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JohnB

Okay America, how did you manage it?

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I've wondered about this for some time and I thought I'd ask.

 

America and Australia are roughly the same size and America isn't 60% unusable desert. You have 10 times our population and probably 100 times our manufacturing capability.

 

Houses sell for $80k within miles of a City centre ( I was looking at Austin, Texas) whereas our prices start at $350k, yet you manage a housing crisis with people not being able to pay their loans. FFS, your monthly repayments in many places are less than most people pay in rent per week down here.

 

You have arguably the most advanced medical technology on the planet, but one of the lowest life expectancies in the developed world.

 

You spend three times as much on health care per capita as we do and still can't have a Universal system with reasonable outcomes.

 

You have an annual budget in the Trillions and yet apparently can't keep your roads and bridges in good repair.

 

You have a National Debt that has passed astronomical while ours is at about 6.9% and that is after heavy borrowing for a "Stimulus Package" of our own.

 

Seriously, with all the advantages you started with, how did you manage to cock it up so phenomenally?

 

Surely not all your politicians are sourced from "Homes for the Mentally Impaired"?

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Our politicians are children who are more interested in winning than helping people.

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...damn. How did we do that?

 

Our politicians are children who are more interested in winning than helping people.

 

Oh. There we go. That's your answer.

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Our politicians are children who are more interested in winning than helping people.

 

And our voters are children who want low taxes and massive government handouts (either for business/military, or the poor).

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You have arguably the most advanced medical technology on the planet, but one of the lowest life expectancies in the developed world.

 

I don't mean to distract from your interesting point, but the above seems a bit over the top. The differences between the different countries is pretty small. From Canada to the US is a spread of only 2.5 years -- far narrower than the range of ages at which people die. (source)

 

A categorical approach might give us a more accurate general idea than the statement above. Here's one:

 

1000px-Life_Expectancy_2008_Estimates_CIA_World_Factbook.svg.png

 

Key here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Life_Expectancy_2008_Estimates_CIA_World_Factbook.svg

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I really think it was the Cold War that did it.

 

World War II started for the US when Pearl Harbor was bombed and quite quickly occupied the national attention, but it also left the sense of isolationism's inadequacy as a defensive policy. Immediately following the war US quickly found itself in a nuclear and conventional military arms race with the Soviet Union, in which it pretty much adopted a policy that - while glad to stand by her allies - would ensure that we were capable of unilaterally matching any threat the USSR could pose. I can't imagine what it would have been like in Western Europe, Australia, or any of the Western Nations but here (I imagine) the sense was the USA and the USSR were two super powers locked in an ideological (and probably literal) death match, hot or not. Considering it was a time where helping Osama Bin Laden recruit religious radicals to fight Soviets in Afghanistan seemed like the least messed up thing to do, you can be pretty sure it was overall quite a messed up time.

 

For half a century every political discussion in the country had to occur within the context that at any given moment the person we put in the White House may have to signal the launch of thousands of nuclear missiles to end the world as we know it in less than an hour. Obscene amounts of money were spent during the Cold War in the name of self preservation and a commitment to preventing the Soviets from achieving military superiority. Foreign policies like "If you push us, we'll push back, but only as far as is financially prudent" were unthinkable, and to this day we react to any military (or terrorist) threat in an all out do-or-die fashion.

 

Now we don't only have to deal with a runaway military budget but also (like many maturing 1st world nations) an encroaching entitlement crisis, and we are still so shell-shocked from the cold war we have to tip toe around a ton of third rails. The US has half of the world's aircraft carriers and if you raise the question if this is necessary, you are looked at like you are a pod person, robot or cold blooded commie. Certainly as someone without the red blooded "whatever it takes" will power to make sure this nation is always ready to defend against any threat to the very last breath. And yes, the ideals are worth dying for, but when budget policies are drawn from that mentality even when there are no military rivals the result is what you see today. I highlight the military as an example but the mentality isn't limited to defense. It's the idea "This is who we are, this is who we are going to be, and we will be this way or die trying" that is at the heart of it. For some that is the indomitable free market capitalistic America that would rather die than surrender and become a rich taxing socialist Euro-state. For others it's "Medical for everyone, at any cost" because you just can't negotiate on moral imperatives. For others its the 10 extra spy satellites in the name of security that make sure terrorists don't target your Ford Torus, specifically.

 

It started with the drawing of lines in the sand during the Cold War and raising of rhetoric, and now long after the collapse of the Soviets we are still recovering from that mentality and long term effects.

