Sunday, July 31, 2011

Voter Fraud or Voter Suppression

Prior to 2011 only two states, Georgia and Indiana, required a photo ID in order to vote.  In the 2010 elections the Republican Party took control of many state legislatures and governor's offices as well as the U.S. House of Representatives.  Since then, in 2011, five more states, Wisconsin, Kansas, South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee - all Red states - have enacted laws to require photo IDs from the state motor vehicle department in order to vote.  Each of these Red states claims that they are trying to prevent voter fraud.  However, there is evidence that they really have a different objective.

Voter fraud is so rare that it makes no difference to the outcome of our political elections.  President GW Bush ordered the Department of Justice to target voter fraud during the 5 year period from 2002 to 2007.  During that time only 120 people were charged and only 86 convicted.  However, most of these were not fraud but mistakes; registration filled on incorrectly and voting by ex-convicts and immigrants who misunderstood the law.  Two federal prosecutors were even fired because the administration did not feel that they were adequately pursuing voter fraud.  The Brennan Center for Justice studied voter fraud and concluded that it was too insignificant to impact election resuts.  The results of elections in two states were inspected for voter fraud; in one case 0.0009% (less than 1 in 111,000) of the votes were invalid, in the second case only 0.00004% (1 in 2,500,000) were invalid.

Furthermore, voter fraud is a very ineffective way to cheat the system.  One or even several people could not have a significant impact on the election outcome by voting multiple times when the total number of votes is in the millions.

The real reason in my opinion for requiring photo IDs is voter suppression.  This requirement has a greater impact on the elderly, the young and minorities.  Wisconsin now also prohibits out-of-state college students from voting in state.  Although, the voters can apply for a photo ID and students can use absentee ballots to vote in their home states, a significant percentage of them will not.  Since most young people and minorities vote for Democrats and many of the elderly oppose the cuts that the Republicans plan to make to Social Security and Medicare, these requirements will benefits only the Republicans at the election polls.

Wisconsin Govenor Scott Walker and his Republican lead legislature were not satisfied with requiring a photo ID so they decided to make it harder for Democrats to obtain a DMV photo ID by closing 10 DMV offices in Democratic communities and reducing the operating hours of the remaining DMV offices those areas.  Not coincidentally Walker increased the operating hours of DMV offices in Republican districts.

While for many this is adequate evidence that the Republicans are committing voter suppression rather than defending against voter fraud, there is a significant number of people who are unwilling to admit that these acts are intended only to suppress votes for Democrats.

A corruption that we expect in a dictatorship pretending to be a democracy is being used by Republican politicians to steal elections that they cannot win honestly.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Comparing Crime and Punishment in the U.S. and Norway

I was shocked when I heard the Norwegian responsible for killing more than 90 people will face a maximum sentence of 20 years and 1 day.  That hardly seems adequate to me.  I don’t approve of capital punishment but I would sentence such a criminal to life in prison.
I wondered why Norway would limit all prison terms to 20 years and 1 day.  I believe that criminals who are rehabilitated deserve to be released from jail.  Perhaps Norway is more successful in rehabilitating its criminals and thus has less need for long sentences.  So I compared the recidivism rates of Norway and the U.S.  Recidivism in Norway is about one-third of the recidivism rate in the U.S., which is 66%.

I also compared the violent crime rates of the U.S. and Norway.  The most recent annual data that I could find for both countries was for the year 2000:

  • Violent crime rate in Norway 0.126%
  • Violent crime rate in U.S.     0.506% … about 4 times as much as in Norway.

The U.S. has a higher crime rate and a higher recidivism rate so the U.S. must have a larger percentage of its population in prison.

  • The U.S. prison population is 2,295,000.  743 per 100,000, the highest of all nations.
  • The Norwegian prison population is 3,479.  71 per 100,000.

Perhaps I was too quick to condemn the Norwegians for limiting prison terms to 20 years and 1 day.

