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A piece on the Bloomberg website by Allison Schrager went viral this week when she wrote that America is in “an age of overabundance” and perhaps we should be more like Europeans in our spending habits.
I love Europe. The languages, the food, the long history and my goodness their incredible train stations are something we should immediately copy. Throughout the pandemic I have found myself saying more than once that we should be more like Europe.
Sure, they did a lot wrong. Some of their lockdowns were harsher and longer than ours and just as ineffective. But the way they treated their children is something Americans should have emulated.
Schools were a priority and rarely ever closed. Masking began in many places at age 6 not age 2 and in many countries kids under 11- or 12-years-old did not have to mask at all. Kids were important and it showed.
But so much about life in Europe is extremely difficult. Liberal Americans love to point to Europe as the direction we should be headed but a lot of Europeans’ everyday life is far harder than it is in the states.
People wearing sanitary masks walk past the Duomo gothic cathedral in Milan, Italy, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020.
(AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
I lived in the United Kingdom for nearly three years during college and have spent a considerable amount of time in the rest of Europe. The ease of life in America just does not exist there.
For one thing, I was cold nearly the entire time I lived in the UK. “Put on a jumper!” is the common refrain from my British friends but why am I wearing heavy wool inside my own home? Why am I sleeping with a hot water bottle (true story) and waking up with frozen toes?
Heat is so intensely expensive it’s rarely used and certainly not by the poor college students with whom I shared my flats.
Liberal Americans love to point to Europe as the direction we should be headed but a lot of Europeans’ everyday life is far harder than it is in the states.
In his book “Eurotrash: Why America Must Reject the Failed Ideas of a Dying Continent,” writer David Harsanyi lays out why: the United States is near the bottom in energy costs but eight of the ten most expensive energy markets are in Europe. It’s also why air conditioning and gas for our cars is cheaper in America. It’s not just spoiled Americans who suffer.
After France experienced a heatwave in 2003 that killed more than 15,000 people, the country made changes and when another heat wave struck in 2019 only 1,462 died. This is seen as a win.
FILE – Paris: People cool off next to the fountains at Louvre Museum in 2019.
(AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
For comparison, the CDC says there were 505 heat-related deaths in the United States in 2019 despite the U.S. having nearly 5 times their population.
Shrager’s point, that we should emulate Europe, is due to the kind of American excess that turns the heat on when we’re hot and the air conditioning on when we’re cold.
She writes “The average U.S. home was 1,700 square feet in 1980, by 2015 it was 2,000 square feet, even though the number of people in the average household shrank. In 1980, 15% of households didn’t have a TV, now only about 3% don’t. In 2015, 40% of American households had three or more TVs, including 30% of households earning less than $40,000 a year! In 1980, only 13% of households had 2 or more refrigerators, in 2015 30% did — including many low-earning households.”
This is all great news. It’s terrific, and not at all surprising, that even the lowest earning households in America have so much. This is the land of opportunity and the possibility of living a life of abundance here is very real.
The average net compensation for an American worker, according to the Social Security administration, is $53,383.18. According to Statista, that same number in richer European countries like Germany is 42,000 Euros or the equivalent of $47,604 US dollars. Countries like Greece and Portugal are under $20,000 US dollars. Perhaps Europeans are buying less than Americans because they simply can’t afford it?
A lot of what passes for being more “eco-friendly” like smaller homes, smaller appliances, supermarkets stocked only with food that is in season in that area (no tomatoes for all of winter was very difficult) is often just a less wealthy lifestyle. Do we really want that?
Shrager also points to “fast, disposable fashion” as something Americans should curb to be more like Europeans. But the most “fast fashion” brands are…European.
H&M started in Sweden, Zara and Mango in Spain, Primark in Ireland. During my time in the UK the store “Miss Selfridge” was the height of fast fashion. I was 20 and the 12£ (about $17) mini dress was perfect. Sure, older European women might dress more for quality than quantity, but their daughters and granddaughters look just like American girls.
So let’s not be like Europe. Many of us got out of Europe as soon as we could to come live in a place where abundance is celebrated.
We shouldn’t adjust to a scarcer lifestyle, our politicians need to fix the mistakes they made and return to us our land of plenty.
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