Edited by padren

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And our voters are children who want low taxes and massive government handouts (either for business/military, or the poor).

 

Cut spending by eliminating all those handouts … except the ones I'm getting.

 

 

 

 

I think Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly touched on this the other night. Elected officials have to raise massive amounts of money, which makes them promise things to donors and takes up a significant amount of time. They have to "govern" in a way that makes their donors happy, and that can conflict with what's best for the people.

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America and Australia are roughly the same size and America isn't 60% unusable desert. You have 10 times our population and probably 100 times our manufacturing capability.

Some other differences:

  • Australia doesn't have a land bridge that connects it to third world populations.
  • Australia did not (officially) support slavery and did not people by the boatloads to be slaves and whose descendants would be slaves. The US is still reaping the consequences of its checkered past with regard to slavery.
  • Your checkered history includes a relatively small number of convicts, but those convicts did gain their freedom (if they behaved and lived) and their children were not non-citizens.
  • Your checkered past also includes killing off most of the indigenous population. That is one thing that the US and Australia do have in common.
  • Your very recent checkered past includes an official policy of condoning and even encouraging kidnapping children of the indigenous population. Nice job!

 

Houses sell for $80k within miles of a City centre ( I was looking at Austin, Texas) whereas our prices start at $350k, yet you manage a housing crisis with people not being able to pay their loans. FFS, your monthly repayments in many places are less than most people pay in rent per week down here.

First off, just because Australia has not yet had its housing bubble collapse does not mean you are immune. According to this Economist article, "By this measure Australian property is the most overvalued of any of the 20 countries we track." When your housing bubble does burst (and it will happen eventually), it will hurt, and given a 61.1% overvaluation per that Economist article, it will hurt a lot.

 

Now to directly address what you wrote. You are comparing apples to oranges. Better said, you are comparing apples to very nicely picked cherries. Most of the people in Australia live in the narrow strip of land between the coast and the Great Dividing Range. Similar conditions exist in the US on the west coast. A more apt comparison would be housing prices in southern California to housing prices in Australia.

 

Moreover, I dispute your numbers. Yes, you can find an $80,000 lot within miles of the center of Austin. A house? Maybe a house so badly in need of repairs that it is virtually unlivable. Maybe a house in an extremely undesirable neighborhood. The median price in Austin is well over $200,000, and Austin is one of the pricier cities in Texas. Texas, for whatever reason, did not suffer a housing bubble to the extent that other areas of the country did. Housing is cheap in Texas because land is relatively cheap, labor costs are relatively low, and construction practices are relatively shoddy.

 

You have arguably the most advanced medical technology on the planet, but one of the lowest life expectancies in the developed world.

More nicely picked cherries. Let's look at the reasons for our lower life expectancy.

  • We are still reaping the consequences of slavery. Life expectancy amongst descendants of slaves is markedly lower than life expectancy of the general population. Note well: I am not claiming that this is a good thing. It is a bad thing. But it is a bad thing that we have to live with.
  • We have a large immigrant population, legal and illegal. Recent immigrants also have a reduced life expectancy compared to the population at large.
  • We count births differently than do most other nations. A baby that shows any signs of life in the US counts as a live birth, but not necessarily elsewhere. This difference in counting artificially reduces the life expectancy in the US compared to other countries.

A huge factor is that we in the US tend to have a rather unhealthy life style. Obesity in the US is rampant. I guarantee that if you plump up the population of Australia to the extent seen in the US you will see a decline in life expectancy in Australia. This plumping up has nothing to do with socialized medicine.

 

At least the indigenous population of the US isn't as bad off as yours. An indigenous Australian would fare better in Bangladesh.

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Regarding infant mortality rate, the US adheres to the WHO definition of live birth and I think Australia also does the same. Many countries adhere to the WHO definition (and usually in comparative analyzes the WHO definition is used). Known exception include countries of the former Soviet block. This confusion may be the result from looking at different years. Germany stated using the WHO definition only after 1991. Switzerland and Italy used to have a different definition, but I am not sure how it is currently. The point about the special definition of the US has been overstated a fair bit.

Link

 

To clear this up a bit one could compile a list of countries adhering to the WHO definition and just compare those (though I think the WHO statistics is based on that, anyway).

There is an interesting paper where they only compare a few cities (Tokyo, New York, Paris and London) to monitor differences on the microscale: Link

Edited by CharonY

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Ford Torus

For all its problems, at least the US has finally made the fusion-powered family car a reality.

