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September 2nd, 2009 by Dr. Phil

Not Everything is Rotten in the State of Denmark

trafficSomeone asked me the other day about my summer vacation and the various trips I had taken to Europe and Australia with my family. “What’s the one thing about your travels that struck you?” he asked.

Almost without thinking, I told him about standing on a street corner somewhere in France and watching the traffic. “Maybe one in 50 cars was a big, gas-guzzling hog,” I said. “I shook my and head and thought: Why is it that the rest of the world seems to get it, and we Americans don’t?”

You probably know that I’ve been harping for the last year, trying to help people to move their position and decide to understand and embrace that our economic woes — despite the pain — do provide us a rare, and even much-needed, opportunity to hit the reset button and learn to experience the happiness that comes from actually living smarter and smaller.

Maybe this is an opportunity for us to realize that we don’t need two cars we can’t afford to begin with. We don’t need to “attack” the mall to get our acquisition/consumption “fix” every day. We don’t need to buy a house we know we can’t afford. We can stop our own madness. Along with the economy getting a cleansing, we, too, get a chance to fix our values and reel it in some. There is a lot to be said for slowing down some.

GreenOne of the most interesting things I read this summer was a report that came out claiming Denmark to be the happiest nation in the world. It says that more than two-thirds of Danes report being “very satisfied with their lives.” In part, the reason is that they tend to be healthy, married and active — which we’ve known for a long time to be contributing factors to true satisfaction. But what is most intriguing to me is that Danes, generally speaking, don’t feel a particular need to get involved in the rat race. They don’t crave status. They don’t care about living large.

Now, am I suggesting that you and I pack up and move to northern Europe so we can spend the rest of our lives wearing fur hats and parkas? Do I think we need to give up the desire to achieve and be successful? Of course not.

But are we wrong to remain convinced, in our heart of hearts, that it’s the accumulation of possessions that gets us to the brass ring? I wonder: What is it going to take to get this figured out?

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49 Responses to “Not Everything is Rotten in the State of Denmark”

  1. F.D says:

    Dr. Phil

    I a single parent with a special needs kid and studying full time, I’m probably living on the proverty, but I’m content. I don’t drink or smoke therefore I’m not wasting my money on crap and I don’t own a car so I don’t have to “fill up.” I also live in my sister single room converted garage. It has the basics a room, small kitchen and bathroom.

    Would I like a million dollars, sure why not, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t have it. It might make my life a little earier but I doubt it would make me happier.

  2. I saw a TV News Magazine segment on that article and/or along the same lines about the Danes.

    Maybe it took the economic crisis for us to have to slam on the brakes and slow down. I know IN 1980 folks, 1980, scientists said we needed to become environmentally conscious as per smaller vehicles etc. We have OCD production/acquisition. Quality vintage & antique pianos and historical items (many in very good condition) are ending up in landfills for NEW resin JUNK. Like sweeping under the carpet.

    I believe Freud said we’d get out of the natural rhythms of life with automation and I believe he got that right in many aspects. Freud had a fear of typewriters (J/K). However, truth be known, I feel like Freud would love tweeting. Twitter sort of puts everyone on the same level who doesn’t type by wpm. The hunt and peckers are doing high fives on twitter and men who are often more succinct and to the point. Very therapeutic to me anyway to “spit it out already”…. get to the point that is.

    Seriously, Dr. Phil, I agree with you 100%. I SO miss living in my home town walking to work at the University of Oklahoma. Aristotle had a perfect sized City and (to me) that is one where you can walk or bike it more than HAVE to drive. That’s just me and even my home town is referred to Little Dallas now it has grown so much.

