Poor rich America, the first nation?

I was reading why America is the World’s First Poor Rich Country by Umair and was pretty much agreeing with everything he wrote.

The crux of his blog is about the basics of life which you need to pay for in America.

In Europe, Canada, and even Australia, society invests in all these things — and the costs of basic necessities societies don’t provide are regulated. For example, I pay $50 dollars for broadband and TV in London — but $200 for the same thing in New York — yet in London, I get vastly more and better media for my money (even including, yes, American junk like Ancient Aliens). That’s regulation at work. And when basic goods like healthcare or elderly care or education are provided and managed at a social scale, that is when they are cheapest, and often of the best quality, too. Hence, healthcare costs far less in London, Paris, or Geneva — and life expectancy is longer, too.

So if you are earning $50k in America, it is a very different thing than earning $50k in France, Germany, or Sweden — in America, you must pay steeply for the basics of life, for basic necessities. Thus, incomes stretch much further in other countries, which enjoy a vastly higher quality of life, even though people there earn roughly the same amount, because they pay vastly less for basic necessities. Americans are rich, but only nominally — their money doesn’t buy nearly as much as their peers does, where it matters and counts most, for the basics of life.

I remember many friends moving to America and reporting the wages they were getting as a result.

One friend for example said he was earning 6 figures as a contractor and I replied great, are you paying health insurance? He replied no, he will be fine. I said GET health insurance because one slip and you are so screwed.

America is pioneering a new kind of poverty. The kind of poverty that’s developed in America isn’t just bizarre and gruesome — it’s novel and unseen. It isn’t something that we understand well, economists, intellectuals, thinkers, because we have no good framework to think about it. It’s not absolute poverty like Somalia, and it’s not just relative poverty, like in gilded banana republics. It’s a uniquely American creation. It’s extreme capitalism meets Social Darwinism by way of rugged self-reliance crossed with puritanical cruelty.

Its a big deal and Umair is right. I do have a worry that the UK is sleep walking in the same direction too!

Been thinking about this a lot as the Brexit drama turns into full on insanity. Really good to finally watch Noam Chomsky’s Requiem for the American Dream.

https://twitter.com/cubicgarden/status/1105614199512883200

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.