Then I heard that Norway can actually keep a person in prison longer than 20 years and 1 day.  Norway evaluates a prisoners readiness for freedom before being released at the completion of the sentence.  If the review board decides that the prisoner is not ready the prisoner will remain in jail for at least 3 more years at which time another readiness evaluation is made.  There is no limit to how many times a sentence can be extended by 3 years.

U.S. law provides for harsher sentences for certain crimes but does permit a prisoner to be kept in prison beyond the complete of the sentence.  Most Americans would consider that unconstitutional.  I suspect that if that was lawful in the U.S. our prison population would be much greater than it is already.  Since the Norwegian prison population is not very high, Norway either does not abuse its ability to hold a prisoner indefinitely or it does so very infrequently.

Why are the crime and recidivism rates in the U.S. so high?  Obviously, greater punishment is not an answer to our high crime rate.  What is?


The comparison was published in 1992 using statistics from 1991.  I haven’t been able to find an updated version of such a comprehensive comparison.  There are more recent comparisons that are not so comprehensive and none show that the United States has improved relative to other rich nations.

The results are sobering.  As a society we haven’t performed as well as most Americans think and the trend doesn’t show hope for a better future.  This is not a partisan political attack.  These are non-partisan statistics.  It is what it is.

Should we do better in a comparison to other industrialized and affluent nations?  If not, why not?  If yes, how?


NOTE: Substantial portions of the following were reproduced with permission from WHERE WE STAND, by Michael Wolff, Peter Rutten, Albert Bayers III, and the World Rank Research Team (New York: Bantam Books, 1992). Copyright (c) 1992 by Michael Wolff & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of the contents of WHERE WE STAND may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of the copyright owner. Requests for permission should be sent to Michael Wolff & Company, Inc., 520 Madison Avenue, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10022, phone 212-308-8100, fax 212-308-7425, or email to

The following statistics are a 1991 comparison of the United States with Northern Europe, Japan and Canada. The comparison is especially revealing because all these nations are more liberal and democratic than we are. Their voter turn-outs are 50 percent higher; their corporate lobbying systems are much less developed; their taxes are higher, their safety nets larger, their societies more equal, their labor unions stronger.

And what may depress many conservatives is that these nations beat us on statistic after statistic after statistic.

Table of Contents:
Standard of Living
Income Inequality
Health Care
Work and Leisure Time


The economic supremacy that the U.S. has enjoyed in the second half of this century owes much to the good fortune it enjoyed in the first half. Two world wars destroyed Europe and Japan, while the prosperity that comes from running a wartime economy turned America into an economic superpower. America held this advantage for decades, but in the last 20 years, Europe and Japan have been rapidly catching up, and in many areas overtaking us. There is a mundane explanation for this: developing nations grow much faster than already developed nations, much like a child grows faster than a teenager. But the fact that they are catching up and often by-passing us with societies that are more equal, democratic, liberal, pro-environmental and pro-labor presents a serious challenge to conservative thought.

First, let's take a look at overall tax rates as a percentage of the GDP. (All statistics are for 1991. See the following footnote for a comment on sources.
1) Keep in mind that the two columns measure different things: the first, GDP, the second, personal income.

                 General rate        Top rate
                 (percent of GDP)    (percent of income)
Sweden           53.2%                45.0
Denmark          48.3                 40.0
Norway           47.1                 23.0
Netherlands      47.0                 72.0
Germany          39.2                 56.0
Finland          37.7                 51.0
Canada           37.3                 29.0
Japan            30.9                 60.0
United States    29.8                 34.0

You might be surprised to learn that the United States has long had the lowest tax rates of any industrialized nation. And how does the level of taxation compare to each nation's standard of living? There are three general ways to measure standard of living: earning power, purchasing power and individual worker productivity. The U.S. has lost its lead in the first and is losing its lead in the other two.

Earning power is defined as GDP per capita, or how much the average citizen earns in a year. It is an important statistic because it measures how advantageously nations trade on the global market. After the Second World War, the U.S. was number one for 40 years. But in the mid-80s, the U.S. suddenly began dropping down the list.

