Ian Bicking: the old part of his blog

On Toilets and Living Standards

I passed by some new-contruction luxury houses in my area. They had 4 bedrooms and 3-1/2 bathrooms.

We saw a new contruction condo with two bedrooms, and two full bathrooms. One of the bathrooms had his and her sinks. It wasn't a big condo.

What is wrong with people that they can't share bathrooms? Are we trying to maintain the highest per capita toilet rate? I can't find any numbers on the net, except that Vietnam is on the low end, and we're getting more.

I won't complain about public toilet paranoia; it really bothers me more that we can't share spaces with our own family. Or maybe it's just the trend towards metrosexuality that causes men and women to compete more for bathroom time. Or it's just another SUV-ism, the coveting of excess.

I have some friends who recently had a baby and bought a house. We went to see it, and they seemed almost apologetic about the house and its state. But it was far nicer than any house I grew up in (and I certainly never felt deprived). I think they hang out with the wrong people; it's easy for your expectations to increase in accordance with your peer group. I actually find I have to check myself often, I find myself drifting away from my frugal upbringing if I don't pay attention, surrounded by so many people intent on wasting their money on stupid little things.

There's those that say our standard of living has been declining, but I don't really see it. Or rather, the quality of living is lowered because people are making stupid choices, not because the choices available to them are worse than before. (Except maybe for health care, where we have a shitty overpriced system that is only becoming more shitty and overpriced with time.) And if economic collapse is around the corner, will people have any idea how to be poor? It's an acquirable skill, but it's one no one has been teaching in the US for 60 years.

Created 08 Jan '05



You really are talented so, please don't get caught up in never ending cynicism that just may not be true.

I read the link on 'economic collapse around the corner', and truly, if you are taking this guys views to be even somewhat objective with regard to the global economy then you need to think twice.

I am an expat. living and working in Germany (one bathroom, two flush options to save water), and I have a pretty good sense of the world outside the US. That said, I also believe that the US is still the best place on earth for real _personal_ economic opportunity.

I know you are going to say what about Europe, what about Asia, what about the debt, and what about the trade and current account deficit..

Well, even though you will find this hard to believe, especially if you are used to thinking that everything in the US is crap and the grass is green on the other side, but the first two have far more corruption, positions of favor, and analysis paralysis then even the US. Not to mention a complete lack of personal economic opportunity, you wouldn't even believe it.

The debt and the current account deficit is economics at work. There is an ecomomic correction happening in the US. It started back in the 80's, and one of my best economics professors actually taught us about it back in the early 90's. His hypothesis basically was that the dollar was overpriced then, as it is now, and would be weakened by increases in the debt and trade deficits vs. the GDP. All these things are still happening now. The impact of which would be dampened by increasing the US's position as a better investment for stronger currency investors and eventually lead to a situation where the economy both intact, more inline with reality, and a better value for new opportunity.

As we are still in the middle of this correction no one knows for sure where we are heading, but just maybe it is not the hard landing that some are talking about..

# Anthony

I'm not sure we'll head for economic collapse. How would I know? I do see real irrationality in the economy, and problems in things I see as fundamental -- like the fact we, as a nation, have turned to a service economy. We spend all our times doing things for each other, rather than making things. That sucks (but heck, maybe a declining dollar will help change that).

But, economy aside, I see a situation where economic wealth (which is plentiful, recession or not) is not providing much happiness, security, or freedom. Instead of using wealth to put away some money for a rainy day, people are spending furiously to match any gains they see. Instead of using wealth to increase their happiness, they are squandering it on stupid material goods, like overbuilt houses and overbuilt vehicles. Putting aside any moral consideration about the world and limited resources, these things simply are effective at making people happy. And instead of using wealth to follow dreams, by squandering their wealth people are cornering themselves, creating a lifestyle that cannot withstand any transition. It's concerning, and it's bad for everyone; not just the individuals, but the families and communities and the entire world. Hell, economic collapse might just be better for everyone in the long term. Well, probably not...

# Ian Bicking

So you have been to Europe and have worked there. I also have been to Europe and for you to say that Europeans do not have a fairly high standard of living really is not truthful. Also It depends where you live in Europe, In a big expensive city or a smaller, less expensive town. The average European worker receives over 50 days off a year (Monday through Friday) which is over 10 weeks. The average European receives free education and also free Healthcare. The average European receives Sick Day when they are ill. The average European works 38 hours a week. Europeans receive complete Workers Injury Compensation, Unemployment benefits, retraining, help with Daycare, Many countries also help families obtain flats and houses. In fact many European countries such as Spain has Home Ownership over 80 percent of the Population. The working population between the ages of 18 to 65 is around 64 percent, The U.S. is around 62 so all this misinformation really is crap. My family is a small busines owner and she is paying $1020.00 per month for healthcare coverage with a $3600.00 deductable. That does not cover dental work so if she wanted to have the medical coverage they have in Germany it would cost her probably $20,000 per year. What about going to college? I have already been to college and have Graduated 10 years ago but would like to train for something else because Our America Wages are so high. I'm looking into Sonography but the college wants $30,000 for a 16 month course. maybe the Government would pick some of the bill up through grants but most of it they will not. How does this help me? My Friend in Germany spends around $30 dollars a month on electricity for a 1000 square foot flat in Essen. The total land tax, street cleaning, heating, electricity and basic upkeep on the building is around $1000.00 per year. Her Phone service is about $30.00 per month. Her car Insurance for a new toyota corolla is $500.00 per year. Germany's Income taxes are between 15 to 42 percent depending on Income. For 4 liter of milk the price is around $2.30. The Price in Florida would be over $3.00. Pineapples $2.00 Florida $4.00 Monthly Florida Electricity bill: $100.00 Yearly Florida Car Insurance: $1200.00 Phone Bill: $50.00 monthly basic service. Land Tax on typical house: $1500.00 Water: 600.00 per year Garbage: 400.00 per year House Insurance: $2000.00 What the Hell are you saying about how good we have It? Bullshit! You can fool some of the people some of the time but not everyone all of the time. The U.S. has the most expensive Healthcare, University costs and Insurance costs in the world. We have a huge housing bubble, with prices far outstripping Income. We have a 700 billion plus current account deficit and rising. We have a 600 billion dollar government debt and rising. We have almost 3 million people in prison and another 5 million on parole by far the most in the world! In Holiday, Florida which is near Tampa the typical house is around $180000 and rising, these are very moderate houses nothing to brag about. In Tampa It would be over $200,000. The typical Wage for the area is around $25,000 with many people making $15,000 to $20,000. So the price to earnings ratio is between 8 to 10 times income. It should be between 2 and 3 so the house prices versus income is 3 times higher then they should be or a $200,000 house should be between $65,000 and $70,000. The new houses they are building are crap, they build then with pressed wood and cheap materials throughout, also the prices on them would be higher, maybe $250,000 for a moderate home. I see people with no Health Insurance, I see Homeless who are working, I see people working two jobs so they can pay their bills. I see people who do not take any vacations because they must work to live. I see people who would like to go to college but cannot afford it. Europe is the world's largest manufacturing economy, largest exporters, largest Investors, and the world's biggest market. China and Europe are the two economic powerhouses of the world. Europe has a current account surplus, much less personal debt then Americans, Government debt of 2.7 percent of GDP which is lower then America's at a time they are spending huge amount of money building eastern europe up to western standards. They are nuclear armed so no-one in their right mind would attack them! Anyway have a nice day!

# thomas riccardo

"...it's easy for your expectations to increase in accordance with your peer group" is a theme in the excellent book Status Anxiety, which I'm sure you'd enjoy.

# Greg