    Too, maybe as what we can afford to buy goes down so will our waistlines. Sweet lemons outlook. I lost my point. Oh, Dr. Phil, I agree with you!!! Evolution of consciousness and whoever wants to quote me can (sorry delusions of grandeur moment someone would want to quote me). Economic shock therapy back to common sense. Sincerely, SEA

  3. msday says:

    Well, Dr. Phil, I hate to burst your bubble but I live in Italy. We have small cars here but names matter. The more expensive something is, the more everyone wants it regardless if they have the means or not. I mean, everything down to the baby stroller. I now have a one year old. When she was born, I decided to use the “backpack” type baby carrier because It feels safer for me. Yet, it is actually a status symbol to walk around with a huge, cumbersome “cadillac” baby stroller just for show. We have one of those in the hallway, collecting dust because you have to call a transport company, just to get it down the stairs. I am American and my husband is a native Italian.

  4. Linda RH says:

    I’m with you on the notion of honing in on what we need, as opposed to what we want, and trimming down our possessions.
    As to the smaller vehicles over in Europe though, part of their size stems from the fact that the roads are narrow, and buildings closer together due to their great age. In the US, many cities in the west never knew only foot or horse traffic. At the dawn of the auto age, space was not a factor here.
    And then there’s the issue of more taxes levied on gasoline over there. I think this, more than anything else, will diminish the size of vehicles here in the years to come.
    Maybe American ingenuity will come to the fore and we will REALLY revolutionize our transportation with something new. This is my hope.

  5. Sivan says:

    We have almost the same in Sweden where I live (as Denmark). We care for the environment as long as it is possible. My area is in the middle of Sweden and with very clean air. So I guess you Americans among many others, such as Greece (Athens has very bad air) have to change idea…

    And hey, can´t you create a Dr Phil in Sweden too? Plz…
    Love your program,
    /Sivan

  6. Tsukihime says:

    The greatest compliment I received was from a tour guide in Japan who told me I was very “Japanese” for a visitor. She thought I was polite and very culture conscious for someone visiting a foreign country which is what I was trying to do. I wanted to give a good impression of Americans. I think that is most important, how you represent yourself and your country of origin to other countries.

  7. TCarter says:

    I think the reason we Americans don’t “get it” is due to our American culture that seems to dictate that we must compete to be better and more prosperous than our neighbor. People go into debt constantly as they strive to appear to be more prosperous than they really are. Pretty ironic, if you think about it. How do we change this? Well, the only way I see that happening is to make some serious changes to our values as a society. Call me pessimistic if you like but…we Americans tend to be a bit hard-headed. If this changes, I believe it will be quite some time before it does.

  8. Joyce Long says:

    I for one have always only gotten what I needed and almost never what I want. Sometimes I dont even get what I need especially here lately. It is called being dirt poor. Anyway even when I did have a job I very rarely spent any money on myself. Someone else always needed something worse that I did and I always put myself last. It has been 20 yrs or more since I even bought myself a pair of jeans. The grandkids need things more than I do. Or someone else. So I have never lived above my means. I have been homeless and may be again. I have lived when We had to borrow 2 dollars a day just to get something to eat for that night. When I was in school I never got to take any trips, luckily when my girls were in school they had funds set up to pay if the parent couldnt.
    I agree, way too many people live above their means and when disaster strikes they have no idea what to do. I am facing homelessness again, but at least I have been there and know what it is like so I will not be surprised. The only trips I ever took, in adult hood was through my work (when I had a job). I have been married twice, both at a courthouse and neither time did I get a honeymoon. I do have 2 cars in my name, both very easy on gas, one not paid for and about to be repossessed and the other one is not really mine but my dads, it is just in my name. There are many places I would like to go and see and take the grandkids, but we cant afford it. So we find lots of things to do that is free like going to the Science Center on Fridays because they dont charge anything or walking around a car show or just going to the park. We did ride around in the mountains but that is out right now with the situation we are in right now.
    We have always lived paycheck to paycheck and very seldom did the money stretch to cover the whole month. And now I dont have a job and cant work. People need to understand it is not just live for the moment, but they need to be saving for a disaster. I never had anything to save but lots of people do.
    I have never ever put myself first when it comes to anything. Everyone elses health and well being and what they need comes first.

  9. Traveller says:

    Travelling throughout Europe this summer was an eye opening experience. I couldnt believe how spoiled we actually are. We take so much for granted…it is sad.

