car-oriented city designs). Of course everybody and everything is "special" if you look deep enough, but this was about "special" (as in more) difficulty compared to other places.
Also you keep moving your target. I still take your ridiculous very first comment as setting the tone - after all, it is what you yourself first brought up: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16918557
In response to being called out on that argument you came up with ever more elaborate attempts to disguise what you said and pretend you had a different argument. Own up to having made a very bad "argument" and stop this nonsense. We have a "paper trail" of what you said, stop pretending it ever made sense.
The US's urbanization rate is 82% which is higher than Canada, Norway, Spain, France, Greece, Taiwan, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Ireland, and 150 other countries.
The US doesn't have much of its population distributed outside of urban areas compared to most countries. The US actually has few people outside of urban areas compared to most countries.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Popular_Vote_Intersta... is one step towards sanity.
Unless you have some data to prove otherwise?
All of this obviously leads to much higher density. Planning rules effectively ban detached houses in many suburbs, as a minimum density is enforced. The higher density you have, the more effective public transport systems are.
Suburban apartment blocks also seem to be somewhat rarer in the US.
Sure, China is huge. But the vast majority of it's population is concentrated on or near the east coast. Most of China's western interior is sparsely populated, even compared to the US.
Even including the interior, the overall population density of China (137/km2) is much higher than that of the USA (35/km2).
However, it has nothing to do with the size of the country, it's in the way towns and cities are laid out.
For one thing, discrete residential and commercial zones separated by vast distances and linked by highway are the norm. This makes it impractical to walk or bike to work or shopping. In suburbia, there is no such thing as a corner deli...
https://www.strongtowns.org/ is about the best org discussing these issues and isn't coming from a left- or right-wing perspective but a sane, critical-thinking, research-based perspective.
I'd almost think it is bottom-up not top-down. Top down would imply some central planning, allowance for more space, livable communities, more trees, more parks and trails, mixed zoning etc. I grew up in a Soviet Union and towns and cities were designed top-down. Nice wide streets, electric trolley buses in the city that ran regularly. For all the ills and terrible things it was actually not as a bad as far as the general layout was concerned.
In US it is bottom-up because every developer buys land then tries to maximize their profit by shoving as many houses and cul-de-sacs as they can. Or as many office buildings etc. Every town wants to maximize its property taxes so they have their own interests at work. People who bought the property also now have different incentives so you have zoning and NIMBY. Ideally all these self-interests would somehow magically align to produce something great. But it often doesn't.
Bottom-up planning example would be post-USSR where people converted community gardens into suburbs on their own. Without any central planning or viable infrastructure.
Yeah but they didn't directly design cities the way a top-down developer would do. They are some planned communities in US. I live next to one, and it is a different feel to it definitely. But it is not a common thing at all.
At the federal level there are tax incentives and credits and subsidies and those affect everything but it is still very much a local "maximize my profit" kind of deal. Uncle Sam doesn't care if there are enough play grounds or parks for given area and population density.
I think that you are trying to say that the incentives (say cheap mortgages) and subsidies for oil and car manufacturers resulted in suburban sprawl? But that's more of a nasty side-effect than a direct policy or law. In other words we got the bad part of top-down influence without the good part of it.
> Bottom-up planning example would be post-USSR where people converted community gardens into suburbs on their own.
I jokingly say that overnight they become more capitalist and laissez faire than most countries in the West.
Top-down developer can design it any way he wants. Top-down just means it's planned and not anarchistic like in ex-USSR.
Even policy of not enforcing parks, playground or allowing lesser population density is top-down development. Policy of building highways to accommodate sprawl is top-down as well.
Meanwhile bottom-up in ex-USSR style means ex-community gardens converted into suburbs without central water/sewage, no proper road network etc. While some developers put in over-the-top density highrises in questionable locations. Again, without proper infrastructure to support them. In both cases, it's incentives from people or developers without any support and sometimes even acknowledgement from the government.
