Bryan Caplan writes:
In the U.S., we have low gas taxes, low car taxes, few tolls, strict zoning that leads developers to provide lots of free parking, low speed limits, lots of traffic enforcement, and lots of congestion.
In Europe (France and Germany specifically), they have high gas
taxes, high car taxes, lots of tolls, almost no free parking, high
speed limits (often none at all), little traffic enforcement, and very
little congestion. (The only real traffic jam I endured in Europe was
trying to get into Paris during rush hour. I was delayed about 30
If you had to pick one of these two systems, which would you prefer?
Or to make the question a little cleaner, if there were two otherwise
identical countries, but one had the U.S. system and the other had the
Euro system, where would you decide to live?
Much as it pains me to admit, I would choose to live in the country
with the Euro system. If you’re at least upper-middle class, the
convenience is worth the price. Yes, this is another secret way that
Europe is better for the rich, and the U.S. for everyone else.
I wonder sometimes whether inequality of status — as opposed to wealth — is greater in Western Europe or in the United States. In this country you can love NASCAR and be proud of it. Millionaires won’t look down on you much for that taste. In Europe you are expected to dress well and be educated and not watch too much TV. So the egalitarian left is in an odd position here. On one hand it wishes to elevate the European system over the United States. Furthermore it also wishes to claim that wealth isn’t a final determinant of happiness (i.e., Europe is worthy), while at the same time circling back to emphasize inequality of wealth as a prima facie fault of the American system.
Tighter social networks, by inducing conformity, make a society more egalitarian along both political and economic dimensions. Yet those same networks place especially high "taxes" on those who don’t follow the norms, thus creating another kind of inequality.
Happiness studies are highly imperfect but the inequality of measured happiness doesn’t seem to be any higher in the United States than in Western Europe. Oddly that result doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention.