Posts Tagged ‘International Comparisons’

Rich people’s countries, poor people’s countries

February 28, 2017
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This map shows national output (GDP) per person in different nations.   The leaders seem to be financial centers (Luxembourg, Switzerland, Singapore) and oil and gas producers (Qatar, Brunei, United Arab Emirates and maybe Norway).

The USA is both a financial and energy-producing center, ranking eighth behind those seven nations, but way ahead of Russia and China.

While China’s overall economy is thought to be larger than the American economy, that doesn’t mean that the average Chinese person is rich.

Of course GDP per person is not the whole story, either.  How the average person does depends on how wealth is distributed.  What the GDP figure shows is how potentially well off the individual person is.

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Which Government System is the Best for People’s Wealth? on howmuch.

Who are willing to fight for their countries?

February 24, 2017
The darker the red, the greater the willingness to die for one's country

The darker the red, the greater the willingness to fight.

Only 44 percent of adult Americans are willing to tell pollsters they’d fight for their country.

The percentage is even less for some U.S. allies, such as Canada (30%), France (29%), the United Kingdom (27%), Italy (30%), Germany (18%) and Japan (11%).

In contrast, 71 percent of Chinese and 59 percent of Russians say they’d fight for their countries.

This is the result of a public opinion poll of more than 1,000 people in each of 64 countries in late 2014 by WIN / Gallup International.   The complete results are below.

I’m not sure what to make of this.  I think it partly depends on people mean by “fight for country”.

I think almost all Americans would be willing to fight to defend our nation from an invader.  I think only a minority are willing to go to some foreign country to fight to increase U.S. geopolitical power.

The problem for us Americans is that someday U.S. power will begin to slip, and countries that now fear to go against the United States will become our enemies.

When that backlash comes, our nation will need the patriotism that our leaders now exploit and abuse.

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Nations of immigrants and the future

May 17, 2016

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Hat tip to Jim Rose.

I’ve always thought of the United States as a nation particularly welcoming to immigrants, but the chart shows many other nations have proportionately larger immigrant populations than the USA.

I’m less surprised at the high ranking of Australia, New Zealand and Canada as at nations such as Switzerland, Austria, Sweden and Ireland, which I’ve always thought of as ethnically and culturally homogeneous.

I’d be interested in the figures for Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American countries.

[Update 2016/5/19.  I came across an interesting interactive graphic, Origins and Destinations of the World’s Migrants, 1990-2015, from Pew Research Center that answers my question.  Also, I forgot about peoplemovin- A visualization of migrant flows, an interactive graphic to which I linked previously.]

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What is killing middle-aged white men? Despair

November 4, 2015

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We take it for granted that, in scientifically advanced countries, the death rate will decline.  But since 1999, there has been a dramatic increase in the death rate among non-Hispanic American white men aged 45 to 54, especially those without education beyond high school.

No such increase occurs among middle-aged white people in other countries or among other American ethnic groups.  Although the death rate for African-Americans is higher, it is not increasing, and, as the chart shows, the death rate for middle-aged Hispanic Americans (USH) is decreasing.

A Princeton University study indicates that the main reasons for the increased death rate are an increase in alcohol-related disease (liver disease), in drug overdoses (heroin and opioids) and in suicide—all diseases associated with depression and despair.

[Note added 11/13/2015: Some experts say the increase is primarily among middle-aged white women.]

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Darwin’s theory and American exceptionalism

January 20, 2015

20150119_differnt_0Source: Calamities of Nature via Zero Hedge.

As this chart shows, we Americans are less likely to believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution than the people of any European nation.

Oddly, though, we are more likely to believe in social Darwinism (although we don’t call it that)—the idea the law of life is survival of the fittest, and society does not exist so that people can cooperate for mutually beneficial ends, but so that the population can be sorted into winners and losers.

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China leads the world in executions

October 21, 2014

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Source: The Independent

Last year China executed more people, by far, than the rest of the world combined.

