If I were in big-think mode, I might say something about the contrasts a superficially similar society, like Australia, offers to the modern United States. How much more egalitarian the culture feels, in a thousand detailed ways that remind me of the age-of-abundance California of the Pat Brown era. And this despite the heightened local concerns about a "two-track economy" and the distortions created by a Gold Rush-scale resource boom in the mining areas. How much less poisonous the disputes over the role of government seem -- what they call "Medicare" is like our Medicare, but of course it covers everyone, of all ages -- despite flamboyantly contentious Parliamentary politics. (Plus mandatory voting! Hard for an American even to contemplate.) How much more authority the "mainstream" media still have, as was true for America back in the Walter Cronkite era. Update: Benjamin Schwarz covers a mega-big-think book on exactly this question in our current issue. Subscribe!
And so on. Instead I'll mention a few little practical fit-and-finish details that would improve life here if we could emulate them. Which we probably can't, but I might as well dream.
1) Switch-off power sockets. As shown on the right, all electric sockets come with little rocker switches to turn the power on and off. You can find similar things in New Zealand, a variant in the UK, etc. These are safer -- parents don't have to worry about kids sticking a knife into a socket, and I don't have to worry when I stick a knife into the toaster to fish out the bread. They also are conveniently energy-saving. I don't usually go to the bother of unplugging the chargers and power cords for all my various appliances when they're not actually in use, even though I know that they're a significant power drain. I realize that you can use power strips for the same purpose, but they can be cumbersome. It seems more convenient and precise to snap individual sockets on and off. More from Grist.