  10. FosterBoys says:

    Dr. Phil,

    I hate to be a ball-buster, but why is it that the wealthy are so concerned with reigning in everyone else’s excesses? Oh who am I kidding? I’m totally busting your chops. Maybe we wouldn’t want what you have if we didn’t have to hear about how great a yacht trip around the world is. Check out the view from the veranda on Twitpics!

  11. Linda RH says:

    This thread got me to thinking, Dr Phil. My question is this: why haven’t we been allowed to buy vehicles that get better gas milieage? Inventors have been coming up with more economical vehicles for years, only to have their plans and patents bought by the big car makers and stuffed in a drawer never to see the light of day.
    When you ask “why don’t Americans get it?” I think we need to address not only the consumers, but the manufacturers, the unions that have the manufacturers in a strangle hold, and congress.
    I’ll probably get popcorn thrown at me for saying this, but I like a roomy vehicle. I wouldn’t buy an Escalade, but I sure wouldn’t buy a Smart car either! Why can’t we have vehicles that are comfortable and SAFE, but also get great gas mileage? This is not too much to ask in my opinion.

  12. Maureen says:

    We in North America still don’t get it because it is still all too easy to get.

    Despite the economic crisis people aren’t learning and changing their ways. We have and want so much because it has all been so easy to get over the past 40 years and now we are used to it. And we want more and we want it cheap despite the real cost.

    I grew up in a home where there was no credit used. Cash only. If you didn’t have the money to buy milk you didn’t have it in your cereal. Ditto for shoes, clothes, entertainment. And forget whining or complaining. Even when I first started working I lived on cash. Then I got a Chargex card (Visa) and suddenly I didn’t have to wait or plan but I could get what I wanted and only pay a little for it every month. But since it was so easy I wanted more and I bought more and eventually what I was having to pay every month wasn’t a little but a lot.

    It has taken a long time to break away from this life style but I will never go back. The greatest joy in having no debt and some money in the bank is that you actually get to tell anyone to go to hell. It is security, safety and power. We all need to start paying off our debts and start saving. I believe that we have two great powers that lie at our fingertips. One is the right to vote. The other is what we chose to do with the money that is ours after taxes. Big business and banks do pay attention when you stop buying their products and using their services and let them know why. Test on animals? Sorry not buying your shampoo. Won’t invest in local small businesses and a little too anxious to foreclose on my neighbour the widow with cancer? Say bye-bye to my savings account.

    We have also gotten so far away from the sources of life that we no longer value them. Turn on a tap. Flip a switch. No one even thinks about their electricity or water until there is a power outage or a bacteria scare. We are a bit more cautious in our usage but that is only because it is getting so expensive. But as for actually thinking about what it takes and costs to give us these fabulous luxuries – no one does. As for food production. Are we really so filled with a sense of entitlement that we are willing to destroy our planet and our children’s future in order to be able to buy a watermelon in January in Alaska and the Yukon?

  13. Marie Alex says:

    well, we can’t all live in a log cabin and grow our own vegetables. Times have moved on, but there are a few simple rules that still apply (which i learned from my parents who are the most content couple i ever met)

    the most important things to have are:

    a roof over your head
    fuel to heat your house in the winter
    and food on your table

    everything else is optional.
    oh and don’t get yourself into debt!

    What i also see as important is that we have to change our mindset. We should not think about what our neighbours have but what we have. We should not care what our neighbours think about us if we don’t change our cars every two years.

    Rant over ;)

  14. Janet Davies says:

    Its definitely an “American” thing Dr Phil. I lived in UK for 10 years and that was back in the 70s. Always drove a compact car then and when I came back to the states I carried on driving small cars. I never understood when the SUVS came on the market and I deeply resent people who drive them. They are unsafe and bad for the enviorment and I think people who drive them are very selfish. We need to raise the price of gasoline to $4.00 a gallon and keep it at that price regardless of the cost of a barrel of oil. That will basically force people do drive economical cars. I still live my life simply and am grateful for having the bare necessities of life. Possessions mean nothing if you don’t have your health and love.

