Comparing the United States with Europe

Nov. 16, 2000
The first time I visited Europe was in 1985. Since then, I have been going back at least once or twice a year, often mixing business and pleasure. Here are some observations.

Machine Design, Editorial Comment
November 16, 2000

  • The United States is ignoring an enormous industrial potential by not having extensive passenger rail service on the European model. The huge amount of hardware required for passenger railroads, especially electrified rail, would sustain hundreds of companies and tens of thousands of well-paid jobs. Unfortunately, even European countries are beginning to view their railroads as costly luxuries. The privatization of state railroads in Germany, for example, has eliminated many amenities. Generous subsidies for state railroads add significantly to the quality of life in a nation, making rail subsidies a handout worth the price.
  • Europe overall has much less of a work ethic than the United States. When Europeans are offered transfers to the U.S., one of their major concerns is our vacation policies, which aren't as generous as those in Europe.
  • The coinage system for European money is more sensible than ours. The high-value coins in Europe are worth much more than the U.S. dollar, so in Europe you often can make most incidental purchases during the course of a day with just pocket change.
  • Continental European economies are impeded substantially by militant labor unions. England, in contrast, is quietly pursuing a U.S.-style prosperity, with English politicians aware that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
  • In neither the United States nor in Europe does the health-care system work. The U.S. has a quality system, but it is outrageously expensive, while totally socialized medicine in Europe is less costly but has to be rationed and delivers substandard care.
  • Germany was once the stereotypical model of a disciplined and regimented society. Today, however, its youth are more unkempt than ours, law enforcement is hamstrung by police kept on a short leash, and politics is dominated by ecofreaks trying to drive the country to Third-World status.
  • English is becoming the world's universal language. Ironically, after trips to Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and the Czech Republic, the first place I had a language problem was upon a return to Newark Airport. When I asked a guard there for directions, I couldn't understand his English spoken with a thick Caribbean accent.
  • Italy needs to tidy up its cities. Milan, for example, has numerous untended parks and boulevards overgrown with weeds and litter blowing about.
  • Not a single freeway enters the city of London. What a terrible thing it was for the U.S. to carve up its urban areas with limited-access highways.
  • During eight days in London and nine days in Milan this year, I did not see a single motorist being ticketed by a traffic cop. Throughout Europe there is a much more lenient attitude toward traffic enforcement.
  • The United States embassy building in London is shamefully ugly, with its grotesque 1960s architecture plopped down in the middle of what once was a tasteful traditional neighborhood. That never should have happened.
-- Ronald Khol, Editor

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