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DH, just to clear up a few misconceptions.

 

Transportation of convicts stopped in 1868 with the last group arriving in Western Australia in that year. Since the founding of Sydney in 1788 there were some 165,000 convicts sent here. The Oz population in 1871 was 1.7 million, so I make that more than 10% of the population were convicts or descended from convicts. I call that a pretty large percentage.

 

We did have slavery. The conditions of those convicts assigned to free settlers was not much above slavery, although the Master couldn't beat them. To our great shame the practice of "blackbirding", the enticing or kidnapping of islanders to work in the Queensland canefields wasn't stopped until 1904. It was slavery, pure and simple. The descendants of those people are now part of the communities in the north of the State.

 

Concerning the aboriginal population there is now so much politics involved that truth is hard to find. I'm very sure that there were atrocities, but how bad and who perpetrated them on who is sometimes difficult to work out. Some of the much touted "massacres" of aboriginals now appear to have not occurred in reality, but the arguments continue. Just as it is in the best interests of some groups to downplay and minimise incidents, it is the political interests of others to exaggerate them. Neither side really want the truth to come out, only the "thuths" that aid their agenda.

 

Yes, we did have a policy of removing some children from their aboriginal parents. There were two main reasons for this. Firstly, the official policy of Australia was "Integration" (whether it was aboriginals or immigrants) and rightly or wrongly it was believed that children brought up in 20th century society rather than bark gunyas would integrate better. Mainly due to access to good schools and University education. Many of those complaining today only have the benefit of their free University education because they were "kidnapped". Something to think on. The second reason for the policy has been downplayed so much that most people don't know it existed. Many aboriginal communities in the mid 20th C had the practice of taking 1/2 breed babies into the woods as dingo food. Left where they were, many of those children would have been abandoned and died, so they were removed.

 

In that respect, I have no problem with the policy and it still continues today in most civilised nations. Children deemed "at risk" in the care of their parents are removed. Are you suggesting that this policy should be applied depending on skin colour and that it should not apply to those with darker skins? In many ways an issue about childrens safety has been turned into a race issue.

 

Concerning house prices, and yes, I believe that our bubble has yet to really burst. (FFS, $500k for a 1 bedroom hovel in Melbourne?) You said the median in Austin was $200k, that would imply houses above and below that figure, I was pointing out the starting price here was 350k. However, rather than a direct comparison of housing prices, I was wondering how with such generally cheap housing, a large number of people couldn't pay their mortgage.

 

I'm assuming incomes are roughly equal, so we should be getting a lot more defaults due to the higher house prices, but we don't seem to be. Put it another way. Two groups with family incomes of say, 100k. One group is defaulting on 150k home loans and the other is not defaulting on 400k home loans. Why?

 

On general health issues we also have an obesity "problem". Strangely it seems to get worse every time they redefine the word "obese", but there you go. We aren't that different. And while the "plumping up" might have little to do with socialised medicine, it would appear from CharonYs link that your much higher infant mortality rate is almost certainly due to a lack of some form of Universal Health Care.

 

Your last sentence, while unfortunately true is also highly offensive as it misconstrues the situation. The traditional aboriginal culture is hunter gatherer and a bit of research on life expectancy for those tribes will show that it is not long. For all the bitching, life expectancy for the Australian Aboriginal is now longer than at any time in their history. I'm not trying to excuse what is happening, aboriginal life expectancy is way too short and it needs to be improved rapidly. However the situation is extremely complex and I strongly suggest that you refrain from commenting unless and until you have a fair knowledge of those complexities. All is not quite as it seems.

 

Cheers.

Edited by JohnB

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For all the bitching, life expectancy for the Australian Aboriginal is now longer than at any time in their history.

 

Heh, yeah, we use that one from time to time as well. >:D

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It is a difficult situation Pangloss, and it's hard to say anything on the topic without coming across as condescending towards aboriginals or as an apologist for the wrongs that have been done.

 

The often very well meant paternalism of the government went so horribly (and in many cases inexcusibly) wrong so many times. A good case in point was the "Trust" fund set up at the beginning of the 20th C by the Queensland gov. The idea was good. Since a hunter gatherer peole have little knowledge of thrift or saving, the gov was given the wages earned by aboriginals to be held in trust and paid out later. So the idea was good but the reality is so far beyond the pale as to be disgusting to any fair minded person.

