Things are changing in my life. Itâs raised some questions Iâd like to share with my online buddies here, since youâre all so smart and reasonable and wise. Sorry in advance for a very long post. I suppose you could call me an American. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, I hold an American passport and speak with an American accent, Iâm told. But when I was a teenager, my parents moved us to Australia, and I havenât lived in the USA since. (I hold an Australian passport, too, by the way.) After almost five years in Japan, my employerâa British multinationalâhas decided to kick me upstairs. Theyâve offered a dream job; So in February, Iâll move to New York City to take up the position. Delighted as I am with all thisâand who wouldnât be?âI have mixed feelings about living, again, in the United States. Should I rejoice, for Iâm no longer trapped in a silly country run by misguided socialists, like Australia or Japan? Isn't the rest of the world clamouring to be let into the USA? Hmmmâ¦letâs compare the US with Australia. When I lived in Melbourne, I paid between 33% and 37% of my earnings in income tax, and 10% sales tax on most consumables. It sounds high, but that pretty much was the end of it. Property tax is a token sumâ¦at least in Victoria, where I lived. Gasoline has a high excise, but thatâs because there are huge lengths of road to maintain per car. Much federal tax is redistributed to the states, which provide schools, police, hospitals, roads, and basic health care. The feds pick up the tab for very basic unemployment insurance, a means-tested aged-pension, an effective defense force and tolerably efficient civil service. With enough left over to subsidise most kidsâ university education, endow the arts, and fund programmes for social good. In some years, the Australian government runs a surplus. In the USA, federal income tax is much lower (I'm told it's around 25%, on average. Is it?). But one needs to add 7% NY state income taxes (maybe I can commute from South Dakota or Alaska, where there arenât any). Add the property taxes that pay for police and schools (a friend of mine with a modest house in Dobbâs Ferry NY pays $30,000 a year in property tax! Many people donât even earn that much.). And add the cost of health care, of courseâ¦yada yada yada. My reckoning is that if you compare like for like, Americans probably pay as much in taxes and health insurance as anyone else in the developed world. The OECD says that Americans put 29% of GDP through the tax system, while Australians put 31%, for example. Why do US taxpayers seem to get such a low standard of public services to show for it? One which varies wildly from place to place, social class to social class. And doesnât include universal health care. Of course, Australian taxpayers still have plenty to gripe aboutâI fully expect the Australians who post here to remind us!âbut at the end of the day, I donât begrudge the taxes I paid when living in Oz; I got pretty good value out of them when I needed it. Will I feel so in the USA? And itâs not just the money. The Australian government recognises gay relationships, so my Japanese lover could join me with no particular hassle. As it is, weâll need to spend some time apart while he finds an employer to sponsor him into the USAâdifficult post-9/11. He and I have traveled the world together, and the only place weâve encountered any real homophobia was in Americaâadmittedly, small-town North Carolina. The USA is the only place on the planet where Iâve heard atheists held up to ridicule; will I need to profess a belief in God to fit in? My employer subscribes to a website designed to help us so-called âinpatsâ. The first sentence in the cultural acclimatization section, shouted in bold letters, reads you must be more careful of your personal safety in the United States than in most other developed countries. It goes on to say, chillingly, that you cannot assume that the person standing next to you in a public place is not carrying a gun. And that the most common motive for personal assault in the United States is robbery, so dress demurely. Sites like that often say alarmist things so their readers canât sue them; I was prepared to take this with a grain of salt. When I checked the figures, though, there was some justification. The USA tops the OECD in assaults per capita; one person in every 125 will be assaulted this year. Interestingly, the next four slots on the table are occupied by the OECDâs English-speaking countries. Australia is at the bottom of these five, with one assault for every 140 people or so. The figures then drop dramatically for Finland and Iceland to about one person in every 200, with the rest of the world safer to varying degrees. I have a one in 3000 chance of being assaulted on the way to the convenience store here in Japan, for example. Nanny-state types will doubtless blame this on the English-speaking worldâs steady diet of violent American movies and TV. Australia, though, is not so crime-free. It leads the developed world in burglaries and car thefts. British LPSGers will chuckle that once a nation of petty thieves, always a nation of petty thieves. But property crime is a different story from assault and murder. Particularly when you consider that an assault in the USA is likely to be an armed robbery, and not a pub brawl or road rage. America has a murder rate four times that of Australia; the US keeps company in the stats table with Bulgaria and Uruguay. And to maintain even that level of public safety, the US needs to lock up six times as many of its citizens as Australia does. And to top it off, Iâll be paid in greenbacks. Last year, the Japanese government bought Â¥33 trillion (USD $330 billion) in US treasury bonds, just to shore up the value of the dollar and keep Americans buying Japanese goods. Thatâs on an annual tax base of Â¥41 trillion. It canât go onâAsian creditors will need to call home the money sometime soon and the greenback could free-fall. If I intend to retire outside the United States, itâs not healthy to have a 401K in US currency over the next decade or so. So, yesterday an old colleague calls me about a job in Melbourne. Taking into account the cost of living differences, the salary is comparable. Iâve already made my mind up to go to New York--and I know New York isn't typical of the USA--but it gave me pause. Is the USA really such a great place to live, day to day? If you were in my shoes, what would you do?