Part of creating great wealth and happiness is anticipating the future, understanding the future, betting on the future, and adapting to the future.
With President Obama in power until 2016 (and Hilary Clinton likely succeeding him after), he can be more aggressive with his policy initiatives given he no longer has to compete for another term. If Obama gets his way, taxes will go up for higher income citizens, government spending will go up to help care for our most impoverished, debt will increase, and more people will be saved from the perils of capitalism.
In other words, America will become more like Europe. We just need to be careful not to be Europe in its existing form where too much debt torpedoes our entire economic livelihood. But even if we go overboard, there will always be the Federal Reserves of our greatest nations to help us out. As the world police, they owe us!
Given America is becoming more like Europe, I decided to go to Europe and see for myself what our future might be like. You thought I was just going on a 2.5 week vacation to inject $10,000 into the Eurozone to help save the world didn’t you? Au contraire mon frere. My main purpose was to conduct some front lines investigative reporting to provide readers with unique, real-time insight into how to live and prosper over the next four years!
WHAT AMERICA WILL BE LIKE
In every great nation’s history, there will be a purge of the wealthy. When those in power get too greedy, too rich, and too ostentatious, the people revolt and take them down. This is why it is imperative to show a consistent history of charitable giving if you are rich so that when the revolution comes, you won’t be stripped of everything.
Study any European country’s history for the past 1,000 years and you will learn about countless uprisings. That’s what happens when you build mega palaces like Versailles in France or Peterhof in St. Petersburg which require a whole town of slave labor to build and upkeep. We people have a knack for normalizing extremes.
America has gotten to a point where people are sick of seeing CEOs make 100X the average employee’s salary, while suffering no repercussions when a company underperforms. Americans are sick of rich people living well, while the man on the street suffers due to a lack of health insurance. Just look at the Occupy Movement now focusing its attention on politicians at the DNC after railing against big banks for so long.
The following are some observations after spending over 50 hours speaking with local residents of Holland, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, and Russia about life in their home countries.
* It’s a wonderful life. By far the most common feedback is how fantastic it is to live in Europe/Russia. Nobody really worries about going bankrupt or dying early because the government has their backs. As a result, Europeans and Russians can focus more of their energy on living lives they want. Oh and by the way, the top income tax rate in Russia is only 13%!
If you’re one of the ~24 million who are unemployed in the US, can you really say life is wonderful when you could get sick and enter a negative cycle of poverty for the rest of your life because you don’t have health insurance? When you have a government who will pay for your healthcare, housing, and help you raise your child, you can live a better life, and at the very least, not a horrible life.
* No real economic worries. Europeans are sick of being asked about the European debt crisis. As far as they are concerned, there is no debt crisis, just a media’s obsession with blowing things out of proportion. Yes, there is a debt problem in Greece, Portugal, Italy, and Spain, but these are all resolvable problems. They believe Angela Merkel from Germany will do the right thing and bail the region out. In return, concessions will be made.
There are a lot of talks about California also being in a debt crisis. I live in California, and I can tell you that Californians don’t really care, because we know the government will do the wrong thing. No matter who we vote for, we know our politicians will lie and take care of constituencies first. Why else do you think the government wants to raise our taxes but not reform their own pension liabilities? Besides, we’ve got the Federal government and our budget surplus states to lend us a hand.
* Less stressed. With an implicit guarantee that you will be taken care of after secondary school, there is no societal stress placed on you to be somebody special. We are all special now! The term “Super Motivated Boyfriend“, referring to a man who is so eager to be somebody that he won’t propose to his girlfriend until he’s on the right track, doesn’t exist in Europe! With less stress comes less suicides. With less stress comes less chronic pains. You’re happier because at the very least, you’ll survive. At the very most, you’ll be a runaway success like the founders of IKEA and Skype.
If half of college graduates can’t find jobs in the US, then certainly half of college graduates are living back home with their parents wondering when they can launch their lives. It’s somewhat embarrassing living at home with your parents as a 26 year old college graduate (but here’s how you can still get girls if you do). In Europe, it’s absolutely acceptable given there’s been a persistently high youth unemployment rate for decades. Europeans are proud to spend their adult lives with their parents. There is a strong sense of family. Because there are so many great fortunes made in the US, we start feeling inadequate after a while. Seeing friends do amazing things and earning incredible amounts of money leads to feelings of insecurity, obesity, and depression if you cannot keep up.
