Yep, I agree with all of this and have for at least a decade and a half. America is a shithole and has been made that way by the things at the top that look (more or less) like people.

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Even US electrical standards are surprisingly screwed-up, examining them from Australia (or Europe for that matter); to me, that speaks volumes itself. Don't mind me if I rant…

For a start, why do they allow extension cords to be made using cable with a lower current rating than the sockets? Australian extension cords must be rated for the full 10A (2400W at 240V) of our normal socket, whereas US extension cords can have 15A sockets with only 13A rated cable (and historically even 10A); and that even with three sockets and no overload protection (the majority of Australian extension cords are single-socket, although “piggyback” plugs and a few straightforward dual sockets remain somewhat common as with double-adapters; but anything with 3+ sockets certainly must have overload protection here).

And seeing case reports, your power strips (in Australia we call them power-boards) apparently don't even need to be overloaded to void the warranty! Sure, plugging in more than one heater would overload them (anywhere in the world); but any one US/Canadian heater can only be rated up to 1500W (12.5A at 120V), well within the rated 15A for most power strips. Some people claim a (not obviously specified) per-socket limit, but my Australian power-boards can handle their full 10A through one socket just fine, so it's not a convincing excuse (other than to uninformed laymen).

What other country distinguishes between “residential” and “commercial”-grade switches and sockets, for that matter? Not Australia, I can tell you. As far as I can see, it's just an excuse to make cheaper flimsier fittings for homes – and isn't the home where people are most likely to die in a fire?

Even commercial US/Canada fittings are inexpensive compared to Australia's (although the switches on Australian outlets certainly add to their cost), anyway.

But they're called the Underwriters Laboratories for a reason, so did you really expect better?

That said, some industrial components are reportedly superior to their European counterparts, which rather fits with the US's general tendency to make the “best and worst” of many products.

The “electric furnaces” are pretty funny, though – basically just a giant central fan heater.

Way to miss the points of central heating (they don't actually do anything the portable units can't, apart from higher power which is partly imposed by the use of 120V for small appliances).

A few eclectic electricians in the US/Canada have actually run 240V circuits for imported European appliances (as long as there's nothing frequency-dependent, they'll work fine like that).

Granted 240V gives stronger shocks, but under Australian/European standards you're much less likely to get shocked in the first place (since we have decent plug designs, and don't allow unearthed single‑insulated small appliances as are still widespread in the US).

As long as you avoid cheap, shitty pink USB chargers (see Big Clive) anyway…

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If you take a road trip throughout the country you will see that America it is absolutely a failed state.

Wealth is concentrated in various neighborhoods and they are far and few between. Most of the country is in poverty. Aside from many of the urban areas, almost every small town is just a dilapidated dump with the people looking as worn down as the houses and buildings they live and work in. Something has gone terribly wrong in this country and historians are really going to study the case of the "United" States. Which isn't united at all either.

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Very well written and good job citing so many stats and other relevant articles. Many push back when these discussions are happening because it forces them to put effort into imagining a different future rather than gripping onto a present that simply doesn’t exist anymore.

We are tasked with imagining a new story and acting upon that, or we will continue slipping. In a way I am still hopeful. More and more people are accurately diagnosing the problem nowadays rather than treating the symptoms. To me that is the only effective first step, because in my estimation the changes needed are foundational. I appreciate your writing and will be sure to share!


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As someone who splits his time between New York and Tokyo and also spent years living in Brazil, I find myself agreeing with the main points of this piece, and at the same time thinking, "But so many other presumably advanced countries have their own massive flaws -- sometimes it seems like a coin-toss which place I can stand to live in". Japan, for example: yes it's clean and neat and polite and has a great healthcare system and fabulous public transportation etc etc etc.... But ask my wife, who is Japanese, a sociologist trained at the U. of Chicago, how she feels about the years of relentless sexual harassment she's had to endure inside her own academic department; or how foreign-trained scholars like herself feel about the discrimination they suffer at the hands of resentful provincial colleagues who think "good scholarship" means submitting to the whims of the gerontocracy. And that's just in the university setting; the rot is everywhere. Japan is a corrupt, rigid, terminally ingrown, fear-driven, woman-hating society that she can't wait to leave forever. But where do we go?

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Generally agree. Certainly my area is all but non-functioning. Actually lots of pieces of the social fabric around me literally don't work. Police don't really show up here and courts move so slowly and inefficiently that they are pointless as a conflict resolution tool. City codes are rarely enforced... That said, life goes on with a modicum of decency because most people are doing their thing and there remains a lot of good will despite it all. The systems around me at work, in my town, etc.. all keeping going on general good will and the inertia of past wealth, positive expectations and already built infrastructure. Always surprised that this keeps going but it does day after day year after year but just barely and with everything looking increasingly tawdry including our relationships with other people.

I think some of this is even dawning on foreigners, I have relatives in S. Korea and no one asks me if they can visit or send their child to college near me anymore. In the past I was deluged by such requests which always surprised me even decades ago. In my experience the U.S. hasn't been better than other developed nations places for most of my life but people believed it was against all evidence. Distant relatives in Korea couldn't believe that there were no water standards where I lived and that some people couldn't get high speed internet or go to a doctor without resorting to the emergency room. Literally thought I was making some of this stuff up.

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This was a really well written article, definitely thought provoking. I read it yesterday and its been rolling around in my brain since and i even discussed it with my wife to hear her thoughts on some of its points. Im really torn on the subject admittedly. I appreciate the statistics you used and think we are often fed overly simplified ones that lack context or need to be broken down further to tell a better story, so that was helpful. However i do find myself getting to a place where as i over think the complexity of why our society and culture feels a little rotten, and sometimes try to step way back from it and remember that a lot of people seem pretty happy living here. And a lot of people want to come live here. If its rotten to the degree youve described why would that be true? And im not describing ultra patriotic I LOVE AMERICA type, im talking about average people that are here and from around the world. Hundreds of millions if not billions of them. Widespread blissful ignorance? Forced beliefs tricking them into it? Unaware of the better life they could be living somewhere else? Maybe.

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Obviously it's a failed society, this is hardly news. I would argue that it was a bad idea from day one, and it's a miracle it has lasted this long.

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