Comparisons

One notices that the enlightenment value given to inter-country comparisons in the consideration of policy is becoming more generally recognized. This is particularly true in regard to medical systems, as many writers have recognized that the United States has lagging infant mortality and longevity rates at the same time that it has by far the most expensive health system in the world.

Taking off from this, a recent NYT Op-Ed (July 5) informally asks friends in Italy to compare the country with the U.S. Of course, health care is first on the list and Italy is far ahead. As to leisure, America ranks last among developed countries in the number of guaranteed days off. Twenty-five percent of Americans have no vacation days. The average American takes 13 days vacation a year; the average Italian 42. We work 100 hours a year more than even the Japanese. The Europeans do pay more taxes, but they do not invert the tax pyramid, as is American practice. As Warren Buffett has pointed out, he paid a 17% tax on his taxable income last year while his receptionist paid 30%.

The author concludes, however, by pointing to one area where he believes America shines. There appears to be more equality of opportunity than in other advanced states and there is certainly less prejudice against ethnic minorities. Italians and advanced peoples are on the surface, at least, much more inclined to put down those who belong to other groups than their own.

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