America! Land of the free, home of the brave, and the greatest country on the face of the planet, right? A country with seemingly limitless natural resources, and according to many politicians, anointed by God herself to lead the world out of the wilderness and into a bright new age of liberty and justice for all. Too bad the road to that vision is pockmarked with so many potholes, because we haven’t raised enough taxes on people who can afford to pay to fill them.
Americans, maybe more than anyone on Earth, are guilty of the sin of hubris and excessive pride. As the great Greek poets of the ancient world have taught us, hubris can lead to some really bad outcomes.The reality is that a good portion of the rest of the world has far outpaced the United States in things like healthcare. While the U.S. has painstakingly cobbled together a convoluted insurance-friendly monster called Obamacare (remarkable mostly for how much better it is than what we had), the rest of the developed world enjoys one-payer government healthcare that outperforms the U.S. in both cost and quality of care. The proof is in the pudding; they live longer than Americans.
But healthcare is not the only way America lags behind the rest of the world. Here are 11 things other countries do better than us.
1. Food waste reduction.
In a country as bountiful as the United States, it is remarkable how many people are hungry. Almost 50 million Americans, present to some degree in every single county of the country, live in a food-insecure household. Meanwhile, while children go to bed on empty stomachs, up to 40% of the food supply, more than 20 pounds of food per person per month, is wasted. That’s $165 billion worth of food thrown out. Factor in all the water, energy and land used to produce this waste and it borders on criminal.
France has a better way. This year, national French law banned the disposal of unsold food. Instead, the food must be donated to charity or used as animal feed. Food-related businesses are now required to sign up with a charity and donate unsold food. The food must be in a state ready for consumption (to save the charities the time and money to prepare it). The law also incorporates an education program to inform schools, businesses and the general public about the food waste problem. The goal is to cut food waste in France in half by 2025.
2. College loans.
The cost of a college education in the United States has skyrocketed in recent years, as any debt-ridden college grad can tell you. A political frenzy of tax-cutting fever has hobbled monetary support for public universities, especially at the state government level, and private college tuition has reached unaffordable heights mostly due to reckless spending and administrative bloat. Caught in this upward spiral are lower- and middle-class students who now leave school with college debt approaching $30,000 on average, crippling their ability to accept lower paying but attractive jobs, relocate, or even move out of their parents’ homes.
Most developed countries scratch their heads at the idea that we must burden our children with debt in order to educate them and strengthen the nation. In countries like Germany, Iceland, Brazil, Norway, even Panama, public university tuition is free. Even in the United Kingdom, although education isn’t free, the government allows students to pay loans back based on their income, reducing the pressure of debt and allowing more freedom of choice upon completion of college. Additionally, the UK writes off the debt after 30 years if it has not been paid back. Compare that to the US, where nothing, not even bankruptcy, erases college debt.