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[flagged] Why Don't Americans Understand How Poor Their Lives Are? (danielsjourney.com)
151 points by ptr 50 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 308 comments



> In London, Paris, Berlin, I hop on the train, head to the cafe — it’s the afternoon, and nobody’s gotten to work until 9am, and even then, maybe not until 10 — order a carefully made coffee and a newly baked croissant, do some writing, pick up some fresh groceries, maybe a meal or two, head home — now it’s 6 or 7, and everyone else has already gone home around 5 — and watch something interesting, maybe a documentary by an academic, the BBC’s Blue Planet, or a Swedish crime-noir. I think back on my day and remember the people smiling and laughing at the pubs and cafes.[0]

No, not everyone in Europe gets to live white-collar worker dream of writing poetry at the coffee shop and coming in late. See the people working at the coffee shop, the construction workers, garbage men, etc.

One thing I love about America is that people still get shit done here. One reason that Europe has very few innovative new companies created in the last 25 years is that everyone is at the coffee shop writing poetry.

An old joke - "Every MBA in America dreams of starting a billion dollar business. Every MBA in Europe dreams of starting a satellite office of the American business."

[0] From the actual blog the author quoted from https://eand.co/what-do-you-call-a-world-that-cant-learn-fro...


> One reason that Europe has very few innovative new companies created in the last 25 years is that everyone is at the coffee shop writing poetry.

This does not dispute the central point of the quoted piece, which is that the quality of life of most Americans is very poor contrast to that of the average person in some subset of European countries. I would wager that most coffee shop employees are more concerned with labor protections, healthcare, social welfare, the ability to afford housing and take vacations than whether their country’s economy is producing “innovative companies” (read: tech startups?). This was certainly true of myself when I worked in food service.

Even so, this point does not stand well on its own. It may be that Europeans are deincentivized from creating enormously overvalued startups because their quality of life is much better (although I question whether this is worth bragging about, from a US standpoint). Nevertheless, I’d consider things like lack of a single market, fragmented languages and cultures, completely different VC environment, and so on to be much more impactful in that regard.


Americans don't believe the onus is on the whole to make sure the individual lives a happy life. We just don't have the collectivist culture the Europeans have. I think this is a great thing, and is why America is where most of the innovation, cultural, and political power is.

I personally have lower taxes, high quality healthcare, and live in an awesome location, and I got all of that through an education and training. That is available to almost every American if they just put in the work.

That, to me, is not just a great thing but the morally right thing. Apply yourself and make a better future for you and your family.

To the people responding to me with the most predictable lines: poverty exists in Europe; so does homelessness; as does food insecurity. Please don't tell me that Europe is some great place where poverty doesn't exist and everyone is living great lives.

It is also possible to be sympathetic toward the most needy while not supporting collectivism. You know what the poor need most? A marketable skill. A good job. Support programs that give people the skills they need in order to compete in a globalized market. It's funny how collectivists never push that though, and instead push for more collectivism.


"I personally have lower taxes, high quality healthcare, and live in an awesome location, and I got all of that through an education and training. That is available to almost every American if they just put in the work."

I don't know if that's true. If I'm a child with food insecurity, my lack of nourishment, poor home life, overtaxed regional social programs, and government disincentives will cause me to be unable to focus on my education at my overtaxed school program, thereby setting me back for the rest of my life through no fault of my own.

If I'm one of many children born in a county or state with no access to clean water, I am more likely to develop a chronic illness that will prevent me from putting in the work necessary to achieve your lifestyle through no fault of my own.

If I'm one of many blue collar workers who destroyed my body in my 40s putting in work, I no longer have access to my way of work and the industries I can go into are plagued with known ageism. I am now stuck through no fault of my own save for a lack of future-sight that technology will be the thing to get into 40 years ago.

Moral correctness is all well and good, but if we are gleaning over those less fortunate with our morals, we're not being moral at all- we're just providing justifications for why we deserve what we have and more importantly why people who do not have what we have deserve their poverty.


The message of American conservatism is, "I've got mine, go get yours". Meanwhile the gots are pulling up the ladder behind them wherever they can.

This message tends to resonate with people with little empathy and imagination. They can only see their own experience and find it impossible to imagine another's could be different. Basically, these people are kind of dumb. They don't notice the ladder being pulled away and can't imagine a better way.

Unfortunately, these amount to a good 30% of Americans. Maybe those people were winnowed away during WW1/WW2 in europe, or maybe the way America was settled self selected for optimistic, unimaginative people with narrow vision.


For those more economically minded: We know that 1$ given to poverty will return the economy somewhere along $1.12, while $1 given to wealth will return the economy somewhere along $0.7. There requires no empathy to conclude that providing for our neediest appears to be economically beneficial for everyone, assuming economic growth is a good thing.

I understand and accept that certain poeple do not give a damn about the poor. But in this case the poster claimed something about those less fortunate that may be untrue, which is a distortion of reality I hoped to point out. If the poster simply didn't care about the poor, I could adjust my rhetoric appropriately.


How can a dollar taken from me by the government and given to a poor person generate a positive cash flow overall? Has no one taken economics 101 when they get to government that they cannot understand the broken windows policy that Baathist put forward?

Step 1. I earn money.

Step 2. The government makes fallacious claim using whatever economist dujour is will to prostate themselves to the political party in need of economic justification (no worries both parties here in America have them).

Step 3. The government taxes me based on this reason a dollar. I am negative a dollar that I may have spent on something.

Step 4. My dollar is used to pay the administrative and bureaucratic needs of the system, god bless them if they can do it for less than thirty cents (after healthcare, salaries, fringe benefits, building costs, etc.) my dollar is down to $0.70.

Step 4. The money is given to a person in the lower quartile who then spends the $0.70.

After this process, anyone is going to say with a straight face that there is an overall increase of 12% to my dollar that was taken from me?

What if I was going to save my dollars up to start a business, which could really create wealth, instead I have to save up longer to start it.

If the economists were honest with that statistic, they would admit it is not the percent increase but the turn around time to spend the money, or a pull forward to quickly juice the economy.

Examples of the government being spectacularly wrong about telling me why they need to listen to economists:

1. Cash for Clunkers, hurt the poor with a destruction of used cars, pulled forward purchases.

2. Stimulus 2, is shown to have no impact on the economy.

3. Trade Tariffs, supposedly to help protect industries, they just happen to be the industries that are rent seeking. Hurts the poor by increasing prices.

4. Minimum wage: started for racist reasons, still has a disparate racial impact.


> How can a dollar taken from me by the government and given to a poor person generate a positive cash flow overall?

Changes to th velocity of money in different uses. Dollars aren't consumed when spent, they keep circulating.

> Step 4. My dollar is used to pay the administrative and bureaucratic needs of the system, god bless them if they can do it for less than thirty cents (after healthcare, salaries, fringe benefits, building costs, etc.) my dollar is down to $0.70.

No, it's still a dollar, because spending it transfers it to other people, rather than destroying it. And, with government spending, at the first hop essentially all of that $0.30 is still in the domestic economy.

> Step 4. The money is given to a person in the lower quartile who then spends the $0.70.

Also, again, largely in the domestic economy, and in places where it has a higher velocity in the domestic economy than it would if a richer person spent it.

And that's where the gain in total economic activity comes from.

> If the economists were honest with that statistic, they would admit it is not the percent increase but the turn around time to spend the money

That's exactly what economists say produces the return to the economy / increase in economy activity that GP discusses.

This is Econ 101 stuff.

> or a pull forward to quickly juice the economy.

It's not a pull forward. (There are ways you can do that, too, but downward redistribution isn't really one of them.)


You're not going to save it to start a business. You're just going to spend it on rent, products from China and a car loan. Don't pretend your socioeconomic class is better than that.


Or that person might just "save" it for generations, keeping the money from circulating in the local economy.


> There requires no empathy to conclude that providing for our neediest appears to be economically beneficial for everyone

Unless you have information on the distribution of returns, they conclusion is unwarranted. At best, you can say that if you find a friction-free way of taxing and equally redistributing the gains (including most of the redistribution to the poor), and paying it back (starting by paying back 100% to the people you took it from in the first place) you would improve things for everyone.

But of course, you can't: reversing the redistribution would reverse the gains from the redistribution.

So what it does is improve the mean. It maybe improves the median. But for everyone? No, it doesn't. At least, not in the narrow financial terms those figures address.


Do you have references for those figures? I'm quite interested.

I'm especially interested in how those figures account for the feedback loop as the poor typically work for the wealthy, so I expect the gap in those figures is potentially larger.


Here is your citation. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/07/the-econo...

Spending from a finite pot will grow the economy more if it goes to poorer Americans. That should be obvious to anyone. The wealthy will save it, the poor will spend it and it will often pass through multiple hands.


>I think this is a great thing, and is why America is where most of the innovation, cultural, and political power is.

No, that's just a byproduct of being wealthy -- which is a byproduct of starting with looting a huge plot of land, not being left devastated by 2 world wars (420K Americans died in WWII, for contrast millions of people died in European countries each with 1/5 to 1/20th the population of the US), not having any serious enemies within near borders, succeeding a couple of declining (due to national uprisings) colonial powers and so on.

When the US was not as wealthy, but still as much if not more individualistic, most innovations were coming from Europe (Watt, Volta, Faraday, Maxwell, Bell, Marconi, Siemens, Lumiere, Kelvin, and so on).

And a heck of a lot of innovations today (and increasingly more in the future) come from the hardly individualistic China, which, -like the hardly individualistic- Japan in the 70s and US in the 20th century, has gone over it's "copy cat" stage -- take DJI leading in drones, to Huawei P30 Pro leading in low light mobile photography as examples).


...most innovations were coming from Europe...

Not too many people know about Operation Paperclip (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Paperclip) and what it meant for NASA and space race (Wernher von Braun was chief architect of the Saturn V launch vehicle, the key instrument in getting man to the moon)


Much of the modern business models I've seen basically try to minimize research and innovative work because it's costly and risky. It's far easier to wait for other venture to succeed and either buy the strategies early while they're cheap (even though they may not be well marketsble) or simply copy the successful models to become competitors, trying best to avoid infringement lawsuits but writing them off as a cost of business. These approaches are more cost effective and help maximize ROI then the innovation process.

US business is becoming increasingly efficient at accumulating and concentrating capital while producing less innovation for society at large by utilizing a variety of tactics that break much of the picturesque model of capitalism.


>You know what the poor need most? A marketable skill. A good job

I thought freedom to play and study as kids. A full belly. A supporting family. Family connections. Not fearing for tomorrow (eviction, money trouble, muggings, etc). Money for college. Not having to work to support anybody but themselves.

You know, the kinds of things it would be statistically (if not entirely) safe to presume you had as a child, or that most successful (e.g. college wise) kids have, and most unsuccessful kids lacked.

https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/the-wireless/373065/the-penci...

But yeah, lacking all that, a marketable skill and a support program will do.

And they might even be able to make it, if they work doubly as hard, and manage twice as many hardships as those who had all of above provided for them from birth.


> I personally have lower taxes, high quality healthcare, and live in an awesome location, and I got all of that through an education and training. That is available to almost every American if they just put in the work.

I'm sure that's nice for you personally. From what I've observed, this simply isn't true for many in America, who face desperate struggles despite hard work.


"If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire." - George Monbiot

If you believe in the gospel of meritocracy, "hard work = success", then you'd have to believe the reverse ("poor people are poor because they're lazy."). But this ignores the luck factor (that a lot of people are poor because of bad luck, and that a lot of people are so god damn rich because of good luck). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTDGdKaMDhQ


Yeah. The healthcare part made me lol.