1991 Earning Power

Switzerland    $35,490
Japan           27,300
Sweden          26,900
Denmark         24,230
Norway          24,150
Finland         24,110
United States   22,550
Canada          20,840
Germany         19,830
Netherlands     19,310

Purchasing power, however, is a rather more accurate measure of standard of living. It shows how much each country pays to buy the same item, say, a loaf of bread. With its large, diverse and well-functioning market, the U.S. has generally enjoyed the lowest real prices in the industrialized world. But, as the chart below shows, it is also true that the purchasing power of other nations has been growing more rapidly than the U.S.' For this reason we should also look at each nation's percentage of the US purchasing power in 1970, and again in 1991.3

               Purchasing     Percent of    Percent of
               Power, 1991    US, 1970      US, 1991
United States  $22,204        --            --
Germany         19,500        75%           88
Canada          19,178        72            86
Japan           19,107        57            86
Denmark         17,621        71            79
Norway          16,904        54            76
Sweden          16,729        77            75
Netherlands     16,530        72            74
Finland         15,997        58            72

The third measure is individual worker productivity. The following chart shows how other nations have been catching up to the U.S. over the decades:

Percent of U.S. individual worker productivity (U.S. = 100%)

                1950s  1960s  1970s  1980s  1990
United States   100%   100    100    100    100
Canada          77.1   80.1   84.2   92.8   95.5
Italy           30.8   43.9   66.4   80.9   85.5
France          36.8   46.0   61.7   80.1   85.3
Germany         32.4   49.1   61.8   77.4   81.1
United Kingdom  53.9   54.3   58.0   65.9   71.9
Japan           15.2   23.2   45.7   62.6   70.7

Unfortunately, the above figures give only a crude measurement of how well each nation lives. There are severe problems with measuring a nation's well-being by productivity alone; perhaps the best analogy is that of a millionaire who wastes all his money on cocaine, compared to an average person who spends it on food, clothing, shelter, education, etc. (More) When one considers exactly how each nation spends its GDP, the weakening of the U.S.' number one position in the world becomes even more apparent.

Where We Stand publishes an index of economic prosperity that takes into account all the following factors: productivity, salaries, equitable wealth distribution, luxury-goods consumption, trading strength, poverty, personal and national indebtedness, inflation control, business strength and credit-worthiness. And the best-off nations are:

Germany         1382
Japan           1363
Switzerland     1332
Canada          1216
United States   1178
Netherlands     1087
Sweden          1079
Norway          1061
United Kingdom  1049
Denmark          920
Finland          910

But let's break down these broad comparisons into their components. Perhaps the most appropriate statistic to begin with is home ownership, the central part of the American Dream: (More)

Home ownership: 
Ireland         82%      Japan           60
Spain           80       Portugal        59
Luxembourg      77       United States   59
Norway          73       Finland         58
Belgium         72       Sweden          55
Greece          72       France          54
Italy           68       Netherlands     46
United Kingdom  67       Germany         40
Canada          64       Switzerland     29
Denmark         60

America's decline in home ownership is symbolic of a larger erosion in living standards, which Americans have met in two ways. The first is that America has gone deeply into debt to maintain its lifestyle. The second is that families have been able to hold ground only because wives have joined their husbands in the work force. (Note: this is a comment on the difficulty of making ends meet, not on working women!) Europe and Japan suffer much less from either of these problems:

