Why Can’t America Learn From the World?
umair haque

There is a saying, “when all you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails.” I believe you may be falling victim to this adage. For the problems you enumerate, there is no federal solution, if there is a governmental one at all.

Mass killings: There aren’t good statistics on this. The more specific category of mass shootings is also hard to find statistics, as there are multiple definitions. Do we include or exclude terrorist attacks? Where do we draw that line? Do domestic attacks count? Do we exclude Orlando, but count Charleston? The data that is available does exclude terror attacks like Orlando, but counts attacks like Charleston. Internationally, this excludes attacks like Charlie Hebdo, but counts the 2016 Munich attack. We sit at about 7th in the world for mass shootings per capita (we do have the most total number, but we also comprise most of the livable part of a continent, so…). If the terror related attacks, especially the ones conducted with vehicles were counted, then we would move even lower on the list. Adding to our violence is the fact that we are far more diverse than any of the countries you list. I am not saying they lack diversity, but Europe is far more homogenous than the US. I am not saying that diversity is a bad thing either; indeed, it is one of our greatest strengths, but it does allow for potential conflicts when fear is introduced.

Falling life expectancy: Just a cursory Google search on the topic would show that this is from mainly one major cause — economics. Even looking at the aging Baby Boomer population, the economics of food has them as the first generation to have been raised with the modern agriculture model that has made sugars so cheap. The heart disease and strokes associated with obesity account for a large part of the reduced life expectancy. Add to the uptick in despair related deaths — overdose, effects of chronic alcoholism, and suicide, and you have the majority of the causes for this issue. What do you propose as a fix? Fruit and vegetables will always be more expensive to transport than starches and sugars; it’s a question of mass and required care. Ironically, the ACA could exacerbate this worse if a President were to remove the Small Business exception, which would add significant regulatory burden (even one hour per week is high if you have 10 employees — 1/400th of your hours, assuming a 40hr week), not to mention the actual monetary cost.

No savings: The federal government, through tax policy, currently encourages “savings.” Through our mortgage tax deduction, we have even managed to make a debt instrument act like a savings instrument. What more do you want the federal gov’t to do? Local school systems could implement education on savings strategies, but to be successful, the curriculum would have to be relevant to the local economic conditions.

Falling income: Again, what is your fix? What is a decent wage? Are employers able to pay that without going out of business? The bottom line is there needs to be greater demand for labor. That is the only thing that will sustainably raise income, no matter where you are. I will applaud Western Europe for the apprenticeship programs that add value to labor, that value added increases demand. I don’t think that that should be required or even encouraged by our government, however.

Rising tide of authoritarianism: Did you not follow the French Election? Have you not heard of Russia? Or Turkey? On a world scale, even Russia and Turkey is mild. When we over emphasize the role of our leaders and we outsource our own individual responsibility, we sow the seeds of authoritarianism. Indeed, the tone of this article is a call for “somebody to fix the problem.” When we set our government to allow the people to take care of themselves and allow them to fail to take care of themselves, we eliminate all the levers of power that breeds totalitarianism. This has been proven through the rise of both National Socialism and Marxist Socialism in the past. I’m not saying that there are not places for social safety nets, or even that a government cannot lend assistance (especially during a disaster), but I believe charities are better able to implement at a more local level, which is key to addressing chronic need.

Resurgence of the actual plague: Are you kidding? If you had said measles, you would have a weak point, but you would have a point. The plague in the US is harbored in our wildlife. The symptoms resemble that of the flu, so it is often misdiagnosed. It is actually something the US Gov’t is working on eradicating and assisting with better testing, despite it not being actually that common. We don’t have a national health crisis over the plague; we just have remote wildlife that can (and does) carry it. With great risk of using a “straw man,” the latest measles outbreak would not have been helped by an NHS — it was centered on unvaccinated visitors to a theme park that attracts international visitors. By and large, it wasn’t about not being able to be vaccinated, but not wanting to be.

Our country was based on the premise of a government of, by, and for the people. Your article ignores the “of” and the “by” bits. Less than 10% of Americans have ever served in the military. There is a dire need across the country for volunteer fire fighters. Additionally, there is a shortage of secondary school teachers. The largest turn out we have for any election is less than half of registered voters, and not all of them took the time to be informed. The question you ask: Why can’t America learn from the rest of the world. The question we should be asking: Why can’t America learn from itself. Since you philosophically believe in socialism, you think all problems should be socialized to cure.

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