World’s Greatest Country?
I’ve been back in the United States for a short while—and I’ve already had enough.
My takeaway is that, to borrow a line from Will McAvoy’s opening monologue in the first episode of the HBO series “Newsroom,” America isn’t the greatest country in the world.
Now, if you’re an American reading this, before you reach for the delete key in anger or begin typing out an email to tell me how I’m all wet, stick with me.
Quality Of Life In America
In every way that you can measure quality of life, the United States doesn’t rank number one. It ranks well in many categories but not best in any one that I’m aware of (now’s your chance to send an email telling me how I’m wrong… I’ll appreciate being set straight).
However, this is a big place, and, even in categories where the United States excels overall, parts of the country lag far behind the developed world.
Take infrastructure, for example. Every time I’m in the United States, I’m struck by the poor quality of the infrastructure. The roads I’m traveling every day here in rural Illinois aren’t in any better condition than roads I drive anyplace else in the world where I spend time.
And they’re far worse than roads in France, for example, where I’ve got a lot of experience behind the wheel.
This is true not only in the context of roads in northern Illinois.
The broken asphalt and pot holes I’m bumping over every day here are similar to those in downtown Houston and suburban Baltimore, two other places in this country where I’ve spent time in the last few years.
Cell phone coverage, likewise, is hit and miss. Here in Woodstock, my phone gets one bar at best and most calls are going straight to voicemail. The internet service is maddening.
And it’s not just infrastructure…
What Is Going On With Health Care And Diet?
Health care in the United States is a factory experience. One reason I’m here in Illinois is to help my mother with some health problems. The experience is eye opening in the worst possible way.
Old people in this country go to various doctors regularly for one ailment after another. The result in every instance, as far as I can tell, is for the doctor to prescribe a pill or an injection.
Two out of three commercials on television are for prescription drugs. “Ask your doctor about blah, blah, blah,” every one of them recommends in the end. And loads of aging Americans do. They ask, the doctors write out a prescription, and the patient goes away to buy more drugs to take along with all the other drugs he’s taking, feeding the health insurance and pharmaceutical conglomerates that run the health care industry in this country.
All those drugs come with long lists of side effects, counter effects, and potential complications.
And don’t even get me started on the insane bureaucracy surrounding Medicare and U.S. health insurance and working out what’s covered and what’s not, what you’ll pay out of pocket and what you won’t…
In no other country on earth is health care bureaucracy so complex—or health care itself so expensive. In Panama, Kathleen and I pay US$35 to visit an excellent, English-speaking doctor. In France—ranked by the WHO as the best health system in the world—a family doctor visit costs 25 euros. And 70% of that can be reimbursed if you’re part of the national health care system.
There are excellent private health care facilities all over the world that rival any center of excellence in the States…
(In fact, today, we’re hosting a special workshop on your overseas health care options. You can still get a virtual pass right here.)
Despite all the medicating in the States (or, I’d say, at least in part because of all the medicating), the health of the average American is critically low. I haven’t checked the statistics, but my observational experience suggests that better than 70% of people in this country are overweight and half those are excessively overweight.
They go to their doctors with complaints related to being overweight. Rather than counseling the patient on lifestyle choices, the doctor, to make the point again, writes out a prescription.
It’s not like that elsewhere…
I don’t want to get into a debate about why people get fat (there, I used the word… not very “woke” of me). However, I believe that, in most cases, it’s because they eat too much and exercise too little.
The poor eating habits of the average American are understandable. You have to work hard here to eat healthy. I estimate that more than two-thirds of the grocery store where I’ve been shopping is given over to nonfood items. For every aisle offering fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and bread, there are at least two selling candy, chips, cakes, doughnuts, soda, and a lot of nonfood that I’ve never seen before.
I’ve taken to reading the nutritional labels on each item I’m considering buying. Every processed product has sugar listed among the top five ingredients. It’s no wonder more than 10% of the population of this country suffers from diabetes… and another 35% is considered pre-diabetic.
Enough about food.
Too Many Lawyers
Let’s talk instead about attorneys!
Television commercials in this country sell one of three things—drugs, charities, and lawyers. “Were you ever exposed to XYZ? If so, you may be eligible for a payout. Get in touch now to talk about filing a suit…” recommend the sleezy attorneys in bad suits.
Like prescription medications and sugary foods, lawsuits have become an industry in this country. We should all aspire to go our whole lives without one, but they are being pushed on us from all angles.
(Forty million lawsuits are filed in America every year… and no doubt many of them are frivolous. Indeed, my latest issue of Simon Letter is all about how you can protect yourself from frivolous lawsuits by going offshore.)
Will My Neighbors See The Light?
Here in northern Illinois, most people seem happy with the lifestyle they’ve been sold. I’d say that’s because they’re not aware of the alternatives.
Like Will McAvoy, I’ve undertaken a mission to civilize. Or, well, to expand the minds of my neighbors here in Woodstock.
How’s it going so far? Not so well…
“Where do you live?” one lady wanted to know.
“Part of the year in Panama and part of the year in Paris,” I told her.
“But Paris is so dirty!” she said. “Everyone I’ve known who’s been there says the French are filthy. How can you stand living like that?”
Funny, I thought, I’m wondering the same thing about you.
I’m not anti-America and I’m certainly not anti-American, but I am anti-the lifestyle that I’m seeing all around me.
And appreciating the diversified lifestyle I’ve developed over the past 30 years more every day.
Editor, Offshore Living Letter