Percent of families earning two paychecks:
United States   58%
Japan           33
France          33
Italy           20
Germany         18
Netherlands     16
Average Household Debt
United States   $71,500
United Kingdom   35,500
Germany          27,700
France           27,650
Netherlands       5,000
Switzerland         800
Average Household Savings 
Japan           $45,118
Switzerland      19,971
Denmark          18,405
France           17,649
Germany          17,042
Norway           15,196
Netherlands      14,282
Finland          12,387
Sweden           10,943
United Kingdom    7,451
United States     4,201
Percent of income spent on credit cards:
United Kingdom  12%
United States   10
France           8
Japan            4
Switzerland      3
Netherlands      2
Germany          2
Government debt per person:
Belgium        $16,423
Japan           14,049
United States   12,433
Sweden           9,541
Netherlands      9,368
Canada           8,597
Norway           5,498
United Kingdom   4,635
Finland          2,798
Germany            977
Trade Balance (millions):
Japan          +$77,110
Germany         +76,713
Netherlands      +7,990
Canada           +5,047
Norway           +3,769
Denmark          +2,426
Finland            -250
United Kingdom  -37,958
United States  -113,240
Current Account Balance (millions):
Japan          +$56,783
Germany         +55,477
Netherlands      +6,962
Norway             +226
Denmark          -1,402
Finland          -4,895
Canada          -16,593
United Kingdom  -34,065
United States  -105,900
Investment (percent of GDP):
Japan           30.6%
Norway          28.8
Switzerland     26.6
Finland         24.8
Canada          22.0
Netherlands     21.4
Germany         19.9
Sweden          19.7
United Kingdom  19.2
Denmark         18.0
United States   17.1

As mentioned earlier, America has the greatest inequality of income and wealth in the industrialized world:

Inequality of income (0 = most equal society, 100 = the least equal):
United States   99
Canada          83
Netherlands     82
Switzerland     79
United Kingdom  78
Germany         66
Norway          60
Sweden          60
Average CEO's pay as a multiple of an average
worker's pay:
United States   17.5 (More)
United Kingdom  12.4
Japan           11.6
Canada           9.6
France           8.9
Germany          6.5
Percent of Union Membership in Workforce:
Sweden          85.3%
United Kingdom  41.5
Canada          34.6
Germany         33.8
Japan           26.8
Netherlands     25.0
United States   16.4
Size of Middle Class (More):
Japan           90.0%
Sweden          79.0
Norway          73.4
Germany         70.1
Switzerland     67.2
Netherlands     62.5
Canada          58.5
United Kingdom  58.5
United States   53.7
Poverty level (More):
United States   17.1%
Canada          12.6
United Kingdom  9.7
Switzerland     8.5
Germany         5.6
Sweden          5.3
Norway          5.2
Children under the poverty level:
United States   22.4%
Canada          15.5
United Kingdom   9.3
Switzerland      7.8
Sweden           5.0
Germany          4.9
Norway           4.8
Deaths from malnutrition (per million):
                Men  Women
United States    7    13
France           4     9
Canada           5     7
Japan            2     1
United Kingdom   1     2
Norway           0     1
Head Start (percent of age group enrolled in preschool)
             2-year olds  3-year olds  4-year olds
France          35.7%       96.3         100
Norway          22.8        31.6         44.1
Finland         20.2        16.0         19.6
Germany          9.1        32.3         71.6
United Kingdom   1.3        25.9         69.2
United States    0.0        28.9         49.0
Health Care Expenditures (percent of GDP)4
United States   13.4%
Canada          10.0
Finland          9.1
Sweden           8.6
Germany          8.4
Netherlands      8.4
Norway           7.6
Japan            6.8
United Kingdom   6.6
Denmark          6.5
Doctors' incomes:
United States   $132,300
Germany           91,244
Denmark           50,585
Finland           42,943
Norway            35,356
Sweden            25,768
Percent of population covered by public health care:
ALL NATIONS (except below)    100%
France, Austria                99
Switzerland, Spain, Belgium    98
Germany                        92
Netherlands                    77
United States                  40

Average paid maternity leave (as of 1991; this changed with Clinton's signing of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act):

