We’re number 1

We’re number 1

We love traveling. On a recent trip to Iceland we were greeted by our rental car agent at the Airport. She was picking up us and another couple of ladies that had reserved cars. Their rental office was located about 5 miles from the airport terminal. While process the rental agreement we were discussing our touristy plans. The agent mentioned that many Europeans have a problem with Americans. One of the ladies brought up the “ugly American” view, but the agent stated “No, that is not the problem”. When pressed she gave it considerable thought before her reply. “My best way to describe the issue is that we view Americans as naïve.”

What she meant by this is that most Americans do not realize that every other country has real value and that the US could “learn” from other countries. America is not the best at everything. Saying so does not make it so.

Making America great again is an attractive notion. I wonder if the road to greatness can be achieved by recapturing the glory days, or if we need to recognize that the world has changed and we need to better understand how to compete in the new environment?

When I was starting a career, my view was that the primary factor that made our country the best was the can-do attitude of our entrepreneurs and the work ethic of the work force. I remember swelling with pride in this assumed knowledge. I no longer feel this way. One measure of productivity is per capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product). While have maintained a top 10 position among all countries for decades we are far from #1. There are several “so called” socialist countries with equivalent or higher productivity.

An unfortunate area where the US ranks number one is healthcare cost per capita. We currently are spending 16% of our GDP on healthcare and that rate has been increasing for decades. If you factor in just this one item and view net, per capita, GDP after healthcare expenditures we fall 6 positions.

I remember a time when we stood at the top of the heap in terms of standard of living. This factor is a combination of: Life expectancy at birth, infant mortality per 1,000 live births, mean years of schooling of adults, safety, expected years of schooling of adults & gross national income per capita. While we still rank in the top 10, we have been again passed by several “so called” socialist countries.

Are we willing to evaluate our performance and learn from others that are doing a better job? If we make it past that hurdle are we willing to make the changes leading to improvement? Is our rental car agent correct about Americans being naïve?

1 thought on “We’re number 1

  1. Rightly or wrongly, I have always believed that other countries are where they are today because of the U.S. They learned from us. We were the innovators. They copied. Many of the countries outperforming us today have educated their people at our colleges and universities. They are standing on our shoulders and have forgotten where they got the technology in the first place.

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