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Why the USA isn't #1

I'am a student from holland and I am preparing my final English presentation. I have chosen the subject ''Why isn't America the greatest country in the world''. I have chosen this subject because of the resent ''goverment shutdown'' and ,for example, I already had my opinion about the so called most democratic system in the world and the two party system.
I didn't open this topic because i have something against America, I just want to know how you 'ínsiders' in America see things (I am Dutch) and for the most i want to receive information which i can use in my presentation and I also really want to understand the American system/how things work in America, because i know things work differently in the States than in The Netherlands.
So I really want to hear about the 'Wrongs' in America.
EP

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    Oct 10 2013: Hi Carl,
    Let me start by saying I have enjoyed a number of springtimes walking the Queen's Gardens. I also remember a cookie I was served ... it was waffled with a center and just great with my coffee. Holland is a wonderful country.

    Most Americans are not concerned with any rankings of nations of the world. This is simply not important. There may be some that like to travel and tell others that "My country is better then your country" Forget them.
    Having said this, I think countries should compare activities if for no other reason, when a country's national policy has proven very successful, the leadership of other countries would be wise to duplicate that policy.

    America is not a democracy per say. It is a constitutional republic and that confuses many people including Americans. Unfortunately there has been challenges to the Constitution over the years by amendments which has shifted more power to the Federal Government then was originally intended. This does not bode well for America,
    there are too many historical examples of concentration of governmental power into a small area or group.

    The current "shutdown" is mostly political hype. Most of the Federal government is functioning, over 80%. the shutdown are things like parks and monuments visited by tourists. There have been shutdowns in the past. They are mostly for political jibber and simply annoying to the American Public.

    There is much info on the internet about how America works, start there and I wish you good luck on your assignment.
  • Oct 10 2013: What does it mean when you ask "why is the US not number 1", the important thing here is the number one, what does that mean? Does it mean, as it is understood mostly today, economic power? Does it mean the world's best place to live? Does it mean people are happy etc? Many different versions of what number 1 means here. Certainly the US has a terrible record when it coimes to poverty, the only major western nation with poverty on scales not imagianble in western europe say. It is also a very cut throat society where status means a great deal and has come to mean either money or power, this seems the only currency of success in the US. For example a great artist has no status or importance unless his/her paintings sell for a great deal of money. Whatever happened to value in something for its own sake? One of the talks on TED demonstrates this, the one by Michael Sandler where value was put on children reading a book, they were paid to do it. See this and you get the idea.
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      Oct 10 2013: Spoken like a true American!
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        Oct 10 2013: What you mean by this, Mike? Frank has said elsewhere that he was born in Germany, lived most of his life in Australia, and now resides in the UK!
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          Oct 11 2013: Fritzie,

          I was being sardonic.... sarcastic.... one of those sar's...
          I am touched when a non American is so positive about how bad things are in the USA. I lived other countries for about half of my career; Europe, East and South East Asia, Southwest Asia to name a few. I experienced many good things and some other things. Why would I make a disparaging remark concerning another country as seems to be sport for too many commentators on TED.. .
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        Oct 11 2013: Mike, as I wrote elsewhere, I have noticed and am puzzled at the certainty people often have that they understand a country where they do not live.

        This is why for a student doing research, it would be best to separate for analytic purposes what people's impressions are who live there and the impressions of those making judgments and assumptions from afar.

        For example, Mike, would you say when you look around you wherever you live in the US that it is "a very cut throat society where status means a great deal?"
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          Oct 11 2013: Of course not.
          I looked at Frank's profile.... nothing there, so I thought he was one of those trolls who have plagued the system.
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        Oct 11 2013: There is a big difference between a troll and someone who simply has been given information that is not reliable and innocently passes it along. I always hope people who share accounts here will reconsider their impressions in light of new information.

