Sunday, August 13, 2006

Eu and US

I love Europe, and the USA currently seem rather hostile to liberally minded people. (By liberal I don't mean left-wing, I mean progressive, the basic definition.)

But one thing pisses me off... well two things:
1: Taxes are twice as high here.
2: Prices on everything are about 50% higher on average.

Even the most successful people in Europe live only in moderate comfort, whereas a merely average lawyer or whatever in the USA earns filthy money, pays half the tax, and pays much less for what he buys.
What is this about? How does it happen?

I am suspecting the reason is that Europe is so much more socialistic than the USA. Supporting all the big non-productive population has to be paid for somehow, and taxes in various shapes pervade everything and drives up cost of living for everybody.

Socialism seems to be the price for civilization and empathy in a population. I hope we get over it some day.


The Sage said...

Personally, I hope we don't get over it. One thing I've learned is that success doesn't come without failure for the majority of people and those who are currently successful may not always be so.

I've seen plenty of people who forget that there are many people, including some they care about who depend on those empathic impuleses to live decent lives.

In the United states you can actually be worse off being in the middle class than at the bottom because you don't get any medical coverage from the government yet you can't afford the couple thousand a month needed to buy it for yourself.

The wealthy here earn for too much for what they produce and many hard working people don't earn enough to live off without getting into massive debt. That kind of system is wrong. I'd rather have the kind of system used in Australia or Canada, or those parts of Europe you mention any day.

People here complain that the police cost too much, then they complain that crime is too high. They complain that property taxes are too high but then turn around and complain about school funding being to low. (Schools here are funded by property taxes.)

It seems to me that people always want the benefits of a government dealing with all the needs and problems but never want to pay for it.

Here in the US there is so much social inequality and inequity in wages that a far higher percentage of the population is suffering than in most of the rest of the western world. I can't see how any decent human being would want to have their country be like the US in this way.

Anonymous said...

Eolake, I agree 100%. As to why Europe is, generally speaking, so much more expensive is without a doubt due to sosialism. But I have to point out two EU countries which are quite different:

1. Estonia has a flat tax rate of about 20% and significantly lower living costs. (Lithuania and Latvia are following Estonia's example.)

2. Ireland is not only a great place to live with regards to earnings vs. costs, but artists are exempt from income tax altogether! The country is a paradise for U2 and Enya. And this is why Michael Jackson is currently shopping for a home there.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Interesting, thanks.
Maybe I'll look at Ireland if I ever want to live off my art alone.

Anonymous said...

"It seems to me that people always want the benefits of a government dealing with all the needs and problems but never want to pay for it."

And this is the trouble. So long as we're looking to someone/something else to solve all our problems our problems will persist.

But we love playing the victims. It makes for a good sob story. It frees us of responsibility which is something Americans talk big about but fear in their bones.

We are taught to fear government when in reality those roles are reversed. If at any point the people feel powerless at the hands of their rulers it is time to instigate change.

As stated earlier in this very blog, the people rule themselves with an iron fist. Quite ironic that most are unaware of this simple and obvious fact.

Anonymous said...

The sage wrote: "It seems to me that people always want the benefits of a government ... but never want to pay for it."

Benefits of government? What are those? Is that a name of some rock band or what?

Seriously, you might find Harry Browne's book Why Government Doesn't Work an enlightening read.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

"As stated earlier in this very blog, the people rule themselves with an iron fist. Quite ironic that most are unaware of this simple and obvious fact."

In order to preserve my ego, I have ruled out as obvious anything I did not see for most of my life... and this one I only saw when I was twice your age. :)

Anonymous said...

In counterpart for taxes, you have many social benefits. I think it's not on taxes that Europe should try to cut down, but on public money waste (I know, talk about stating the obvious). Without waste and corruption, either taxes would go down, or life quality would go up. Or both.

Alas, who will fight waste and corruption? The politicians? Guess what : we've tried that here in Lebanon. National debt went from 30 to $40 billion...

"Promises only bind those who believe them."

Wonko outside the asylum said...

I got into a rather serious arguement once with a very earnest and passionate young man who was trumpetting the benefits of anarchy as a political system. His basic premise was that people didn't need laws and governments to tell them how to live their lives in a decent and moral way. He stated that people would look after one another and all would be well. I admired his faith in Human nature, sadly my own experience - at the grand old age of 24 ;o) - told me otherwise. I pointed out that not everyone has the same sets of morals or principles, so that while the vast majority of us would never rob a bank, there are still plenty who will. Lots of people just look out for number one, some just them and their family. It is those people, who some might brand to be selfish and unsocial, that necessitate at least some laws and some government. The actual degrees of intrusion into the citizens' daily lives may differ depending on the political persuasion of party in power and the system of government used, but it is a question of degrees. In order to have any kind of productive society where the weak and the poor are cared for we have to compromise and agree to live by a set of rules that at least the majority of us accept. As opion changes over the years and different circumstances occur, those rules need to evolve but they also still need to be there. I recommended he read "The Lord of the Flies" and have a think about what it said for Human nature.

