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Old 02-13-2010, 10:56 PM   #1
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'Harder' to live in America?

My little brother was born here in Canada, moved to the US as a toddler and moved back here as a teenager. We were chatting today because he has been away at university and is back in town for the weekend, and our other sister has major wanderlust and wants to travel all over, so I asked him if he thought he would do the same when he finished school. He said no, he would probably live here. I asked him if he felt a great calling to go back to his American hometown and he emphatically said no. I asked why and he said he just felt like it was 'harder' to live in America---not in any specific sense, I suppose, but in the sense of a young, healthy, single working person trying to start a life and make his way in the world, he felt like America was 'harder' than Canada.

I was very surprised to hear this. Canada (in urban centres, anyway) feels very similar to 'America' to me. On the one hand, we have the socialized healthcare (such as it is) and a bit less religion. On the minus, our government is a little more despotic, it's very socialist so nothing ever gets done because they have to talk about everything forever so everybody has their say, and it's pretty expensive. I don't perceive that we have large urban centres where housing is affordable the way you might in the American midwest, certainly I don't feel like I will ever be able to afford a house in my city unless I marry a rich person. We have much less choice for obtaining goods and services (my Californian sister can buy actual groceries at a dollar store!), and much more government interference in many aspects of life. Our infrastructure (for example, public transit) is decades behind that of comparable American cities. We don't have wide choices for living environments, either---it's 'cold-ish' or 'very cold' or 'more cold' and America in contrast has Alaska on the one hand and Hawaii on the other.

So I was surprised to hear my Canadian-born, American-raised brother express this sentiment and I am curious what the larger population thinks. Say you are a young, healthy, educated person starting your adult life with degree in hand and not much else, willing to go wherever the opportunities take you. Is it 'hard' in America? Is it harder there than anywhere else, particularly?
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Old 02-13-2010, 11:52 PM   #2
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Most likely he is a wanted felon in the US and cannot go back.
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Old 02-13-2010, 11:59 PM   #3
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Most likely he is a wanted felon in the US and cannot go back.
That was a joke, I'm sure, ficbot.

Now......"harder living in America" is a relative term.

Harder than what? Is it the people, the jobs search, housing, can he explain in more detail?

Interesting outlook, since 'undocumented workers' are still pounding the doors down to live here.
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Old 02-14-2010, 12:05 AM   #4
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You never know desertgrandma. My brother did that to me. Ohio felon wanting to hang out up here in CA with me. Relatives are the first to screw you.

*shrug* life is hard anywhere you go. Is it harder here?...depends. Get an education and be willing to work a few late hours and you will get somewhere a lot quicker in America then if you refuse to sacrifice any time or effort.
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Old 02-14-2010, 12:11 AM   #5
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You never know desertgrandma. My brother did that to me. Ohio felon wanting to hang out up here in CA with me. Relatives are the first to screw you.

*shrug* life is hard anywhere you go. Is it harder here?...depends. Get an education and be willing to work a few late hours and you will get somewhere a lot quicker in America then if you refuse to sacrifice any time or effort.
Absolutely true. Sympathy for what your brother did to you, but I didn't want ficbot to think we we ragging on the brother without knowing the details.
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Old 02-14-2010, 01:38 AM   #6
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Maybe it felt more difficult because he was used to life in Canada, and those small differences can make all the difference. In America, I think it really depends on where you live. Some places have much cheaper housing/goods, but it might be more difficult to find jobs there. I think, in general, you can find more places that are less expensive in the US than you can in Canada, but maybe theyʻre not places he wanted to live.
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Old 02-14-2010, 01:47 AM   #7
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LOL I don't think he *has* any details other than a general feeling and a 'grass is always greener' type of lens. He is only 19 and has not had a great deal of world experience e.g. has not traveled much, has had one real job (which, to give him credit, he worked hard at even though is was a sucky food service industry job). He positioned it to me as just that an average guy just out of college, healthy, fit, reasonably intelligent and off to make his way in the world would find the US 'harder.'

Now, on the one hand, my sister in CA paid much, much less for a house than one would where *I* live, and has a greater access to cheap food, cheap merchandise and other goodies. And it could get even cheaper if one were to move to the place my dad used to live. We also pay MUCH higher taxes in Canada (they are about to 'harmonize' several sales taxes which will mean that many things currently only getting charged one kind of tax and not the other will jump to 13% sales tax!) and a lot more things are regulated by the government (for example, you can't buy 'better' health care unless you go to the US and pay yourself. Yes, everybody gets it for 'free' but everybody gets the same mediocre level of it too...)

OTOH my sister has had some medical issues which cost them and had to borrow from my mother once to pay for something. I am not sure how much that stacks up to, lifetime-wise, compared to our higher taxes and less plentiful cheap stuff. And little bro has said other things that suggest to me he believes our press is freer, our indie scene more vibrant and less constrained, and our government less militaristic and Big Brothery. So maybe this is what he means. I was just surprised by his perception that an average person trying to start their life would find America 'harder.' I don;t think I've ever heard that one before.
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Old 02-14-2010, 09:15 AM   #8
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It's funny how some of the comments you made about Canadian views about the U.S. actually mirror American views about Canada... particularly, the "you have better healthcare options" and "your government is more efficient" bits. Americans are still largely under the impression that they would be better off under a major medical need to go to Canada to get it done (certainly much, much cheaper). And the U.S. government also gets very little done, due in our case to lobbyists who bribe and cajole politicians to maintain the status quo. Oh, yes, you complimented our public transit systems, when they are generally despised by most Americans, and sub-par compared to those in Europe.

Regardless, I wouldn't call life in the U.S. "hard" by any means, especially compared to the lives of those in so-called "third-world" countries. It reminds me of a line from Finian's Rainbow":

"But Father, are there no ill-housed, or ill-clad, in America?"

