Badmouthing the typical U.S. consumer has been a practice widely employed by journalists time and time again. Indeed, it is true that the U.S. has tallied up the highest external debt of any nation in the G20 – currently hovering at an estimated $12.25 trillion as of December 2008, according to the CIA World Factbook. However, looking at this figure alone may create a distorted illusion far from the truth.
As a basic tenet, it is the case that the bigger a business, the bigger its running costs. Analogously, it would not be surprising to note that the U.S. does indeed run up the highest annual GDP of all nations in the G20 – of all nations in the world as a matter of fact (currently at an annual $13.5 billion as of 2008). However, this simple and obvious fact is not what I initially planned on boring you, my reader, with.
By simply subtracting a nation's external debt from its GDP, we can derive a value also known as 'Effective Net Worth.' What this excruciatingly simple figure tells us is (as one could imagine) an individual's, firm's, or nation's total assets minus total external liabilities. And compiling information from the CIA World Factbook leaves us with the following information:
As shown above, the U.S. is far from being the most over-consumptive nation. Clearly, the U.K. leads the way for over-consumption with an external debt 5X the amount of their annual earnings. Our right-most column displays net worth per capita (the amount each citizen in the nation in question is worth). As can be seen, Australia, France, Germany, the U.K., and the European Union each consume more than they earn. On a brighter note, the U.S. is in the positive with an average individual worth just over $6K every year.
For the most part, nations with negative net worth per capita can be accused of trying to obtain (with money they don't currently own) social welfare of some sort. In each of these cases, either productivity on the average level is too low, social program costs are too high, or both.
However, a socialist may be relieved to find Canada's net worth per capita soaring in 3rd place (right under South Korea and Japan). Therefore socialism, it appears, may be conceivable while simultaneously retaining one's financial dignity – this is at least what has been suggested by our figures above.
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