> I jokingly say that overnight they become more capitalist and laissez faire than most countries in the West.
I'd say that with 100% straight face. We're definitely much more capitalist than western europe and definitely competing with US on many fronts.
There can be even more structure, but when a town or city simply blocks medium density residential structures, that's pretty top down.
Also, these big developers are sorta top-down too. They are big powerful entities setting things up for the people who actually use the developments instead of iterative development.
There's a ton of ridiculous patterns built into development that relate to the way it is financed etc. and that along with zoning etc. creates insane sprawl.
https://www.strongtowns.org/ does a remarkable job at addressing all these issues, not taking a dogmatic top-down or bottom-up or whatever view.
You need to redesign American cities. The most obvious thing to change is zoning laws. Residential areas, offices and stores need to be more mixed.
Another issue is that many problems exist simply because it is too easy to drive. With easy driving you end up with donut cities where anything of importance is located in a ring around the outskirts of the city. That kills the ability to utilize public transport effectively.
If you discouraged driving more activity would be forced into neighborhoods and into the downtown area, which would make public transport functional. It is much easier to feed people with public transport into a downtown area than into a ring on the outskirts.
In the US, we are forced to drive because we force ourselves to drive.
The major problem in my view is the systematic and continuous disinformation campaigns regarding climate change and environmental problems in general (financed of course by oil and chemical companies). By keeping voters misinformed and confused, corporate powers ensure they are able to continue their operations without public oversight.
Unfortunately that's not really encoded in how you guys and gals do elections.
From gerrymandering, to the stale two-horse race for party-approved candidates, to the emphasis on a single person (the "President") with roman senate undertones as opposed to collaborating MPs (and where are the coalition governments?), to legal lobbying, to the undue role of appointed justices in legislation, to the BS with vote registration (and voting day not being an official holiday)...
It's like everything has been done to distance the governance from the will of the people...
Corellation != causation.
I'd say the exhaustion of Europe in WWI and WWII (which the US only participated with its military, whereas the European citizenry had much more direct costs across the whole population (occupation, bombings, ethnic cleansing, brain drain, etc), the post-war influx of European scientists (half of the scientific developments in post-WWII US are from Jewish, German, and other immigrants), the collapse of European colonialism, and an internal 300+ million strong market to try stuff in, plus a strong military to force its market interests globally, were more of a factor in that.
Case in point, China is becoming "the superpower it is" without following the same model as the US of "unchecked capitalism", if anything the opposite.
>I feel the US is the closest example in the modern world to capitalism unchecked - with both the pros and cons that entails.
What pros? If anything, unchecked capitalism tends to also destroy the free market and democracy -- as unchecked capitalists gain political and social power over their puny fellow citizens and lesser businesses.
Please enlighten me which parts of the 'pros of capitalism' I'm missing out on as a non-US citizen, because I definitely don't see many, if any at all.
* Largest economy on the planet
* Biggest and most well known tech companies (or companies in general)
* Majority of the top research universities
* Quality of medical system (if you can pay!)
* And so on
For us in tech, living in the US is no comparison - it's the best place to be an engineer by a long shot, due to much higher wages and opportunities. Not to say you can't find good stuff elsewhere, it's just harder, and you'll get rewarded much less in general.
Increased regulation, labour protections, consumer protections, and so on stifles the economy, at least in the short term. I'm not saying that's bad - there's more to life than money, which I think is an idea that Europe embraces more so than the US.
The universities here are great, and actually rank equal to or better than all but a handful of US ones. The quality and availability of health care is basically the same, for a much lower price. Even for rare treatment options that are only available abroad (e.g. in the US), which are covered through regular health insurance. There are many high-tech companies in countries like the UK, Germany, Scaninavia, Netherlands, etc. Maybe not as many software companies as in Silicon Valley, but those only employ a tiny percentage of people. If you have a university or college degree you can make a great living here, and your standard of living is most definitely a lot better than in Silicon Valley. I know because I travel there regularly for work and have many direct colleagues who live and work there, some who transfered from here, and I know how much they make and what their cost of living is.