Live long and prosper? A world map

October 14, 2014
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How long you’re likely to live depends to a large extent on where you’re born.  Somebody born in Japan can expect nearly five more years of life than somebody born in the USA, and 32 more years of life than somebody born in the African nation of Chad.

Click on Global Life Expectancy for detailed maps and comparisons by region, courtesy of Global Post.  Notice that South Africa has the second lowest life expectancy on the African continent.  Is this because the benefits of South Africa’s advanced 20th century economy never trickled down from the whites to the black majority?  Or is it because South Africa’s post-apartheid leaders denied the reality of the AIDS epidemic?  Or something else?

The education of America’s rich and poor

October 11, 2014

 Robert Reich, who was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, took note on his blog of the education gap between rich and poor.

  • The United States, among the 65 nations participating in the Program for International Student Achievement, has one of the largest gaps in achievement between children of the rich and children of the poor.  This wealth gap in educational achievement has been growing while the gap between white and black Americans has been shrinking.
  • The United States, among the 34 nations that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, has one of the largest gaps between spending on schools attended by children of the rich and schools attended by children of the poor.

He quoted Eduardo Porter, who wrote about unequal education in the New York Times.

“The debate about education reform is a lot about process,” said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center in Newark, an advocacy group for disadvantaged students. “To a large extent it is a huge distraction. We never get to the question of what resources we need to get the students to meet the standards.”

The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  Among the 34 O.E.C.D. nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students.

Andreas Schleicher, who runs the O.E.C.D.’s international educational assessments, put it to me this way: “The bottom line is that the vast majority of O.E.C.D. countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite.”

The inequity of education finance in the United States is a feature of the system, not a bug, stemming from its great degree of decentralization and its reliance on local property taxes.

via NYTimes.com.

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The young nations and the aging nations

October 7, 2014
world baby boom

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I think the leveling off of population growth is a good thing.  There is a limit to how many people the earth can support.  I don’t claim to know what that limit is, but it will be passed at some point unless population growth is leveling off.

demographic transitionThe good news is that this is starting to happen.  The problem is that it is not happening in every nation at once.

Some nations have low birth rates and an aging population that is growing in relation to the working-age population.  Other nations have high birth rates and a young population who can’t all find jobs.

Should there be more immigration from the growing young nations to the static older nations?

What happens to the world balance of power when the population of some nations is static and the population of others grows?  If present trends continue, India will have a larger population than China.  Mexico could become a more populous nation than the USA.  What then?

Bertrand Russell years ago wrote that in order to achieve world peace, nations needed to limit their populations as well as limit their armies and armaments.  Is that possible?

Demographers say that a nation’s population growth starts to level off when women are emancipated enough to be able to decide whether or not to have children, and when a nation reaches a level of prosperity such that parents think their security in old age is better with a few well-educated and well-off children than with many poor children.

I hope this comes true for the whole world.  Expressing this hope is as close as I can come to answering the questions I asked.

What do you think?

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Protests in perspective

October 6, 2014
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Source: The Economist (via Naked Capitalism)

The difference between average and typical

July 23, 2014

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Here is a case study in statistics—showing why what is statistically average is not necessarily typical.

If all the wealth in the United States were divided equally, every American household would have $301,000.  But only a minority of Americans have that much net worth.  The more meaningful measure is the median, the point that divides the wealthiest half of Americans from the poorest half.  That midpoint is $45,000, a much lower figure.

Some of the reasons middle class Americans have less than their counterparts in other advanced countries is that we have greater debt and less equity in our homes, and also have to pay more for higher education and medical care, which reduces the ability to save.

For details, click on Middle class Americans: Not so rich as we think by Tami Luhby for CNN Money.

American exceptionalism in health care

January 28, 2014

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Jon Perr explained for Daily Kos why Obamacare does not fix the dysfunctional U.S. health insurance system.

