In some ways, America is much richer and stronger relative to the rest of the world than most people think. But in lots of aspects, to a degree that many Americans really have a hard time imagining, the U.S. has become a backward place. (Roads are bad; cell phone coverage is really bad; internet access is slow compared with Japan or Korea; health-care system is a PITA.) We love complaining about things that don’t work here and giving speeches about America falling behind. But that Europeans or Asians might think we’re backward … it’s hard really to take in. As another reader writes:
I’ve been in the southern Tirol with family on holiday. I was last here forty five years ago when it was a much poorer place than it is now. Whenever I travel to Europe I can’t help but see that the people I encounter seem better housed, better dressed and better fed than their counterparts in the U.S. The infrastructure seems in much better repair. Many of the roads where I live (think route 22 in New York State) look like they were recently strafed. When I left a few weeks ago the road through Queens to JFK looked a tad third worldish.