I put in the "work," live in an awesome location, and I have to fight insurance damn near every time the Dr puts me through any procedures. That's not counting the awful healthcare I actually get. I guess I just need to drive 3-4 hours to get it instead of 1? Then I can't put in the "work" because I'm spending days traveling to get all this stuff done.

I guess the answer is to move. Well then that means i get to start over fighting insurance to get them to cover everything, again. I'm not doing that a third time.


It simply isn't true for many anywhere; there are desperate, unhappy people everywhere.

Trying to argue whose is better (or worse) isn't helpful.


It's sure nice to think so, and I thank you for stating this viewpoint so clearly. I think a lot about the line between rich and poor, launch and crash. I've come to think that line is largely in our own heads but also entirely out of our control.

Someone born poor will be born into an other reality of poverty. Every person they love will have no money, education or resume and will have crashed against unmoving walls while trying. Every mentor will teach them that the world takes and never gives. Every day will be tinged with hopelessness. Everyone will tell them they don't have what they ought to have and that there's no way someone like them can get it. This person could be as smart and filled with potential as the best of us and they will never escape this invisible cage of other people expectations.

Someone born rich with be born into an other reality of abundance. Every person they love will have a comfortable amount of money, educational achievement, and professional accomplishment and will have leapt over the obstacles in their life. Every mentor will teach them that if they ask, the world will give. Every day will glow with possibilities. Everyone will tell them about their success and make plans together for how to get even more. This person could be dumb as rocks and lazy but they too live in an invisible bubble of other people's expectations. The wisest of the people in this bubble of prosperity know exactly how fragile it is and work tirelessly to shape their families and communities so that their bubble never pops.


I agree to the advantages / disadvantages in general, but I think a lot of people push back because it does not jive with personal experience. In my case, my parents grew up poor with blue collar immigrant parents, but became successful and (in my fathers case) eventually wealthy. Conversely, growing up I knew _many_ people who grew up with much more financial and family stability than I had, who just threw it all away. Not a few -- a lot. In college, I became friends and acquaintances with a lot of dirt poor people from Mexican immigrant family's, and I saw a great number of them succeed (from e.g. migrant working parents to law or medical degrees, PhD's, etc). I'd never argue that being rich does not come with substantial advantages that hold in general, but I've just met too many people who threw them away or succeeded despite poverty to buy into an argument that generalizes into absolutes.


That's fair, and I don't mean to sound absolute because most things in life are not.

https://www.epi.org/publication/usa-lags-peer-countries-mobi...

"U.S. mobility is among the lowest of major industrialized economies."

So in other words, birth privilege is strongly correlated with future earnings in the USA, but less so in other industrialized countries. We still have more economic mobility than many countries, but we should say the "Nordic Dream" instead of "American Dream."


The scale of mobility is different, in the USA you can be much more wealthy. That's thrkwd direct comparisons like this off. If every is relatively poor then mobility is really high and uncorrelated with parent wealth.


Or those are considered outliers.

While those rags-to-riches cases are true data points, they are not representative of the population sample. They are the exception despite the strong correlation, likely due to another contributing factor (sheer random luck, great financial earning abilities, etc.).


That's called luck and it's one of the reasons we have shared healthcare in (most of?) the EU.

There's many things that can happen in one's life (and where one doesn't necessarily have control over) which would swing the pendulum from "a better future for you and your family" to "fucked for life". In the US if bad luck hits you there's less chance of getting back on track.

And people are getting back at you with "predictable lines" because apparently you've been in your stubborn perspective for a looong time.


> That is available to almost every American if they just put in the work.

Some people "just" never had the opportunity of an education like yours. And through no fault of their own. It's easy to think they should have "just" put in some more work from where you are standing. But the deck was already stacked against them when they were born. It's very arrogant to think that you would have prevailed if you'd started out in their spot. It's incredibly unfair to justify your position on your hard work when this same path was just not available to other people. When it would have been much harder for them.

I'm using the statistical "you" for the person that lives a privileged life. That person comes from a privileged position to start with, statistically speaking. Maybe you the individual poster are an outlier, but that doesn't change the picture.


"I personally have lower taxes, high quality healthcare, and live in an awesome location, and I got all of that through an education and training. That is available to almost every American if they just put in the work."

So, not trying to be antagonistic but this is pretty much a perfect example of survivorship bias: "this worked for me/X so it could work for everyone."

It's also part of what the author is referencing: this idea that you can always point, post hoc, to ways in which someone could have worked harder.

It also ignores rampant structural problems. There are plenty of people with marketable skills, or who are capable of doing such work, but who are walled out of opportunities because of implicit or explicit rules that actually have nothing to do with ability to do the work at hand. So we, for example, assume that task X can only be done by someone with a score on some proxy standardized test A, or with specific degree B, or who come from a certain type of school C; or who have experience working with specific platform D.

These types of arguments always seem to devolve into extremes, which is frustrating to me. It's possible to say "the US can be a better place to be for more people by changing X, Y, or Z."

The irony is that if I could change things the way I'd like a lot of the changes would involve pretty extreme deregulation in some areas mixed with certain select areas where I would increase taxes and provide more things publicly through the government. But these kind of mixed solutions tend not to get anywhere in today's political climate.


Is that why people cannot afford insulin in America. This is something to be celebrated?


Even when health care is free (but rationed), there's a ton of people who are killed by delays to receiving a needed medical procedure. Every approach to health care has its down sides.


"Every approach has downsides" does not mean one approach isnt objectively worse than others...


Which approach is better is very difficult to objectively evaluate. There are a vast number of yardsticks you could use, and I can't see two people ever agreeing on which yardstick is the right one to judge a health care system. Since cancer is one of the top quickly fatal medical conditions, I consider the wait to get treated for cancer to be an excellent yardstick for evaluating any health care system. In this regard, the USA is way better than many countries that have government run free (but rationed) health care systems.


Note I didn't say "better" - I said "worse". For example, there are different voting systems, each that optimize different outcomes. Impossible to agree on the best system because we all think different goals are important. Yet despite this inability to determine the best, First Past the Post is across the board worse than the alternatives. PIck a feature people really want in their voting results, and FPTP is worse at it than any other.

My point being, though, that "every system has its flaws" is a terrible excuse for accepting problems.


It's has many parallels to the fallacy of Loki's Wager: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loki%27s_Wager


Cancer is the second biggest killer in the US. There is no cure for cancer, any cancer. We can treat it if caught early enough by cutting it out. That requires having health insurance in the first place. Almost half the people who get cancer die from it within 5 years and that number is only that good because we're really good at breast cancer. Not sure cancer is the yardstick you want to use as how "great" the US health system is. Even among cancer patients you see disparities in how the wealth survive versus the poor, basically wealthy people do better. We're rationed the same as Europe, we just ration differently and claim it's because of social darwinism.


I have a hard time seeing your point. The things you say are good are all far more available to Europeans. If your claim is that Americans apply themselves more, then that means they get less for their effort. It seems like you have fallen into the trap of thinking exceptions are an indication of success, when it is really the opposite. In successful environments success is normal.


When on my death bed, I’m personally not going to be thinking: “Man, I sure did apply a marketable skill to generate shareholder value and grow the GDP in a globalized market!”


This has some points of merit. The issue with the American system is what happens when you get rocked by no fault of your own despite hard work and initiative. This becomes somewhat more apparent when you are older. Did you randomly pick a career path out of the hat in your 20s which dead ends in a dying sector twenty years later due to shifts unforeseeable two decades earlier? I'm not sure how old you are but there is a path dependency in life and particularly when you have family obligations in both generational directions (caring for children and aging parents) it isn't so easy to just totally change career course halfway through your life. Not impossible - but pretty darn difficult.

Then you need to fear for feeding your family and providing them with medicine. Did you or a loved one get really sick along the way? Tough for you.


"Morally right thing"... So you think it'd be immoral for you to pay a tiny bit more taxes to contribute to someone besides "you and your family" having a (better) life or simply not dying of a horrible disease? And what about "you and your family" get into a lot of health troubles at the same time (which I wish will never happen)...would it be immoral to have people from your country help you recover? I think the collectivist culture of Europe is what makes us better societies than the US. Because while you might say it every Sunday morning but do nothing about it, we actually help and protect the weaks and less fortunates and contribute to improve society in general and not just "you and your family".


"...and I got all of that through an education and training."

Who are you? Where are you from? What color is your skin? Are you male? Etcetera


Many points to dispute here.

> America is where most of the innovation, cultural, and political power is.

American innovation has largely been a byproduct (European refugees, cold war spending, deregulation) and not a deliberate result of the rational egoism which you venerate. Where America has been successful is in the marketing of innovations, which has created a perception of America as being particularly innovative when in fact global innovation rankings consistently place countries like Norway, the UK and others ahead of America.

The claim that America is where most of the cultural power lies is even less substantiated by facts. Taking in to account population sizes and language barriers you will find that the relative cultural influence of many European nations exceeds that of America despite their 'collectivism'. That is unless you consider culture to be the commoditisation of everything and anything.

You are correct when it comes to political power - American political hegemony has been a great tool for enforcing a liberal world order. This however goes against your overarching point - the opposite of a collectivist mindset would be something along the lines of the John Quincy Adams maxim “we do not go in search of monsters to slay”. America simply could not 'justify' its military presence in far flung regions of the world without appealing to collectivist moral principles.

> I personally have lower taxes, high quality healthcare, and live in an awesome location, and I got all of that through an education and training. That is available to almost every American if they just put in the work.

You must live in a bubble (physical and delusional) if you fail to see the trade-off involved with having government spending/GDP on par with many European countries yet operating a low tax regime with little social safety nets.

Yours is the only developed nation which regularly shuts down it's government and doesn't pay its workers. Unlike in most other western democracies, your veterans face disproportionately high suicide rates due to the comparatively poor levels of social assistance. Your homicide rates and levels of incarceration are among the highest in the developed world. You are guaranteed almost no holiday entitlement and are are one of few countries in the world that does not require employers to offer paid parental leave to new parents. Your vast levels of inequality (individual, regional, etc.) are contributing factors to phenomena like the opioid crisis, leading to whole generations of individuals whose opportunity is never realised simply due to the accident of their birth.

You have every right to support this system of governance and I don't dispute that it has benefited you and your family. Choosing to extol its virtues and claim that it is the 'morally right thing' without even an attempt to recognise the trade-offs involved is disingenuous to yourself and everyone else however.


These "pull yourself up by your bootstraps” comments, always seem to reek of the Munchhausen Trilemma[0]. Take that to mean whatever you will, however I'd say from my own personal experience most of the bootstrap pulling seems only to further selfish means, or worse is just some sort of wheel spinning that no one sees gains from.

Due to the overwhelming amount of memoirs and op-ed's and other things of the like that exist in abundance, I will refrain from giving example circumstances that prevent people from taking such “obvious” poverty relinquishing actions, such as education, and “workharder-ness.”

Not trying to be rude here but "the morally right thing...(is to) make a better future for YOU" is really laughable honestly. I am not broadly traveled but this sort of sentiment seems uniquely American. A land where even the idea of community is a bad word that stings with thoughts of dependence. Where self-sufficiency and lack of illness are the greatest things to behold, in much the same way that we measure the quality of chattel (be that farm animal, slave, or inanimate property).