 

The scheme ended in the 1970s with bugger all money being given back to those workers or their families. To make it worse, it appears that all the accounts have gone missing and there is some doubt whether accounts were kept at all. The money, rather than being in trust had been siphoned off into "General Revenue" for the State and spent. The current gov is offering something between $2,000 and $4,000 for those workers or their families that can prove a claim to the money. How the hell are they supposed to "prove" anything? Adding insult to injury the gov went to lengths to point out that they didn't "have" to give the cash out, they were doing it because they thought it would help "reconciliation". Queensland aboriginals have quite rightly registered their disgust at this offer.

 

Is it any wonder that many aboriginals don't trust the white man gov? As a Queenslander and an Australian this issue really gets my goat. I don't care if it takes $10 million to get the books found and straigthened. If we can't find the books, then go out to the people and ask for their testimony. While not the best solution, we have to at least try. Those people worked for their money and they (or their families) deserve to have it, with interest. If that costs $500 million, then so be it. At least then the debt will be squarely settled.

 

Something to think on though and a difference between the US and Oz. When were the last tribe of Native Americans first contacted by white men? The Pintupi people, the last tribe to be contacted by white man in Australia were found in 1984, a mere 26 years ago. Any intelligent suggestions from the cheap seats about how to get them from "Stone Age Hunter Gatherer" to "21st Century citizen" in a generation or two? Remember that it has to be done without being overbearing, or paternalistic and shouldn't interfere with their "traditional" cultural values and morals. >:D I await enlightenment.

 

Like I said before, a very complex situation.

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It is a difficult situation Pangloss, and it's hard to say anything on the topic without coming across as condescending towards aboriginals or as an apologist for the wrongs that have been done.

 

Well I'd say you probably get bonus points from just not being Americans, but as WASPs I guess you're still pretty much stuck with the politics of guilt. Though that's an interesting point about difficulties even when it happens now/recently, with modern insight and technology. I think we Americans tend to think of that situation as ancient history, long since dealt with (regardless of what some special interests drum up from time to time). Important to recognize in the history books, but not so much something to see as an active and potentially returning problem.

 

I heard they found the first Earth-like planet the other day. Though I suppose the way things are going by the time we arrive the alien tongue they'll be speaking will be Mandarin!

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The Pintupi people, the last tribe to be contacted by white man in Australia were found in 1984, a mere 26 years ago. Any intelligent suggestions from the cheap seats about how to get them from "Stone Age Hunter Gatherer" to "21st Century citizen" in a generation or two?

Free internet, cheap/free access to computers and solar to charge their batteries, and reliable food and water sources. That should do the trick in much less than a generation... more like a decade.

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DH, just to clear up a few misconceptions.

Right back at ya:

 

You said the median in Austin was $200k, that would imply houses above and below that figure, I was pointing out the starting price here was 350k. However, rather than a direct comparison of housing prices, I was wondering how with such generally cheap housing, a large number of people couldn't pay their mortgage.

The housing crisis did not affect Texas all that much. The impact of the crisis varied by quite a bit across the country. Florida, California, the east coast and parts of the industrial midwest were very hard hit. Other parts of the country much less so. Other parts, hardly at all.

 

Where the crisis hit hardest was exactly where real estate prices had gone through the roof. Not just through the roof in some places, but well into the stratosphere. Puny little houses badly in need of repair went for 500K in California and some parts of the east coast. Those were unsustainable and very unrealistic prices. In Texas, puny little houses badly in need of repair went for 80K before the housing crisis hit, and that is still what such houses are going for now that things have settled down a bit.

Edited by D H

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DH. Got it, I think.

 

The way it was portrayed down here was that the whole "sub prime" thing was unsustainably cheap loans on cheap houses, but it appears that it was more about unsustainably cheap loans on expensive, extremely overvalued houses. Our bubble must burst too, because it's just rediculous, but I think we're being delayed because the banks aren't lowering their loan requirements much. Mind you, run interest rates up another 2 or 3 percent and the situation will change drastically and quickly. People are often loaded to 35-40% of their gross income, so a rates hike will lead to massive defaulting and forclosures.

 

Pangloss, the politics of guilt are very much alive and well down here, believe me. However the fact remains that anthropologically speaking, when white man arrived the locals were basically Paleolithic. I'm not having a go at the Aboriginal by saying that, there was no choice. Few spears of arrows were stone tipped, simply because the right sort of stones are very rare here. Arrows were few because the materials for good bowstrings didn't exist or the means to preserve them didn't exist. Most arrows and spears were carved, fir hardened points. Weaving and cloth were never developed because there were no suitable plants. Likewise Australia has zero domesticable plants or animals.

