24 May 2012

The US is to NL as MX is to the US

Many people in the US ask me what life in the Netherlands is like. It's definitely about bikes and canals, and not about hookers and pot, but those examples don't capture the underlying feeling, culture or institutions.

So that's why was pleased to realize (while visiting Washington DC) that the difference between Dutch and American life is similar to the difference between American and Mexican life.

On corruption, the Dutch are better than Americans who are better than Mexicans. Compare them on crime: the high murder rate -- related to US drug policy -- in Mexico or crazy theft in the US vs. Dutch peace (Germany is similar; their police fired 85 bullets in 2011). From a different perspective, you can look at the murder rate per 100,000 people: 0.87 in the Netherlands, 4.8 in the US and 18 in Mexico.

On women, the Dutch are better than Americans who are better than Mexicans. Compare Dutch women (happiest in the world) to abortion and birth control debates in the US to the playboy girl who "facilitated" debate among Mexican presidential candidates.

On a more quantified level, consider these countries' Inequality-adjusted scores on the human development index (an index that balances economic output with quality of life): Netherlands at 0.85, the US at 0.77, and Mexico at 0.58.

But there are also some good -- or interesting sides -- to visiting or living in a less-developed country. Among them are more adventures, more open people, better shopping opportunities, and so on. These advantages are what attract me to visit and explore different countries, but they are not necessarily good for quality of life, i.e., quality of health, social systems, environment, economic value for money, and so on.

Bottom Line: The NL is more developed than the US, which is more developed than Mexico, but it's always useful to compare, understand and borrow good ideas from others when trying to improve our lives and the policies that affect them.