I have had more than one conversation with some supposed Ayn Rand [1] touting "ideologist", that seemed to have no inkling of anything that was per-provided for their meager successes. Such as, an entrepreneur who started with no small sum of money provided by a parent, that did not believe an any sort of government regulation, other than ones that hold his employees to mythical slavery contracts he dreamed up in his spare time. Not willing to even except that food practices were made safer but some regulatory concerns, because of course there is no such thing as germs anyway(including all sickness which was simply a lie to get out of working hard). A friend of mine installs captioned phones for people who have lost their hearing, and even though he is required to explain as well as have them accept a contract that specifically states it is a government program at no cost to them, they still confide in him with their fears of socialist uprisings. In fact, I hardly meet a person with even an appreciation for the roads they rode in on. Much less the horse, that seems to brandish itself at the mere existence of their will to travel and an ability to procure a loan.

I’m not only suggesting that we should be a little more aware of the benefits that so many of us have been given from the past, but also that we not cheapen ourselves by only valuing self-reliance. We may have a system in which individuals can live in an imagined state of “I’ve done all of this by the sweat of my own brow,” but this is only imagined, and our souls are weaker for it.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCnchhausen_trilemma

[1] Not intended to denounce Rand, only pointing out a trend.


> Not trying to be rude here but "the morally right thing...(is to) make a better future for YOU" is really laughable honestly. I am not broadly traveled but this sort of sentiment seems uniquely American.

I think it has something to do with Calvinism and how it basically provides moral coverage for the status-quo: your wealth is a reflection of your morality so that have whatever you have, you deserved it.


Creeping Calvinism is indeed a thing that exists in America, hence the existence of things like the prosperity gospel.


I'm European and I'd love to live in the USA; if I put the same effort in there as I have done here my quality of life would be so much better.

I've worked incredibly hard all my life in the UK (and I've been successful at work -- something I have to remind myself of regularly) and it's got me practically nowhere. I'm taxed to the eyeballs (this year I'll pay approx 70% of my turnover in taxes of one sort or another) and the cost of living is insane (the average house price in London is currently about £530,000). Unless you have wealthy parents and bought 10 years ago you can forget about ever escaping the rent trap.

Great public transport though eh! Er no actually. Rail services carry people crammed in like sardines in conditions that it would be illegal to carry livestock in, and reliability stats are terrible; I am regularly delayed by an hour or more. And I am forced to use the trains, because I don't own a car, as I don't have a parking space attached to my tiny rented 1-bedroom flat.

Free healthcare is great though right? Well, when a total of 500 million EU citizens are all entitled to rock up demanding 'free' healthcare whenever they like despite having never paid a penny into the system all their lives, and I have to wait 3-4 weeks to see a doctor, then no, it's not great actually.

Please, my US friends, do not believe the Julia Roberts films, or your friend's holiday snaps of Rome. We, the poor European people who do all the work, do not spend our days writing poetry and blissfully sipping premium coffee, we have it pretty sh!tty actually, and be grateful for your amazing country and the opportunities it offers you.


Well to be honest you're complaining of the UK system which in 30 years has seen Thatcherism and then Blairism bend the country's social contract into some half-baked neoliberal inferno.


As another UK citizen, the problems are our government, and a bit of a european oddity tbh.

E.g. just to take one of your points, I've found trains in germany and france far better than ours.


I'm so sad for you and the company you own.


It is pointless to compare richest subset of Europe to the entire US. If you want to do a fair comparison, compare entire Europe to the entire US. Then we see that Europe is not that much better and so called "awesome European welfare" is not reflecting into key metrics. Just to pick two examples, if Europe provides vastly better healthcare and education for free/cheap to its citizens, why is life expectancy or unemployment rate comparable to the US?

Life expectancy: ranges between 71.5-89.4 years across European countries [1], 73.4-81.3 across US states [2]

Unemployment rate: ranges between 1-31.4% between European countries [3], 2.1-18% across US states/territories [4]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_European_countries_by_...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territ...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_in_Eu...

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territ...


> It is pointless to compare richest subset of Europe to the entire US. If you want to do a fair comparison, compare entire Europe to the entire US.

I don't think that's really a fair comparison. Every city from NYC to a small town in Midwest get the same benefits of being one of the richest countries in the world. American federal policies affect everyone in America, rich or poor, in big cities or small towns. Comparing with every European country is disingenuous because that group also consists of Ukraine, Serbia etc. I would way a fair comparison will be with European countries with similar economic indicators as the USA. If you do that, you will notice that metrics are indeed better in those countries.


Our quality of life is not poor. We just have different prioritizes. See the guy who lives in a double wide but has a Corvette in the driveway.


This whole entire argument is pretty strange to me.

It's upper class people from Europe debating with upper class people from the US where it's better for "middle class" people.

If you've read Picketty at all, it's pretty clear there is no middle class. And the only place in the world a true and sizeable middle class ever existed was the post WWII United States from like the 50s to (maybe as late as) the 90s.

Life sucks for lower class people everywhere. I suppose it's slightly less shitty for lower class people in Europe.

According to Picketty, the capital / income ratio had been substantially higher in Europe for the last 20 years than it is the US -- and at the time of writing Capital in the 21st century, it was still higher in Europe. That is to say, social mobility -- as depressingly low as it is in the modern US -- is (and has been) MUCH worse in Europe.

America's biggest flow truly is it's greatest strength. This is the most hopelessly optimistic group of people on the planet. Most Americans truly believe that one day they'll be successful.

You know why they believe that? Because for 40 years, this was really the only place in the world where that was plausible for an average Joe. It's still one of the few places where it's even slightly statically likely.

I think most people would trade hope for a slightly less shitty life.

I think that's why Americans don't really care that much why life for lower class people in Europe is slightly better than it is for people in the US.


> social mobility -- as depressingly low as it is in the modern US -- is (and has been) MUCH worse in Europe.

This doesnt match the reporting I've seen. (Example: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_mobility )

Of course, this may be twisted statistics - what are you basing your claim on?


I think you're putting too much weight into Picketty's fairly contentious conclusions.

https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/99455/...

https://www.econlib.org/archives/2014/06/unpersuaded.html

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/review-essay/capital-...

http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/krugman-reviews-picketty/

(for some starters, if you somehow have not seen how it is not the Bible that some people want it to be?).

Also it is hard to compare Europe's norms which country-by-country are generally featuring a lot more ethnic-cohesion and have social spending heavily subsidized by America's military (not to mention much more density for things like trains)

I say this as someone who wishes there were more dense, EU-style cities in America.

Mobility is certainly not dead in America, and the middle class is shrinking because more people are moving up and making more money overall: http://www.aei.org/publication/yes-the-us-middle-class-is-sh...

I think anyone trying to say "you don't know how shitty you have it!" is akin to saying "you vote against your own interests" which is really saying "I think I know better than you" -- which is trash.

The fact of the matter is a lot of people prefer US-style suburban living.

America certainly has its share or problems, reliable/trustable Governance being a big one (social welfare spending in the US, despite the money thrown at the problem, is just not up to the standards of northern EU although certainly preferable to what goes on in southern EU -- see cohesion argument though culture matters a lot too)

See this as an example why both the left and right suck when it comes to US healthcare: https://www.econlib.org/the-case-for-european-health-care/

In fact, I would argue much of the problem in the US arises because our politicians are simply full of bad ideas and not held accountable to them. Fortunately our institutions restrict them from running amok too much.

ex: the US subways suck because city politicians allowed construction and transit unions to run roughshod over the taxpayers for years on top of increasingly stupid regulations (lol @ US being the reliable land of laissez-faire) and that is why it costs 7x more to deploy subway in the US than most first world nations https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/nyregion/new-york-subway-...

Still, I am willing to bet a chunk of cash that the US generally has the better recipe for ensuring economic dynamism and mobility. I'll take the hopeful over the complacent, given the choice.


You forgot the biggest reason. Antitrust enforcement. Would facebook be facebook had it had to compete with instagram?

Would google be google without youtube or doubleclick?


Yes this is a great point. Antitrust enforcement is one of the few legitimate roles of the Federal Government in my opinion. That's why I wish a coalition could be built around personal freedom and the reduction of welfare, starting with welfare of the corporate kind.


How many Americans have enough capital to comfortably risk a startup and or and survive the fallout? If they fail, what protections do they have to not live their days on the streets?

I don't think having a higher quality of life deincentivizes creating new valuable startups. If anything, it has a positive effect because those individuals are able to take more calculated risks towards a project and fail gracefully.

If you're working paycheck to paycheck and in debt up to your eyeballs, that American dream of success carrot may look awfully appetizing but it's far too risky. It's significantly different if you're wagering that capital you saved up to build a pool or new garage vs. the finances for next months rent/food.

Those are the types of decisions many Americans have to make.

Frankly, I don't understand how some can slave tirelessly climbing the corporate ladders for small gains. I'll do only what I need to and focus on my private life. I work to live, I don't live to work.

If I do live to work I would seriously consider starting a business because that's the only way I could dedicate that commitment of my limited time on Earth. Slaving 60-80 hours so shareholders n-degrees separated from me can get another Yacht isn't motivation. I'd much rather become your competitor. The problem is, industries are becoming more and more capital intensive to enter, so becoming the competition just isn't feasible for many cases, not without heavy outside investment or an absolutely brilliant idea that competitors can't simply clone or capture you before you get momentum to compete.


   It may be that Europeans are deincentivized
   from creating enormously overvalued startups
   because their quality of life is much better
Come on you didn't even have a ride-hailing service like Uber and relied on those stodgy black cabs.

Ireland still doesn't have Uber or Lyft.[1]

[1] Does Uber or Lyft exist in Dublin??

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g186591-i88-k11258020-...


We don't have Uber or Lyft here because Europeans in general regard their business model as being highly problematic. It is nevertheless easy to hail a taxi in the cities, and you have the reassurance of knowing that the driver will be licensed and insured.


Dublin deregulated taxis so Uber and Lyft would be pointless. You can book a taxi from an app which is basically what uber and Lyft are anyways. We could do that long before Uber and Lyft became the household names they are today too.


We don't have Uber in Germany either, instead we have labour and transportation safety laws that hinder a service like that. While that might be a trade-off one could certainly argue about I'm not sure why that would present an argument purely for people having Uber leading an objectively better life. I'd certainly prefer having the above in place and enough money to pay for a cab if I need one, even if it's maybe a tad less convenient at the moment.


It's not like Uber or Lyft are super innovative ideas. They probably got VC money because it's a way of exploiting people's lack of employment and math skills to profit off cheap labour and zero maintenance cost for hardware (taxis). One result for "the math for uber": https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/hidden-costs-driving-uber-joh...

Or even: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/02/technology/ub...

As for the other startups in SF, I like this quote:

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/apr/17/get-rich-quick-...

> My idea was to pitch a tech startup and get obscenely rich while writing a book about how to pitch a tech startup and get obscenely rich – the Silicon Valley way.

> To save money, I took to cooking my own meals most of the time. This was when I discovered that it was much easier to launch a tech startup if you could afford to always have food delivered and never had to deal with mundane chores such as doing laundry, washing dishes or buying groceries. As one Twitter wag observed, San Francisco’s “tech culture is focused on solving one problem: what is my mother no longer doing for me?”


>stodgy black cabs

Which IMO are better, if pricier, than Uber in London. They're what I take. But that isn't to disagree with your basic point. If cabs in some European cities are better than cabs in many American cities, that certainly isn't the case everywhere.