On January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act went fully into effect.  But for all of the furious fighting over the law these past five years, Obamacare was always an evolutionary reform grafted onto the existing American health care system.  The Medicaid public insurance program has been extended to roughly four million lower income Americans so far.  About two million more people have purchased private insurance, many of them aided by subsidies from Uncle Sam.

And while many (though not all) of the worst abuses that let insurers pad their profits by denying or dropping care for the sick have been banned, the edifice of private insurance remains largely intact.

Far from a “government takeover of health care,” Obamacare preserves all of the hallmarks—private insurance companies, private hospitals, private doctors, and the patchwork of different systems for veterans, seniors, workers, and the poor—that define the American model of health care provision.

Click on Why the U.S. should treat health care like a utility, not a market to read Perr’s full article.  Hat tip for to Bill Elwell for the link, which is the source of the charts.

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The USA is a low-tax country

October 3, 2013
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Click to enlarge.  “This year” in the captions is 2011.

I don’t advocate taxes for the sake of raising taxes or reducing the incomes of rich people.  But I do think that taxes should be high enough to cover the normal cost of operating the government, and I don’t think Americans should rule out a modest tax increase as a contribution to balancing the budget.

These charts were created by the Center for American Progress two years ago, but the situation they depict hasn’t changed since then.

The tax reductions proposed by President George W. Bush had an expiration date.  That is unusual, and was done for a reason.  Some people in Congress worried about the impact of cutting taxes in the midst of war, and voted for the tax reduction as an experiment, so see how it worked out.

Well, we know the result of the experiment.  It was one of the two main reasons, along with the economic recession, that the government is so much in the red now.   Returning to Clinton-era taxes, eliminating unnecessary government programs and growing the economic are not mutually exclusive.  We should do all three.

Inequality and well-being: country comparisons

August 9, 2013
us-inequality

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The United States is a leader, and not in a good way.

Source: New York Times.

Hat tip to The Big Picture.

Massachusetts schools: Why not be like the best?

July 9, 2013

If a factory manager was trying to improve performance, he might try to adopt the best practices of successful manufacturers.   He certainly would not adopt the practices of failing manufacturers.

But this is not what school reformers in the United States do.  They advocate unproven policies (teacher-bashing, union-busting, charter schools) that are typical of the worst systems rather than the best.

A blogger who uses the handle Mike the Mad Biologist pointed out that the Massachusetts school system is by far a leading system not just by United States standards, but by world standards.  So why not, he reasonably asked, simply copy the Massachusetts system.

Here is one of the charts he published on his web log.

MASS.schoolscience.test.comparison

Click on Instead of Racing to the Tops or No Children Left Behind, Why Not Just Clone What Massachusetts Has Done? for more of Mad Mike’s data and his full comment.

Click on TIMMS, Alabama and Massachusetts: States Matter for Mad Mike’s detailed report on the educational gap between Massachusetts and Alabama.

The Massachusetts-Alabama gap is not explained by differences in race or economic class.   The average test scores of white students in Alabama are roughly equal to scores of black students in Massachusetts.  No matter how you break things down, Massachusetts is ahead.

So if you really want to improve American schools, the first step would be to look at what Massachusetts, Minnesota and other high-performing states are doing and see if there is a lesson to be learned for states such as Alabama.

But just what is it that Massachusetts is doing right?  It isn’t what Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee recommend, but what is it?  Is it financial support?  Curriculum?  Let me know what you think.

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American exceptionalism

July 4, 2013

A writer named Alan R. Sanderson pointed out recently that the United States is still No. 1, at least in some things.

As our nation adds another candle on its cake […], let’s take stock of where we stand in the world after a couple centuries of trying.  Yes, we are about the only country with pick-up trucks and a preference for ice in drinks; we have an immense prison population and large carbon dioxide emissions, and, for a developed economy we have a troubling amount of income inequality.  We are a portly people, though the rest of the world is—pun intended—gaining on us; and we spend (waste?) far more time on Facebook than citizens in any other country. […]

No-1-USA-patch-197x300We have the largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the world, about triple our nearest rival—China (on an exchange-rate basis, though only 50 percent larger on a purchasing-power-parity standard).  On a per-capita measure there is even more distance between us and Beijing, though not in comparison with several Scandinavian countries.