    1 Timothy 6:6-10
    Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
    But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.
    For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

  15. Linda Rose says:

    My entire 63 yrs. I have lived far below the official poverty line. In the city with small children we almost starved. But in the country the last 31 years we have lived like kings! We haven’t made much money off the farm but we sure eat good. That in turn has given us good health.

    What money we did earn on and off the farm gardening and I did dog grooming; we used to pay off the loan at the bank. We now pay for electric bi-monthly but keep it low by being careful. We pay property tax yearly and for internet and telephone monthly. Those last two we only have had a couple of years now. Those are our only bills. We heat with wood cut in the woods.

    Our clothes are second hand and 99% of our food we produce at home. I ride a pedal bike and my husband a moped. He is thinking he would like a small car as he is almost 65yrs. and has a bad knee. If he does get one it will be a very small second hand one. The farm work is done with a work horse.
    Our monetary income for the last 30 years ranged from $2,500. to $5,000. yearly.
    But you know we never felt poor and always had much to share with others.

    The children and grandchildren are all productive in their chosen professions. None farm but all know what to do to live and survive if they lose their jobs.

    We are happy and content with what we have and don’t have need for anything. The secret to living out from under unnecessary stress is to live within your means what ever those means are, save money while it is there to save for a rainy day, curb your wants, eat good food, take care of your health, avoid credit buying except for a home, appreciate what you have, be thankful to God, share with others what you do have, work hard, laugh alot and sleep well. Have a great day!

  16. Annie says:

    Dr. Phil,
    I believe the reason why we aren’t “getting it” is because our government is busy bailing out every Tom, Dick and Harry that cries over the situations they find themselves in over things they chose to do. When the top dogs get to heavy and full from their own greed they have a tendency to topple over and crash to the floor real hard which forces them to either reevaluate their priorities or die. This gives the little guy on the way up a better chance to succeed and introduces new blood, so to speak, into all the industries with new ideas and better ways of doing things which strengthens the economy. But alas, this has not been able to happen this time around. We didn’t let the “big dogs” fall and crash. So as a result nothing is going to change in a big way. But if there are enough of us that want to see a change made and do so with much success the rest will follow. It is just going to take longer. Just my thoughts. God Bless

  17. Elin says:

    Dr. Phil
    This was very interessting that you write about this subject. I live in Norway not far from Denmark!…. I like Denmark and the people there! We in Norway try to be amaricans….I don’t want to talk negativ about you but sometimes it seems that you live in another world. The Americans! From my point it seems that we live more down on earth than you americans do. We joke allot about that! (I’m afraid)
    Watching something on tv: “It’s americans what do you expect?)..and so on… Well what I mean about that we wants to be like the americans..is our politics here in Norway!” America is the best!”
    No you don’t need two cars!! You can walk to school! You can walk to work! Or take the buss!!
    Now I’m thinking that I have misunderstood what you where writing about Dr. Phil!..It’s Denmark you mean?
    Well from what I think its that you get it Dr. Phil!
    You are not stupid! :)
    (Ask an americans what is the cappital of Sweden? they answer Norway….) Thats what we think about you americans..get it?
    Sorry but its true!
    But when I was a teenager my only dream was to go to America the USA….The land of dreams..:)

  18. Janet Davies says:

    Well said, Annie!

  19. Janet Davies says:

    I knew the capital of Sweden is Stockholm! I know the capitol of your breathtaking country Norway too! Oslo. Denmark is Copenhagen. Hmmmm, Finland now thats a hard one and I admit I had to look that one up, Helsinki! I was taught all that as a child in school but now the government schools over here are dumbed down. They don’t even teach civics (how government is set up and run) anymore! I think they just want to teach kids not to be free thinkers so they can grow up to be good little conformist and therefore the government can control the people. No wonder the rest of the world views us as DUMB YANKS!

  20. :-)
    SEA SMILE QUOTE:

    Y’all I’m so technologically challenged that I went to PetSmart to buy my first mouse.

  21. Janet Davies says:

    LOL! I tried to teach my schizophrenic brother how to use a mouse and he kept picking it up, pointing and clicking it at the monitor like a tv remote!