The only reason Uber/Lyft exist is because transport in the US is mostly terrible.


@wozniacki most likely bases those opinions on second hand knowledge. It's hard to imagine why Uber isn't so in demand in many parts of Europe until you see the quality and price of the competition there.

Before hailing a ride I always check Uber and taxi apps, all of which give me a spot on estimation o price. Most times I have to choose between a Mercedes (C/E class, so large and comfortable) taxi and a Uber (lower class car), the Uber ended up being more expensive. In some countries Uber will still offer better price or price/quality ratio but this is far from a given.


> fragmented languages and cultures

This is what people forget when they compare USA and Europe, because it's not really easy for Americans to grasp this until they come live in Europe. I feel this is an understatement, and the different cultures and languages often leads to market fragmentation.


There's obviously a pretty tight feedback mechanism between the startup trajectory and the VC environment. (I believe the former drives the latter in the long-run, rather than the opposite.)


I agree with the white-collar BS story. People work hard in Europe, and especially in cities, some need to work multiple jobs to afford a very basic life. But there's one part I disagree with:

> One thing I love about America is that people still get shit done here. One reason that Europe has very few innovative new companies created in the last 25 years is that everyone is at the coffee shop writing poetry.

I mean, you're disagreeing with yourself here: first you say that many don't sit in a coffee shop writing poetry, only to then try to make a point basing it on everyone sitting at the coffee shop writing poetry.

There's plenty of innovation in Europe - but there's also limitations that go beyond the personal limitations of people, e.g. lots of regulation and market fragmentation. And often enough, that innovation finds its way into foreign companies, where it then seems as they got shit done.


I would argue against the author’s entire premise. The nature of (white collar) work is changing, even in America.

I work a job that is 80% remote. I work from a coffee shop in the morning (and in fact, I am there right now!) I block my calendar and go work out whenever I feel like it. I rented a mountain cabin for a month and went skiing every day while working in the mornings and evenings. I get my work done and show up when needed for meetings — so my coworkers / supervisors don’t need to know any of this.

Remote work is definitely the future for most industries. Collaboration tools are only improving, are cheaper than office space, and allows access to a global resource pool.


While I agree that is the future for now that is very much the exception for most of the country.


It’s changing pretty quickly at big companies; most of my friends are in a similar position. If you’re already working on a global team, it doesn’t matter much where you sit.


It's more because European capital is more risk averse and the labor laws here are very strong when compared to the US. That increases the risks involved in new ventures.

The other thing is that Europe may have 500 million people, most of them speak a different language/culture. The US is one massive market who broadly share the same mother tongue. In the US you can have one company market to all states (and the 51st over the pond!). In Europe you need at least a dozen to get similar reach.


> The other thing is that Europe may have 500 million people, most of them speak a different language/culture

That's far from sufficient to have a strong economy. Actually the strongest economies in the world (take GNI for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GNI_(nomi...) right now have small populations: Switzerland, Norway, Macau, Luxembourg, Iceland, Singapore... and the US. Most other developed countries in Western Europe rate relatively quite low.


Although interestingly, the internal US market is in some ways less free, less competitive and suffers more regulatory barrier than the internal EU market. Here's a piece on it: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/10/are-eu-markets-more-c...


>No, not everyone in Europe gets to live white-collar worker dream of writing poetry at the coffee shop and coming in late. See the people working at the coffee shop, the construction workers, garbage men, etc.

Even those categories have it quite better in Europe.

>One thing I love about America is that people still get shit done here. One reason that Europe has very few innovative new companies created in the last 25 years is that everyone is at the coffee shop writing poetry.

Well, we have the companies we want to have.

As for the "innovative" companies, things like Facebook, Apple, Google, I increasingly hear that they were not that good for us to begin with, even less so BS like Instagram, Theranos, etc.


> See the people working at the coffee shop, the construction workers, garbage men, etc.

Yes - but - folks from those professions are still going to enjoy a much nicer life in Europe than in the States. I'm referring to NHS, job security, unemployment insurance, retirement and availability of pass time activities even in remoter areas.

> One thing I love about America is that people still get shit done here.

I mean is that a pun or just a Freudian slip - b/c with regard to 90% of SV's output this choice of words is fitting well.

Also a modern interpretation of civilized society is embracing a life not centered around productivity.

> One reason that Europe has very few innovative new companies created in the last 25 years is that everyone is at the coffee shop writing poetry.

That statement is wrong on both ends. European companies - especially those coming from central and northern Europe - are also just not as loud and attention craving as the usual fund driven start ups from the States. Also few people are writing poetry here.

> An old joke - "Every MBA in America dreams of starting a billion dollar business. Every MBA in Europe dreams of starting a satellite office of the American business."

MBAs aren't the only ones founding companies - also scientists and engineers do so.


One thing that I find interesting is that Sweden, a country at the high-end when it comes to taxes and social safety, scores pretty high on innovation:

https://www.su.se/english/education/student-life/stockholm-s...

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-22/south-kor...

Apparently Stockholm is second to Silicon Valley when it comes to “unicorns” per capita. Makes me wonder why the rest of Europe isn’t at the same level? Is it the weather?


> One reason that Europe has very few innovative new companies created in the last 25 years is that everyone is at the coffee shop writing poetry.

> No, not everyone in Europe gets to live white-collar worker dream of writing poetry at the coffee shop and coming in late

Um,so which is it?


It can be both. The wealthy and the capable people waste their time in coffee shops instead of working out how to do something useful; poor people and the capability-disadvantaged work in horrible jobs making ends meet.


I think more precisely it would be "that everyone who can, is at the coffee shop writing poetry, and ironically the people who can afford to do that would otherwise be productive."


But everybody has better rights in the EU. So, the coffee shop worker has lots of vacation, sick days, good healthcare, free college, no worries about going bankrupt from medical expenses.


Tell me then how Sweden can be as productive and innovative as it is while most people work from 9-5 (or even 9-4) on office jobs and get shit done?

Why should everyone strive to be the MOST PRODUCTIVE person ever, here we work to live, not live to work as is my impression of American work culture.

The worst part is that the US export that fucked up culture to satellite countries, I came from Brazil to Sweden, Brazil is basically a poor and uneducated US regarding individualism and work culture, I would never want to work in that environment again.

I don't need to be rich here in Sweden to enjoy my life, I can travel, I can have hobbies that require expensive gear, everything that a normal person would like to have to have a very comfortable life is accessible. In Brazil (and from what I've seen partly in the US) people just want to get rich to get to this level of accessibility.

It's a very different mindset and I can tell it is much healthier for everyday folks.


>An old joke - "Every MBA in America dreams of starting a billion dollar business. Every MBA in Europe dreams of starting a satellite office of the American business."

Sounds more like an American joke rather than European.


No it's not a matter of productivity. I usually find my european coworkers more productive than the american ones : less bullshit, more action. We work less, we we get as much done.

IMO, It's a matter of how we see risks. The american culture value risk taking more than the european one. This affects investment, pride, communication, etc.

It has very good and very bad side effects of course.


Living in Europe thus could mean living in the future.


> One reason that Europe has very few innovative new companies created in the last 25 years is that everyone is at the coffee shop writing poetry.

I rather think a central reason (at least in Germany) lies in the complicated laws regarding founding companies (including taxes etc.).

Another reason is that Europe is no unified culture but a multitude of countries - each with its own language, law tradition etc. . Compare the federal states of Germany with the states of the USA and Germany with the USA and in each point of this comparison, you have similar level of culture similarity. The level of culture similarity in Europe should rather be compared to the level of culture similarity in North and South America together.


I can't think of any innovation the US has created recently, other than new various ways of undermining its own citizens.


Another quote extracted from the text: "[T]he whole story of human progress has been written by lifting one another up, not [by] keeping anyone else down".


Great. We start a lot of companies while the lives of people in and also around those companies are destroyed by them. I don't understand this fetish for businesses that mostly destroy people's lives while not even providing a living wage in most cases. That's not something to brag about; that's something to be ashamed about as a society and a culture. It's not just the employees, but everyone's lives that are affected. We let these businesses pollute and get away with murder and when we try to change them, we can't because we let them write our laws and buy our politicians. In most places lobbying is called bribing and corruption. It still happens but at least it's not legal. If you think starting companies is the epitome of what a society can do, that's a sad state of affairs and a shortsighted view of the effects. But I bet you think you'll be the CEO and what happens to everyone else doesn't matter because you'll have a cushy life. Exactly the typical American viewpoint this article decries. Just a bunch of embarrassed millionaires (or should it be billionaires now?) indeed.


American innovation today: we found a way to pay taxi drivers less than minimum wage and give them no benefits, while also avoiding state licensing.

So much of modern American innovation is just exploitation. Not but a decade ago we had a financial crisis that caused a global recession as a result of MBAs “getting shit done” and their innovative new financial products.


Uhm, someone might argue that you're still living off the windfall of state subsidies your technological complex received during the Cold War to win the arms race with the Russians...

... but that would be needlessly sarcastic wouldn't it? ;/


Why do you think those people write poetry instead of creating side project businesses?


It doesn't require capital. You can do it without involving other people. You don't need profit motivation. You can complete projects without the requirement that they produce enough income for you to survive off of. No deadlines. Less responsibilities. Quitting doesn't hurt other people. If you enjoy writing poetry you're also saving the money you would have spent paying for dopamine.

Edit: It's very difficult to move ideas towards better ideas if the only feedback is silent negativity. Was the question I responded to supposed to be rhetorical?


Heh, no it wasn’t. I’m honestly curious what people think, and your points seems like potential explanations to me, so I don’t know why you’re being downvoted,


Nothing about your reply has anything to do with why a person might create poetry.


The person I responded to asked why someone would choose Poetry over Business.

Can you really, honestly, read what I wrote and say that I didn't try to come up with reasons why someone would choose Poetry over Business?


When I read what you wrote, in conjunction with this defensive post asking me to speculate as to what you were trying to do, I think of the OP's question as a question on an exam and your reply as the work of a student familiar with the concept of "business" and utterly unaware of the concept of "poetry."


Regulations. Plain and simple.

Your employees aren't allowed to work their asses off. They're going to expect to be able to get to work at 10, and be home by 5.


> Your employees aren't allowed to work their asses off.

Strict labour laws don't really prevent this in practice, if someone _wants_ to work themselves to death they can (I've worked with a remote team from Poland before while I was in Australia. Despite Poland having far strong labour laws than Australia, some members of the Polish team voluntarily worked longer hours and just didn't report it).

What labour laws do is prevent employers from forcing employees to work crazy hours. I think it's largely a cultural difference in the end. I live and work in the US now and here I've noticed the general sentiment that employees should be thankful to have a job and so should do whatever their employer says. It's also important to realise that highly compensated tech employees are less susceptible to this needing to work insane hours because we have much better leverage, but that doesn't stop people self-imposing longer hours due to cultural differences.


I'm not talking about big companies. The question is about poetry vs side projects which in the US bloom into startups.

So again, 1) there are more regulatory barriers to making the side project => startup jump, and 2) finding both people who are okay with working early stage company hours and finding work arounds to fairly compensate them is much harder.


Huh? You can be an employee and have a side project independent of your boss.


Depends on your employment contract.

(OK, so given the general vibe I don't expect Europe to have the same kind of repugnant clauses I've seen elsewhere, but...)


I'm more talking about the difficulty associated with going from side project to fledgling company.

In the US you just slap up a Delaware Corp, use basically standard documents for it's structure and ownership and you're off to the races.

