I love being in America, and have met loads of really nice Americans. However, there are three particular things about the country which, every time I come across them, I think “Doh! How on earth do such nice people put up with something so broken?” And as I feel like a quick rant, here they are:
1) Stop signs. Why do Americans put up with being made to come to a complete stop at a junction even if there’s no other car within 100 yards? Surely this must be some enormous oil and car company conspiracy to waste petrol. In the U.K., we use two great things – “Give Way” signs (known as “Yield” signs in the U.S.) and roundabouts. Judicious use of the two means that you only have to stop at a junction if – gasp! – there’s another car coming! What an innovation!
2) Unrelated riders on political bills. Who invented a system where any member of the legislature can attach an extra clause about something entirely irrelevant to a bill, and make the legislative body pass or fail the entire thing, rider and all? “Yes, senator, if you want to improve the state of the healthcare system, you also have to agree to fund a baby mincing machine.” How silly is that? In the UK, politicians can propose amendments to government legislation, but they are voted on individually. (Warning: my understanding of the U.S. system comes from The West Wing, so I may have missed something here.)
3) Advertising for prescription medicines – surely by far the biggest contributor to the pharmaceutical culture. These slickly-produced TV ads basically say “Hey, your doctor may think he knows what’s best for you, but he’s wrong. We do. Get all hypochondriacal, get in there, and demand this pill! It’ll make your life better!” In the U.K., advertising these products to the public is banned, on the controversial grounds that perhaps six years of medical training and decades of experience make someone better qualified to judge the appropriate medicine for a complaint than watching a 30-second ad and reading Wikipedia.
Am I right, or what? :-)