Sweden          32 weeks
France          28
United Kingdom  18
Norway          18
Denmark         18
Japan           14
Germany         14
Netherlands     12
United States    0
Life Expectancy (years):
                Men    Women
Japan           76.2   82.5
France          72.9   81.3
Switzerland     74.1   81.3
Netherlands     73.7   80.5
Sweden          74.2   80.4
Canada          73.4   80.3
Norway          73.1   79.7
Germany         72.6   79.2
Finland         70.7   78.8
United States   71.6   78.6
United Kingdom  72.7   78.2
Denmark         72.2   77.9
Infant Mortality Rate (per 1,000 live births):
United States   10.4
United Kingdom   9.4
Germany          8.5
Denmark          8.1
Canada           7.9
Norway           7.9
Netherlands      7.8
Switzerland      6.8
Finland          5.9
Sweden           5.9
Japan            5.0
Death rate of 1-to-4 year olds (per community of 200,000 per year):
United States   101.5
Japan            92.2
Norway           90.2
Denmark          85.1
France           84.9
United Kingdom   82.2
Canada           82.1
Netherlands      80.3
Germany          77.6
Switzerland      72.5
Sweden           64.7
Finland          53.3
Death rate of 15-to-24 year olds (per community of 200,000 per year):
United States   203
Switzerland     175
Canada          161
France          156
Finland         154
Norway          128
Germany         122
Denmark         120
United Kingdom  114
Sweden          109
Japan            96
Netherlands      90

Note: the murder rate for the above age group is 48.8 per 200,000. Even subtracting this entirely still puts the U.S. near the top of the list.

Premature Death (years of life lost before the age of 64 per 100 people):

United States   5.8 years
Denmark         4.9
Finland         4.8
Canada          4.5
Germany         4.5
United Kingdom  4.4
Norway          4.3
Switzerland     4.1
Netherlands     4.0
Sweden          3.8
Japan           3.3
Percent of people with normal body mass:
                Men   Women
Germany         53%   37
Finland         51    37
United Kingdom  46    38
Canada          52    29
Switzerland     49    30
France          44    30
Denmark         44    25
United States   47    22
Sweden          44    25

Percent of people who believe their health care system needs fundamental change (More):

United States   60%
Sweden          58
United Kingdom  52
Japan           47
Netherlands     46
France          42
Canada          38
Percent of all children born out of wedlock:
Sweden          46.4%
Denmark         41.9
United States   21.5
United Kingdom  19.2
Canada          12.1
Germany          9.4
Netherlands      8.3
Switzerland      5.6
Japan            1.0

Having children out of wedlock, however, does not mean that the father is not living at home and offering support. Here is the actual percentage of families headed by single parents:

United States   8.0%
Germany         6.7
Netherlands     6.7
Canada          5.6
Denmark         5.1
France          5.1
United Kingdom  4.0
Sweden          3.2
Japan           2.5

Sex education is more prevalent in Europe than America, where conservatives oppose it on the grounds that it condones sexual behavior. The statistics show the unintended consequences of this policy:

Sexually active teenage population:
Norway          66%
United States   65
United Kingdom  57
Germany         56
Canada          53
Italy           34
France          34
Percent who have not had intercourse by age 20:
               Boys  Girls
Belgium         61     63
Netherlands     58     62
Germany         33     28
Norway          33     25
United Kingdom  24     23
France           9     25
United States   12     16

Percent of sexually active single 15 to 19-year olds using birth control:

Germany         95%
United Kingdom  92
Netherlands     88
Norway          87
Sweden          79
Denmark         70
United States   56
Teen pregnancies per 1,000 teenagers:
United States   98.0
United Kingdom  46.6
Norway          40.2
Canada          38.6
Finland         32.1
Sweden          28.3
Denmark         27.9
Netherlands     12.1
Japan           10.5
Total teen abortions per 1,000 teenagers:
United States   44.4
Norway          21.1
Sweden          19.6
Denmark         18.2
Finland         17.9
United Kingdom  16.9
Canada          16.2
Japan            5.9
Netherlands      5.5
People per police officer:
Sweden          328
Canada          358
United Kingdom  400
United States   459
Netherlands     553
Japan           556
Denmark         594
France          632
Finland         643
Norway          661
Annual reports of police brutality (per 100,000 people)
United States   92.5
United Kingdom   6.0
France           0.7 
Prisoners (per 1,000 people):
United States   4.2
United Kingdom  1.0
Germany         0.8
Denmark         0.7
Sweden          0.6
Japan           0.4
Netherlands     0.4
Death row inmates:
United States     2,124
Japan                38
Europe and Canada     0
Percent of households with a handgun:
United States   29%
Finland          7
Germany          7
Canada           5
Norway           4
Europe           4
Netherlands      2
United Kingdom   1