  22. Blgspc says:

    Dr. Phil and Everyone who posted, really….

    I BELIEVE Y’ALL ARE OMITTING ONE VERY IMPORTANT FACTOR, HERE….
    Back in Sept. of 2005- before gasoline prices went through the roof- folks in Britain, France and many other European countries WERE paying $7.00 per gallon for gasoline! (THAT WAS BEFORE PRICES ROSE!) Yep! Gasoline is SO costly in Europe that ‘Petrol’ is often purchased BY THE LITER! I’m NOT saying that the people of Europe aren’t altruistic or more ‘environmentally conscious’, what I AM saying is IF I had to pay $7.00 for a gallon of gas I would NEVER own anything bigger than a MATCHBOX CAR! They maybe as ‘wallet conscious’ as I am!!!
    So…….call ME hasty BUT, I DO believe that THE ENORMOUS variance in fuel cost may be a contributing factor in accounting for why, “Maybe one in 50 cars was a big, gas-guzzling hog,”
    Whatdoya, think Dr. Phil?

    Just Something To Consider.

    I was feeling a bit GUILTY since I only recently purchased a VERY small SUV-my first NON-COMPACT vehicle since 1979! (It gets ~30mpg Hwy and meets emission standards for all 50 states including CA!!!) I did research for a year before making that purchase!

    Brenda :-)

  23. Hey Dr. Phil :-)

    I LOVE YOUR TV’SHOW. THAT’S REALLY AWSOME TO SEE..
    AND SOMETIMES I GET REALLY ANGRY ON STUPID PERSONS, THAT
    DON’T HEAR AT YOU OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT xD
    YOU ARE COOOOL!

    HUGS FROM LIV :-)

  24. mary jones says:

    Dr Phil, I love your shows and for the most part you are right on. Sometimes I wish you would knock the power trip out of some women when they act so superior over their men. I feel men should be in control of everything and women are there beside them, not over them. I hate RV programs, like cop shows, where women are running the place and the men are all inferrior.
    Tlking about America, it is not the same place it was when I was born and raised in. All our rights and beliefs are being throw out the door by a President that should never have entered office. How did this horrible thing happen?The Bible says a nation divided against itself can not stand. We were founded on Christian beliefs and laws from the Bible, GOD’S laws. Now he is not allowed in our government. Now our President says we are no longer a Christian nation but Muslem? When do you suppose the idol of the Muslem Religion will be erected?
    How long before our doors are broken down and guns taken from us? When will our own police dept. turn against us and herd us in like a bunch of terrorist?
    DR PHIL, you are a very smart man and you get around and hear things. I know you know something. How long before you share with us? mary

  25. FosterBoys says:

    Mary,

    The separation of Church and State has been around for a long time and for good reason.
    Also, live your life according to your personal principles and philosophies. If you want to be subservient to a man, then you have that right. Plenty of men would consider you a “great catch”. Just remember, under that “system”, I don’t think your mate would appreciate you having an opinion (much less voicing it).

  26. Elin says:

    Hello again!
    I just want to add to my earlier comment that I don’t think you americans are stupid! Or that we europeans are wiser people! I didn’t mean that! But anyway: sometimes we ask ourself if you live on the same planet! I don’t mean all of you!
    I heard from a norwegian student in america that the tv news in USA only showd it from your side. Worldnews about wars or somthing like that. And it also dipend on what you learn in school. So its not your fault if you “live in another world” and think we have polarbears walking in the street.
    Someone said that we (norwegian) are more up to date about what is going on in the world and that we know more about the countrys all over. I should have explaind it more deeper if I could have written i Norwegian..hehe
    Sorry americans but I think it is a fact! You most come more down to earht!
    Thank God you have a new president!! That’s another thing. When it is a presidential ellection in your country we can follow it everyday on our channels here in norway! beeing up to date what’s going on in your country!
    (I just asked my scottish husband if presidental ellection is right, He asked: what are you writing? I said I’m writing on Dr. Phils blogg. Oh..yea right he answered…hehe) He dosen’t have high thoughts about you dr. Phil..sorry!)
    I have …
    Well now I lost the track..
    I like you americans even if you live on another planet! (not serious meant..)
    Good luck to you and your new president.
    (Why do I watch americans shows on tv? Because I like it!)
    Love from Elin in a very small country

