Eight of the Top 10 richest men in the world are Americans. (source

And I say "men" because all ARE men.

A recent report, the New Social Progress Index 2014 paints a dim view.

With all of that wealth in the United States, it really benefits Americans, right? No, it does not. Lately, even Bill Gates, the richest of the rich, is spending the bulk of his money in admittedly worthy and charitable programs benefiting people outside the United States. I'm referring to his anti-malaria efforts.

Here are some highlights from an article in The Daily Beast:

· Basic Human Needs: Access to water, sanitation, are all worse in the U.S. than in countries with similar GDPs. But where we really lose it is personal safety, ranking 31st compared to Canada (9th), Germany (13th), New Zealand (17th), and the UK (21st). These numbers are partly due to an abnormally high number of traffic deaths.

· Access to Information and Communications: Just 81% of the population is Internet users compared to 87% in both the UK and Canada. While mobile telephone subscriptions (a little over 95 per 100 people) are also lower than in other countries.

· Health and Wellness: The United States ranks poorly here (70th), thanks in part to our obesity epidemic.

· Access to Basic Knowledge: We’re ranked 39th due to low primary school enrollment rates.

What do you see as the cause of our poor showing, and if there is a cause, what is the cure?

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I'll never forget the day, decades ago, when I told my father that West Germans (this was before the fall of the wall) had a higher standard of living than Americans, and he asked, "Do as many of them have cars?" I responded with, "What's better, to have a car or to not need one?" I pointed out that the public transportation system in most populated areas and the national train system were all more highly developed than in the United States." We agreed to disagree. 

Americans feel their life is better if they can own a car, for example, vs. a country where people don't own cars, even if people don't need to own cars.

Me? I've been living without a car for about three decades now, and I don't miss the monthly payments, the gasoline costs, the unexpected occasional maintenance crises, the possibility of being in and even causing an accident or fatality, and the stress of negotiating traffic. Good riddance! If I really need a car, I'll rent one.

Oh, and by now, I'm sure most Germans own cars, though they still may generally take public transportation a good deal of the time. Unless things have changed, Americans do have it better when it comes to urban parking.

Before I say anything, I don't want to sound like I am saying Germany is the best country. I know it's not the best but it is overall better, statistically, than the US.

Public transportation here is really good. Yes, a lot of Germans own a car but they don't use it on a daily basis. Some of them really only have their cars for the random vacation or business trip or so on. As long as you live near a populated area, then you can live perfectly fine without a car. The train system here is great. The bus system is just as good. There are taxi services but people mainly use buses/busses and trains.
I've been to the US a few times now but only last time, in 2013, did I really notice how much of a difference there was.
We only went along the East coast, so I don't know about all the states. But the public transportation in, for example, Florida or even all the way up to North Carolina did not seem that well. I don't really remember seeing train stations or even tracks while in the South-Eastern states. Busstops were plentiful though.
I first saw a decent public transportation system in D.C. and then again in N.Y.C. and Boston. But even while we were in N.Y.C. it still wasn't as comfortable and easy as taking an underground train in Munich or Berlin.
And as far as I know, they really only have decent public transportation in bigger cities, which then leaves all the other people out and then they do need a car or they need to take any of the long distance busses. You don't need to live in a very populated city for good transportation here. Where I used to live only had around 20000 people in the city and then around 80000 in the vicinity. They had busses and trams galore, every 15 minutes except for later hours, and trains going in and out of the city every couple of minutes.