* Better educated population who is more understanding. Practically everybody in Finland, Holland, Sweden, and Belgium speak two languages well. They’ve traveled by train to their neighboring countries and have learned about their respective cultures and histories. A good percentage of Europeans speak three languages.
America consistently scores in the bottom percentile in math and science because we aren’t forced to learn. Everything comes to us. As a result, we don’t travel as much. Only 62% of Americans own passports for example. And even when we travel, we force everybody to speak to us in English! What if a Dutchman came to your US hometown and forced you to speak Dutch with him? You’d think he was crazy. Ask your friends how many languages they speak well. I bet most of them only know English.
* Less innovation. It should come as no surprise there haven’t been many great new companies that have come out of Europe in the past several decades. Government sedatives aren’t conducive to creating the next Apple, IBM, or Google. But who cares? You aren’t going to be the next Steve Jobs. Besides IKEA, Nokia, and Skype, I can’t think of any other meaningful company that has affected the world. Innovation is stifled when there are too many regulations. Higher taxes aren’t motivating either.
America is #1 at innovation because we’ve got a relatively meritocratic system with a strong legal structure that protects intellectual property. For the rare genius out there who is self-motivated and works harder than anybody, America is an attractive proposition. However, let’s get real. Most of us are not geniuses and don’t have the drive to work much longer than 40 hours a week. By definition, most of us will be average. If you are average, then higher taxes and less red tape mean nothing to you. Hence, you’d rather have a strong government backstop like Europe to take care of your average self and your average family and relatives.
* A healthier population. Americans have a health epidemic given more than 50% of the population is overweight. When millions of people are starving around the world, why are we so different? Take a look at the ideal weight chart and get pissed off. We over-eat because abundance is all we know. We aren’t forced to adapt, learn a new language, travel, or ration our food or water. Instead, we spend billions of dollars on miracle pills, gym memberships, and diets when all we have to do is eat less!
When you go to Europe, begin to observe how much smaller Europeans are than their US counterparts. The hotel rooms are smaller. The cars are tiny and people live longer. When you are less stressed, don’t have to worry about survival, you eat better and exercise more. Heck, doesn’t this two foot by three foot elevator in my Amsterdam hotel say it all?
* A more peaceful conscience. In a nation as wealthy as the US, it is an atrocity there are roughly 131,000 homeless veterans and many more who can’t find work at home. It is absurd that on every third corner in downtown San Francisco, you will find a brother begging on the street. Have we forgotten to help the poor? We have seen a 50% increase in Americans accepting food stamps since 2008 (31 million to 46 million). That’s a full 15% of the American population. Democrats consider this a success because more poor people are being fed. Republicans find 46 million people on food stamps to be a failure since it undermines the magnitude of unemployment and the number of people who cannot support their own families. So which is it?
In Europe, I hardly saw any homeless people in Helsinki, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Estonia, or Amsterdam. The poorest of citizens have the basic necessities to survive. The guilty conscience of not doing everything we can to help the poor does not exist like it does in America. As a result, people can focus their attention on other pressing issues.
THE FUTURE LOOKS JUST FINE FOR MOST OF US
One of the biggest worries is whether our children will have the same opportunities as us. In a highly capitalistic, laissez fair government world, the answer is no. With tuition costs spiraling out of control, massive government debt, generational cronyism running rampant, and a shrinking government safety net, I fear for our children’s future. Sure, the best solution is to have hard working, smart kids who take nothing for granted and get scholarships. But, that’s a rarity. Instead, we should all expect our kids to be entitled dumbasses who disappoint.
We are clearly witnessing a growing revolt by the people with the Tea Party and Occupy Everything movements who believe larger powers exist to keep them down. Eventually, they will come for you. What I’m suggesting to those who are protesting is to accept the fact that the government will continue to grow bigger through 2016 and to start looking at the positive side of things.
The large majority of people I’ve met in Europe are as happy as the most steamed Brussels mussel. The youth get to be free, backpacking across the continent without financial worry. The adults don’t have to fret about losing their jobs when 70% of their last year’s paycheck is paid to them for an indefinite amount of time. The intellectuals can get two Master’s degrees for free and not worry about school loans crushing their futures.
I’ve seen the future of America and things look wonderful. Most of us are better off that we were four years ago, and it has nothing to do with politics! It has everything to do with our own free will and desire to improve. Despite an ever growing government, we will continue to be the land of the free so long as our debt doesn’t get too out of hand.
As soon as we can accept the future, we can then prosper from the future. Let’s go world!
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Updated for 2017 and beyond.