red_frog made some observations in this post, I made some observations in this post and she linked back to her original post.
Again, I am struck by how close everyone is in their view of the ideal. The devil, as the man said, is in the details. All of the things that red_frog brought up are good (I agree with some more than others), but I think that they miss the point.
Here's what I want: I want a country where each and every person does not have an exaggerated sense of entitlement. That's it. The sum total.
In the United States and in the world in general, we have many ills that can only be addressed by a major redistribution of resources and a recognition that some people are going to have to give some things up so that others can have things that they need. And those "someones" giving things up are mostly the rich who live in the US, and the "someones" getting what they need are mostly poorer people in other countries. All the things that we should be giving up are roughly related.
We need to give up:
In 2002, the US consumed 894.3 million tons of oil, or 25.39% of the world's consumption. That's more than three times the consumption of the next largest consumer - China (245.7 million tons, or 6.98%). The US is the largest consumer of almost all global resources, and yet our population in 2004 was less than a quarter of China's (294 million people to China's 1,300 million people).
The prevalence of lawsuits today has done two things: raised prices on everything from baby formula to MRIs and lowered the level of civil discourse until people are afraid to say hello to each other without having someone ask "What do you mean by that?" and suing for harrassment.
As a society, we have given up on personal responsibility. We are not responsible for ourselves (we eat poorly and sue McDonald's, we neglect our children and blame the public school system). We are not responsible to each other (we are insensitive to the needy in our midst, deride the handicapped, act badly toward others even when it brings no benefit to ourselves). We think that "someone else" is supposed to fix things for us and make our lives easy. I have seen and heard scorn heaped on daycare providers, elementary school teachers, high school teachers, college teachers, television, radio, movies, video games, the Internet and employers for not teaching people things that should have been learned in the home.
By being the richest country on earth, we demonstrate the very quality that we deride in our own politicians - that of being "out of touch with the people." In this country, we are not "the people." "The people" tend to be poorer, more aware of global politics, speak more languages and more aware of their own cultural heritage than we are. Sure, the US pays to consume more than its share, but we can certainly afford it. What we can't afford is to ignore the environmental and human costs of our consumption. We won't be able to afford it forever if our country continues to consume at such a rapid rate and to alienate our allies.
The U.S. has been living a Golden Age since WWI. We have enjoyed the status of World Superpower - the popular jock that everyone loves and fears. But graduation time is coming, and with it comes that ugly realization that the high school "My dad gave me a cool car and I can kick your ass" mentality doesn't work in the larger world. We are falling from grace. We are being outsmarted, sidestepped and obsoleted by countries whose heads we stuck in the toilet during freshman hazing.
Is it too late to change? I don't know.