I also noticed that there were hand sanitization stations at the entrance to malls and little tissues to wipe down the handles on carts. Which is a bit too much, to me. It's not like using the same cart as someone else without wiping it down will kill you. I don't think that I have ever seen anybody wipe down a shopping cart handle or be afraid to grab a handrail on a bus or train. It's ironic that the people that are trying to be so healthy with germs and so on aren't doing that well in rankings.
We went to some amusement park, I don't remember which one. But we got to pet a snake and right next to the guy with the snake was an assistant holding some hand sanitizer and all of us had to use it. I tried to resist but she started saying that I HAVE to use it, I could get sick, I could get an infection, blahblahblah.
Here, we go to a zoo with a petting area with goats and deers and maybe some rabbits or something. If you are lucky then there is an area where you can ride an elephant or pet a giraffe or something. We pet them and feed them seeds and stuff with our bare hands and their lips touch our hands and so on (I know somebody might be getting grossed out right about now) and then we leave without worrying about the germs.
I don't think that everybody understands that when you put yourself out to germs and so on, then your body builds up it's immune system and will become nearly impervious to those germs.
I, personally, even go to eat something afterwards. I don't always wash my hands after I use the bathroom, unless it's public. I don't wash my hands before I eat dinner if I was outside beforehand and got a little dirty. And if I drop food on the ground then I will pick it up, as long as it is not something soft or moist like pizza or a steak. I am willing to eat like M&M's and chips even and things that won't absorb anything or aren't sticky off the ground.

Also, there were a lot of Jesus billboards. Actually, billboards overall. Just tons of them along the sides of highways. They were annoying. There were billboards for vasectomies and lawyers that will help you sue a company and all kinds of other nonsense. So, basically, there was just a lot of commercialization and so on.
And your guys' speed limits suck. 60 mph? Really? Maybe, if we were lucky, we got 70 or 75. I hope that they change that because it felt sooooo slooooww. Especially because on both sides of the road, it was just so empty and the lanes are so wide and it just made you want to speed. The only speed limits you really get on the autobahn are 75 mph. And they aren't everywhere, so excpet for that it is full speed ahead.

There is still a lot more that I could talk about. Health care, education, employment and so on but I don't want that to make me start ranting about all the things that bother me about America. All that would be ten times longer a text than this one already. Again, I'm not saying America is the worst country and I'm not saying Germany is the best but I am saying Germany is overall better when it comes to the statistics and so on.
And also, I may not be speaking for all Germans. These are just my experiences and any observations of others and I can't observe them all, so yeah.
Sorry for the length of this.

I also noticed that there were hand sanitization stations at the entrance to malls and little tissues to wipe down the handles on carts. Which is a bit too much, to me.

Yeah, well, did you notice that most people don't use them?

Germans have their own quirks, I'm sure you know. 

Germany is crazy about devices which improve health and hygiene.  Among the most popular instruments is theZunge-Schaber, a horseshoe-shaped tongue scrapper which many citizens rush home to use whenever they feel a cold coming on.  Feeling snuffly?  Throat a bit raw?  Time to start scrapping.  Enema kits also find their way into most bathroom cabinets here, and an annual anal purge is considered an essential part of ones personal hygiene, rather like cutting your toenails.  Then there are the extraordinary ‘produce-and-examine’ toilets, with raised porcelain shelf, which were the norm for years.  Many older Germans still argue that the design engendered a regime of regular self-examination, which is an individual’s best defense against intestinal disease, water-borne parasites or undercooked sausage. (source)

And then there's the fecal porn, most of which comes out of either Germany or Brazil.

Yeah, we have our quirks, too. Sometimes it's just hard to notice the quirks of your own country, because you are used to them.

But to be honest, I have never seen a Zungenschaber. Nobody has ever told me about one, at least and I haven't seen them in stores or at people's houses or anywhere.
And I'm not quite sure that an annual anal purge is essential or even common around here.
I do know that Germans are big with herbal medicines and so on. They like to have their own home remedies and stuff like that. And a lot of them have their own therapeutic doctors. Germany is one of the leading countries in medicine and health overall, I think. At least, the city I live near is a university city and they are constantly working on medicine and health and hygiene and they are succeeding with their work, too. I'm pretty sure they are one of the leading universities but I may be wrong.
A lot of them have a beer a day, sometimes even every meal. Others have wine a lot.
Germany may be crazy about devices that improve health and hygiene but those devices are not bought or used by everybody.
I'm sure there are more good and bad quirks for Germany but I can't think of any. I really can't tell what is normal and what is a German quirk even though I have been to multiple countries and seen the different cultures and so on. All I can think of are things like recycling and when we are done with dinner at a restaurant, we don't get rushed out. We like to sit and talk for another hour or so. Sorry, I really can't tell you any quirks at the moment.
But that article doesn't sound too reliable. I have never heard of those things happening in Germany. He must've been in one area where some people do it but then you get into the quirks of the individual states and cities.
Those things are not common amongst Germans, I assure you.

