America seen from the Netherlands

At the end of this excellent piece by Russell Shorto, an American expat in Amsterdam, a Dutch author named Geert Mak says to him:

America is the land of the free. But I think we are freer.

Now, where have we heard this before? Oh, right, it’s how I started my ongoing ‘freedom lover’s critique of America‘, only I chose to say the same thing about Hong Kong vis-à-vis America.

Shorto does a very thoughtful and balanced job on some of the same themes I’ve covered in this series so far, including notions about inequality and healthcare. Compare, for example, the tenor of what I’ve been saying about oppressive American bureaucracy and what this American expat tells the author:

The amazing thing is that virtually every experience [here in the Netherlands] has been more pleasant than in the U.S. There you have the bureaucracy, the endless forms, the fear of malpractice suits. Here you just go in and see your doctor. It shows that it doesn’t have to be complicated.

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2 thoughts on “America seen from the Netherlands

  1. “…….in the U.S. you have state and local taxes, and much higher real estate taxes. If you were to add all those up, you would get close to the 52 percent………”

    Since health costs come out of taxes in the other OECD countries, what Americans pay in health insurance premiums is the equivalent of a tax, in addition to the other taxes. Which might make the US, in effect, a highly taxed nation after all.

    “……..America is the land of the free. But I think we are freer…….”.

    In the film “Easy Rider”, there is a scene where the three hippie motorcycle riders enter a cafe in a small southern town. When they sit down at a table, the waiter ignores them, and they are subjected to very hostile taunts from some local red-necks at a nearby table.

    Eventually the three riders get the message, and leave.

    That evening, while camping, they discuss, around their fire, what had happened in the cafe. In the discussion, Jack Nicholson’s character, George Hanson, has some trenchant observations about who is free and who isn’t.

    It’s worth the two minutes to watch this clip:

  2. Great clip, great dialogue:

    “…Of course, don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free, because then they’re going to get real busy killing and maiming to prove to you that they are….”


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