Is it that easy in Europe?


It is in the UK - go to Companies House, either buy a defunct company name or register a new one, enter your details and some info about what the company will do, pay a small fee {about £25 if you're using an existing name, a bit more otherwise), done. You'll get the basic Articles of Association, share certificates etc in the post, or just download them IIRC.


What if I personally prefer to work a bit longer every day, but retire a bit earlier?


Well, Berlin is a special case for a capital city. The rest of Germany probably sees the people living there just as you, haha.


They are also (apparently secretly) watching lots of American television programs.


[flagged]


People in the US have hobbies as well. They might be different, but there are plenty of them.


Most Americans enjoy a level of live that Most Europeans can only dream of. Large cars, very large houses, every product they buy is at least 20 to 30% cheaper, they have access to the latest technologies... the list goes on and on.

Hobbies do not make up for the lack of opportunities.


I'm unsure if you're being cheekily ironic about American stereotypes, but everything you mention as an example of "level of life" is stuff, and how stuff's bigger and better and cheaper.


"Large cars, very large houses, every product they buy is at least 20 to 30% cheaper"

Ahhh, large-ness and cheap-ness make a better living?

(Oh my. Thread answered, in a way, though.)


Since it appears that you weren't just trolling with that comment, I have to ask, have you ever actually been to Europe? The north-western countries offer pretty much the same abundance of material goods and lifestyle opportunities as the wealthier areas of the USA. (I will grant you that the average European passenger vehicle is less wastefully enormous than its North American equivalent.)

And can you give us an example of a cutting-edge consumer technology that is widely available in the USA, but not in Europe?


Cutting-edge consumer technology that is widely available in the USA, but not in Europe:

1. Weapons. There may be a few exceptions in Europe, such as the Czech Republic, currently fighting the EU. There are certainly exceptions in the USA, such as California. Overall though, availability is superior in the USA.

2. Private aircraft. If you want to build an experimental airplane in your garage and then fly it, you can do so in the USA. Licensing is pretty easy, especially if the aircraft is lightweight and doesn't carry much fuel or many people.


I was about to comment on how ridiculous this statement is, but on second thought I’m not sure, is this a parody?


I never realised buying crap you don't need equated to a better life.


> you don't need

technically you don't need anything to live. Maybe a roof. A cover to sleep at night and keep you warm. Food to eat everyday, and that's about it. So where you draw the line as to "crap you don't need" is going to be an interesting question. Do you need a computer/phone to post comments on HN to live?


I use don't need not in an existential sense but in a "you won't ever use it to it's capacity sense". For example a big car you drive alone within the speed limit in a city. A big house you only use 2 of the 10 rooms in regularly. An iMac Pro you use to browse Hackernews and read emails. You get the idea.


I don't think many Europeans dream of unnecessarily large pick up trucks, McMansions, and spending surplus income on an cache of AR-15s.


You define success in terms of houses, cars, and tech gadgets? This is in view of widening wealth gap and increased isolation, depression, and an opioid epidemic. Meanwhile people in Europe have less stressful lives and enjoy hobbies and relationships. I think I’d prefer having a smaller house, last year’s tech, and smaller car with more friends and neighbors than being isolated in my McMansion.


I’m not sure I’d associate gluttony with opportunity, but to each their own I guess.


This is the blathering of spoiled rich kid on vacation.

> In London, Paris, Berlin, I hop on the train, head to the cafe — it’s the afternoon, and nobody’s gotten to work until 9am, and even then, maybe not until 10 — order a carefully made coffee and a newly baked croissant, do some writing, pick up some fresh groceries, maybe a meal or two, head home — now it’s 6 or 7, and everyone else has already gone home around 5 — and watch something interesting, maybe a documentary by an academic, the BBC’s Blue Planet, or a Swedish crime-noir. I think back on my day and remember the people smiling and laughing at the pubs and cafes.

This is so farcical it's not even worth trying to rebut.


I'd have to agree.

> pick up some mass-produced groceries, full of toxins and colourings and GMOs, even if they are labelled “organic” and “fresh”, all forbidden in Europe

As if just being a "GMO" by itself is a disqualifier. That'd be 90% of the crops on the planet. And the catch-all "toxins". Oi the naivety.

There are some truths in that article but it was hard to read without cringing. That and he generalizes the entire US when public parks, transportation, art, events etc. vary wildly by state.

Ok, well public transport is pretty terrible everywhere in the US.


Food colouring and additives are generally more restricted in the EU than the US though. For example: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/28/well/eat/food-additives-b...


Europe is not the example I would use to tear down myths of American exceptionalism because Europe has its own myth of European exceptionalism. Europe has a cultural context that radically diverged from the Americas: the whole 19th century was a series of bloody, pointless conflicts that made populations extremely suspicious of power and the ability to compel labor / service. In fact, I find Europe a poor comparison because the cultural values around work ethic are so different. A better analogue is South America: culturally we share a lot more values (especially around consumerism and the value of work, though South America tends to value workers) with our southern neighbors than our friends across the pond.

No, it’s when you visit the cities most Americans think of as “third world shitholes”: places like Mexico City, Bangkok, Manila, Lagos, Bogota... and you realize they have much more modern infrastructure with more accessible healthcare, better food, and more opportunity for social advancement. When you see how the quality of life is better — or at at least equivalent — in a “shithole country”, it really disabuses you of any previously-held notions that America is heads-and-shoulders above the rest of the world. We largely just trade individual happiness for a low unemployment rate and a high per-capita income (which is only high if you ignore how much more we spend on healthcare).

I’m a big fan of Factfulness by Hans Rosling. One of the most insightful things in the book is that our understanding of the situation on the ground in a far off culture is that any information we have about that place will perpetually be 10 years behind reality. This has more to do with cultural / language differences than anything; before western researchers even realize advancement is happening to know to measure it, the change has already achieved critical mass. And the pace of advancement has only gotten faster, meaning our perceptions of these places are even further behind the reality.

But if you don’t travel, you don’t see any of that. You just see what the news shows you; and that news is influenced by the sentiments of an audience comprised of people who largely don’t travel. So misunderstandings persist.


100% Except its not a spoiled rich kid, it's a man with "20 years of experience in technology" who is most certainly not a poor american.


Daniel Miller is not the author of this piece. It is in fact Umair Haque, who (although I agree with the overarching point of this particular thesis) tends to churn poorly reasoned pseudo economic drivel designed purely for mass appeal.


Why does this sounds farcical? I’ve spent some time in Europe, lived a couple of different countries for a year or so each, and this comparison seems generally fair to me. And wouldn’t that be the expected outcome of more socialist economic policies?


It may be true in some broad sense but does he expect me to believe he is unable to find a quality croissant or coffee in New York? And just has to watch mindless reality television, instead of documentaries while in the states?


Did he say you can’t find those things in New York? I read his point as generally Europeans value things like fresh bread and leisurely spending time in a cafe more than Americans. This is backed up by my own personal observations from the time I’ve spent in Europe.


He says everything he consumes in the US is of lower quality than in Europe. If high quality goods are available in the US then he is simply choosing to consume low quality goods.

Again, you may be right about what people broadly value, but he makes it personal as if he has no choice but to consume low quality garbage while in the US. I think he was being a bit hyperbolic. Perhaps he could have said it is more work for him to consume quality food/TV in the US because of what is easily available, popular, marketed etc..


I'll just add that I agree with almost all of your points here, but I'm still not sure I agree that the article was being hyperbolic, I think that "it is more work for him to consume quality food/TV in the US because of what is easily available, popular, marketed etc.." is essentially his point, e.g., the title is "Why Don't Americans Understand How Poor Their Lives Are?". Is that any different than asking "why is it so much work to have higher quality of life in the US?"?


It's hilarious that the author is citing television. Is there anyone on the Earth who believes, e.g., British television is better as a whole than US television? They must really like slow-to-never-developing low budget, single camera angle crime dramas.

[Edit: Apparently so! Quite the controversial statement. However, when voting, do consider what percentage of television consumed outside of the US was produced IN the US and vice versa.]


The endless interruptions of adverts every 5 minutes does tend to encourage me that the experience of US television is worse.

Some of the actual content is much better, but the experience of watching television in the US is drastically worse.


If you are seeing commercials, you are doing it wrong.


I'm confused by this, how do you avoid commercials. From watching the off NFL game there's even like pre-commercial commercials. "Brought to you by <some american car company> and <drink> the official drink of <whatever> and McDonalds - I'm loving it".


tivo, netflix, amazon prime, hulu, etc.

I don't watch network tv anymore. Well, I don't actually watch TV at all, but you get the picture.


According to demographics, the market share of people watching broadcast television vs people watching "alternative media" (read streaming) was less than 50% as of the end of last year, I believe, according to some studies (though they were surveys, so it's hard to say exactly how accurate they are, but the pendulum is definitely swinging)

EDIT:

In an American survey, but this did include YouTube as a form of streaming media


I don't know about Tivo, but are all of the rest of these not available in Europe...?


Well, I'm using Tivo just to refer to any timeshifting device, there are plenty. I thought the others were available in some form in EU, but I could be wrong.


I think they have us beat on the reality cooking show front- British Bakeoff is an oddly positive show while the judges are still providing a valuable critique of the contestants skills. Compare this to to Chopped, which just feels rushed and intensely competitive and cutthroat.


This is fair. However, note the "as a whole" above.


One, the sentence you’re responding to doesn’t say anything explicit about TV being better there, and two, I haven’t lived lived in Europe for over 15 years now, but yes when I did, the television was incredibly different and yes of course that ends up having a cultural impact. Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine[1] does a brief analysis of this between the US and Canada.

[1]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowling_for_Columbine


Michael Moore's impression of Canada is ridiculous, and he's convinced Americans that the U.S. has an exceptionally high rate of massacres committed with guns, when this is not the case, even among highly developed countries.


I just know one person in my peer group who watches "classic" television.

Most people just switched to online on-demand streaming services.


> Is there anyone on the Earth who believes, e.g., British television is better as a whole than US television?

Well, I do. Although my interest is more in science/nature TV than dramas. In the past Discovery Channel would be about.. discovery. Science. Nature. Then it became a reality show. Just as one example. I don't find anything to watch. British television has always been, and still is way above anything anywhere when it comes to science and nature. And to be honest I prefer the British crime dramas over the US ones too.


as a Brit who moved to the US, yeh, I love my VPN service so I can watch British TV, very few US programs I watch. And never ever live TV with the endless commercials


Yea but muh Sunday Tatort!


Hell yeah, I'm neither american nor british and I much prefer british shows. I do also like Netflix originals though...


Absolutely, lets sweep the pandemic of knife crimes currently sweeping Europe - among a whole host of other related malaises and social evils too long to list here - neatly under the rug and call it a day.[1] [2]

[1]

Ten charts on the rise of knife crime in England and Wales

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42749089

[2]

Germany: Stabbings and Knife Crimes at Record High

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/13802/germany-stabbings-k...


UK homicide rate: 1.20 per 100,000

German homicide rate: 1.18 per 100,000

US homicide rate: 5.35 per 100,000

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intention...


[flagged]


Reason for the low convition rate [3]. The cameras were too bad:

https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/koeln-silvester-justiz-101....

Perpetrators could hardly be identified

In Cologne, the charges resulted in preliminary proceedings against 290 suspects and to date in 43 indictments against a total of 52 defendants; in addition, six orders of summary punishment were issued. According to the local court, six of the cases are still pending. But most of the proceedings deal with accusations such as theft, robbery or receiving stolen goods. The allegation of sexual coercion was made in only three proceedings against a total of six accused persons.

