A big reason why America keeps drifting ever deeper into mediocrity is a misperception about how far we have already declined, how determined and effective our foreign competition is, and how ineffective minor tweaks to current policies are likely to be. I documented some measures of our decline, to which most Americans and apparently all politicians are oblivious, in Yeah! We're Number 40, 11, 16, 22, 24, 27, 48, and 29! and the updates to it. Recently, Ed Fullbrook has published an e-book, Decline of the USA, which contains almost no text but shows in charts our ranking among 30 OECD nations in 56 indicators in seven categories. Overall USA ranked 29th, ahead of only Mexico. Recall that before its expansion to 34 nations in 2010 OECD members included not only all the prosperous nations of western Europe, Canada, and Japan, but also unenviable nations like Portugal, Turkey, Poland, Greece, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovak Republic. USA ranked behind all of them.
Out of 56 rankings, USA was in the top ten only once (labor productivity in GDP per hour worked). USA was in the second ten only 11 times and was in the bottom ten 44 times. In the seven larger categories, USA was in the middle of the pack on education and last or near last in all other categories:
Income and Leisure 27/30
Freedom and Democracy 28/30
Public Order and Safety 30/30
Generosity 24/24 (data not available for all 30)
Large cities in America, where the digital age was invented, now have generally slower and more expensive internet services, according to this recent report from The New America Foundation:
The results indicate that U.S. consumers in major cities tend to pay higher prices for slower speeds compared to consumers abroad. For example, when comparing triple play packages in the 22 cities surveyed, consumers in Paris can purchase a 100 Mbps bundle of television, telephone, and high-speed Internet service for the equivalent of approximately $35 (adjusted for PPP). By contrast, in Lafayette, LA, the top American city, the cheapest available package costs around $65 and includes just a 6 Mbps Internet connection. A comparison of Internet plans available for around $35 shows similar results. Residents of Hong Kong have access to Internet service with symmetrical download and upload speeds of 500 Mbps while residents of New York City and Washington, D.C. will pay the equivalent price for Internet service with maximum download speeds that are 20 times slower (up to 25 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 2 Mbps).
The results add weight to a growing body of evidence that suggests that the U.S. is lagging behind many of its international counterparts, most of whom have much higher levels of competition and, in turn, offer lower prices and faster Internet service. It suggests that policymakers need to re-evaluate our current policy approaches to increase competition and encourage more affordable high-speed Internet service in the U.S.
Ezra Klein reports that median net worth of Americans is lower than for 16 other developed countries: Australia, Italy, Japan, UK, Switzerland, Ireland, France, Canada, Norway, Finland, Spain, New Zealand, Netherlands, Israel, China/Taiwan, and Germany.
Mark Rice, Chair of American Studies at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, maintains an interesting blog, Ranking America, in which he posts country rankings on an extraordinarily broad range of topics. Recent posts report that Americans are #2 (right behind Romania) among 35 advanced nations in childhood poverty. The US ranks 45th in civil liberties, which is the "lowest of any fully democratic countries." Perhaps the most devastating is that the US ranks 50th in measured lengths of erect penises. How tiny is it? Details here.