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The US is the best third world nation

Discussion in 'Political Discussion' started by Patters, Sep 16, 2011.

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  1. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I just spent a couple weeks in an advanced nation -- France. In Paris, the thousands (if not tens of thousands) of small businesses were thriving. Every night, it seemed that every cafe was packed, despite the $6 coffees and $13 beers. The little gift stores, the specialty stores (including one that sold only one brand of perfume), the local cheese stores, the bakeries, all seemed to be full of customers. In the department stores, expensive clothes were not on sale but were certainly being bought. In the pharmacies, you saw American brands side by side with French brands, and often the American brands were cheaper. Starbucks and MacDonalds were there too, and seemed to be doing well. In the outskirts of Paris, where things are somewhat cheaper, you could find American goods for sale just as her you can find Chinese goods for sale here. The good French kitchen tools are far more expensive than the less durable American and Chinese ones. At least the subway (which is terrific) is cheaper--$1.70 a ticket.

    A cheap lunch cost around $25/head and dinner typically cost (for 3 of us) around $150, though at a better (not gourmet) restaurant it was easy to spend $300, and none of us had more than a beer. Since we were traveling with a friend, we rented an apartment in a very nice area of Paris for $400 night. Based on real estate ads we saw, the apartment would sell for about $1.2 million here. It had 2 bedrooms and was 540 sq. feet in a building without an elevator. Clearly, despite France's socialism, there are many very wealthy people.

    But, Paris, specifically, also does something right. Since at least the 16th century, the French have taken pride in this city, so it has a long history of cultural pride. Museums like the Louvre and D'Orsay house paintings familiar to us all, and the city abounds with incredible architecture and parks. The conservative Chirac built an amazing museum (the Branly) that does justice to the art of native Africa, Oceania, South America, North America, etc.. The museum is a masterpiece in every way, and would probably even make museum-going a good experience for the narrow minded. The fact is that these museums are all packed, and one could easily wait on a line for an hour for the major museums. Given that entrance fees to most of the museums are between $10 and $24 makes the crowds even more impressive.

    Throughout Paris, every morning thousands of workmen in their bright green uniforms scrub down the streets and every day thousands more of these government workers carefully prune and plant in public gardens, where the flower beds are enormous and perfect. Of course, all this effort in their culture not only makes Paris perhaps the most beautiful city in the world, it brings in 20 million visitors, which must equate to at least $20 billion of revenue (and probably much more), so the French understand the economic value of showing their patriotism by celebrating their culture even with tax dollars. But, Parisian culture is also about pride in one's work. The waitstaff is seldom friendly, but they are professional, and do not appreciate it if you hand them your dish. They would rather reach for it. They are not even motivated by tips, which are included in the price (though it's polite to leave an extra dollar or two for good service).

    It's also striking how France continues to celebrate the intellectual. Throughout Paris there are monuments to famous thinkers, while those of war heroes tend to be obscured by brush or certainly off the beaten path. Artists too get top billing, while politicians, unlike here in the US, are rarely honored. And if naked sculpture is a turn on, Paris is the place to be where on so many buildings and in so many parks Greek and Roman symbols of water, fire, learning, justice, figure prominently.

    All this in a country where people retire at age 60, get 5 weeks of vacation, get national health care, and has very few labor unions (French unions tend to be more associated with conservatives, such as farmers, who periodically block major highways by dumping manure on them). Sure, Paris has its extremes. Like the US it has some real poverty and some bad neighborhoods and social problems, but they are more aggressive than us. For instance, Paris is consistent in its separation between church and state (in the 17th century, when Louis IV entered the Versailles church, the nobles would bow down to him with their back to Jesus, while he would bow down to Jesus), and recently passed a law making public prayer illegal (after Muslims would take to blocking streets with group prayer sessions). I don't know if Paris is anymore successful than we are with its social problems, but it still has far less crime than most American cities (though watch out for pickpockets).

    That said, lack of government regulation has resulted in Paris being very polluted. By the tenth day, my throat hurt from all the smog, and despite a great subway system, public bicycle paths, and the fact that Paris is a great walking city, it is crammed with traffic, often older cars polluting the air.

    If I ever decide to retire, I'll retire to Paris, and keep a second home in Boston. By the time I retire, I imagine that there's a good chance that libertarian racism will be legalized so that we are more segregated, the minimum wage will be gone so the poor are more desperate, tax cuts will make our schools even worse so that people are not learning English or the American way of life, and the middle class will be increasingly worried about crime, until they reach old age when they enter the ranks of the poor. (Speaking of the military, it was interesting to see around 9/11 that at some high profile sites, including the airport, there were French troops in uniform patrolling with what looked like machine guns.)