 

Without all these things, you simply are stuck in the Paleolithic, the materials simply weren't there to allow advancement. Yet they survived. Amazing.

 

Like I said earlier, the situation is very complex. Fortunately, Leaders are emerging in the Aboriginal Communities that have more common sense than found in our entire governmental systems. These people are coming up with ideas and plans, and can explain them so well (and the ideas are so good) that Joe Bloggs in the street is saying "That should work, give it a try." So they are gaining support from the white community as well. (Except for the Greenies and the Left, of course. These people believe in Aboriginal Land Rights and ownership so long as the Aborigines don't want to actually do anything with the land. Certain groups are keeping the Aboriginals in the stone age in the name of "The Environment" and "Conservation".) To get an idea of the politics in Cape York, there is an

with Aboriginal Leader Noel Pearson (who I personally like and respect) with our radio version of Glen Beck. Alan Jones is considered "extreme" right wing here, I think you americans will be surprised as to how mild he is compared to yours.

 

iNow, please confirm that you are joking.

Edited by JohnB

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iNow, please confirm that you are joking.

While I was certainly simplifying matters, my point was intended as serious. I take it you think I was wrong. That's cool, but could you explain why?

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iNow, I'll try to explain, but I'm not sure I'll be clear. The term is "Cultural Inertia".

 

First and foremost this is not about intelligence, the Australian Aboriginal is as smart as anybody else. It's about Culture and concepts.

 

The Hunter Gatherer is, in some ways the ultimate "throw away" society. Without means of preservation, just how long do you thnk a basket of woven grass lasts? About a week. Then you make a new one. Things don't last, so the society doesn't look to the future. If something breaks, you make a new one.

 

When the hunters come back, everybody gorges themselves. They do the same again the next day. The day after that, the meat is getting a bit ripe to eat, so you get ready to go hunting again. Add to this that most of Australia doesn't have a "Winter" as you in the NH understand it. Except for migratory birds, food is reasonably plentiful all year round. Therefore there is no impetus to develop technologies like "smoking meat" or other preservation techniques.

 

This means that the concept of "thrift" or planning for the future simply doesn't exist. Things don't last and so you make no offort to make things last. That's reality, and that has been reality for 40,000 years.

 

Children of course, learn their cultural values from their Elders. So with the Elders having the mindset above, change will only be gradual. Take the Pintupi people. They aren't dumb, you couldn't live in the Simpson Desert and not be pretty smart. However the adults did not have the cultural background to either distinguish a difference or be able to quantify the difference between "The discovery Channel", "The History Channel" and "Star Trek". And why would the children be much different? Skyscraper, TARDIS or Starship, they are all just pictures on a screen. They are not real. In many cases, not only doesn't the word exist, but the very concept behind the word doesn't exist.

 

Changes come on a generational basis, not years or decades. Each generation is more culturally "advanced" that the one before. There is a way to accelerate the process and that was one of the justifications of the "Stolen Generation" debacle. If you remove the children from their cultural background, the "outmoded" ideas of the Elders won't hold their development back and they will grow up integrated into society. Needless to say it was not a resounding success.

 

Let me put it another way. You have Universities, Schools and the Net. America has thousands of years of Cultural History that reveres learned men. So why is it that more than 100 years after fighting a war about it, you still have people who think blacks are sub human? How is it that you have people who know, deep down in their guts, and despite all evidence to the contrary, that the world is only 6,000 years old?

 

And you had the headstart of the "Age of Enlightenment".

 

Putting it bluntly. It took whites thousands of years of turmoil, revolution, despots, death and misery to evolve what is now called 21st Century Civilisation. I'm willing to allow our Aboriginal population a few more generations to make that same journey. Given the huge task, I happen to think that they're doing bloody well, and better than you could expect of most people.

 

There are other factors of course in the black/white relations in Australia, but cultural inertia is a factor in developmental speed.

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That's a fair explanation, and also shows how my comment about available food sources may have been misplaced. What I was thinking when I wrote that is how much open access to information and education has changed cultures like China, and how much it would change cultures like North Korea, and how much it's already changed Iran. I suppose it's a slightly different set of circumstances, yeah... But my central theme was that by exposing people to others on the planet... exposing them to education and conversation with people who DO have those industrious backgrounds and a different culture... That you WILL significantly accelerate the cultural growth of the aboriginals... and essentially the cultural inertia becomes much weaker. Although, I was perhaps too optimistic in my timeline, I still think this all happens within 1 generation, not 10.

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