The biggest difficulty for the investigators: Many of the suspected perpetrators of sexual assaults from New Year's Eve could only be identified with difficulty afterwards. The investigators evaluated more than 1000 hours of image material, for example from surveillance cameras. However, in most cases it was not possible to identify individual persons.


To cite Benefits Street to say the whole of Europe is like that is like concluding the whole of the US is a shithole by looking at 1 street in Alabama where most of the residents are opioid-addicts , or that it's a Somalia-like warzone after looking at Chicago's south side...


What misinformation. Germany just had the fewest crimes in 2018 since 1992, and generally has much fewer violent crime than the US.

Some actual sources which are not from a far-right 'think tank':

Crime statistic summary (english): https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/downloads/EN/publikatione...

Crime statistic full (german): https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/downloads/DE/publikatione...

FAZ article (german): https://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/kriminalstatistik...


German Knife Crimes Pandemic?

https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/kriminalstatistik-125.html

"One of the safest countries in the world"

Interior Minister Seehofer expressed his satisfaction with the 2018 crime statistics, saying that the number of crimes had decreased by 3.6 percent. It is lower than it has been for decades, the minister said.


Note that the knife crime problem is in England and Wales not the entire UK and is pretty much due to a conscious decision by the then home secretary (now PM) to drastically reduce police numbers and change how they police.


Bold move, trying to critique Europe on violent crime statistics versus those of the US.


If I'm reading these statistics correctly the stabbing rate in Germany is now on par with the homocide rate in the US.

Of course not all stabbings are fatal.


Knives? We don't need such primitive tools in 'Murica: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2010_homicide_suicid...


A lot depends on your particulars. I'm a minority and the US is great because I can earn opportunities my relatives in some other countries would not be allowed. In some other countries, your ethnicity/background/religion would get in the way far more than in the US.

This is not to say we don't have room for improvement, we do. Just that we're more meritocratic than certain other first world countries. I know this just comparing experiences, stories, outcomes from many friends, cousins, co-workers in other countries. (Also, I've lived overseas for work many years and got to see things firsthand.)

Is it a grind? Yes. Stressful? Yes. But meritocracies [wherever you are on the spectrum] are stressful because you are competing for outcomes rather than being born into them.

...And then there is US healthcare. I don't know what to say about that...


Came here to say this. I am a minority but never found myself misplaced in the USA. The country I came without much to offer but honest work and positive/open mind.

Whereas in Europe I've been victim of physical abuse just because I am not white and the immigration path is also completely broken.

There is suffering everywhere I lived Canada, USA, France, Denmark, Japan, Brazil. Some places take care better of the unprivileged indeed.

...yeah the health care has become a big problem but it is for the Americans to solve it their own way.


> I am a minority but never found myself misplaced in the USA

> in Europe I've been victim of physical abuse just because I am not white and the immigration path is also completely broken

I'm not contesting you actually had these experiences but yours must be an exceptional story. It contradicts the reality of a lot of people.

But you make one big confusion that makes me question your experience with the systems. The US is a country with relatively uniform legislation. Europe is a continent where not only are the cultures vastly different between countries, the laws (like immigration) can be very different, a lot more so than between US states. And not all European countries are in the European Union. So the blanket statement "the immigration path is also completely broken", especially when comparing to the US, gives away some (uninformed) bias.

A person coming from Syria can get permanent resident status and/or citizenship after just a few years under perfectly acceptable conditions (like learning the language and having a job). So I don't really see a broken or particularly difficult path especially compared to the US.


Definitely, it is my subjective experience but what I can say is that lot of high skilled immigrants here in Denmark don't feel welcome [0]. Whereas, in the USA, we were really proud to be there and contribute to the society and eventually become permanent resident / citizen.

Legislation in the USA varies a lot, unless we talk about immigration. Which in my case here in EU, as spouse of EU citizen, is also being scrutinized by politicians here in Denmark [0].

[0]: https://www.thelocal.dk/20190327/opinion-stop-being-so-hosti...

edit: forgot to mention. My worst employer in the USA was ironically a Danish company (MeyersUSA hospitality group). They blatantly violated labor laws and sanitation requirements (sadly they managed to erase some of the negative reviews from Glassdoor).


> what I can say is that lot of high skilled immigrants here in Denmark don't feel welcome [0]. Whereas, in the USA

Unfortunately, immigration in the US is not a meritocracy. It chooses for diversity rather than skill. Having been through the immigration system (as an Indian citizen), I will say it is broken. I have seen Uber drivers from Africa getting a green card easier than I can even though I spent 5-6 years there, studied at a local university, had a good job.


Then I would rather say the issue is with Denmark (laws, politicians, people, whoever you see as the main culprit) rather than a European issue. Denmark is one of the smaller countries (size and population) in the EU so generalizing based on that example seems like an overreaction.

Also I can't find any reference anywhere supporting the idea that physical abuse from the locals is a common practice in Denmark. There's no pattern to police shootings and incarcerations based on color either.

For example Vienna, Prague or Madrid are generally considered as some of the most expat friendly cities in the world. Germany, Spain, Sweden are also generally considered as some of the best expat countries in the world.

Imagine saying the US is not an innovative country because Mississippi is not innovative. :)


You are right that it might be a particular problem from Denmark but I also see it is common to share the positiveness of EU across all States (like saying assuming quality health care is universal across EU) but single out negativities when convenient.

The use case pointed with Mississippi is one of those absurd edge cases. It would be more suitable to say you don't generalize the USA as a country full of pick trucks or people carrying concealed guns, even if that might be more common in some states and illegal/uncommon in others.


I just picked one of the members of a union, chose a weak point, and generalized it to the whole union. Is it not similar to the Europe/Denmark situation?


> In some other countries, your ethnicity/background/religion would get in the way far more than in the US.

I completely disagree. I'm from Europe and applied to a few American-based companies and they all had these ridiculous forms related to anti-discrimination and the like. Is it that big of a problem in the US? That's whay I'm asking myself when I have to fill in those forms. Why do you have to know my ethnicity? Why do people in the US _constantly_, and I mean CONSTANTLY, talk about their origins? Literally no one cares in Europe, but it's always said in the US. "Native-american btw", "african-american btw", etc. I personally think this is an issue in the US, but it isn't that big of an issue in Europe.

> This is not to say we don't have room for improvement, we do. Just that we're more meritocratic than certain other first world countries.

I personally think that this is an illusion. Europe is in my opinion a lot more meritocratic than the US from my visits. I think the US is very hypocritical when it talks about immigrants as the whole of the US is made of immigrants, just all from different generations. Europe doesn't currently have a problem with building a wall to keep the Mexicans out or anything.


Europe doesn't currently have a problem with building a wall to keep the Mexicans out or anything.

This is plainly not true. EU has a lot of its own walls. It's just the fact that it lacks long land border with countries from which major migration flows originate is what makes it a lesser topic for debates.

Why do you think migrants coming from the Middle East prefer to cross Aegean sea, instead of going by land? Because land border is all fences, barbed wire, and even landmines with not a single gap.

And limiting migration is very hot political issue in many EU countries currently.


> and even landmines with not a single gap

Really? Are you talking about the landmines in Croatia that weren't fully cleared after the 1990s Balkan war? People were actually providing maps with the approximate locations of the fields so they can be safely bypassed.

You make it sound like Europe is planting mines to keep migrants out. If the reaction of a small minority of European countries (2-3) seems exaggerated when faced with over 1 million (!) immigrants, then the fact that over 7000 people [0] were killed at the US-Mexico border just over the past 20 years should really shock you to the core.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migrant_deaths_along_the_Mexic...


I'm not claiming that EU is planting landmines against migrants. I'm telling that EU's border with migrant-providing regions is short, and already fortified - and that's why there's no discussion about border walls. And it's not a reaction of minority of countries: with all its postures, EU is not afraid to fund expansion and renovation of border fences not only on its own borders, but in other countries which are on typical migrant paths. If you want a projection on US: it's like there's a sea between US, and Mexico, except for a few strips, already fenced for decades, and US administration pays to build walls between Mexico, and Guatemala, Guatemala, and Honduras, and so on.

Btw, I'm quite certain number of migrants drowned in Meditteranean over past 20 years is much more then 7000.


On that wikipedia page you linked, the 7000 (or 10000 since 1994) deaths are from all combined sources. The vast majority of those seem to be from exposure to the elements (for instance hypothermia is one of the most common causes of death) or accidents. If you read the part of that page that talks about Border Agents' use of force, around 17 deaths are listed, with an additional 10 left disabled. Your use of that source is a misunderstanding at best or dishonest at worst.


Which is no different from the landmines that "Europeans" (one country) "use" (still have them after an atrocious war) to keep migrants out. This was my point.

It felt like a "whatabout" reaction and no effort was made to remove the impression that mines are actually employed with the purpose of keeping migrants out.


I understand. I wasn't supporting the person you were arguing against, just pointing out that the US Border Patrol hasn't killed thousands of migrants.


Landmines? Aren't EU countries signatories to the Ottawa Treaty?


TB of my knowledge the border between Turkey, and Greece still has uncleared landmine fields, and Serbian-Croatian border has uncleared spots too, in spite of the treaty. For clarification, I'm not telling they appeared there because of migrants. No, but my point is one can't pretend EU don't want to build border walls because EU is all migrant-loving place. EU's land border with unstable regions is very short (a patch in Bulgaria, a patch in Greece, Spanish Ceuta & Melilla), and already well-fortified. That's why there's no duscussion.


Those forms are so companies can prove they do not have systemic racism in their hiring practices. afaik for some government contracts a higher % of minorities is a positive factor (as would lower bid price).


> Why do you have to know my ethnicity? Why do people in the US _constantly_, and I mean CONSTANTLY, talk about their origins? Literally no one cares in Europe, but it's always said in the US. "Native-american btw", "african-american btw", etc

As a Canadian who's lived in Europe for the last 4 years, this is farcically false.

When my family emigrated to Canada, we were Canadian from day 1. And as you also noted in your dashed qualifiers, all those people are still considered AMERICAN. That is the North American way.

On the other hand, in Europe, i meet people who have been in their current country for 3 generations but still consider themselves as from the country of their ancestors.


I think it depends on your frame of reference.

Sure, for certain individuals the US, or Europe, or much of Asia would provide a better life.

But compared to how things were in the past, the US has changed for the worse.

I'm a white male, so I can't really complain about being mistreated in the sense you're mentioning. But in talking to many people, and in my own experiences, there's a sense that the "meritocracy" is increasingly a falsehood based on survivorship bias.

My own sense is that this is largely driven by increasing income inequality, coupled with or driven itself by monopolies and rent-seeking behavior across many many domains. So a smaller and smaller pool of money is going around to those who are able and willing, and a disproportionate amount of it is going to a smaller few who either game the system, or who are willing to tolerate abuse.

Part of what the article is referencing, I think, is a shame among Americans to say this, because it's labeled as sour grapes or something. I also think part of it is a sense that admitting the system might be broken is actually less optimistic because it amounts to some admission that you don't have agency. But these seem increasingly untenable as positions to have.


> In some other countries, your ethnicity/background/religion would get in the way far more than in the US.

Some may say that in the US, what gets in the way is which social class you belong to. Several studies highlight that social mobility is very low in the US.