  27. Linda RH says:

    I can’t get this subject out of my mind.
    A huge reason we Americans don’t “get it” when it comes to oil consumption is that our leaders either don’t “get it” or are intentionally ignoring the real problem.
    Much as I dislike both of these past presidents- Nixon and Carter- both of them saw the writing on the wall in the 1970’s, and publically stated that oil is a finite commodity, and the times called for alternatives.
    US oil production peaked in 1970. That means that all of the easily obtained oil reserves had been drilled, From here on out, it would cost more, and take better technology to obtain it. That’s why we turned to the easily obtainable oil in other countries. Presidents Nixon and Carter both understood the ramifications of being addicted to the products of another country for our livlihood.
    And addicted we are. Just look around you, our whole lifestyle and economy is dependant upon oil. Carter tried. In 1980 Congress passed Carter’s Energy Security Act, which authorized the creation of Synthetic Fuels Corp. It was tasked with creating 2 million barrels a day of synthetic oil within 7 years. Congress provided $88 billion in loans and incentives to help it along. (That’s $223 billion in today’s dollars.) What happened? OPEC lowered the price of oil from $37 a barrel to less than $14 a barrel. Synthetic fuel cost a lot more than that to produce, so the program went under and was shut down 6 years later.
    The last 3 presidents- Bush the elder, Clinton, and Bush junior- have all buried their heads in the sand when it comes to this subject. The American public has been asleep, dreaming, and in denial about our addiction to oil.
    Consider this, we get most of our oil from Canada and Mexico, not from the middle east. Could this fact have anything to do with our not closing our borders? Even in a time of attacks from terrorists and drug lords?
    Also consider that the Mexican oil fields are in decline. You think we have a problem with illegal aliens now? Just wait.
    But is the ordinary American told these things? Do our leaders make it a priority to deal with the major problems we are facing? No, our news outlets prefer to keep us up to date on the latest drunken escapade of some ditzy film star, the latest plastic surgery available, and the latest fashion trends.
    Collectively, we’ve all become Marie Antoinette.
    The truth is out there, but don’t expect to hear it from our leaders.

    We cannot change what we do not acknowledge. What a hugely appropriate observation to make at this time.

  28. Linda RH says:

    Tonight I saw on the news that Iran’s Achmadinijad made some sort of “deal” with Venezuela’s Chavez.
    Whatever was discussed, you can bet your life it was not good for us.

  29. Blgspc says:

    Linda RH

    I wanted to THANK YOU for posts! I LOVE them ALL but you made some REALLY Great points historically in your post dated 09/08/09 @9:27 am! I knew several of the point that you made but I either forgot or never knew some of that VERY PERTINENT history! Thanks, Again!

    I DO NOT believe that either of the ‘Bushmen’ had their heads in the sand regarding OUR CLEAR ADDICTION to oil. I will remind you that George H.W. (Sr.) made his millions in the Texas OIL business. Thus, it would NOT serve him well- from a personal finance position- to aid Americans in FINDING another source of fuel. And, same with George Jr. So, I NEVER expected any kind of new fuel resource-finding from either of them.
    Further, I’m NOT really counting on the man currently in the White House to do ANYTHING short of eliminating us as a Democracy and free-enterprise system. The current President is intent on undermining good healthcare for 80% of our country and IS funding healthcare for 10-12 million illegals, using funds siphoned from Medicare! Our generation was called the ‘Baby Boomers’ and our parent’s generation were called the ‘BUILDERS’ because they worked hard to set-up the society we have all come to enjoy and to think that NOW at the end of their lives WE have someone who is going to TAKE money ear-marked for those people who built this country, just makes me sick!!! My Dad’s doing alright but many of the country folks of my father’s generation are live at or below the poverty level, NOW! I am just so angry about that!