    That said, France, like the US and other countries, faces serious economic problems, so it remains to be seen how this plays out. Will France continue to be able to offer its citizens first world benefits? Or will it become more of a third world nation like the US, with a shrinking middle class, fewer government services, and an increasingly dramatic divide between the poor and rich?
     
  2. khayos

    khayos In the Starting Line-Up

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    All I hear is about how dirty Paris is.
     
  3. Mrs.PatsFanInVa

    Mrs.PatsFanInVa PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    #24 Jersey

    Well now you've heard some other stuff!!

    :D

    That was really interesting, Patters. Thanks for taking the time to post it for those of us who'll never get to vist!!
     
  4. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Ten years ago, that was truer. Now, people seem to have embraced the pooper scooper laws, cigarette smoking has dropped dramatically, and there are garbage cans probably every 50 feet in crowded areas. But, one complaint about Paris that I forgot to mention is the lack of air conditioning. Several years ago, something like 80 people died in a heat wave, and Paris supposedly took some steps, but it amazes me how little air conditioning there is there.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2011
  5. wistahpatsfan

    wistahpatsfan Pro Bowl Player

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    #75 Jersey

    I'd take Stockholm or Copenhagen over Paris any day. Much cleaner, lots of stuff to do, and just outside is the boonies and locals. Kinda like Wistah!:rofl:

    [​IMG]
     
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  6. Drewski

    Drewski In the Starting Line-Up

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    No Jersey Selected

    Patters - very interesting story regarding your trip to Paris. Always been interested in getting to Europe (not Paris specifically, but would love to visit there too) for a visit - had a trip on the Euro-rail planned post graduation from HS some years ago, but lost the opportunity due to circumstances beyond my control. That being said, friends of mine who have been to Paris rave about many of the things you mention below.

    I realize the title of this thread was probably a tongue in cheek "shot" at some of the aspects of the US compared to the interests/culture/aspects of life in Paris but there is one point I always bring up to my friends when we have discussions about "oh this in "enter country in Europe's name here" " is so much better than here in the US. The countries in Europe are so small relative to the US (as a whole) that comparing the two is tough. If the US was roughly the size of Texas (which is roughly the size of France) I think services, culture hotspots, government services and the like could more closely resemble those of Europe/Paris. On top of that population sizes make it harder (although not impossible) for our government to offer (sustainably) similar services to what France's gov offers. For comparison, the number of uninsured in the US is roughly 50M or so. The entire population of France in somewhere between 65-70 Million. While 15-20M people is a lot, these numbers are close enough to illustrate my point, that is it much easier to provide "1st world" services to your citizens when your land mass is is 15% the size of the US, and your population is a quarter of what the US's is.

    Granted this note isnt arguing for or against government offerings, just simply mentioning a couple of logistical facts (beyond politically ideologies) which make France and the US's situations different.

    Nonetheless, very interesting read. Thanks for sharing Patters.
     
  7. chicowalker

    chicowalker Pro Bowl Player

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    I'd be curious to know who comes back from Paris and the only thing they have to remark on is "how dirty it is."
     
  8. Real World

    Real World Moderator Staff Member

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    It's kinda hard to have statues of war heroes, when you're always waving the white flag of surrender.

    French War Hero
    [​IMG]

    Paris is no doubt a beautiful city. Like most European cities with thousands of years of history and culture (Rome, London, Madrid, etc.), the appeal to tourists will always remain strong. Of course, whenever someone goes to a beautiful city, on vacation, enjoying the splendors in life, that place tends to seem utopian to one's normal grind. I felt that same way everytime I'd spend summers in Italy. And then I went a couple of times in the winter, and felt that way no longer. :eek:
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2011
  9. Real World

    Real World Moderator Staff Member

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    I've said that about Cairo, Athens, and Milan. Parts of Rome too. I think when people imagine places of such standing, they think they're going to be these imaculate cities with pristine landscaping, and sparkling streets. A grass is always greener bit to some extent. Then when they get there, they see that they are actual cities with millions of inhabitants, and millions of tourists that pass through, all of which tend to leave their mark.
     
  10. khayos

    khayos In the Starting Line-Up

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    My father. One of my stepmother's friends is French nobility -- has a family chateau in Normandy and a village around it. They stayed there and at the friend's apartment on the Champs-Elysees.