As an American who has lived in Europe for 5+ years: the single biggest issue with the States is that everything is filtered through a money-first mentality.

Reading a book? It better be nonfiction, because fiction “isn’t real” and won’t help you get ahead. Writing a book? It’s only a success if it’s a best-seller. Studying a new language? Only worth it if you can monetize it somehow. Hate your job? Not a problem if your salary is high enough.

This baseline mentality underlies everything and injects a market in to places where it doesn’t belong. Europe certainly has its own issues, but at the very least it allows for the possibility that life isn’t primarily a series of financial decisions.


Is this a real thing? My life is my job, family, side projects, and fun.

I don't know where you lived, but none of the people I know, Engineers and programmers think that they should be reading non fiction instead of playing video games.


> none of the people I know, Engineers and programmers think that they should be reading non fiction instead of playing video games.

Worth noting, playing video games has also been monetized.


i've been in Germany now for 14 months. At this point my biggest complaint is the entire lack of Taco Bell. We have Pizza Hut and KFC Yum corp... WHERE IS MY GERMAN TACO BELL!? Some nights I Dont want to eat Kebab for my late night drunk food. Sometimes I want 'tacos' and 'burritos'.


They do have them at American military bases. There's one at KMMC on Ramstein Air Base for instance.


Yup. And as a non service member I can not go to it.


As a French guy I think the money-first approach have some advantages.

We tend to view money as "dirty", when in reality, it is just value. America seems to be more aware of that.

For example, if you are writing a book, of course you want it to be a best seller and make tons of money. With that money you will be able to live a comfortable life so that you can write your next book in the best conditions.

You have kids? Yes, staying with your kids is important but so is making money. More money means better food, better education, more exciting and varied activities, etc...

Feeling generous? Earn more money so that you can support more charities, pay over market price for more ethical products...

Maybe it is a little too strong in the US but the money-first filter, as long as it is not absolute is simple and effective.


Show HN: Commentize - Get paid for reading comments. Every time you click reply you have to watch an ad. The person you’re replying to gets a 70/30 ad rev split with the site your commenting on.


The linked blog is by a notorious America-hater Umair Haque, almost all of his pieces are slammed for similar reasons you see in this comments section. It's hate bait, nothing more. (I recommend "Why the Anglo World is Collapsing" /s)

Take a look at his other work to get an idea of how seriously you should take this guy: https://eand.co/@umairh


My word this is some interesting writing.

>Do you need more “indicators”? Are you one of those people that needs “statistics” to tell you what is true about you are already living? Very well.

>Where does this insane, bizarre, upside down illogic come from? I’ll answer that in just a moment. First let me spell it out a little more clearly at root, and then its roots will naturally reveal themselves

He just seems like he writes out a flow of conciousness. There is zero structure to his writing or arguments.


oh you weren't kidding. I went through his twitter too. A real anglophobe.

I understand disliking big banks, big finance, capitalism etc, but to blame a culture of people sounds... familiar. "Its the anglos!" "Its the jews!"

No, its probably less than a few thousand highly influential elites who just care about themselves.


I cannot understand why you would call it hate bait.

[but please look at the actual article, not the link in the header· NB: I have no knowledge about the author other than that article. But the article is what's being discussed here.]

He is, for example, pointing out that history shows that the way to progress is by "lifting one another up, not keeping anyone else down" and rejecting the "I rise by pulling you down" philosophy, which is exactly the reasoning of the groups that are currently destabilizing factors in some Europan countries.

In other words - it's the opposite of hate bait.


Cmon. Take this passage, right at the beginning:

>There is a myth of exceptionalism in America that prevents it from looking outward, and learning from the world. It is made up of littler myths about greed being good, the weak deserving nothing, society being an arena, not a lever, for the survival of the fittest — and America is busy recounting those myths, not learning from the world, in slightly weaker (Democrats) or stronger (Republicans) forms.

He makes a bunch of accusative statements that are intentionally designed to provoke bipartisan outrage, hence clicks and shares on forums like Hacker News. It's absolutely hate-bait.


It all comes from the individualism and egocentrism and bullying of US culture. "It is made up of littler myths about greed being good, the weak deserving nothing, society being an arena, not a lever, for the survival of the fittest". You've been raised and thought to only think and work for yourself and consider your interests first...Until someone gets cancer and you have to launch a GoFundMe campaign and hope it'll not ruin your entire family. We sure have a lot of issues in Europe and by no mean are perfect societies or have the greatest companies. But at least we help each other, we support the less fortunate, we protect the weakest. And that's how you improve quality of life, life expectancy, a build a better society overall. I'm happy to give a significant part of my income to the government if it helps people survive and live better. And what you don't actually realize is that people are doing the same for you, because you might one day need it. Now why don't we have as many unicorns as you do in the U.S.? Because we're a bit more precautious and risk-averse, it's true.We don't go as fast and as strong as you. We first think 'Is this possible? safe? legal? right?' and then go on making the thing. While you just go, build it and ask questions later... which is an amazing fearless mindset which allowed you to accomplish incredible thing but which also leads to Facebook fucking up all over the world, Amazon treating their employees like slaves, or Boeing killing 350+ people because a 2nd safety system is too expensive.


Fantastic comments and very true. This echoes my time spent living in Europe.

As an "American" with a British father, and having lived overseas for much of my life, I still value European social mores and overall cultural far more than my American side. If I could only convince my wife to move to somewhere besides Texas. Vermont is first on the list, followed by anywhere in south rural England or Spain.

Europeans tend to not get starry-eyed like Americans. I don't need or want a sports car and big-assed house. It does nothing for me other than put me behind the power curve financially. I'd rather have universal healthcare, 6 weeks paid holiday and the ability to travel cheaply in the EU bloc.

exelius 50 days ago [flagged]

Americans don’t travel. If we did, we wouldn’t buy the myth of American exceptionalism.

But then, we are largely becoming a country controlled by global financial interests rather than the population. Money is the deciding factor in our elections, and the most concentrated forms of wealth out there are sovereign wealth funds and large multinational corporations whose executives are largely above the law. Which means you don’t need to be an American citizen to have a voice in the political process that affects the quality of life for hundreds of millions of us.

We need publicly funded elections. Otherwise, corporate and foreign money with zero interest in the wellbeing of American citizens will dominate the politics agenda (just like they have for the last 20-ish years).


> Americans don’t travel. If we did, we wouldn’t buy the myth of American exceptionalism.

That’s some serious middle school wisdom.

I’ve travelled a fair amount, and I find the myth of American exceptionalism to be no more prevalent that the myths of French, Moroccan, Swiss and Japanese exceptionalism. The thing about the belief in American exceptionalism, is that it’s not exceptional at all.

When you travel and you get to know people all over it’s eye opening to discover that no single country has a monopoly on ignorance and chauvinism. I’m most familiar with it in the US, cause that’s where I’m from, but it’s certainly not unique to the US.


That's probably true, but it doesn't rebut the central thesis that travel makes one realize how not-exceptional their own country is and how people everywhere are the same.

In fact, you're kind of agreeing.


> Americans don’t travel. If we did, we wouldn’t buy the myth of American exceptionalism.

The U.S. is huge, if you count travelling states (as you would with India or China), I don't think U.S. rates of travel are all that strange.


We have publicly funded elections in NYC. It doesn't the change the overall system very much.


It doesn’t work because the entire system above it takes massive amounts of private money, which influence downballot races.

The parties spend a lot of money to raise the profile of a few candidates in a state (people can only remember a few names anyway), then leverage their popularity to endorse candidates in downballot races.

In practice, whatever local candidates supported by the largest party-sponsored get-out-the-vote operation wins. In NYC, that means a figurehead celebrity mayor and most of the lower positions filled by a political machine.


Well what are you going to do, give out the tens of thousands to anyone who shows up and fills out a form to run for office? There has to be a minimum threshold for the relevant managing agency to determine which candidates are serious. Meeting that minimum takes money and influence.


We need more representation. There's no reason to have the same number or representatives in the lower house of congress as we did at the turn of the 20th century.

We should also repeal the 17th amendment and popular elections for president.


Money is not the deciding factor in American elections. Hillary Clinton spent twice as much as Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.


How does that follow? A charismatic demagogue won against a singularly uninspiring lifetime politician, despite receiving fewer votes (because Electoral College). Money isn't the only factor, but it's still one of the largest.


"One of the largest" is different from "the deciding factor"; let's keep those goalposts pinned down please.


I’ll agree it didn’t matter in the most recent presidential cycle, though I would argue the real damage is done further down the ballot in the house and senate. People just don’t do as much homework on those candidates and are more responsive to messaging.


Money is a deciding factor in shaping elections - the narratives, the length of the election season, what candidates decide to run, how policy choices look. By the time the general presidential election happens, 90% of the impact is already baked in.


Campaign spending is not the whole picture. How many outside interests contributed otherwise to HC and DT in the last election?

You can start an ad campaign against a candidate you don't like without that showing up in the campaign fund.


HC factically started her campaign right after the first Obama's term, had support of party leadership, and therefore major party donors, and having sympathies of the press. DT started his campaign a year before elections, was rudiculed by mainstream Republican opinion-makers until May 2016, was (and is) in a conflict with major donors (like Koch brothers), and had/has generally unfriendly relations with press. So unless you imply some very big conspiracy theory I don't see how he could have even a chance to outspent HC.


I'm not saying that. I'm just saying that campaign finances are only a partial picture.

I also think HC had much more backing.


That's one exception to the rule. A big one, being the most important election that happens every 4 year, but that doesn't negate the importance of money in campaigning.


Beto O’Rourke outspent Ted Cruz $79MM to $45MM. Another exception?


There are always exceptions that prove the rule — Texas is in a weird place in that the shifting demographics (higher birthdate among non-whites) will eventually flip the state blue in the late 2020s, so I think the DNC was optimistic they could steal a senate seat on a wave of popular support.

One could also argue the DNC was investing in raising the national profile of one of its rising stars in advance of the 2020 campaign even knowing his chances were slim.


From what I have learned it is the money you don't hear about that matters the most.


Trump got billions of free media exposure https://www.thestreet.com/story/13896916/1/donald-trump-rode.... He didn't have to outspend Hillary with that kind of advantage.


>Money is not the deciding factor in American elections. Hillary Clinton spent twice as much as Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.

I understood the comment to reference the special interest money behind elections not so much the total amount of money. Corporations vs. individuals.


I hate traveling.

I lift weights and going to Europe was the most physically draining experience. Going to a restaurant paying 12 Euros and getting 700 calories of carbs was awful. And having to pay for water... I felt physically terrible.

By the end of the trip, I'd order 6 tuna or egg sandwiches.

I don't travel because I find learning more interesting than looking at buildings.


> Going to a restaurant paying 12 Euros and getting 700 calories of carbs was awful

That's a strange and out of context example. I live in one of the more expensive European cities and for 12E still get to eat a pound of meat in a restaurant. Of course it will always depend on what you order and which restaurant. But your comparison is like saying the average rent in the US is $3000/mo (which it actually is, is some parts).


Surely you’d take a protein shake after lifting?


This article is blog spam, here's the actual link: https://eand.co/what-do-you-call-a-world-that-cant-learn-fro...


I disagree. The article quotes and links to three different articles (the first of which is the one you have pointed out) and ties them together. I agree that it is not the most substantial post, but I wouldn't call it blogspam.


I read the original and didn't get that there were more substance elsewhere. In the end I found it pretty contentless. The link that CoolGuySteve (and seibelj) pointed to is where the real article is.


