By Nurse Pam
When talking to people about politics, especially my Republican friends, I sometimes ask how our freedom in the United States is different from other advanced countries throughout the world. What sets us apart? It is interesting to hear the variety of answers to that question.
A lot of people commonly answer, “We have freedom of religion.” This is when I point out the that people who live in most any other advanced country like: Britain, France, Canada, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan, Singapore, and more, all enjoy the same freedom to practice the religion of their choice.
Some people, feeling a patriotic mood, will then firmly claim, “America is the best country in the world!” While I don’t necessarily disagree with that statement, I usually challenge them to explain how they reached that conclusion by asking how many countries that person has visited in order to determine America’s greatness to every other country in the world.
It’s not unusual for a person to give me a quick look of confusion, because no one has ever asked this type of question. The answer is usually the same; they have never traveled outside the United States. This is when I politely point out, “If you have never set foot outside the United States, what gives you the experience or knowledge to evaluate our greatness or our freedom, compared to the rest of the world?”
To prove the United States is the best country on Earth, it seems that my Republican friends almost always answer by comparing us to war-torn, impoverished nations run by brutal dictators. But rather than using third world dictatorships as the standard by which we should be compared, I think we ought to look at other advanced, industrialized countries. Doesn’t that seem to be more logical?
This is when I usually see that forehead wrinkling stunned look, because this person is now starting to think outside the conservative box.
There are certainly good things and bad things you can say about any country and America is no exception. So let’s compare our freedom to other advanced countries where people vote, work, go to college and have good healthcare. What exactly does it mean to be the “Land of the Free?”
According to the dictionary, freedom is defined as:
1) The power to determine action without restraint
2) The absence of constraint regarding choice or action
Health Care Freedom
In the United States, we have excellent doctors and hospitals. So do we have freedom to get the health care when we need it? Well, if you’re lucky enough to have good insurance through your employer or if you have enough wealth to pay cash for your healthcare, then you certainly do have that freedom. Otherwise, far too many Americans are not able to obtain any healthcare, if it is not an emergency, because health care in America costs far more than it does elsewhere in the world.
If freedom is the power to determine what actions you take, then most Americans are not free regarding health care. Countless Americans are denied access to health care for lack of ability to pay or their insurance company dictates what doctor they can use. Insurance companies will also dictate what medications they can take and what treatment will be allowed, regardless of what the doctor has ordered.
Citizens in just about every other advanced country on this earth enjoy health care freedom without constraint. Most important, they don’t have to worry about how to pay for their medical treatment because all citizens pay into a non-profit fund that pays for everyone’s health care. This fund is the form of a tax and the cost is far less for citizens to pay, compared to paying for health care insurance in the United States. Also, foreign governments commonly protect their citizens from corporate profiteers, which results in controlled health care costs for the people.
It’s easy to conclude that people in other advanced countries have much more health care freedom than Americans are granted.
College Education Freedom
Are Americans free to get a college education? Sure… if you can afford the outrageous cost, otherwise you can get student loans that take decades to repay.
If a young American wants to become a doctor or a lawyer, they may end up with student loan debt that totals hundreds of thousands of dollars. Again, average Americans cannot pay out-of-pocket for college because the price is far too high.
When you add in the interest that will be owed on top of the actual borrowed amount, the total that person will eventually pay back might be close to double the original loan.
Of course American banks like the idea of loaning money for outrageous student tuition and fees, because when the loan is paid back with interest, the banks typically receive close to twice what they originally loaned.
In other advanced countries around the world, their citizens have the freedom, without burdensome financial constraint, to obtain a college education. That’s because these countries understand that a better educated a society, is a more safe and prosperous society, which benefits everyone.
Some countries see the benefit of actually paying their citizens to attend college. Imagine if they tried that in the USA!
When a student in an advanced country graduates from college, that young adult does not hold oppressive debt. That means a college graduate has more money to spend, which of course helps stimulate their economy, instead of paying back student loans with interest.
It sounds like people in other advanced countries have more freedom of education compared to Americans.
Paid Time Off Work – Travel Freedom
Let’s talk about time off work. In the United States, people have far less paid time off than any other advanced country worldwide.
In the U.S., many employers give little or no paid vacation time to new employees until they have worked a full year. Usually you have to work with a particular company for quite a few years before you earn any “decent” vacation time. And even with seniority, some companies still don’t allow employees to take much paid time off.
The American Medical Leave Act only guarantees UNPAID time off for lengthy medical encounters. But most people can’t afford this so-called benefit. The United States is the only country in the world that does not have laws guaranteeing Americans the freedom to take paid time off work for health problems, maternity leave, family difficulties, etc.
Most other industrialized countries ensure their people receive the freedom to take paid time off. With the exception the United States, the average paid time off is 3 to 8 weeks annually, plus paid sick time may be unlimited, depending on the country.
It sounds like people in other advanced countries have more freedom to travel and take time off work than Americans are granted.
What Does All This Mean?
As an American, your freedom to access to health care is dependent on what insurance your employer chooses to offer, if your employer can afford this benefit. Otherwise you have to buy this freedom and most people do not have enough money to buy health care freedom.
Your freedom to take time off work or take a vacation is dependent on what your employer allows.
Your freedom to your access a college education depends on what student loans you can get, which will put you in debt for decades.
Far too many Americans don’t feel they even have the freedom to change jobs because they will lose their health insurance, or lose what little vacation time they have accrued.
If an American is wealthy, they might have enough money to buy freedom. But most Americans do not have that kind of money.
Perhaps if Americans had a little more money in our pockets, like our counterparts in other countries do, and we had more paid time off work, we might have more opportunity to travel outside the country and get first-hand information about the rest of the world.
But maybe that’s exactly what corporate America does not want, because then the American people would better realize that they are actually enslaved to the corporation. The “Land Of The Free” is no longer about you and me – it’s about corporate freedom.
I’ll end with this question: Are the people here to serve the corporations – or – are the corporations here to serve the people?