    BG

  30. Linda RH says:

    Hey BG! (In my mind I always called you “bigglespeck!” Glad to “see” you here!)Your points are all valid, I was just trying to stay on the topic of “getting it” when it comes to our country’s predicament.
    No matter who’s in office and what their agenda is, nothing is going to change unless and until regular Americans decide to change it. It will be difficult and life changing, because oil permeates every aspect of our lives, but change must come. It will come faster if we don’t give up our market driven capitalism that generates innovation. If innovation does not happen, we will stay mired in recession/depression and wars to control the last puddles of oil in the world.

  31. Pam says:

    I was watching that new show called “how’d you get so rich” last night and sat their in awe. I was amazed at how some people live and then I looked around my own home which has a “gigantic” mortgage and thought – I’ll bet there are quite a few people who say the same thing about my family.

    No one is exempt from the desire to have more – in fact, I think that’s what makes a lot of us tick. Yes, there is some real truth about what you’ve said and that we don’t need the things we think we need to be happy. I believe you have to have a middle somewhere. Again, who gets to decide what’s enough for an individual? Many Americans live in a mobile home or a small apartment barely getting by – but are happy. Would that make everyone happy? Thank goodness for the desire to want more – I think that’s one of the things that makes us Americans for better or for worse. Yes, we should sit back and evaluate our needs and what we can truly afford but let’s not stop capitalism just yet!!!!

  32. Kris in Canada says:

    Dear Blgspc comment posted Sept 4/09,

    I’m sorry, but are you serious ?? A litre (not litter) is a unit of measurement used, well, by most of the world ( called the “metric system”) – 1 US gallon= 3.79 litres. That equals approx. $1.85 / gallon. Obviously that makes a little more sense, doesn’t it ?

  33. Danette Alberts says:

    I agree with these comments whole-heartedly………….This thread got me to thinking, Dr Phil. My question is this: why haven’t we been allowed to buy vehicles that get better gas milieage? Inventors have been coming up with more economical vehicles for years, only to have their plans and patents bought by the big car makers and stuffed in a drawer never to see the light of day.
    When you ask “why don’t Americans get it?” I think we need to address not only the consumers, but the manufacturers, the unions that have the manufacturers in a strangle hold, and congress.
    I’ll probably get popcorn thrown at me for saying this, but I like a roomy vehicle. I wouldn’t buy an Escalade, but I sure wouldn’t buy a Smart car either! Why can’t we have vehicles that are comfortable and SAFE, but also get great gas mileage? This is not too much to ask in my opinion

  34. grammiesWI says:

    Phil,
    When you walk the talk, maybe we’ll believe you. Don’t you drive a Suburban or equivalent? What does Robin drive? When we see you (and other celebs pushing for “us” to reform) tooling around in a SmartCar or packing two grandkids in a compact with all their related gear and try to change a flat on the expressway….
    Our economy is based on supply and demand – Americans don’t demand smaller cars (voting with their wallets) so Detroit doesn’t make them. If there was a profit to be made with smaller cars, automakers will make them.

  35. Harm says:

    Spending more then you earn is a disease that has the US by the balls big time. Buying on credit card is rule, in stead of exception. Everything the US does seem to be of borrowed money, everything, from fighting wars in area’s Americans shouldnt even be in, to financing deficits caused by this very same disease. It WILL be the ultimate downfall of the US, unless Americans (ofcourse not all, but the majority) somehow learn some form of modesty some time soon.

  36. wania pinto says:

    DR Fhil i’am from Brazil leving in Ireland for 9years i love yor program.
    u are the must!!!!!!!!!!

