Archive for the ‘ Updates ’ Category

Health Regulation page goes live!

The Health Regulation page is relevant to internationalcomparisons.org for several reasons. Let’s highlight a couple of the most critical:

This is pretty straight forward. A great example is the link between child advertising and child obesity. U.S. advertisers spend $15-17 billion annually on advertisements targeting children. As a direct result, 35% of U.S. children are obese. Only Italy and the UK have rates over 25% in the EU which restricts advertisement to children by the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive which mandates that child advertisement:

a. shall not directly exhort minors to buy a product or a service by exploiting their inexperience or credulity;
b. shall not directly encourage minors to persuade their parents or others to purchase the goods or services being advertised;
c. shall not exploit the special trust minors place in parents, teachers or other persons;
d. shall not unreasonably show minors in dangerous situations;
e. Children’s programs may only be interrupted if the scheduled duration is longer than 30 minutes;
f. Product placement is not allowed in children’s programs;
g. The Member States and the Commission should encourage audiovisual media service providers to develop codes of conduct regarding the advertising of certain foods in children’s programs.

  • The U.S. is the most reluctant advanced democracy to apply the precautionary principle.

In spite of pumping out nearly 20 new chemicals per day (according to Craig Collins’ Toxic Loopholes), the U.S. somehow still doesn’t find it necessary to have tighter policy to regulate the safety of those chemicals. The precautionary principle can be described as a method of policy making by which all chemicals are considered dangerous until proven harmless. Instead, U.S. chemical policy treats the unpredictable agents as innocent until proven guilty. Even once harm is associated with the chemical, certain systemic pitfalls have made it almost impossible to get such chemicals banned. The EU has banned over 1,000 chemicals; the U.S., in spite of the prolific rates at which new chemicals are produced, has banned a laughable total of nine chemicals. Wider application of the precautionary principle could have saved us the multifaceted and widespread hazards from PCBs. Without such tests required, who knows what we’re risking with GMOs and U.S. backed Monsanto initiatives.

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Norway=model; exception

In addition to already having country profile pages for Germany and Japan, we have recently just added Denmark and Norway (also accessible from our home index page under the “countries covered” listing). While putting together the Norway page, we realized even more how exemplary Norway truly is.

Norway is not a member of the European Union. Also a factor in escaping the eurozone crisis is their oil and gas industry which has them benefiting from the largest budget surplus among all advanced democracies. Norway has an unemployment rate below 3%, no net national debt, and around $640 billion dollars stored away in a sovereign wealth account, mostly from its oil and gas industry. In 2009 Norway earned the highest per capita income.

Deserving much credit for its success is Norway’s fearlessness to tax. Their prosperous oil and gas industry receives a 28% corporate tax and a 50% industry surtax. Overall tax as a share of GDP is among the highest in the OECD. Corporate taxes are four times as high as U.S. rates. Their highest income tax bracket kicks in at $124,000 at 47.8%. Yet businesses aren’t saddling up to head to places where they might save on looser tax breaks, an argument from those in the U.S. representing a vast majority who refuse to consider any tax increase. In fact, start up activity not only in Norway, but also Denmark, Switzerland, and Canada is higher than that of the U.S. From 2006-2009, the U.S. economy treaded at a practically stagnant .1% growth rate compared to Norway’s exponentially faster rate of 3%. Norway also boasts more entrepreneurs per capita than the U.S.

Part of the reason why business owners are so keen to comply without raising a stir at Norwegian taxes is the sense of appreciation they have for the system. Norwegians benefit from free education from preschool to graduate school (often including universities outside of Norway); free healthcare; generous unemployment benefits due to a competitive, employee-friendly job market; forty-six weeks of maternity leave paid in full, 10 weeks for paternal leave. Education, retirement, and medical expenses are three paramount concerns for the average U.S. citizen, but all of which are provided in Norway. There’s a sense of giving back to the system in Norway for the ways one has benefited previously from the system.

 

Adapted from“US fiscal debate could learn from Norway” by Mark Provost from Progressive Press and  “In Norway, start ups say Ja to socialism” by Max Chafkin in Inc. Magazine.

The link between guns and U.S. crime

Although it’s worth researching, evaluating the relations of the Connecticut catastrophe to mental illness or “manhood” isn’t within the scope of internationalcomparisons.org. Rather, we focus our attention on national statistics about gun deaths and gun control.

We’ve updated the site to arrange arms ownership rates to be sandwiched between crimes per capita and homicides per capita. Countries like Japan indicate the potential impact gun control can have with a 0.6 ownership rate cozily resting between 19.17 crimes per 1,000 capita and 0.5 homicides per 100,000 capita.

The U.S. is at the opposite end of the spectrum with 61 traumatic reminders since Columbine. Compared to the next to worst advanced democracies studied on internationalcomparison.org, the United States owns over twice as many firearms (88.8 per 100 capita) and suffers twice the homicidal rate (5.4 per 100,000 capita).

