American society has several enormous inefficiencies in it.
The Medical system - due to an unholy mix of 19th century capitalism and onerous government regulations, medical costs spiral out of control and yet provide minimal benefit. America has the most expensive medical care on the planet, consuming 18 cents out of every dollar produced, and the population as a whole does not live any longer. Also, ironically, despite the willingness as a society for the best medical care at any cost, virtually no money is spent on anti-aging or cryonics or any kind of research that might actually making meaningful headway against death. (saving someone from cancer to die of alzheimers 10 years later isn’t much progress)
The Legal System - America has more lawyers than the rest of the planet combined. Also, at least from the court cases I have read about, cases take years to decades to come to a final verdict. I can’t really say if the error rate is lower than countries with more autocratic legal systems. However, what I can say is that the number of lawyers (and their high cost) indicates a more insidious problem : lady justice is in no way blind. A fair legal system would give the same outcome whether one party to the case shows up and argues their own case, or pays a $500/hour lawyer. A fair legal system would also make swift decisions, because the cost of not making a decision is often high. (for instance, a civil plaintiff should not have to wait 5 years for a final judgement if they are entitled to compensation. A criminal defendant should not have to wait in jail 1-2 years before they have even a chance of being acquitted)
**The Education System **- Due to another unholy mix of capitalism combined with government action (in this case, the government has an open checkbook for student loans), Americans have to pay exorbitant rates for an education. The additional money is not leading to a particularly large increase in quality : I’ve attended both public state schools and private $45k/ year schools. In all cases, I never saw anything approaching the “value” of the incredible sums this was costing. A single person lectures for a few hours a few times a week, and you get xeroxed copies of pieces of paper to make some marks on. Usually the paper is graded automatically by computer. It does take place in an air conditioned room, and there are sometimes various expensive gadgets that are virtually never used.
The Suburbs - these are residential dwellings that each exist on their own plot of land. Generally, the dwellings contain far more interior space than the residents actually use. For instance, they often contain rooms that cost far more money to build, air condition, and maintain than renting the rooms would cost. Larger suburban houses contain extra bedrooms and bathrooms for guests, “dining rooms” used only for formal dinners, and so on. I suspect it would be cheaper to actually just rent a hotel room or dining room on the 1 day out of a year these rooms are actually needed.
Also, each dwelling must have it’s own small park worth of landscape that has to be trimmed weekly.
Transportation : The transportation system depends on individually driven vehicles that require vast quantities of land just to park them. All the cities are designed to be exclusively traversible by
**Food **- There’s poisons in the food supply. The most recent studies show that the obesity epidemic is not caused by “laziness or lack of exercise”, the only variable that explains it is that the food commonly available causes the obesity. This is an example of efficient capitalism going bad : foods that contain the obesity causing agents have a market advantage in the U.S., and they have spread to dominate the industry. The food tastes better, so individual consumers prefer it, as it has a greater market value at the point of sale.
It’s probably the high fructose corn syrup and the trans fats, but it is possible that other agents are involved. The evidence is mainly circumstantial : you have comparable societies of people with similar genetics having radically different problems with obesity.
The Military - a professional crew of window breakers who cost more money than most of the rest of the world combined. It is true that armed forces are needed to protect any country (analogous to security guards protecting a bank)
The thing is, GDP is calculated by total value of all “goods and services” produced. That $500 an hour attorney you **have **to hire, or you will lose in court because of the corrupt justice system? Added to GDP. That 3000 square foot house you have to purchase or the wife will leave you? Part of GDP. That SUV you have to buy, or you will be at risk for being crushed on the highways? Ditto. That hospital who charges $4000 for an MRI that takes 20 minutes to perform? You get the idea.
Are Americans really “richer” in a country where things cost disproportionately more than their high median salaries?