We have the highest spending—as a percentage of GDP—on health care of any nation, though that may be understandable—we’re rich!  And while we are not #1 in life expectancy, once one adjusts for the heterogeneity of our population, income inequality, infant-mortality, obesity, a high murder rate and automobile fatalities, we look more respectable.

With just 4.5 percent of the earth’s population, the U.S. produces 20-25 percent of all output, has a per-capita income 4-5 times the world average, and holds a third of the world’s wealth. […]

In terms of industrial and manufacturing output, the United States, China, Japan and Germany are the top four world economies.  We lead everyone by a wide margin in the production and export of services.  Three of the four largest non-bank businesses (by market capitalization) in the world are U.S. firms, and they reflect our diversity: Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, and Walmart. By the same metric we have four of the largest ten banks in the world, and the largest stock market. […]

flag-fireworksChina, India and the United States have the largest agricultural outputs, though it is only one percent of our GDP and less than two percent of our labor force.  (We lead the world by far when it comes to the consumption of coffee and cocoa!)  China, Germany and the United States are the three largest when it comes to the dollar volume of international trade, though in spite of all the political rhetoric and grousing about goods made abroad, relative to GDP the U.S. has one of the smallest foreign-trade sectors among developed nations.  In dollar terms, we have the world’s largest trade deficit, though it is less than 4 percent of our GDP.  (For Goldfinger fans: we have by far the world’s largest gold reserves.)

When it comes to flying, no other nation is close to us in logging air miles, and two of the three largest airports in the world, measured by passengers served, are in the U.S.—Atlanta and O’Hare.  France, Indonesia and the United States are the three top tourist destinations, though in terms of visitors’ spending, the U.S. comes out on top.  The most popular museums? In the U.S., France, and U.K.

Most of the world’s top universities are in the United States and, not surprisingly, in physics, chemistry, medicine and economics, 41 percent of all Nobel prizes have been awarded to Americans or scholars working here, and we lead the world in R & D expenditures.

via Chicago Life.

I’m grateful for my good fortune in being the citizen of a rich and powerful nation, but my greater gratitude is for being an heir to the United States’ tradition of freedom and democracy.

When President Abraham Lincoln referred to the United States as the last, best hope of earth, the United States was not No. 1 in gross domestic product and did not have full spectrum military dominance.  What Lincoln could justly claim is that the United States was a country in which ordinary working people had a voice in their government, and could better their condition through their own efforts.

A high national GDP is good and strong military power is good, but what matters is what they contribute to the well-being and liberties of the citizens of the nation.

Click on Celebrate the 4th of July for Sanderson’s complete article.

Click on Rethinking American Exceptionalism for David R. Sirota’s thoughts in In These Times.

Click on American Exceptionalisms for Richard J. Gamble’s contrast in The American Conservative of the older American exceptionalism and the new.

I don’t see how Obamacare can work

July 3, 2013

I don’t see how the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, can work.  It’s too complicated.  It provides too many openings to game and undermine the system.  It doesn’t get at the causes of out-of-control health insurance costs.

obamacare_screw_o_1There are good things in Obamacare—the provisions that you can’t be denied medical insurance for a pre-existing condition; that grown children continue to be covered by their parents’ policies until age 26; that insurance companies can’t set a lifetime limit for coverage.

But the employer mandate gives an incentive for companies to avoid health insurance costs by cutting workers or cutting hours so that they are exempt from the bill.  The individual mandate give the health insurance industry a captive market without any protection against overcharging or underinsuring.

The Republican right wing’s war opposes Obamacare for exactly the wrong reason.   They oppose Obamacare not because it can’t achieve it’s stated goal of providing adequate medical care for all Americans, but because they are opposed to that goal.