There’s plenty to be done concerning gun control without repealing the Second Amendment; tighter restrictions with closer regulation would be appropriate to achieve the goal of the Second Amendment which is a well regulated militia. Earlier this year in Colorado, concealed guns were okayed on college campuses. Four other states also allow firearms on campuses. Loaded weapons are permissible in bars in five different states. In eleven states, felons have less to worry about when they try to have their right to bear arms restored. A well regulated militia would be an easy start. Stricter (not total) gun control would be an easy start in order to ensure arms don’t end up in the wrong hands.

A recent open-forum article in the San Francisco Chronicle recommends the following steps: 1.) Close the gun-show and private-sell loopholes to require background checks. 2.) Include more data for background checks in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. 3.) Ban military assault weapons designed to kill many people quickly. 4.) Repeal immunity of gun makers from litigation so they are treated like manufacturers. 5.) Ban large capacity bullet magazines.

Two well established groups have advocated for reasonable gun laws: the Brady Campaign and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. After the mass murder in Connecticut, a number of additional groups are advocating for gun control.

Why the U.S. won’t sign an international treaty for the disabled

Here are some hints as to why the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities did not get ratified by the U.S. Senate:

It’s not because we would need to pass more laws for better regulation to adhere to what the Convention demands.

It’s not because it requires decentralization or states to compromise their power.

No. The reason why all but 8 Republicans withheld their support from the Convention when it came up for ratification in the U.S. Senate is because opponents have an immovable disdain for multilateral agreements with international organizations, none more outstanding than the resentment towards the U.N. It couldn’t be any easier to execute the requirements of the Convention, since, as of 1990, we’ve made the same requirements, ourselves. Apparently Senators have found it more necessary to tout the supposed evils of the U.N. than to take advantage of the U.S.’ political clout and influence as a superpower to endorse an unmistakably noble cause.

Internationalcomparisons.org is proud to raise awareness to this embarrassment by adding the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to our International Treaties page, where many people might be surprised to find how many international agreements welcome the Rights of the Disabled to neglect from U.S. policy.

Sedentation, active transportation, and obesity: report, relations, and results

It’s only fitting (albeit contrite) to begin evaluating health around the holidays. For the United States, It’s Thanksgiving week, and as most indulge, many consider their excess intake. Rather than evaluating relations between obesity and the holiday, let’s look at the bigger picture as to how obesity relates to a couple of factors in respect to a wider scope for quality of life: sedentation (the propensity to stay in place, a term and concept internationalcomparisons.org will begin to further develop as an indicator for quality of life) and active transportation (involving walking, bicycling, and/or public transit).

According to a  Rutgers University report, a markably inverse relationship is established between active transportation and quality of life. (However, the report was released in 2008, drawing on statistics from as early as 1997, and would be enhanced by some more recent figures from the OECD for obesity. Nonetheless, many of the OECD findings demonstrate the same premise, perhaps to an even greater degree.) At one end, the United States ranks last among the countries studied with one third of the population being obese. Correspondingly, the United States engages in active transportation only 12% of the time. From the opposite end of the U.S., Switzerland and the Netherlands weigh in with 8 and 8.1% obesity rates, respectively. Switzerland uses active transportation 61% of the time compared to 57% of the time for the Netherlands.

While the study admits that causality cannot be drawn between the two variables, the relation is obvious. The United States fails to incite activity as made evident in the report. Obesity is merely a symptom to a bigger issue: the sedentive lifestyle. Policy has the potential to impact lifestyle. We aim to illustrate this relationship by identifying several key indicators and the difference it makes in the countries studied at internationalcomparisons.org with a new page to be launched soon: early death by lifestyle.

Relations between economic and educational mobility

The newest statistics compiled by the OECD demonstrates a strong correlation between economic and educational mobility while suggesting that it pays to be a poor student in a well-off country–unless of course that well-off country is the United States. According to Jordan Weissmann’s recent article in The Atlantic, the United States proves exceptional when it comes to citizens’ ability in advanced democracies to improve economic conditions compared to those of their parents. Weissmann cites the OECD’s statistics which indicate a lack of educational mobility to be the reason for a stagnant economic mobility among the poor in the U.S. The mobility in education and the economy achieved by other democracies (most outstanding Denmark, Australia, Sweden, and Canada) could easily leave aspiring American students disappointed. Check back with internationalcomparisons.org to view these and other statistics to be added soon!

Updated: 2012 Environmental Performance Index

Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) released its 2012 edition which also includes a “Pilot Trend EPI” which tracks each country’s progress and development from 2000-2010. Overall, internationalcomparison.org countries have improved, with notable improvements in Italy who has moved up to 8th, overall. 22 indicators for 132 countries have been compiled in order to influence environmental policy. The data has been organized into ten policy categories which include: environmental burden of disease, water, air pollution’s effects on human health, air pollution’s effects on the ecosystem, water resources and its effects on the ecosystem, biodiversity and habitat, forestry, fisheries, agriculture, and climate change.

As stated in the most previoius post, internationalcomparison.org has been searching for a more comprehensive biodiversity index. Meanwhile, figures from the 2012 EPI (biodiversity, forestry, and fisheries) have been added to the Environment page as we continue our pursuit for a biodiversity index.