    A good friend also spent part of his childhood in Paris while his father was working there.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2011
  11. Wolfpack

    Wolfpack Banned

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    Why wait until you retire? We all know how much you hate America and the American way of life. Please feel free to leave right away.
     
  12. Wolfpack

    Wolfpack Banned

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    :rofl:

    Et maintenant, je vous presente: L'Arc d'triomphe! Used twice by the Germans, once by the Americans and never by the French.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2011
  13. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I suppose some would make a similar joke about the monument to the Vietnam vets who died during that failed war. But, others would not be so insensitive. The Arc was used to honor those who fought and died in the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars. I am surprised that you would use a monument that honors troops who died for their country as a way of mocking the French.

    [​IMG]
     
  14. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I love the American way of life, and I have no more love for people on the far right here than I have for people who follow Le Pen in France. The United States will always be my home even if I live elsewhere.
     
  15. chicowalker

    chicowalker Pro Bowl Player

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    I hope they're happier people than their remarks would indicate.
     
  16. chicowalker

    chicowalker Pro Bowl Player

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    Jingoists like wolfie think they're the only ones who love America and the only ones who can question America (because when they do so, of course, they're actually defending the nation :rolleyes:).

    The moment somebody on the left does so, it's back to "love it or leave it." Hypocrites.
     
  17. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Thanks Drewski. Hope you get to Europe sometimes. It's really an amazing place; it is after all home to our culture and value system. There are certainly advantages to being a small nation, but I'm not sure if anyone has ever offered any sort of proof that a big nation can't offer services like that of a small one. While France is smaller, it is in many ways similar to the US -- a large immigrant population (that is sometimes a problem), 2 centrist parties, a powerful right wing, and a very diverse economic base. I think the biggest failure in the US compared with European countries is that we've neglected our educational system for too many years. While the American right wing laments the decline of English and American values, they are also leading the fight for low wages for teachers, cutbacks to education, etc. We should be spending more on schools to teach all kids English, civics, ethics, offer foreign languages, etc. Instead we are doing less and less. I think that's why the US has lost it's way. I think if we invested in education, we could eventually have more humane nation with social safety net that was best in the world.
     
  18. Real World

    Real World Moderator Staff Member

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    It'll tend to matter what parts you go to in most cities, but I remember when I was in Athens, I couldn't believe how filthy it was. Be it trash flying through the streets, or worse, the grafitti. It was shocking to me, and totally stood out. Cairo I won't even mention. Dirtiest city I've ever been to. I don't think words can explain how disgustingly dirty it was. There was one street downtown that was fairly clean. 98% of the rest was nasty.
     
  19. Patters

    Patters Moderator Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    When I was in Lisbon, which was very dirty, I was walking down the street and got hit by an empty cigarette pack someone threw out of their 3rd story window. I thought that was pretty funny.

    But, let's remember that the United States was pretty dirty up until Lady Bird Johnson and the Keep America Beautiful campaign. I remember as a very little boy it was pretty commonplace for kids to litter, but then public schools picked up the campaign, and we all learned that littering was very bad. I thought for a long time that Lady Bird's contribution in that campaign was one of the major achievements of the LBJ administration.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2011
  20. chicowalker

    chicowalker Pro Bowl Player

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    I wish people still understood that.

    I live by a beach, and it appalls me how much trash people just throw onto the streets and sidewalks. Some of it is kids -- that's bad, but I understand that they're learning. Wish their parents would pay more attention and pick it up, but in fairness, parents can't see everything.

    Some of it is teens, and many teens obviously go into "I don't give a sh*t mode."

    But a lot of it is just "adults." They don't want the trash in their cars for even a moment, apparently. They can't be bothered to seek out a trashcan. They can't be bothered to walk 30 feet when one is in site.

    It disgusts me -- not so much because of the trash itself (which does bother me) but because of the attitude behind it.

    And from what I've seen, much of it does come from lower income people. I'm not sure exactly why. maybe they're not taught in their schools, because there are so many other issues? maybe their parents don't teach them. Maybe the areas they live in aren't nice, so they don't realize that they could be nice, or that others would like the areas they live in to be nice?

    I will say, when I've seen people in the act and commented, most have understood and gone and thrown it away. I guess that's a good sign. On the other hand, a young mother cussed me out -- in front of her kid -- I don't have a lot of hope for that kid.
     
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