The last time I traveled to England—probably 25 years ago—I was reminded of a U.K. practice I wish would take hold in the U.S. That is, inclusion of Value Added Tax (VAT) and other mandatory taxes and fees in advertised prices. Unlike list prices in the U.S., in the U.K. the prices for goods included taxes and fees (and, based on what I read this morning, I think they still do); whatever the buyer is required to pay to purchase a product. So, for instance, if I were to buy a book in the U.K., the price might be listed as £15.50, inclusive of VAT. The actual price of the product, roughly £12.92, would have been subject to the 20% VAT. In the U.S., the book’s price would be listed as $12.92. Depending on where I live, I might have to pay sales tax of 7% or 10% or 13% or some other percentage. I would not know the actual amount I would have to pay until either I calculated the taxes (assuming I knew the local, state, county, and city taxes) or I received the receipt, which would detail the taxes associated with my purchase.  According to the British section of the website:

The United States has a complicated system for sales tax. It’s charged at the state and local level instead of the federal level, meaning that the tax rates vary significantly between states and even cities and counties within states.

In the US, when you pay for a good or service, the state and local sales tax are combined creating a “Combined Tax Rate”. In 2023, the combined sales tax rates varied between 0% and 13.5%.

Despite the fact that the U.K.’s VAT amount is probably is greater than the figures for the more complicated U.S. tax structure, I find the VAT preferable, in that the VAT system offers consumers a much more transparent price. Another online source (an unverified [by me] comment on, claims that “Tax is included in the display price of retail products in pretty much every developed country in the world.” Except, of course, the U.S.A. (the same contrarian state that insists on clinging to the Imperial system of measurement, rather than following the practices of most of the rest of the world’s countries, which long since have adopted the metric system).

I have long since been convinced that the arrogance of the U.S.A. in insisting its systems are the “best” ones will one day come back to haunt us. Our tax system, our systems of weights and measures, and various other practices that are out of step with the rest of the developed world eventually will leave us wishing we had conformed long ago. Conformity has a bad reputation, as if “going along” is somehow indicative of weakness. In some cases, perhaps it is. But in many cases, conformity simplifies life and acknowledges that displaying raw individuality throws a monkey wrench into systems that otherwise operate smoothly and effectively.

For many, many years, the U.S. was been able to claim that the standard of living for the majority of its citizens and residents was higher than much of the rest of the world. We have bigger houses, bigger cars, higher salaries, etc., etc., etc. While those thing may be nice, the come at a price. And eventually that price will be extracted from our culture at the expense of our future. Many European countries have lifestyles that demonstrate quite well that smaller houses, smaller cars, smaller salaries, and larger tax bites contribute to greater long-term stability than our systems might offer. But we tend to insist that we are “the best.” Arrogance. Ego. While some of the social and economic systems in place in the U.S.A. may be superior to the rest of the world, I doubt we can rightfully claim EVERYTHING about us is better. A little humility and recognition that other cultures may have surpassed ours in certain areas might go a long way toward improving our lot in life and in generating admiration, rather than disdain, for our way of life.


Taste is a matter of preference, not evidence of superiority or a reason for ridicule.


I wonder why experiencing a culture by immersion in it seems better than experiencing it through the eyes of a cinematographer?


Reading poetry aloud has a more profound effect on my emotions than reading it silently or listening to someone else read it aloud. Usually. What is it that brings about that greater impact? Why do the words resonate with me to a greater degree when they come out of my mouth, than when they simply enter my brain through my eyes?


This morning seems like an ideal time to eat a papaya. If I could turn back time, I would visit a grocery store to find a perfectly ripe papaya and some fresh limes. I would bring them home and pair them. Breakfast of the gods. Alas, I have no papaya. I have no papaya today.


I must go outdoors very soon to take advantage of the coolness of this morning. Later today, the temperatures will climb to uncomfortable levels. And for the next several days, the forecasts call for highs of 100°F or higher. Now is the time to seize the experience of comfort. In the days ahead, comfort may simply be a memory that seems like a fiction from another time. And that will, indeed, be the case. Off I go, to embrace the comfort of a loving morning; later, she will turn into a heatful (or is that hateful?) afternoon.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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