        A close fiend of mine works at a major university that accepts post-doctoral students from all over the world. He often runs into situations in which even a very intelligent and educated person from another country is shocked on living in the States for a while that the images he had of the United States, such as the one I quoted above, are so far off the mark.
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          Oct 11 2013: You are right. I have also known of people coming to the states and being surprised at how incorrect their perceptions of the US was. Most common view, everyone here lives like you see in the movies.

          Frank was so adamant about his views, I don't think he was innocent in his expression.
          I could be wrong, but I spent a lot.... some time in German Gasthaus listening to young men who know all about the USA and how bad it was having never spent a day here.
          Sometimes, I let my nationalism overwhelm me.
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    Oct 10 2013: One other thing I might add, Carl, is that many people who do not live in America have a very strong hatred for America, for many reasons, some valid. What is also true, though, is, while I would say I know next to nothing about Holland, many people who do not live in America are quite sure they have a completely accurate "insider" view of America and its people. Some Americans, of course, believe they have much better knowledge of and insight into another country than they do. From a distance, people tend to see things in caricature.

    I mention this because you say you want an "insider" view.

    Because you are writing an academic paper, you will want to be cautious in how you interpret any of our responses. You might think the person responding to you lives in America, but the person may not have been here for a long time, may have visited a few times, or may get information entirely second hand.

    Some participants here have profiles you can see by clicking their names. Those often will tell you where they live.

    Unrelated, the table I link here compares countries on numerous dimensions of quality of life. http://www.numbeo.com/quality-of-life/rankings_by_country.jsp You would need to figure out how they measure these variables and from where they got their data, but you will see from the table that the US is measured as far less safe than Switzerland or Germany. But in this link you can see how highly variable the crime rate is depending on where you live. For example, compare Detroit, Michigan with Lincoln, Nebraska. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_cities_by_crime_rate
  • Nov 9 2013: The U.S. gov't. signed treaties with the native tribes, then they attacked those people, took possession of their lands, pushed them into small pockets of less-fertile land, and will still investigate their goings-on as-if they are under American (Federal) law.
    Then the gov't. used atomic weaponry on the Japanese citizens - ignoring a multitude of military targets.
    Then it's on to the ubiquitous spying & prying, (and cataloging) seemingly every living human of cell-phonable age.

    I once read an article about how the U.S. was the best; apparently we "make the most typewriters; etc." [paraphrased.] (I like Kennedy's 1968 Address to the University of Kansas, considering our "gross national product ... that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, ... [but not] the health of our children, the quality of their education ... [nor] the strength of our marriages...")
    & "medications" (drugging of children) [see http://psychrights.org/Stories/EricHarris.htm ]

    P.S. What is "EP"?
  • Nov 7 2013: From an academic perspective, the summary of your argument here would not be judged favorably.

    If you accept the idea that a nation can be “the greatest”, greater than all other, then you would have to demonstrate in the affirmative that one county met all the criteria for greatness and none other did or that a country had more greatness than all other (however you defined greatness). Identifying “the greatest” country as being America (which is a pretty big assumption) and then discussing its deficits does nothing to prove it is not still the greatest, simply that is not perfect.

    You could use the deficits of the supposed “greatest” country, the United States, the draw criticism to the idea that there can be a country that is “the greatest”. That is argue against the idea of one nation being superior to another in some sort of total sense. You could not argue the United States is not the greatest country without identifying an alternative nation, establishing "greatness" criteria, and arguing for that the other country had more of greatness than all others.
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    Nov 5 2013: It's been said that the split in Congress that led to the government shutdown is a direct reflection of the split in the American people. For the most part, Democrats want to develop social programs, and Republicans want to rein in social programs. Democrats want to increase taxes, Republicans want to decrease spending. The two parties have opposing visions for the future of the country, one vision threatening the other. One party is incredibly against the ACA (Obamacare), the other is incredibly for it.

    The stalemate on these issues that led to the shutdown perhaps shows that the government closely represents the views of the public. The bickering in Congress was rather civil compared to the animosity that perpetuated on Facebook.
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    Oct 11 2013: "We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories. Number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending..."

