How to Make America Better

USNEWS had a great issue on reviewing social policies in different countries that America should possibly consider. Below are some summaries of ideas I found interesting and would simply love American culture to consider.

  • Decrease traffic accidents. Smaller towns in Europe have no road signs, lights or lane lines. The result: people pay attention to the road and eachother and accidents decreased by half.
  • Improve traffic. Berlin has taken to biking! They have 500 miles of bike lanes, applied surcharges to car use in the city during the business day, and even gave insurance discounts to people that drove bikes to work. The result: every 10th trip in Berlin is by bike. And it’s often the fastest and cheapest mode of transportation for trips less than 3 miles
  • Graduated fines. Finnish charge traffic fines based on income. The goal is for fines to “hurt” the millionaire as much as the minimum wage worker.
    Result: there’s no evidence that the dayfine system reduces the number of traffic violations.
  • Affordable travel. Dublin-based Rynair has made flying on the cheap an artform. They do this by charging for every aspect such as food or blankets and in-flight advertising. Result: most flights less than $54, compared to Southwest’s $105. Airtran sent delegates to Europe to study Ryanair.
  • Empowered phones. Japans has made phones universal mobile devices. They can control a TV, conduct banking, and buy soda from a vending machine. They do this, however, by having only one main phone provider that designs both the network and phones.
  • The art of conversation. French culture supports the lost art of, well, talking. Certain topics are taboo: inquiry about weather, materialistic things like new cards, vacation. Certain rules apply: conversation is an end in itself — you don’t need a purpose. Also, you must keep participants engaged by not excluded them. Finally, disagreement is encouraged. Result: schools teach debating skills and students must pass written philosophy exams for a degree.
  • Keeping portions and stomachs small. Japanese parents teach their kids to be full on 80%. Entire meals are served on bread plates and there is always room for. Even American fast food joints serve portions 10% smaller. Japanese consume 200 calories less/day. Result: only 3.6% of Japanese adults are obese, compared to 32% of Americans.
  • Smarter students. Free public education. Placing everyone in the saame room, regardless of abilities or socioeconomic background. Keep classes small — 20 to 25. Give school flexibility at the local level in textbook selection. Provide holistic support with free school lunches, transportation, and healthcare. Invest in better trained teachers — mandate master’s degree. Result: Finland ranks 1’st in literacy, science and second in math.
  • Workforce for the aged. Offer prostitutes skills to take care of the elderly. Nice.
  • Birds and the Bees. Swedish students start learning the basic at age 6 and progress to disease and contraception at 12. Result: the teenage birthrate is 7 per 1,000, compared to Americas 49.
  • Frolic with Food. Most Italian households sit down together to eat. The conversation: typically enjoying the food you are eating — usually fresh grilled vegetables lightly drizzled with olive oil. And you never eat seconds to later feel comatose.
  • Siesta — Asian style. Taiwanese companies allow workers to take a brief 15 to 30 minute nap around the same time. Result: increased productivity with less coffee.
  • Keeping it clean. You’ve heard about Singapore caning for bubble gum on the street. Result: I’m told its the cleanest city in the world.
  • Year-long sabbatical. Students are encouraged to take a year — called the gap year — before attending an university.
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