Looking at the above statistics, one would think that Europe is soft on crime, while the U.S. approach to law and order is based on no-nonsense deterrence. In reality, Europe is relatively crime-free, and the U.S. has the worst crime rate in the world:

Murders committed with handguns annually:
United States   8,915
Switzerland        53
Sweden             19
Canada              8
United Kingdom      7
Murder rate (per 100,000 people):
United States   8.40
Canada          5.45
Denmark         5.17
Germany         4.20
Norway          1.99
United Kingdom  1.97
Sweden          1.73
Japan           1.20
Finland         0.70
Murder rate for males age 15-24 (per 100,000 people):
United States   24.4
Canada           2.6
Sweden           2.3
Norway           2.3
Finland          2.3
Denmark          2.2
United Kingdom   2.0
Netherlands      1.2
Germany          0.9
Japan            0.5
Rape (per 100,000 people):
United States   37.20
Sweden          15.70
Denmark         11.23
Germany          8.60
Norway           7.87
United Kingdom   7.26
Finland          7.20
Japan            1.40
Armed robbery (per 100,000 people)
United States   221
Canada           94
United Kingdom   63
Sweden           49
Germany          47
Denmark          44
Finland          38
Norway           22
Japan             1
Travel on public transportation as a percent of all travel:
Japan           18%
Finland         16
Denmark         15
Portugal        14
Germany         11
Norway           9
United Kingdom   8
Netherlands      8
United States    1
Annual air miles per person:
United States   1,698
Canada          1,105
Netherlands     1,014
United Kingdom    902
Norway            829
Sweden            575
Finland           506
Denmark           476
Japan             425
Germany           344
Average price of a gallon of gas:
Sweden         $4.85
Denmark         4.46
United Kingdom  3.56
Germany         3.05
Netherlands     3.02
Japan           3.01
Canada          1.40
United States   1.07
Energy Units of oil burned annually:
United States       791.5
European Community  501.4
Japan               234.3
Germany             108.5
United Kingdom       81.3
Canada               80.4
Netherlands          24.1
Sweden               16.3
Finland              11.1
Norway                9.3
Denmark               9.0
Carbon dioxide released per person per year:
United States   5.8 tons
Canada          4.8
Germany         3.2
United Kingdom  2.9
Japan           2.2
OECD Europe     1.8
Total Carbon Monoxide emitted annually:
United States   60,900 tons
Canada          10,100
Germany          8,926
France           6,198
United Kingdom   5,264
Sweden           1,754
Netherlands      1,229
Norway             649
Switzerland        621
Total chlorofluorocarbons emitted annually:
United States   332 million tons
Japan            95
Germany          71
United Kingdom   67
Canada           34
Netherlands      17
Switzerland      10
Denmark           6
Finland           6
Sweden            4
Norway            1
Major oil spills (1976-89):
United States   16
France           6
United Kingdom   5
Japan            4
Canada           2
Sweden           2
Finland          1
Germany          1
Forests cleared (thousands of cubic yards):
United States   808,421
Canada          379,500
France           95,964
Sweden           84,612
Finland          72,864
Japan            57,272
Norway           14,810
United Kingdom    6,600
Acid rain (the lower the pH number, the worse the acidity):
Japan           3.9 pH
Sweden          4.1
United States   4.3
Canada          4.3
Norway          4.4
Denmark         4.5
Finland         4.5
Netherlands     4.9
United Kingdom  5.1
Energy Units of coal burned annually:
United States       458.0
European Community  299.0
Germany              73.9
Japan                73.2
United Kingdom       64.0
Canada               27.6
Netherlands           8.1
Denmark               5.5
Finland               4.1
Sweden                2.5
Norway                1.0
Debris inhaled per person per year:
United States   81 pounds
Finland         44
Sweden          44
Europe          26
Netherlands     24
Germany         24
Denmark         20
Norway          15
United Kingdom  11
Japan            2
Government spending on pollution control (percent of GDP):
Japan          1.17%
Netherlands    0.95
Canada         0.89
Germany        0.78
Sweden         0.66
United Kingdom 0.62
United States  0.60
Norway         0.54
Finland        0.52
Municipal waste per person per year (kilograms)5
United States   864 kg.
Canada          632
Japan           394
United Kingdom  353
Germany         331
France          304
Italy           301
Percent of all glass recycled:
Netherlands     50.3%
Japan           49.6
Germany         41.2
Sweden          40.0
Denmark         31.0
Finland         30.0
United Kingdom  27.0
Norway          21.1
United States   20.0
Percent of all paper and cardboard recycled:
Netherlands     62.0%
Japan           54.4
Germany         37.0
Denmark         32.0
United Kingdom  13.0
United States    8.4

