Dean Clough

April 24, 2023

Portico Darwin: America is Exceptional at Death


3 Minute Read
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Happy Monday!  Let's talk about death!

This is another of my posts influenced by the young genius Derek Thompson.  He covered this topic on a recent podcast, and I found it interesting.  And disturbing.  Because America is a great country - even the greatest in some ways.   

But if a country is to be judged by its ability to keep its citizens alive to enjoy its greatness, American is not so great.  In fact, America sucks and is the worst. 

By far. 

That's because over the past 30 years, life expectancy has dropped in the United States in comparison with all other western European nations and Japan.  The difference is now approaching 5 years.  The problem is particularly acute for those aged 15 - 35; Americans that age are far more likely to die prematurely than in any other modern nation. 

On the podcast, Thompson and his guest, John Byrne Murdoch, the author of a comprehensive study on the matter, cite these reasons why Americans are dying earlier.  These issues have largely been solved in other countries, so it's worth asking again:  is America the greatest country if you can't stay alive?


We have too many guns:  way, way too many.  Assault weapons should be illegal - why are they not?  There is no other country even in the ballpark of the US in terms of gun deaths.  Other countries have 0 or 1 school shootings in a year; we have hundreds.  We lead by far in per capita murder, suicide, and accidental deaths that involve guns. 

It should be possible to respect the intent of the Second Amendment while still stopping the madness.  It looks like there's just one thing in our way.


America is as equally awash in opioids and their synthetic equivalent, fentanyl, as it is with guns.  And like guns, it's not working out well.
The consultancy McKinsey & Co. made a PR push on LinkedIn recently, touting their pro bono analysis of San Francisco and our ills.  They unsurprisingly cite the opioid crisis as a main driver of the human misery on the streets here.

How ironic, then, to learn that McKinsey's consulting work with Purdue Pharma drove the whole thing in the first place?  But hey, why let ethics get in the way of hundreds of millions of dollars in fees?

There's a recurring theme here:  we can look away from death as long as there's a lot of money to be made by doing so.  See above, Congress and Guns.


Beyond the long-term death sentence cars provide via their carbon emissions, automobiles obviously kill in more direct and obvious ways.  

But it's worse here than elsewhere.  In the podcast, Thompson and Murdoch provide some detail.

The US has a higher death rate from road accidents than Canada.  Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the entire European Union.

And this is true, not only because Americans drive more, but even on a per-miles-driven basis, driving in America is more dangerous.

Why?  Well, for one, Americans insist on giant vehicles and their greater kinetic energy wreak more havoc when they smash into people, things, or other giant vehicles. 

And this just in:  there's more profit selling huge SUVs than normal-sized cars.

We also do stupid things.  Our aversion to replacing dangerous intersections with roundabouts is a great example.  They are more efficient and demonstrably safer, yet where are they here?

I've saved the best dumbest for last.  From the podcast, author Murdoch said the number of people in the front seat of a car in the United States that don't wear a seatbelt is 9%.  

"The Goddamned government ain't gonna tell me what to do," said someone as they sailed through their windshield.  I am not clear if an Ultra MAGA hat protects one in such cases?

For the record, only 2% of drivers make the same mistake in the United Kingdom.  

And in the end, America is unfortunately just built around the automobile.  In fact, walking is one of the few things not on the menu in many places, and that leads to another reason America is so deadly.

Diet and Exercise

Combine the Food Industrial Complex, Big Pharma, and Big Healthcare and what do you get?  One obese and sick nation.  By any measure and more than anywhere else, we eat oversized portions of shitty food, sit on our asses, and have far higher rates of charmers like diabetes and hypertension because of it.

Sadly, this is not a conspiracy theory.  We are sold and buy too much bad food, then pay for drugs to tamp down the damage, and eventually, are at the mercy of Big Healthcare, to address the unavoidable end results.

But why is that?


Policy is the umbrella over our funeral:  our truly fucked up national policies and mores and corruption that uniquely define us.  

  • A steadfast refusal to learn from other nations
  • Complete regulatory capture
  • Shareholder (vs. stakeholder) preeminence 
  • Minority rule
  • An idolatry of the wealthy
  • The lingering taint of racism
  • A perverted sense of liberty

Yes, we're definitely exceptional.  But it's killing us.


Thank you to any one that is reading this newsletter.


I know:  a Debbie Fucking Downer of a blog.  And on a Monday, to boot. 

OK, then

and this, too:

Have a great week.  Wednesday will be a walk in the park - you'll see.

About Dean Clough

Plans To Enjoy Life.