Disclaimer: I write this knowing full well the backlash I may receive after readers are finished digesting this post. What I am writing is controversial, and may cause people to question my own patriotism. I may face criticism, questioning, and perhaps lose a part of my audience. However, nothing written below is untrue…
Being American is something that the majority of the country takes pride in. Our national anthem ends with the phrase, “The land of the free, and home of the brave.” Children as young as five years old are strongly encouraged to stand, face the United States flag, and proclaim their loyalty to it. The past month has been filled with news of outraged football fans boycotting the sport due to players refusing to stand for the national anthem.
Pride is a strong emotion here.
Turn on the television. Poke around on Instagram or Twitter. Go to the movies. It’s everywhere. America is numero uno! That’s the message, but is the message true or is it just nationalist propaganda? After some research, I was sad and disappointed by the answers I found.
It turned out that America wasn’t leading the race in just about any important category. America prides itself on its freedoms, its high standard of living, its citizens being very well off. For some reason, we’ve been falling behind.
We’re made to believe that America is the land of the free, yet we’ve also been told that America’s freedoms are being whittled away at, and have been for years. Perhaps at one time America was the freest country in the world, but after nearly 250 years since the Declaration was written, has America remained on top?
In fact, the argument could be made that even at America’s founding the nation was largely not free, considering that slavery was completely legal in all of the thirteen original colonies. Yes, it was a different time, and yes, some of the founding fathers were against slavery. Their personal opinions aside, however, America was certainly not “free” to many who lived here.
Since slavery ended, America has still not been truly free. The Constitution has been amended to include taxes on our own incomes, which in a way is a new form of slavery. Not to a slave master on a plantation; but to an all powerful state that decides for us what we need and what we’ll be allowed to keep. Is this freedom?
I wrote some time ago about the Communist Manifesto, and how nearly all of the ten planks of communism had been implemented to some extent in America already. How can this be the land of the free when each day we slowly move towards communism? How can we be free when the state continues to grow out of control, forcing its citizens to toil for its own ambitions?
Are Americans free? In exactly what regard? Can freedom be measured? Yes it can. Here’s how the United States is stacking up against the rest of the world.
First, we do not by any means operate within a free market. Sure, America has more free trade than Soviet Russia did, but we’re not as free as we once were. Increasing government regulations, price controls, subsidies, wage laws, labor restrictions, the list goes on; it all adds up to a country who is falling in the rankings of economic freedom.
The Heritage Foundation gathers data from countries around the world and ranks them in what is called the “Economic Freedom Index”. According to their website,
“Economic freedom is the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume, and invest in any way they please. In economically free societies, governments allow labor, capital, and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself.”
Sadly, America isn’t even ranked in the top ten. In fact, we’re ranked below countries such as Lithuania, Estonia, and even the United Arab Emirates. How the hell did THAT happen?!
It isn’t just economic freedom, which pertains to business, taxes, and regulations. Personal freedom in America is falling as well. The Cato Institute publishes the Human Freedom Index each year. It serves as a guide to how free different countries are.
The index published here presents a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in the following areas:
■ Rule of Law
■ Security and Safety
■ Association, Assembly, and Civil Society
■ Size of Government
■ Legal System and Property Rights
■ Access to Sound Money
■ Freedom to Trade Internationally
■ Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business
Even though we know America’s slogan of “land of the free”, America somehow isn’t at the top! This can’t be right! The United States isn’t even in the top 10!
A decline in economic freedom has devastating effects for a country. Not only does it leave us less free, but it leaves us less prosperous. The United Nations’ Human Development Index measures how well countries are doing with regard to education, health, and overall quality of life. Yes, Americans have it pretty good. We DO have a high quality of life, but we aren’t number one.
Who am I to complain though, right? I still have the freedom to write and say whatever I want. The first amendment protects the freedom of the press, of which I could be considered to be a part of. In China people who criticize the state are locked up. At least in America we’re free to speak out against our government.
Unfortunately, while we do have freedom of the press, we’re once again NOT number 1.
Reporters Without Borders ranks countries in how well the governments treat the press, and how much red tape is involved in spreading truthful news. Their ranking doesn’t even have America in the top ten.
What the hell is going on? Was everything that I was taught about America in school just a bunch of lies? America HAS to be number one at SOMETHING!
The more I dug into the statistics and where America ranks when compared to other countries, the more angry I got. I love America, but I’m starting to look at it differently. It was as if I married a woman I thought was beautiful, but then I saw Megan Fox for the first time and had to reconsider my vows. America is amazing if its the only country you know, but after looking at these studies I’m losing my appetite.
Our country may seem free if we don’t look much outside it, or if we compare America to North Korea. Sure, we’re better off than a lot of countries, but we aren’t number 1, which means there is work to be done.
Maybe we aren’t the freest, but we have more money than anyone else, right? We have the biggest economy. The reason no one really wants to fight us is because we’re the number one buyer of everyone else’s products. China wouldn’t dare start a war with us because then who would buy their stuff? Freedom aside, America is still rich!
Or is it?
We have a lot of stuff, that’s for sure, but how are we paying for it? It isn’t shocking that most Americans can only afford their lifestyles because of their debt. Consumer debt in America is high. We aren’t the worst (Thank God!), but we’re in the 10th worst spot.