Thanks for that link, much better and it answers some of the questions I had about the author that are covered at the source.


As an American living abroad, I can subjectively confirm what the author writes. I have a hard time keeping a straight face when returning.


When my company sent me to South America to work, it was pretty revealing how American company culture is toxic.

People from the home office in NY were literally complaining about South Americans getting too many vacation days, 1 hour lunches, and a lot of other perks that are guaranteed by law. All of this despite the south american employees making 30% of the NY salary. The head of HR complained about guaranteed 1 hour lunches for the employees because "she ate lunch at her desk working everyday". They were jealous because it was only a 10 minute walk to a gorgeous beach from the SA office.

I was involved in a lot of discussions with HQ about the office and it became abundantly clear, that all the HR and execs wanted to keep the salaries of South American's low or else they would have "too good of a life" and "live like kings" if they paid them the NY salary, despite things like computers and cars costing like 2x the cost of USA. and while rent was cheaper, the difference in rent was only like 24k a year (1k for an apartment vs 3k). I was still living on my NY salary, and would get constant criticism from the home office that I was living too well, despite all the benefits (access to the beach, nice weather, etc) were free.

It seemed like the entire office thought everything in south america was pennies on the dollar. In reality to lead an equivalent life as the USA (modern apartment, nice neighborhood, eat at nice restaurants, have a nice car), its not really that much cheaper, like 20-30% cheaper. Not 66% cheaper.

Anyways, what really opened my eyes was that was south america. I think we think of South America as being underdeveloped, but my life was very nice there, and it was very very difficult to justify going back to the USA.

And it really opened my eyes, how blatantly envious American HR employees can get when they see the more relaxed lifestyles of other countries and instead of improving themselves, they seek to tear others down.


Great comments and very, very true. I've worked overseas for a number of years and can vouch for what you say.

Americans are too driven. They don't know how to relax. Most Americans don't even take their full holiday time.

What I've done to combat the BS with employers is to set the bar at the interview. I tell them they will get a solid 8 hours of work from me, M-F, 730-430 or 8-5. I don't waver on this, as I have a family. I don't work nights or weekends. I don't accept calls after hours unless it's something that is dramatically critical. Don't call me to bitch about the email server being slow. The shit's in the cloud and I have no control over it anyway. It can wait.

I firmly, yet nicely "demand" an hourly wage in lieu of salary to ensure that I get paid for every second I work. Should I have to work overtime in an emergency, I should be compensated. This all sounds like some harsh demands on my part, but if I don't do it for myself, who will? I have a union mentality towards work because I know that no employer has my best interests at heart.

I tell people all the time to negotiate their own employment. HR departments are willing to work with you within reason, but you have to ask. One way of almost forcing companies to work your way is asking for an hourly salary. Quite a few will comply. No one wants to pay overtime. It's costly. I don't want to work overtime. It's a kind of let's check each other. If I cannot accomplish something in 8 hours, there is always tomorrow. I don't check email after work. In fact, I refuse to put my work email on my personal devices unless you pay a stipend. My device is mine, not yours. You have to pay to play. Yet no one stands up for themselves. Almost no one. You get what you are willing to fight for. And before someone says, well, you deserve to get fired or not hired... why? Because I'm willing to be my own union and "demand" my own terms? It's possible. Not always, but unless one tries, one gets what one gets. I tell the people all the time here, "stop taking your laptop home at night. Are you being paid overtime? If you're not, don't work overtime. Negotiate better pay and working conditions."


This was my experience in Brazil, too. Everything was more expensive, unless it was made in Brazil. This was either due to import tariffs or price gouging (or just domestic taxation, as on petrol), but it was still hugely impactful.


Where do you live now?


One constant thing in every country is there is always a narrative among certain percentage of population about how shitty their country is, America is no different, usually the people who feel this way are not nationalists.

If you immigrated to US from third world country you would know how amazing this country is.

It always be your choice to live how happily you want to live, you can quit wanting to climb the ladder, you can quit watching news telling you how shitty country is, you can quit watching TV constantly telling you to upgrade your house, car, phone etc.


> If you immigrated to US from third world country you would know how amazing this country is.

Yes, compared to the third world country you come from. But that works for pretty much any other western country. It doesn't help comparing them between each other.


Much the same as saying, “If you were unemployed and homeless, you’d know how amazing this job in an Amazon warehouse is.

Look at how many people would rather work here than starve!”

Very true. And yet, there are better jobs with better working conditions. This is not to say that the USA is the Amazon Warehouse of developed countries, but you need to compare jobs to jobs, and developed countries to developed countries.


Not really, people who emigrated to certain European countries with more socialist economy try to get out of there, all my friends who moved to Europe left after 4 or 5 years, all 7 of them are in US now.


Europe is not a country, nor is it third world xD.

Pretty much all Americans and Canadians who came to Germany loved it all and above, stayed here, and build their companies and family around.


I'm no nationalist, but I do enjoy my high paying Engineering job and low cost lifestyle.

I have concerns my pay would be lower and cost of living higher in Europe.

Looking to be able to retire by 32 years old.


People see what they want to see (confirmation bias) and delude themselves and gaslight others into maintaining a great lie. Then there's people who actually go out into the world and are more honest about reality.


I love the US but we're rich enough to have all the amazing things they have in Europe and more (infrastructure, transportation, free healthcare, better schools). But we choose a bloated $1T defense budget, endless wars, and billionaire tax relief.


Totally agree with this. And I lived the American dream. Immigrated to US at 11 and went to Ivy League college. The US has been good to me. It is sad to travel to Europe and China to ride high speed rail and know that there will be no high speed rail in America in my lifetime. Sad!


If the US did not spend what we do on defense, the EU would have to.


Given the number of Americans and the breadth of places they can live, you're not going to be able to generalize this sentiment. There is Poor as in lacking wealth, there is Poor as in lacking quality, and Poor as in lacking community. Which are we talking about?

There is a persistent social churn in the US. It is a side effect of what we consider progress. Progress is generally an outcome of building businesses that emerge, grow and die. Employees that are valuable to one business may not be valuable to the next, and that transition takes them from being prosperous to being poor and struggling.

One example is the shift from a primarily industrial economy to a primarily service economy. All the factory workers who provided for and raised families in the 50s - 70s came into jeopardy in the 80s-90s as US companies off-shored manufacturing. The families that could not make the transition suffered. They had to buy based on price and low cost won, in spite of the quality.

At the same time, new companies with different business models emerged and the workers of those companies prospered. Consider the semiconductor industry. In the 70s and into the 80s, the US dominated. Then, again, the technology spread globally to Europe and Asia and US fabrication facilities shut down, families were again in jeopardy.

Today, the wealth creation and prosperity is centered on technology companies, which dominate lists of the most valuable companies globally. It is likely that as in the past, these firms will ultimately give way to global competition, and their employees will need to shift.


> There is a myth of exceptionalism in America that prevents it from looking outward

Which is frankly such a common sentiment from every European I’ve ever met that it’s become almost a cliche. Perhaps we are a bit arrogant but at some point don’t you have to realize that maybe you’re doing the exact same thing in reverse?

All the things he listed out as being of lower quality are completely subjective. The food is worse? Compared to where? Yes, you can get a lot more variety of crappy fast food... nothing is preventing you from NOT stopping at McDonald’s though. It’s like saying all furniture is crappier in Sweden because IKEA is everywhere...


I do think quality of food and dairy is a problem in the USA and it has been a difficult thing for me everytime i have travelled there. When i've been to europe i've found the quality and preparation to be very good and consistent everywhere (big cities and small towns) but not always a lot of variety.


Like I said, quality of food varies. No matter where you are that is true, not every restaurant is the same.

I’m not sure what you mean about the quality of dairy? US milk, eggs, and cheese are no different than any of the milk, eggs, and cheese of the same variety anywhere else in the world I’ve been.


There is huge variation in Dairy! French Milk (was) terrible, only UHT widely available, though fresh is now quite common. US milk is nothing like as good as British milk for freshness/flavour (though the latter is subjective).

US eggs are refrigerated, as salmonella is so prevalent. Not so in UK, where they are guaranteed salmonella free (nowadays 'thanks' to Edwina Curry)

And Cheese? Really - I'm fairly sure there is no equivalent of a nice ripe epoisses widely available in the US. Sure, cheap cheddar is just like Monterray Jack, but....

I have lived in the US for 8 years, France/Luxembourg for 2 and the UK for the rest.


There is no nice ripe epoisses anywhere in the world. If you do actually want cheese that smells like feet, perhaps as mosquito bait, you can get that in the USA. (it can not be nice however) Most supermarkets will stock Limburger, kept cold and double-wrapped with foil to avoid offending the shoppers.

We also have both kinds of edible cheese, mild cheddar and mozzarella.


It feels absurd to have to keep asking WTF people mean when they arbitrarily say x in y is better than x in the US (and let’s be honest, that’s a sign it’s not, you’re just nostalgic), but what is better about British milk? And I swear if you say fresh off a local farm whole milk is better than the skim milk you bought in Walmart that one time I’m going to stab you... we are comparing apples to apples here, not apples to white water that isn’t what your mom served you as a kid.

US eggs are refrigerated, as are those in some EU countries. It’s actually variations in temperature that cause condensation and lead to salmonella, so your whole “guaranteed salmonella free” thing is, at best, crap... as long as they are consistently warm or consistently cold you’re fine regardless. And none of that has anything to do with the quality or taste.

With cheese you finally hit a point. You want Epoisses and can’t find a decent one. That is a fair complaint, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of anything in the US. I want a good rich, sharp, non-waxy (“crap”) cheddar. I also cannot find that anywhere... I’m in Europe. In the US I could find one in any grocery store I walked into.

This is about variety and availability, NOT quality. I dislike that I can’t find a nice cheddar, but I’m not writing off entire countries or continents as having nothing but crap because of it - the rest of the locals obviously don’t want it enough to keep it in stock, so it’s just going to mold before it gets bought. They have plenty of other good cheeses, just not the one I’m looking for.

What differentiates the US from other countries is that you CAN, absolutely, without any doubt what so ever, find what you’re looking for somewhere. Sure Walmart and Safeway don’t have it, but there is a smaller shop or a gourmet chain that does. That... isn’t quite true elsewhere.


I genuinely suggested that Americans reminded me of Russians to an American once in New York. They were shocked and disgusted. It’s a common sentiment because it’s as close to a fact as a subjective opinion can be.


Many, dare I say the majority, of Americans don't have any desire to have the European way of life, culture or institutions. We like heavily processed Walmart peanut butter on our goddamn Wonderbread made from GMO wheat with jelly sweetened with corn syrup. We like our Budweiser and $10 "Chinese" buffet. We like driving our cheaply registered, insured, and fueled cars. We'd prefer to sit in traffic than wait for a train.

Sure our healthcare could be better but we're working on it and pretty much nobody expects the current situation to persist for all that long.

I and millions of other people like out way of life. I get that the author is entitled to his opinion but my opinion is that his opinion is crap. I hate to be this guy but if he likes Europe that much he should move there, or at least move to a state that's more like it.


> pretty much nobody expects the current situation to persist for all that long.

I envy your optimism


Give it 10yr for most of the old farts in congress to wash out.

Once it's possible for a republican congressmen to admit that Canada has it better without having the RNC fund whoever wants to primary them things will change.


As a European who wants the American way of life, thank you for this. At times it feels like I'm the only person in the world who likes America.


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