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Monday, May 4, 2009


Today's Buggy Topic

In the N.Y. Times  Weekly Magazine (May 3rd, 2009), a lengthy article appeared that set out the impressions of an American writer who moved to the Netherlands to take charge of an institute there.    In in the course of his commentary,  he indicated that he had bridled, initially, at the statist nature of Dutch life --- not least very high taxation ---- only over time to decide that the Netherlands is really a an admirable country . . . so much so we should try to emulate its socialist way-of-life.  Note:: socialism is his term, not the buggyf prof's.

The article was linked to by Professor Mark Thoma, who runs the laudable economic web-site Economist's View, where most of the posters, American and otherwise, seem to think that life in general is much better in the EU; that the United States is run by a financial capitalist oligarchy --- which, as prof buggy has repeatedly observed in the forum threads there, didn't seem able to prevent the election since 2006 of a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president --- and that the average American worker has been so cheated and even exploited since the 1960s that you'd think the USA had degenerated into a Dickens'-like society of the English sort early in the industrial revolution of the first part of the 19th century. 

 Weird, no? 

Consider Poverty in the USA

You'd never know from their repetitive posts that the 8-9% of Americans in poverty --- that percentage calculated with in-kind (non-cash) transfers to them, such as rent-subsidies, food-stamps, and Medicaid, added to cash-transfers --- are overwhelmingly there temporarily.  Or never know that the Census Bureau of the USA finds in yearly random surveys that they --- along with the rest of the bottom quintile of income earners in this country --- spend $2.40 for every $1.00 reported in income.  Or know, too,, that other Census Bureau studies show the following data for 2007 (click here for source):

  • In the US, in the lowest 10 percent of households (all of whom are officially classified as "poor"):
  • 43% own their  home.  The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
  • The average poor American has more living space than the average non-poor individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities in Europe
  • Almost 75% of poor Americans own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.
  • Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
  • 97 percent own color TVs
  • 55 percent own two or more color TVs
  • 99.2 percent own a refrigerator
  • 74 percent own microwave ovens
  • 75% percent own VCRs or DVD players
  • 57 percent own clothes dryers 
  • 59 percent own stereos
  • 37 percent own dishwashers
  • 36 percent own computers
  • 32 percent own garbage disposals

Back to the Netherlands 

In prof bug's lengthy commentary on the Times'  article, he shows that the Netherlands --- like the rest of the rich EU countries, the English-speaking countries (including the USA), and Japan --- are struggling with the same sorts of challenges and worrying problems and tackle them in different ways, with varying degrees of success . . . all in line, moreover, with their divergent institutional and cultural heritages.   To stay with the USA, the Netherlands and the other West European continental countries do some things better than us, and we do some things better than them; and some of the better things on both sides of the Atlantic can't easily be transferred into one another's institutional, cultural, and political systems. 

More specifically, prof bug --- who notes at the outset of his post that a "dreamland" fantasy of EU life is again being purveyed by the usual suspects: in this case, the Netherlands --- argues that given what he's just said a moment ago here,, a balance sheet can be drawn of what's admirable in the Netherlands and what's oppositely a source of concern and growing trouble for the Dutch themselves .  For instance, 7.5 Dutch have been emigrating out of their country for the last several years . . . most of them young and well educated, pushed to leave by growing concerns --- brought out by Dutch survey evidence that prof bug cites ---- over growing population density, pressures to conformity, growing violence, and growing pollution.

Enough Said

Click here for the thread at Economist's View, which starts with some easily read excerpts from the Times'  article on the Netherlands, with prof bug's comments found by running a find on the relevant web-page for the buggy professor.