He also seemed upset when I told him that in the UK the purpose of a Government is not to run the country. The purpose of a Government is to get itself re-elected. It is the backroom boys who actually run the country; the Civil Service (though not to the extent they once did), business and the media.

Personally I would rather live with too much socialism than not enough, so while not saying that's it's by any means perfect, I would prefer to live in the UK (or possibly Canada or New Zealand) than the US any day.

Anton said...

I would remind the honorable gentleman that Lord of the Flies is a work of fiction, about children, and not just any children but boys who (if memory serves) had learned ruthless rivalry in an English boarding school. I do not trust it as a guide to what we ought to expect of adults who have some experience of living at peace with one's neighbors.

If we mere humans need rules from on high to keep us from victimizing each other, why should we trust human legislators to provide those rules? If, on the other hand, humans are competent to develop rules, why not do so by individual agreement — taking federalism, which facilitates parallel experimentation, to its logical end — rather than by mass imposition?

David Friedman once calculated that we in the US each spend about $40 per year on police, courts and so on. Is there any reason to suppose that your $40 would be less well spent if you could hire your policeman directly? I'd happily spend twice as much not to be protected from pot-smokers and wetbacks!

Eolake, defining "liberal" as "progressive" is, pardon the pun, a step backward: replacing a word with some clear content (liberal has, or ought to have, something to do with freedom) with another word that could apply to anything; every new policy is described by its proponents as "going forward".

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I think it holds. I am just trying to make people not think "left wing" when I say "liberal", because it really means:

lib·er·al (lĭb'ər-əl, lĭb'rəl)
Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.

Anton said...

"Socialism seems to be the price for civilization and empathy in a population." If by that you mean that socialism is to be expected when a population (presupposing that the State is the proper channel for big projects) develops empathy, okay — but game theory suggests (and experience seems to confirm) that kindness is rewarded more in voluntary associations, while involuntary association – such as the "mutual" bonds of socialism – encourages rivalry and aggression. Empathy, by attempting to express itself through a system whose core competence is mass coercion, destroys itself.

"If almost everyone is in favor of feeding the hungry, the politician may find it in his interest to do so. But, under those circumstances, the politician is unnecessary: some kind soul will give the hungry man a meal anyway. If the great majority is against the hungry man, some kind soul among the minority still may feed him — the politician will not." (David D Friedman again)

Anonymous said...

The world can't run without ANY laws at all. Because then, the same, age-old law spontaneously applies : the "law of the jungle". Strong eats weak, and powerful enslaves the others. Even if you only have 1% of people with enough rotten human nature to act that way (the way of the gangs in Mad Max), it's quite enough to ruin everything for the rest. And I don't think anybody will claim that as many as 99% of people are decent. (Considering the voting base of extremist parties, it's more around 5-10%.)

Look at the example of Iraq : we were told that nothing was worse than the law of Saddam. Well, today the actual law in that country amounts to nothing... and it definitely IS worse than the Saddam regime. Ironic, hunh?

"The purpose of a Government is to get itself re-elected."
I would only like to know why it seems that so many people haven't assimilated this yet. It's like stating that the air is transparent : you only have to look at it!!!

I'm very curious about Ireland : is a fiction writer considered an artist? Does anybody know about that detail? Surely they don't define artists as "only" painters and sculptors.
(Phew! I stopped just before mentioning con artists. Then nobody would have taken my question seriously.)

Anton said...

Eolake: Oh, I misunderstood you. I thought you were contrasting "left-wing" with "progressive" substance, rather than intensity. Okay.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Pascal, yes, a writer is an artist in Ireland.
You can't earn *too* much though.
artists ireland tax-free

Anonymous said...

I already liked Ireland a lot, between the country's beauty, the celtic tradition, the beautiful colleens and all. I think I might step it up to pure love. ;-)

After all, in the nineties I bought two Lord of the Dance music CDs on bargain, not knowing they were already famous, and *loved* that irish music. Some of it is very reminiscent of gypsy or "Country" style, too... Many cow-boys were of Irish origin.

Aye, some of my past lives must've been around that area in ye old times, ah'll reckon'.

Besides, from what I hear, Ireland has a very successful economic and employment policy. Seems like a very well managed country. (Thanks to the leprechauns, maybe?) Scandinavian countries seem pretty well off too. I think Norway has officially the highest quality of life in the world. "Old Europe" is far from washed-out, apparently. :-)

P.S.: Okay, I confess, I'm a European at heart. But the USA are a great place too. If only they didn't seem to be going backwards these days... :-(

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Norway may be even richer than Denmark, because they did better with their oil. The Danish goverment practically gave it away, the fuckers.

But the Danes are "the people in the world suffering the least", according to a study.