President Obama actually is helped by the kind of enemies he has.  It makes his medical insurance plan seem better than it is.   That’s one reason I was willing to give Obamacare the benefit of the doubt when it first was proposed.  I thought that anything so vehemently opposed by the likes of Sarah Palin and Rick Perry must have something good about it.

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Pay vs. productivity growth around the world

June 6, 2013
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Carson_US-MFG_d1

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The gap between growth of workers’ productivity and workers’ wages exists in a number of countries, but the gap is much wider in the United States than in other advanced industrial countries.

I took the second chart from an on-line article by an analyst who thinks this is a good thing, not a bad thing.  This analyst thinks it means that U.S. manufacturing is becoming more competitive internationally.

The failure of wages to keep up with productivity could be a good thing if it meant that the profits of U.S. industry were being plowed back into modernizing factories and infrastructure, expanding industrial research and creating new industries.  Do you see any sign this is happening?  Or is this just income being redistributed upward?

Click on US Manufacturing Restores Competitive Vigor for the source of the second chart and an optimistic view by Joseph G. Carson on the AllianceBernstein Blog on Investing.

Click on Signs of Factory Revival Hard to Spot for a skeptical view in the Wall Street Journal.

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Who works the hardest, Greeks or Germans?

June 5, 2013

A friend of mine was a little surprised when I told him that the average Greek puts in many more hours of work in a year than the average German, or the average American.  I promised him I would look up the figures.  Here they are.

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Here is a comparison of countries that includes Greece.

Greece

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A country’s economic success depends less on the hard work of its people than on the technology that makes their work productive.   Here are international comparisons of productivity.

work.productivity

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Click on the following two links for more interesting charts and even longer lists of countries.

BBC News – How hard do you work?

BBC News – Where are you on the global pay scale?

Be warned.  Every country measures these things in its own way, so these charts only give general indications, not exact comparisons.

In my next post, I’ll look at the relation between productivity and wages.

Who are richer than us Americans? Quite a few

July 21, 2012

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I find the information in this chart, which I came across on Angry Bear, to be highly interesting, but I’m at a loss to know how to interpret it.   I can’t figure out what common factor, if any, distinguishes the countries at the top of the chart from the countries at the bottom of the chart.

Maybe there is no common factor.  Maybe we Americans have a low median net worth because so many of us are in debt, and maybe the Swedes and Danes have a low median net worth because they can rely on their extensive welfare state for security in sickness or old age and don’t need to save as much.  Somebody in a comment thread said Australians have a high average net worth because their housing bubble hasn’t collapsed yet.  But how did Italians come to have such a high average net worth?

I would like to know what other people think about this.

Click on U.S. Trails at Least 15 OECD Countries in Median Wealth for the post I read on Angry Bear.

Click on Hardheaded Socialism Makes Canada Richer Than U.S. for opinion by Stephen Marche on Bloomberg Business News.

 

All these commentaries are responses to an article which appeared earlier this month in the Toronto Globe and Mail, but I haven’t been able to link to the original article.

 

[7/23/12]  Click on Canadians are richer than they think for the article in the Toronto Globe and Mail which apparently sparked interest in international wealth comparisons. (more…)

Universal health care, pro and con

February 4, 2012

In this YouTube video, my fellow blogger “Atticus Finch” replies to my argument in favor of universal health care.  He says that the higher costs and worse results of the U.S. health care system versus other advanced countries are probably due to cultural and lifestyle choices, such as the greater rate of obesity in the United States.

It is perfectly true that there are many things that affect health and mortality besides availability of medical care, and many of them—not just bad diet and lack of exercise, but violent crime and extreme poverty—are worse in the United States than in peer countries.

But if you look at things that are affected by the availability of health care—what the World Health Organization calls “avoidable mortality”—the United States lags behind other wealthy nations.  We ranked 37th among 190 countries, just behind Costa Rica and just ahead of Slovenia, in a study published by the WHO in 2000.  We were 19th among 19 nations in terms of preventable deaths in a survey published by the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation devoted to study of health care, in 2008.  Here’s more from the Commonwealth Fund.

