[extropy-chat] MYTH: Debunking popular myths about the US

Mike Lorrey mlorrey at yahoo.com
Thu May 26 23:35:01 UTC 2005

Debunking popular myths about the U.S.
By Craig J. Cantoni
May 23, 2005

Listed below are 15 commonly-held myths about social, economic, health
and environmental conditions in the United States, followed by facts
that debunk the myths.  The facts have been gleaned from the Pocket
World in Figures 2005, published by the The Economist magazine.    

Myth # 1:  The U.S. ranks low in human development.

Fact:  On the Human Development Index, which measures literacy, life
expectancy and income levels, the U.S. ranks above Japan, Switzerland,
Denmark, Holland, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Austria, France,
Germany, Spain, Italy and 38 other countries.

Myth #2:  The U.S. is uncompetitive in global markets.

Fact:  The U.S. is the world's biggest exporter, twice as big as Japan
and three times as big as China.  It also ranks first in manufacturing
output, with 80 percent more output than Japan and more than twice as
much output as either China or Germany.  And it is surpassed in
per-capita Gross Domestic Product by only Luxembourg, Norway and
Switzerland, all of which are tiny, lily-white countries.  The
social-welfare countries of Germany, France and Italy have a per-capita
GDP that is only 66 percent, 67 percent and 57 percent, respectively,
of the per-capita GDP of the U.S. 

Myth #3:  Because the U.S. doesn't produce enough scientists and
engineers, it has lost its edge in innovation.

Fact:  It ranks first on the Innovation Index, which is a measure of
human resources skills, market incentive structures and the interaction
between the business and scientific sectors.  It also ranks first in
the number of Nobel Prize winners in economics, medicine, physics and
chemistry.  The first-place rankings are in spite of the U.S. ranking
fifth in R&D spending as a percentage of GDP and dropping to 10th place
on the Index of Economic Freedom.

Myth #4:  American roads are congested due to a lack of mass transit.

Fact:  The U.S. ranks 42nd in the number of vehicles per kilometer of
road.  Germany, a country with a lot of mass transit, ranks third. 

Myth #5:  The U.S. is the most car-crazy country.

Fact:  It ranks 12th in the number of cars per 1,000 people, surpassed
by such countries as New Zealand, Luxembourg, Iceland, Italy, Germany,
Austria, Switzerland and Australia.

Myth #6:  The U.S. has a high rate of auto accidents.

Fact:  It ranks 31st in the number of people injured per miles
traveled.  Italy, Canada, Belgium, Israel and Germany have more

Myth #7:  The U.S. ranks low in educational achievement.

Fact:  Only one nation, South Korea, ranks higher than the U.S. in the
percentage of the population enrolled in post-secondary education, in
spite of the U.S. having a large number of immigrants from third-world

Myth #8:  The U.S. leads in breast cancer, lung cancer and diabetes.

Fact:  It does not make the top-20 list in deaths per 100,000 people
for breast cancer.  The top five countries for breast cancer are
Denmark, Iceland, Belgium, United Kingdom and Hungary.  The U.S. ranks
eighth in lung cancer, surpassed by the Netherlands, Italy, Croatia,
United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium and Hungary.  And it ranks 14th in
diabetes, surpassed by such countries as Canada, Spain, Italy, Greece
and Singapore.

Myth #9:  Americans don't read books.

Fact:  The U.S. is tied with Singapore in fourth place for book sales
per capita.  Japan, Norway and Germany rank first, second and third,
respectively.  France is in 17th place.

Myth #10:  American teenagers watch the most TV and drink the most

Fact:  The U.S. ranks tenth in the percentage of 15-year-old males who
watch TV four or more hours a day on weekdays.  Ukraine is in first
place.  The U.S. does not make the top-14 list in 15-year-olds who
drink alcohol weekly.  

Myth #11:  Americans are heavy smokers and drinkers.

Fact:  The U.S. does not make the top-20 list in per-capita smoking. 
Greece is in first place.  In beer consumption, the U.S. is in 11th
place; and in alcohol consumption, it doesn't make the top-23 list. 
The Czech Republic ranks first in beer consumption, and Luxembourg
ranks first in the consumption of alcoholic drinks.

Myth #12:  The U.S. leads in crime.

Fact:  The top ten countries for serious assaults per 100,000 people
are in rank order:  Australia, Sweden, South Africa, Belgium, Ghana,
Swaziland, Fiji, Jamaica, Netherlands, United States.  The top ten
countries for theft are:  Australia, Netherlands, United Kingdom,
Norway, Belgium, France, Austria, United States, Germany, Iceland.

Myth #13:  The U.S. leads in defense spending.

Fact:  When measured as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, the
United States does not make the top-39 list.  North Korea is first,
Israel is tenth, and Singapore is nineteenth.  Most Arab countries are
on the list, and many rank near the top.  For example, Saudi Arabia is
fifth, Kuwait is sixth, and Jordan is eleventh.

Myth #14:  The U.S. leads in threatened species.

Fact:  It is in 21st place in mammal species under threat and in 10th
place in bird species under threat.  Indonesia, China, India and Brazil
rank in the top five in both categories.

Myth #15:  The U.S. leads in sprawl and deforestation.

Fact:  It ranks third in the amount of forested land and second in the
amount of land under protected status.  It doesn't make the top-48 list
of nations with the highest rural population density. 

Mr. Cantoni is an author and columnist.  His new book, Breaking from
the Herd:  Political Essays for Independent Thinkers by a Maverick
Columnist, retails for $18.95 but can be purchased directly from him
for $10.  You can contact him at either ccan2 at aol.com or
haalt1 at aol.com.  

Mike Lorrey
Vice-Chair, 2nd District, Libertarian Party of NH
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
                                      -William Pitt (1759-1806) 
Blog: http://intlib.blogspot.com

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