Living Standards in UK Surpass US

I often see conservative writings about Democratic proposals warn about how they risk making the United States more like Europe. To conservatives, Europe is a mass of socialism as described in an old Ayn Rand novel with economies doomed to forever fall behind the economy of the United States.

This is one conservative meme which should be retired. This also provides an amusing landmark to be reached under George Bush. The conservative Times of London reports that living standards in the United Kingdom has surpassed that of the United States:

LIVING standards in Britain are set to rise above those in America for the first time since the 19th century, according to a report by the respected Oxford Economics consultancy.

The calculations suggest that, measured by gross domestic product per capita, Britain can now hold its head up high in the economic stakes after more than a century of playing second fiddle to the Americans.

It says that GDP per head in Britain will be £23,500 this year, compared with £23,250 in America, reflecting not only the strength of the pound against the dollar but also the UK economy’s record run of growth and rising incomes going back to the early 1990s.

In those days, according to Oxford Economics, Britain’s GDP per capita was 34% below that in America, 33% less than in Germany and 26% lower than in France. Now, not only have average incomes crept above those in America but they are more than 8% above France (£21,700) and Germany (£21,665).

“The past 15 years have seen a dramatic change in the UK’s economic performance and its position in the world economy,” said Adrian Cooper, managing director of Oxford Economics. “No longer are we the ‘sick man of Europe’. Indeed, our calculations suggest that UK living standards are now a match for those of the US.”

Although many people will be surprised by the figures, Americans have long complained that average incomes have been stagnant in their country. One often-quoted statistical comparison suggests that in real terms the median male full-time salary in America is no higher now than it was in the 1970s.

Plus, even though the system might not be the model I’d advocate, they all have access to health care.

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53 Comments

  1. 1
    Daniel says:

    As someone who has lived in both the US and the UK, I can try to make a comparison:

    In the US, if you are one of the lucky ones who have good insurance (at a cost!), you can get excellent care, and often without waiting. Of course, if you have coin, you can do the same in the UK, and skip the waiting list. I have never had problems getting even surgery in the UK, but I’ve been lucky, and I know of plenty of horror stories.

    The US system is a complete and utter administrative nightmare. It doesn’t feel like health care, rather then usual awful corporate disingenuousness that we’ve become accustomed to in the rest of our sphere or life. I don’t want a call to the health system to feel like I’m getting auto-insurance. And that’s when you have good insurance. I dread to think what the bad is like. By comparison, the UK system is a breeze, with all focus on your health and efficiency of the system.

    Having more than half a century of European experience to draw on, can’t the US build a system that is the best of both worlds? It doesn’t have to have all the problems of the UK system.

    Of course, one inescapable problem is that health treatment expenses are going up, everywhere. The same insurance doesn’t buy you the same medicine anymore — it has to be rationed. But surely giving money to insurance companies is a black hole, and the US would save a lot of money by universally providing minimal health services. In the sphere of prevention, for example, that would be invaluable, and save money for both health insurance and the productivity.

    What I’d ask my US colleagues is this: Are US citizens ready to protect their health care system, given the heightened sense of entitlement that people have here? Will it work if people don’t feel ownership of the system? Certainly that is not the case with private insurers at the moment. In the UK, France, Germany, at least most people believe that the system is out to help them (even if not always succeeding), not to fleece them. Can that change in attitude be made in the US?

  2. 2
    Mary says:

    Well Look at all the armchair economist. Some of you have really been watching too much FOX news. The British Health Care sytem is not any better or any worse than ours. But when people point this out to you all, you wouldn’t believe it.I do not believe for a minuete that womewn in labor don’t get pain relief because of the expense. That’s crazy!

    Where do you get this information?

    Lets now think about in the US once your born no-one gives a darn about your right to life. Children and elderly dying because they or thier parents can’t afford the treatments or medicine. Oh thats a real christian society. Then you will say “Well if you can’t afford them you shouldn’t have had them”.

    The change that needs to come about is our sense of community. Why doesn’t anyone care about their neighbors? How can we deny health care to a sick child? How can we deny health care to the elderly? Why don’t we treat illness the same for everyone?

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Oli,

    “And yeah, there are queues for elective surgery, and yeah i can’t choose my own surgeon, big deal.”

    Yes it is a big deal. I’m not saying it is the only consideration, or that one parameter makes the US system better, but this does matter.

    In the last couple of years both my daughter and I needed surgery where this mattered. I could have had surgery done locally but there was one surgeon in another city who did a procedure not performed by local surgeons. Among the benefits, besides being less invasive, was that I had minimal time off work compared to the other procedure, saving me thousands in lost income. He also performed it around my office schedule so I could further limit time off. As opposed to waiting for an elective surgery he scheduled the surgery for shortly after I saw him as the date was best for me. When my daughter needed surgery we wound up seeing a couple other surgeons before we found a specialist across the state who was one of the tops in his field nationally in the type of work.

    It is certainly possible to envision a system without many of the faults we now have in the US, but I would definitely want to preserve the choice of surgeons.

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