And hopefully that is false information with the fecal porn. I really don't want that to be true. I would've imagined Japan being the leader for that since they have all kinds of crazy kinky stuff going on.

Excuse me for a bit. I am very disappointed and need to go change my race and ethnicity.

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, GPS: The United States spends more on its military than the next 8 highest spending countries combined. The US has the highest GDP in the world. The rest of the world can't get enough of America's sneakers, songs, sodas, movies and iPhones. Eight of the 10 richest people in the world are American. But what does all this mean for the average American? Are his or her basic human needs being fulfilled? How does the average American’s quality of life compare with the rest of the world?  The answers aren't pretty.  America fares surprisingly poorly in the groundbreaking new social progress index, recently released by a team lead by Michael Porter.  Porter is, of course, professor at the Harvard Business School, a hard core capitalist, a registered Republican.  He is said to be the most cited scholar in economics and business in the world.

To see this video and/or read the entire transcript of Fareed Zakaria's GPS (Global Public Square) interview with Michael Porter over the report, click here.

More facts from this Skoll Foundation article:

Global Trends:

  • The Social Progress Index does show a broad positive correlation between economic performance, (measured in GDP per capita) and social progress. Countries with higher incomes tend to enjoy greater social progress: New Zealand ($25,858 *GDP per capita) ranks highest in the Index while Chad ($1,870* GDP per capita) ranks lowest.
  • However, the Index demonstrates that economic performance alone does not fully explain social progress. The country with the world’s highest per capita GDP in our rankings –Norway ($47,546*)–finishes in 5th ranking behind New Zealand, whose GDP per capita is almost half that of Norway’s. Similarly, at the bottom of the Index, Chad has a much higher per capita GDP ($1870*) than Liberia ($560*), that finishes in 120th ranking. This pattern is repeated at all levels of economic development: for example despite a lower level of per capita GDP Jamaica performs better than China.
  • The relationship between economic development and social progress changes with rising income.
  • At lower income levels, small differences in GDP are associated with large differences in social progress. For example, on ‘Water and Sanitation’ and ‘Shelter’ there is a huge leap in improved outcomes between low- and lower-middle income countries.
  • However, as countries reach high levels of income, the ‘easy’ gains in social progress arising from economic development seem to become become exhausted and further economic growth brings new social and environmental challenges. For example, on ‘Ecosystem Sustainability’–which looks at indicators like greenhouse gas emissions–high- income countries fare little better than low-income countries. Indeed, as low-income countries’ economies grow they can expect their ‘Ecosystem Sustainability’ to get worse before it improves.
  •  For lower income countries economic growth will not necessarily result in significantly improved social progress. For example, on ‘Personal Safety’ it’s only when countries reach high-income status that homicide rates, violent crime and traffic deaths seem to significantly reduce, but even then there is a wide spread of variation between these high-income nations. Until then the improvements in ‘Personal Safety’, between low -and middle- income countries, remains stubbornly limited.
  • High-income levels of GDP lead to ‘Basic Human Needs’ being met, but don’t  guarantee increased ‘Opportunity’ for citizens. When countries reach high-income status, on measures of ‘Opportunity’–which takes into consideration things including ‘Personal Rights’ and ‘Tolerance and Inclusion’–they do on average see significant improvements in this measure. However, there’s a wide diversity in scores between these high-income countries, much more so than on ‘Basic Human Needs’–which assesses factors including ‘Water and Sanitation’ and ‘Basic Medical Care’–and which all high-income countries score favourably on.
  • The majority of countries are doing a good job in meeting their citizens’ basic medical needs and the same is true of measures such as school enrollment and adult literacy. This may suggest that the Millenium Development Goals have had a positive impact driving social progress in these areas. To accelerate progress on issues such as ‘Personal Safety’, ‘Access to Higher Education’ and ‘Ecosystem Sustainability’, where the world is doing less well, may require a similar coordinated global effort.