There are many ways to measure household indebtedness and debt burdens. Comparing total household debt to the overall size of the economy as measured by GDP is one of the measures. And per this household-debt-to-GDP measure, the Americans are 10th place with 78.8% and look practically prudent compared to the peak just before the Financial Crisis.
Should we really worry about this? Debt is only a problem if we can’t repay it, but America has a strong healthy economy that is filled with great paying jobs that can sustain families for generations. Debt isn’t a problem with a strong economy, and America has the strongest economy! Right?
Sadly, no. In fact, America doesn’t even have the largest economy anymore. Did you miss the announcement? It wasn’t big news, but when using the Purchasing Power Parity, China has a larger economy than the United States. We’re officially in second place. Dang it!
Do we even want to get into government debt? Hell. We’re this far already, let’s go for it. The United States government has the most debt of any country in the world at over $20 trillion. Luckily, our debt to GDP ratio isn’t the worst, but it is still at 104%. Our debt is larger than our entire economy. Then again, if we take into account unfunded liabilities, U.S. debt is over $100 trillion. There’s no getting out of that!
This also isn’t likely to change. Even with a Republican Congress and Presidency, they recently voted to suspend the debt ceiling, allowing more and more debt to be piled on the American citizen. Our elected officials willingly increase the levels of debt beyond the wildest dreams of statists of 40 years ago. Keep in mind, the government deficits today are increased taxes tomorrow.
Speaking of taxes, how does America fare in that regard? Better in some ways, and worse in others. Contrary to what President Donald Trump says, America isn’t the highest taxed country in the world, but America does have an incredibly high corporate tax rate.
The Tax Foundation said,
“The United States has the third highest general top marginal corporate income tax rate in the world, at 38.92 percent. Due to the recent reduction in Chad’s corporate tax rate, the U.S. rate is exceeded only by the United Arab Emirates and Puerto Rico.”
This of course has negative effects on economic growth, but just because a country has high taxes doesn’t mean it is worse off than lower taxed countries. What really matters is how a country spends its tax revenue. The American government spends its money on… well… take a look –
The majority of the budget is taken up by entitlement programs. Add military spending to Medicare and Social Security, and its over 75% of the total budget. The fourth largest category of spending is merely interest on the debt! Yikes!
Good thing we spend all of that money on the military though. America can at least be number one at that. The United States spends more on its military than any other country in the world. Far more. Like… wayyyyy more.
We get a lot for what we pay. We’re healthy, happy, and educated. Americans live long happy lives. We’re taxed, but we get things like schools and police for our taxes, so it balances out. Sure, let’s say that. But how do we compare to other countries?
Despite what we spend each year on “education”, American kids just flat out aren’t as smart as kids in other parts of the world. Once again, we’re not even in the top 10. Dang it!
“The United States spent more than $11,000 per elementary student in 2010 and more than $12,000 per high school student. When researchers factored in the cost for programs after high school education such as college or vocational training, the United States spent $15,171 on each young person in the system — more than any other nation covered in the report.”
America is definitely spending plenty on its students, but what are we getting for it? Here’s what –
Dumber kids mean dumber adults. Dumber adults must commit more crimes. More crime means more people in jail. We don’t rank number one for smarts, but we do for number of people in jail.
The United States has a larger prison population than any other country. China, which has a population more than three times the size of America, has about a half million fewer prisoners. This is insane!
Americans are dumb, criminal, and broke. What else? Oh yeah. Fat, sick, and dying.
The World Health Organization ranks the United States 31st in the world for life expectancy at 68.3 years. The life expectancy for Japanese is 83.7, which is 15 years longer! Holy cow! Despite living in the “richest” country on Earth, Americans are dying earlier than a lot of other developed countries.
Maybe obesity has something to do with it. Americans definitely love to eat. We lead the world in how many restaurants we have per person.
We eat more. Way more. It explains why we’re also one of the fattest countries. 35% of Americans are considered obese, and 18.5% of American children are obese. We’re eating ourselves to death!
Okay. I’ve pissed enough people off. Here’s one way America is kicking the rest of the world’s ass – charity. (Should I change the title of this article? Nah.)
America is certainly one of the world’s most charitable countries. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t number one, but we’re really close. Surprisingly, Burma is actually number one. America is a close second, and Australia is right behind us. Even with all of our problems, Americans give a TON to charity, and this shouldn’t be overlooked. The American people are GOOD people! We care a LOT about the rest of the world.
I’m American. Everyone I know and love is American. I love this country, and its amazing people.
Still, to think that we have this thing won is naive. America can up its game in a million different ways, most of which involve less government and more peaceful voluntary interaction.
The first step of recovery is admitting there is a problem. Hopefully, I’ve angered readers and motivated them to DO something. We can educate ourselves on our diets and become healthier. We can push for school choice and have a better education system for our kids. We can change our laws and have fewer people in prison. We can reign in government spending and demand that politicians balance the budget and decrease our debt. We can take control of our personal spending and recognize that we don’t need everything that is advertised to us. We can fight for greater freedom for the press and for everyday citizens.
As bad as things are, nothing is for certain. America CAN be number one! Let’s change it!