"Well, yes... but they're the best ill-housed, and the best ill-clad, in all the world!"

And work may not always be "fun" in the U.S., but compared to the working conditions common in many parts of the world, I wouldn't call it "hard." We get vacations and sick time, we get paid comparable to our local standard of living, and we have reasonable opportunities to advance.

And as it's been pointed out, there aren't too many products, produce or amenities that are not available to U.S. citizens. And no places in the U.S. where its citizens are forbidden to go (except some government installations).

In the U.S., freedom also means the freedom to complain... and we do that, in spades, whenever we get the chance. But if you put it to most of Americans, whether they'd prefer to live anywhere else, the answer is usually: "Hells, no."

Why? Because we know it's not that bad.

I rather suspect your brother is like most young people, fresh out of school, who are simply looking for an easy lifestyle for the minimum effort possible (a common attitude, especially once the busy years of college are done), and he perceives that the work-to-lifestyle ratio may be greater outside of the U.S. I wouldn't dispute that, other than to suggest that the U.S. may have more lifestyle options than in Canada and elsewhere.

But if he has a degree, and a willingness to try new things, there are very few opportunities closed to him in the U.S. People with willingness and no degree have done as well... like me.

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Interesting outlook, since 'undocumented workers' are still pounding the doors down to live here.
In fact, DG, the latest surveys indicate that fewer immigrants, legal or otherwise, are coming to the U.S. due to its present economic issues. (This may not indicate a trend, of course.)

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Old 02-14-2010, 09:33 AM   #9
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why is grass always greener on the other side ?
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Old 02-14-2010, 09:57 AM   #10
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I suspect the person in question is being rather astute...

There is no way to describe the situation without stepping on some toes, I'll step as lightly as possible.

The US is undergoing a structural deflation, on top of which is a cyclical deflation. Canada is not undergoing a structural deflation, although it may be undergoing a cyclical one.

What is a structural deflation? A prolonged and continual drop in purchasing power among the numerical majority of people in a defined jurisdiction. It occurs despite the business cycle pattern, which has shorter term growth and shrinkage. (Currently, US is suffering from both structural and business cycle deflation.)

The US has some of the highest nominal wages in the world. For the last 10 years, the leading large scale employers have been increasing their profits by labor substitution, i. e. substituting lower paid workers elsewhere in the world for higher paid US workers, and eliminating the higher paid workers from the payroll. This pattern will continue until there is no longer a profit, in using substitution, i.e. everyone is working for a "world wage". For the parts of the world where the labor is being gained, the trend is locally inflationary, in the place where the labor is being lost, it is locally deflationary. The US has been coping with this problem with inflationary money policy and strong propaganda that this isn't really happening in the local economy. In a macro sense, it can be nothing but propaganda, because if the all the displaced worker got better jobs (sic) then the cost to the economy of labor substitution would be negative, and the people doing the substitution would be losing money by the act. (To fully explain would take several pages, I'm trying to keep this short.)

Canada is underpinned by a different type of economy, a commodity based structure. It cannot have labor substitution for those industries, as they are immobile, the labor must go to the source, wherever it is located. Therefore, as long as there is demand for the commodity(s), the overall economy will be driven by the commodity cash flows. Over the last ten years, this has been inflationary, boosting the Canadian economy.

In summation, deflations are always "hard" labor employment environments, and inflations are always "easy" labor employment environments. The young man involved may not grasp the details of the bigger picture, but he has notes the details that affect him....
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Old 02-14-2010, 10:10 AM   #11
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The US has some of the highest nominal wages in the world. For the last 10 years, the leading large scale employers have been increasing their profits by labor substitution, i. e. substituting lower paid workers elsewhere in the world for higher paid US workers, and eliminating the higher paid workers from the payroll. This pattern will continue until there is no longer a profit, in using substitution, i.e. everyone is working for a "world wage". For the parts of the world where the labor is being gained, the trend is locally inflationary, in the place where the labor is being lost, it is locally deflationary. The US has been coping with this problem with inflationary money policy and strong propaganda that this isn't really happening in the local economy. In a macro sense, it can be nothing but propaganda, because if the all the displaced worker got better jobs (sic) then the cost to the economy of labor substitution would be negative, and the people doing the substitution would be losing money by the act. (To fully explain would take several pages, I'm trying to keep this short.)
Bravo. You are the first person I've ever met that understood this.
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Old 02-14-2010, 10:48 AM   #12
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Bravo. You are the first person I've ever met that understood this.

For a broader picture read The Rational Individual, by John Davidson, and Lord Rees-Moog (1999).
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Old 02-14-2010, 11:58 AM   #13
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If he's 19 it's probably because of our drinking laws and because our strippers don't wear g-strings. He probably just didn't want to tell his sister that.

I think it's more about friends, family and culture then it is about political borders. Where I live in southern Ontario is probably closer to like living in Lancaster Pennsylvania then it is to living in downtown Toronto.
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Old 02-14-2010, 12:08 PM   #14
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In fact, DG, the latest surveys indicate that fewer immigrants, legal or otherwise, are coming to the U.S. due to its present economic issues. (This may not indicate a trend, of course.)
This is true.....but not only because of the economic issues. Its harder to 'slide by' under the table, so to speak.

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why is grass always greener on the other side ?
The age old question.

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In summation, deflations are always "hard" labor employment environments, and inflations are always "easy" labor employment environments. The young man involved may not grasp the details of the bigger pic tture, but he has notes the details that affect him....
He's 19. At that age, is hard to know what you want, and everything seems 'hard'.
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Old 02-14-2010, 12:09 PM   #15
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Hey, Barcey, where in southern Ontario are you? We spent 20 years in K-W, before moving to the San Francisco Bay area.
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