The cool thing about the US

Most Europeans will go through a series of swings in their attitudes towards the US. As children, they will get their information from movies and TV shows, and particularly the sort of simplistic adventure/action fare that appeals to their agegroup, and therefore conclude that all that is good in the world happens in the US, and all that happens there is good.

Later they might learn a bit more and get a more nuanced impression, perhaps occasionally swinging the other way due to the inertias involved in finding out the promised land has problems as well.

It is in fact perfectly true that the US has many serious problems: a foreign position requiring constant upkeep, a healthcare system which leaves millions with little or no care, school quality which varies wildly across the country and even across school districts in the same urban area. More fundamentally, the country is divided into opposing camps, with widely divergent views on a slew of issues, which has threatened to paralyze the political machine even on topics that are not particularly controversial.

When surveying this varied fleet of great problems, and the other examples that easily come to mind, one might wonder what's so great about the US after all. Well there are several possible answers but here's mine.

It is true that the US has many great and intractable problems, but it has virtually no small ones. This might seem like a weak supporting argument for a candidacy to greatness, but anybody who's ever been in an Italian public office might beg to differ.

The simple truth of the matter, is that in the US one very rarely encounters a situation where a reasonably bright an inquisitive eight year old could figure out a way to provide better service at lower cost and in less time, which in Italy happens on a regular basis.

Sure, people complain about telephone customer service, the queue at the DMV, ana a few other pockets of discontent. But the country works. If your car dealer promised a remote for the locks for free, and then charged you for it, you call the Better Business Bureau and you get a check with a letter of apologies from the dealer the next day. If you want any sort of contraption, or product, you can get it delivered to your doorstep with inexpensive or often free shipping.

You can still get ripped off, if you're the sort of person that buys stereo equipment out of the back of a van, or thinks that his spam folder is a great place to find tips on reputable online pharmacies, but it does take some doing.


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