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Our top 1 percent and theirs

February 1, 2012

Hat tip to Hullaballoo.

Investing in green technology

January 1, 2012

In the United States, the government is willing to spend whatever it takes, and more, to project military power abroad and homeland security surveillance at home.  Which do you think will strengthen the United States more in the future–investment in military and police technologies, or investment in renewable energy?  Which will make the United States more secure–attempted military control of the world’s oil-producing regions, or attempted development of new technologies to reduce U.S. dependence on these regions.

Hat tip to The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson for The Most Important Graphs of 2011.

U.S. lagging in high-speed Internet

September 20, 2011

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A branch of the U.S. government, the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, created the Internet, and Al Gore and other statesmen enacted legislation to make the resources of the Internet available to the general public.   The Internet is an American creation.

So how is it that the French offer broadband Internet service more than three times as fast at half the cost that we Americans pay?  I can remember when Americans mocked the French for their inefficient telephone system and other public services.  That was then.  Things are different now.

The difference in speed makes no difference to a casual Internet user such as myself.  But it would make a great deal of difference to an information-intensive business in a highly competitive market.  Internet service is part of the infrastructure we hear so much about, and it has to be maintained and upgraded, just like bridges, airports and levees.

I’m not sure why other countries should have gotten ahead of the United States on this.  We Americans are just as intelligent and enterprising as we always were, and our country has more than its share of scientists, engineers and other professionals.

One possible answer is in Federal Communications Commission policy.  A 1996 law requires telephone and cable companies to provide equal access to rival telecommunications companies.  In 2005, George W. Bush’s FCC reclassified Internet service providers as information companies, which freed telephone and cable companies to create local monopolies.  Without competition, there is no incentive to upgrade service.  If this is the root of the problem, then it is hard to see why Barack Obama’s FCC does not reclassify ISPs as telecom companies.

Click on Internet Speeds Around the World for the source and context of the infographic above.

Click on Akamai State of the Internet Report for a report on Internet services with international comparisons.

Click on Over 2 Billion Internet Users Worldwide for more information on Internet services worldwide.

Click on An Internet for Everybody for analysis in the New York Times by Susan Crawford, former special assistant to President Obama for science, technology and innovation policy.

Click on Come to the United States for slow and expensive Internet and Where is fast cheap broadband? Not in the United States for analysis by Erich Veith, a St. Louis attorney.

U.S. taxes aren’t especially high

April 14, 2010

I do not feel oppressed by having to pay taxes. Competitive free enterprise is a wonderful engine of creativity and innovation. But if we want services that covers everybody without exception – public education, police and fire protection, water and sewer service, public libraries and public parks, inspection of food and drugs for safety, a social safety net – we will have to pay for it in taxes. If we want to rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges and physical infrastructure, if we want to be a world military power, if we want to pay down our national debt, we will have to pay for it in taxes.

The tax burden in the United States is a lot less than in other advanced countries. About 28 percent of U.S. output (gross domestic product) goes for taxes. That is a lot, but among 28 advanced industrial countries, only Japan and South Korea are lower, and only slightly. The average is 35.9 percent; Swedes and Danes pay 49.1 percent, the Germans, French, British and Canadians all pay substantially more. If you find this burdensome, you could get some relief by going to Mexico or Turkey, where taxes take only 20.6 percent and 21.5 percent of GDP.

It’s more meaningful to compare actual government expenditures as a percent of GDP because that spending will have to be paid for, sooner or later.  By one estimate, U.S. government expenditures – national, state and local – took up 36 percent of the nation’s GDP in 2006. These was more than South Korea, the same as Japan and less than Canada, Britain or Germany; the French supposedly spent 53 percent of GDP and the Swedes 54 percent.

Go below the fold for detailed country-by-country comparisons.

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