Americans should be willing to learn from other societies and other groups. For example, too many of us arrogantly assume Europe has nothing good to teach us. They assume higher taxes for the rich and safety nets for the poor hinder economic progress.
But in fact, the European Union, with a total of 500 million people, has the world’s largest economy and the most Fortune 500 companies. It produces an economy almost as large as the United States and China combined. When you look at the data, several European nations consistently do better than us in most socioeconomic categories, including less infant mortality, less chronic disease, less poverty, less violent crime, less drug addiction and less suicide. They live longer and spend far less on health care.
In study after study to determine the best places to live, France or some other European nation usually tops the list, while the U.S. rarely makes the top 10. What is that saying about our Wall Street-driven, trickle-down version of capitalism?
We tend to base everything on economic growth and gross national product. But we often fail to distinguish between economic growth that increases the overall well-being of society and economic growth that diminishes overall well-being. As Americans, we need to ask whether a dollar spent on sending someone to prison is as beneficial to society as a dollar spent on education or health care, even though both add to our GNP in the short term.
We need to question the idea that government is always bad and tax cuts for businesses are always good, that the free market can solve all our problems. In economics, politics, social issues, health care and even religion, a thorough and objective look at our global neighbors might surprise us. That’s not being unpatriotic. It’s just using common sense.