"New Zealand took the number one spot"

I hope this doesn't serve to bolster NZ's current right-of-center governing party. They are falling all over one another to chase the American way of life - privatize everything, gifts to billionaires, etc. The success of NZ in this report is due to previous liberal governments since the 50s.

There remains millions of patriotic Americans who wave their flags in support of the country they believe to be the best in the world. America has much to be proud of and much to be embarrassed about. Our population is to a large extent ignorant of current affairs and more absorbed in the minutia of daily life. Apathy reigns supreme.

As to transportation issue:

When it is remembered that geographically the U.S. is a HUGE chunk of land it becomes understandable why we don't have a fully developed mass transportation system. It would cost trillions. It must be understood that the whole of western Europe is only as large as the northeast of the U.S. As to those who choose mass transit I applaud you but it is simply not feasible for the tens of millions who live a rural existence where the notion of going "vehicleless" is not practical. 

When it is remembered that geographically the U.S. is a HUGE chunk of land it becomes understandable why we don't have a fully developed mass transportation system.

Ed, most of the need for mass transit in other countries is for local urban transportation to work or shopping. I'm not sure why you bring up the vastness of the United States. Most Americans don't drive several hundred miles on a regular basis and generally just use their car for getting to and from work or to go shopping. They could use public transportation if they wanted to. It's just an unstated presupposition for most Americans that their life isn't complete and they really aren't somebody unless they have a car.

Back when I was doing model photography in Portland, I was negotiating with a model and she said she didn't have a car and would I pick her up. I informed her that I didn't have a car either and that I'd gladly refund the cost of coming to me on public transportation (Portland has probably the best public transportation system in North America). She told me that if I didn't have a car she didn't want to work with me. That is the sort of attitude we'll eventually have to deal with if we want to get serious about being ready for a future that is heading our way like a speeding freight train.

I like going back to Portland, OR as an example since I lived there for many years without a car. I lived in the inner city and did virtually everything by bike (weather and distance and other practicalities permitting) or else by public transportation. Assuming of course there was some reason I couldn't walk. It's hilarious to see how pained many Americans look if you suggest, "Let's walk. It'll take a half hour." You'd think you were suggesting climbing K2.

Anyway, you're assuming the status quo. If fuel becomes much more expensive, as it is in Europe, people will need and demand a cheaper way to travel in the urban environment. And petro fuel will become more expensive. We're already switching from pumping oil out of subterranean lakes to squeezing it out of shale, a more difficult and expensive process. Worse, I see no real planning for dealing with the time, sure to come, when we run out of oil or when it becomes too difficult or expensive to obtain.

As someone who has lived for decades without owning a car I can tell you that people only think they need a car every day of their life. When I really need a car, I can rent one. Not having a car builds a certain amount of exercise into daily life, which is healthier than driving everywhere.

If someone in Toledo wants to visit relatives in Phoenix and wants to drive, but doesn't really need a car on a daily basis, think of all the money they'd save each year by simply renting a car when they need to cross those vast expanses to which you referred. I recently priced a one-way rental of a medium-sized sedan from Cleveland to Portland, and I got a $349 deal from Hertz. The fuel would be about the same. So for about $700 I can drive most of the way across the country (2550 or so miles). Suppose I'm just visiting Portland. A round trip is $1400, a fraction of the cost of operating a car for a year, especially taking depreciation into account. (BTW, by choosing not to drive but fly, I can save a lot more money. With a little advance planning, the same round trip on Southwest could run less than $600 and give me about 10 more days of visiting.)

Portland is one of the few cities that looked into the future years ago and developed public transport to meet the needs looming at the horizon. They have encouraged the use of public transportation by discouraging long-term street parking while forcing many people who work downtown to either take public transportation or use relatively expensive parking structures, and I believe those structures are taxed to aid in funding public transportation. Free parking is nonexistent downtown except for very short-term parking for vehicles doing pickups or deliveries.

Anyone living in a city that isn't getting its public transportation shit together should be urging them to get going. 


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