    In Sorkin's honor, here are 25 other things America isn't number one in:

    America ranks 13th in starting a business, according to the Doing Business rankings compiled by The World Bank.
    The U.S. ranks 47th in press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders. So much for freedom of the press.
    The U.S. ranks 20th in international trade, according to the Doing Business rankings compiled by The World Bank.
    The U.S., which ranks 15th in dealing with debt insolvency according to the Doing Business rankings.
    The U.S. is ranked 10th in economic freedom, according to The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal.
    The U.S. is 25th among 43 developing countries for the best place to be a mother, according to Save The Children.
    The U.S. is only the 11th happiest country in the world, according Columbia University's Earth Institute.
    There are 21 countries better than America in freedom from corruption, according to Heritage.org.
    The U.S. was ranked 24th in perceived honesty, according to Transparency.org.
    America is ranked 39th in income inequality according to the CIA World Factbook.
    Need a Hepatitis B vaccination? The U.S. is ranked 89th in percentage of children who have been vaccinated according to the World Health Organization.
    The U.S. is only 47th in infant survival? That's true, according to the CIA World Factbook.
    Want to live a long life? Don't live in the U.S., which is 50th in life expectancy according to the CIA World Factbook.
    How well is our economy growing? The U.S. GDP growth rate is ranked 169th out of 216 countries, according to the CIA World Factbook.
    Our GDP per capita is only 12th in the world
  • Oct 10 2013: I have never been outside the US so i have nothing to compare it to.. I do know America is a diverse country. One who's experience of America is by living in California would be very different then if ones experience of America is by living in Texas. America is decent but we kind of a spoiled, super-ficial society in a sense. Our government has been high-jacked by an elite class of career politicians and Much of our democratic freedoms have been pawned off to these huge beauracratic agencies such as the FDA, EPA, FCC you name it.. America is great because we still have a lot of freedom and oppurtunity but that will change if we don't..
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    Oct 10 2013: isn't it the number 1?
  • Oct 10 2013: For some people, America is the greatest country in the world because of the relative freedom. Others will come to America to setup a company because US has fairly good environment for such ventures.

    America is full of contrasts. You see how some people live and it looks like a third world country. Then you look at Google, Facebook, Amazon and see amazing technology innovation. etc.

    I think US still ranks favorable in many aspects (and can be one of many greatest countries in the world) but no so much in other (like any other country).
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    Oct 9 2013: One thing you will find is that Americans are very diverse, with different points of view about most things and the freedom to express whatever criticisms they have. So there is not really an American view on a matter, if you mean a view that is universally or almost universally held.

    Another thing that is important for purposes of a paper is that views you see expressed here are not necessarily representative of views you would hear if you surveyed a random sample of the population.

    I personally do not think it is meaningful to call ANY country the greatest in the world. There are things you could measure to make a comparison and things you could describe, but the relative weights you place on things will determine your favorite country. You could look at measures like literacy, infant mortality, crime rates, and so forth. You can look at the founding principles a country aims to uphold, like freedom of speech or of the press, to practice your religion, freedom of assembly, the right to a fair trial before a jury of your peers, and so forth.

    Yet there are always flaws, experiments, and mistakes in implementing a society based on principles. Principles sometimes conflict, so judgments need to be made of how to trade them off in particular cases. And beyond this, countries are made of people, and people do things some things not public-spirited.

    There are countries with less disparity between rich and poor and countries with more. There are countries with better "social safety nets" and countries with worse. There are countries with schools that are more successful in cultivating skills as well as critical and creative thinking, and countries that have done less well in those respects.

    Right now, as you have been reading, the decision-makers in the nations capital have been unable to find a way of collaborating for the public good. I would guess at least 90% of adults in America are somewhat or extremely disgusted about this situation.

    That's a start for you