a great country

I am a huge fan of Fresh Air, not only because I am a strong believer in the power of a good interview, but also because host Terry Gross and guest host Dave Davies attract some of the most compelling minds around. The diverse topics they cover with guests make me do what all great content should do: share it with others.

On 1 July, Terry interviewed journalist Fareed Zakaria, asking what a post-American world looked like, the subject of his recent book which discusses the diminishing power of the US and ‘the rise of the rest’ as the distribution of power shifts. A fascinating conversation throughout, two parts struck me:

The idea of losing power does not bode well with many Americans. Yet, Fareed reminds us that “the United States has been a beacon of hope and liberty, has been an incredibly vibrant and prosperous society for many, many decades before 1945. We were not always the absolute, supreme power in the world and we were still an unusual, distinctive, wonderful country…the nature of America, the DNA of our society, is not bound up with being a world empire.”

At another point in the interview, Terry asks Fareed how American taxes compare with other countries. He responds, “There are two ways that you can think about American tax rates, you know I hear a lot of people say we’re overtaxed. Now this can’t be a statement in the abstract. To be overtaxed means one of two things: we are overtaxed compared with American history or we are overtaxed compared with other countries. We have the second lowest major tax burden of the major advanced industrial economies. I think Japan has lower, we are the second. Every other advanced economy – Germany, France, Britain, all the northern European countries – all have higher taxes than we do. Federal taxes, as a percentage of our GDP in America, are at their lowest point since 1950. In other words, compared with our own history, we have extraordinarily low tax rates.”

These two points were great reminders that power does not necessarily produce a strong country. My idea of a great country has more to do with innovation, quality of education, health care, infrastructure, quality of life, and fostering creativity. And these things often are the result of a strong tax system. I know life in America and life in the Netherlands, one with low taxes and one with a high tax system. I have seen firsthand how taxes can hinder or help to facilitate the possibility of creating a great society. It doesn’t take much for me to admit that I prefer the quality of life in my country of residence. But, despite all, I have hope that my country of birth will become as an unusual, distinctive, and wonderful country once again.

Typographic map by alliemounce.

Note: For a while, I went back and forth about publishing this post. I don’t see small sight as a political platform, nor do I want it to become one. But the truth is, I care about politics and sometimes I feel compelled to speak out.

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