Note the position of economic powerhouse Germany in the next two lists.

Average hours worked per year:
Japan           2,173
United States   1,890
Sweden          1,808
United Kingdom  1,771
Netherlands     1,756
Finland         1,744
Norway          1,725
Denmark         1,699
Germany         1,668
Average paid vacation per year:
Finland         35.0 days
Germany         30.0
France          25.5
Denmark         25.0
Sweden          25.0
United Kingdom  25.0
Netherlands     24.0
Switzerland     22.0
Norway          21.0
United States   12.0
Average hours spent watching TV per day:
Japan           9:12
United States   7:00
Canada          3:24
United Kingdom  3:10
Germany         2:13
Sweden          2:00
Finland         2:00
Denmark         1:54
Netherlands     1:42
Switzerland     1:34
News as a percent of all TV programming:
Denmark         43%
Sweden          35
Canada          32
Netherlands     25
Germany         20
United Kingdom  17
Japan            6
United States    2
Annual employee turnover in manufacturing:
United States   40%
Finland         35
Germany         25
United Kingdom  20
Sweden          18
Japan           18
France          14

How employers rate their employees (100 = strong identification with company objectives):

Japan           84.7
Switzerland     70.8
Denmark         68.4
Germany         64.3
Norway          60.7
Finland         60.4
Netherlands     58.5
France          57.9
United States   56.4
Sweden          56.0
Canada          52.2
United Kingdom  48.1
Percent of employees fired for cause:
United States       52%
European Community  43

The U.S. may be the oldest existing democracy in the world, but it is also the weakest, and one of the only democracies where voting is not required by law. It shows:

Voter participation:
Germany         87%
Sweden          86
Norway          83
Netherlands     80
Finland         76
United Kingdom  75
Canada          75
United States   49
Average number of national referenda per year:
Switzerland    169
Australia       18
Denmark         11
France          10
Ireland          8
Italy            4
Sweden           3
Norway           1
United Kingdom   1
Canada           0
Finland          0
Germany          0
Japan            0
Netherlands      0
United States    0
Number of political scandals since 1945 (More):
United States   53
United Kingdom  42
France          16
Canada           5
Germany          3
Japan            2
Sweden           2
Netherlands      1
Norway           1

Number of politically motivated demonstrations, strikes, riots and armed attacks over 30 years:

United Kingdom  5,136
United States   4,258
France          1,566
Germany           622
Japan             524
Canada            260
Finland            63
Netherlands        57
Denmark            55
Switzerland        39
Sweden             33

The United Nations Human Freedom Index (0 = least freedom, 40 = most freedom. More.):

Sweden          38
Denmark         38
Netherlands     37
Austria         36
Finland         36
France          35
Germany         35
Canada          34
Switzerland     34
Australia       33
United States   33
Japan           32
United Kingdom  32


These statistics are shattering to those who believe that greater individualism and less government somehow produce better societies. And they should serve as a wake-up call to every American that this country is headed in the wrong direction.