Having 'more of X', 'biggest of', 'best of', 'largest economy' have exactly zero meaning in the context of the lives of individual people. Just looking around what we have here, and what you have in the US, there are no 'pros of capitalism unchecked' that are exclusive to the US for the vast majority of people. There are many cons though.
There reason for my somewhat snarky original comment is that I honestly don't think anyone could come up with any factual, comprehensive facts that prove that the US has any exclusive benefits from 'capitalism unchecked'. In fact, most lists (per capita income, poverty, cost of living, education, vertical mobility, health care, and maybe most importantly: happiness) the US is not even near the top.
In Norway we traditionally secured this by strong limitations on the usage of political ads. Hence you could not fund yourself to political popularity. The other mechanism is that starting a new party is very easy in Norway, so as soon as established parties are not representing the interests of people they will get squeezed out by new parties.
I think what helps Norway, is that we don't view our constitution and political system as an immutable document. We have been far more willing to tinker with the system and improve it than in the US. I think this is down to the fact that getting where we are today is a very gradual historical process.
When our constitution was written it was not a full democracy. It still involved a king with considerably political power. In the US, the country begins with a pretty good constitution very early on. This I think has enforced the myth that there is no need for regular updates and improvements.
I think US government has always represented mostly the rights and benefits of native capital.
There is nothing wrong with this, IMO, just as long as it is understood that where in Europe the nationalistic movements which picked up their wind from the US and French examples, thus leading to the modern nation states, where fueled by popular sentiment, the US independence was a semi-private project by an oligarchic clique.
Note: taking care of native capital is one of the best recipes for power and independence, which then facilitates all sorts of nice benefits for all around, but it's not everything that is required for building a good life for all.
If you don't like capitalism, may I suggest it is not the process of prosperity creation itself, but the lack of percieved fairness that troubles you?
The planet needs to move away from fuel and turn to sun/wind/waves. It is a slow change, but we can't wait for the oil companies to drain every last dollar/euro/yen/.. from us, before 'they do us a favor' on switching to sun/wind/waves.
Nope. Still a monarchy.
[edit: add link]
I would imagine over the next 50 years oil and gas is going to be a worst investment than renewable simply because by then it will have largely run out?
Then again when companies such as BP are increasing their investments into renewable energy sources it makes sense to see Norway doing the same.
All of the oil companies pay the same 78% tax rate in .no. The state-owned one also pays its profits, but the profits are a rounding error compared to those 78%.
All the oil that's pumped from below the seafloor is sold. Selling more oil to domestic drivers wouldn't really increase the world's oil price, or state's tax revenue.
So no, the US record on environmental issues isn’t the result of an industry takeover of government. It’s the result of effectively lobbying the public, and making “damaging the environment” part of people’s perceived identity in some quarters.
Just look at the appeal of Trump’s focus on coal: the industry has about 50000 workers left. That’s far less than solar or wind, or Tesla alone. But coal plays to a certain image of masculinity and self-interest that is far more common in the US.
EDIT: what I mean is that removing the petrol taxes won't solve the set of environmental and political problems they face, but rather would likely make them worse.
Electric motors on the other hand work much better with added rare earths, although it's still not a strict requirement.
The US's current political problem RE climate change could be regarded as temporary and will quite likely be resolved in 2020, but until the unique dynamic where half the country refuses to believe that climate change is a thing goes away, the US is always going to struggle on this stuff.
In addition, Germany, in particular, repeatedly shielded and promoted disastrous diesel fuel to give their large automakers a boost in the market. Not only was diesel over electric a terrible idea for carbon emissions but a huge environmental disaster for micro-particulate emissions that cause so many health problems in large urban areas.
Finally, we also have, once again, mostly Germany, phasing out carbon-free nuclear in favour of building new coal plants to give cheap energy to their heavy industries.
Europe is great at promoting its green image to its credulous fans but the reality is a lot more mixed.