These statistics evoke two common responses from conservatives and libertarians. The most natural response is to blame them on 40 years of Democratic government. This, however, is a giant non sequitur. The very point of this list is that nations with far more liberal governments than ours have created better societies, even with somewhat less productivity. If liberalism were really harmful to a nation's standard of living, then these nations should be doing worse, not better.

Moreover, as mentioned earlier, America's truly liberal government was replaced in the mid-70s by the corporate special interest system, which introduced a conservative agenda of tax cuts for the rich and massive deregulation of business. Corporate lobbyists, and not the interchangeable "Republicrats," have influenced legislation over the past 20 years.

The second most common response is that minorities drag down America's statistics. Of course, blaming minorities for society's problems is an old game in American politics, but it is especially dismaying in this case because it is not even true. Take infant mortality rates, for example. White infant mortality rates still place America near the very top of the list. (The following chart deviates slightly from the chart above because it is taken from the year before, 1990, and from a different source using different methodology. But it shows the same trend nonetheless.)

Infant mortality rates (per 1,000 live births, 1990)6
U.S. (average)  9.2
Italy           8.3
U.S. (white)    7.7
United Kingdom  7.4
France          7.3
Germany         7.1
Canada          6.8
Sweden          6.1
Japan           4.6

And consider crime. In 1992, blacks were arrested for 35 percent of all serious crimes.7 But even if you remove blacks entirely from the statistics, America still has the worst crime rate in the world, and by far! (It should also be emphasized that that these were 35 percent of all arrests; debate rages as to whether the police target blacks for arrest more than whites.)

The same generalization holds for all the statistics, but it is important to realize why minorities are not responsible for America's worse showing. And that is because society's most visible problems do not stem primarily from race; they stem from poverty. The poor, both white and black, share the same approximate rates of crime, welfare, teenage and single parenthood, substance abuse and other social problems. The rich, both white and black, share many of the same admired social qualities in the same general percentages. Race is only important in that discrimination against minorities has relegated a disproportionate number of them to poverty. (More)

Ultimately, the fact that America's white statistics are still worse than Europe's should put the race card forever to rest. White Americans are, after all, transplanted Europeans. If their statistics are worse, then it must be for a social reason. And that reason is obvious: polarized wealth in America has enlarged its poor population, and dragged down its averages despite gains among the rich. Clearly, rising tides do not lift all boats.

Next Section: Final Summary
Return to The Reagan Years Home Page

1Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics come from the international encyclopedia Where We Stand, by Michael Wolff, Peter Rutten, Albert Bayers III, eds., and the World Rank Research Team (New York: Bantam Books, 1992). The year 1991 was selected because after these dates, the U.S. turned slightly to the left and Northern Europe slightly to the right (although one could plausibly argue that very little changed in any of these nations). Therefore, 1991 provides the best date for comparing a decade of Reaganomics with 30 years of social democracy. Although Where We Stand compares dozens of nations on most lists, I have limited my comparisons to the U.S., Northern Europe, Japan and Canada. I have included every nation from this group I could find; omissions in my lists reflect omissions in Where We Stand.
2Earning power is calculated by deflating each nation’s GNP to local 1991 currency before conversion to U.S. dollar equivalents. GNP figures from U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers, 1991. Data for exchange rates from International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
3Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, France, National Accounts of OECD Countries, annual.
4 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, France, OECD Health Data, 1993; OECD Health Systems: Facts and Trends, 1993.
5 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, France, Environmental Indicators, 1991.
6 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, France, OECD in Figures: Statistics on the Member Countries (supplement to the OECD Observer, June-July 1993).
7 U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States, 1992.