  37. YM says:

    So true. The need to constantly fill ourselves with bigger and better things is a disease that only gets worse as we acquire the means to continue with this self- (and in some cases, environmentally-) destructive behavior. We as a society need to acknowledge this as a critical problem that needs to be addressed with some healthy and long-term solutions. We must acknowledge, for example, that this desire to acquire material things in order to feel happy, stems very often (I believe) from our own feelings of emptiness, insecurity and low self-esteem. Fortunately, there are many solutions to this problem, and one that I find particularly effective is education. But education is only fulfilling when it’s pursued as an all-encompassing way of life — a continuous search for knowledge, wisdom and “truth”, not only to enrich our own lives, but more importantly, to work towards improving our world in whatever small or big way we can. In other words, education should help us to develop a respect for the environment, and motivate us to serve those who are less fortunate. A shift of focus from ourselves to the plight and needs of others (as well as the environment) can help us to challenge (if not eradicate) this disease of excess materialism that seems sadly to permeate our society.

  38. sara says:

    Here’s a point from an English woman who has lived 19 years in the UK and another 19 in Canada.
    I remember when I was a child taking a school trip to the lake district. The “lakes” as the brits have named this reegion, is place full of unspoiled nature and has been an inspiration to many artists and writers( Beatrix Potter for exmaple). Anyway during this trip I got my first taste of an “American”. A family of five with strong accents, basically laughing at my country. They thought the houses were way to small, the cars were like toys and couldnt belive that we didnt have fast food. Well that has stuck with me ever since. Later I moved to Canada and have been here for 19 years. I love the fact that Canada is cleaner and safer than my own country. I love the people, the diversity, the geography and the fact that I get to lead a relatively good life “on the cheap”. The one thing that the American family taught me all those years ago was this. We dont have big houses because we would rather spend our spare time with our family and freinds, rather than maintaining a mansion. We prefer small cars or even no cars , because we dont need the expense. And we didnt need fast food becuase fresh homemade food is not only healthier , but has travelled less far and has supported our local farmers.
    When I grew up we had a small house, 1 car and ate home cooked meals every night. I have learnt as time passes me by that I was so lucky. I got to shop, cook and eat with my family. We spent time doing the simpe things, but along the way this allowed me to be able to create HUGE memories.
    When I moved to Canada I worked as a Nanny. I saw the huge houses, the big cars and ate delivery food, resteraunt food and some homemade food. I dint see families families walking to the grocery store together, I didnt see people preapring healthy food together. I saw this: mom and dad go to work EARLY, come home, order food, send the kids to play in their own recreational areas, while mom and dad sat in front of the tv exhausted after working all day.
    Over the years I have been able to influence many families that less is more. The kids dont need “everything” they dont need big houses . or big cars. They need to be held close to their families.
    So at te end of this brief note I want to say, if you cant downsize to save the planet. DO IT FOR YOUR KIDS. You are their role models, so teach them that small is good. Teach them that they will feel much better if they spend time volunteering and helping others, gives you a better feeling about yourself than a big car does. Lets add to the environment instead of taking away.
    And by the way- the “lakes” are still the same. No fast food, not many big houses and lots of small cars.
    Oh yes and for the record I do lead the simple life here in Canada. I have a small house, drive an electric scooter and work only 30 hrs a week. This gives me more time to spend studying, trail walking with my dog and volunteering in many different places.
    So come on people really are you going to be remembered for having all those materialistic thing-or are you going to pass on your ability to change the world. You can do it-lets help ourselves, our children and our planet. Make the change!!!

  39. Shari Goley says:

    Dr. Phil, I agree with you about doing things more simply and not trying to acquire so many “things” in our lives. However, something that always puzzles me about this debate is denigrating people who drive so called “gas-guzzlers”. While it is true that some people could give them up, as a grandmother who frequently transports one or all of my five grandchildren, who still need car seats, according to the law, I would find it very difficult to have a much smaller car. I drive a Ford Explorer. So many families with two or more children need a larger car to be in compliance with these laws and keep their children safe. To punish them or make them feel bad about the car they drive is not right. I wonder how the Europeans handle this particular problem. Do they have similar laws about the safety of their children. I would be interested to know. Thanks.

  40. LadyDeb says:

    In my experience we Americans are more concerned with impressing our family, friends, and neighbors than we are with caring for our planet, our health, or our children’s futures.

    I was born and raised in a very small and very poor community in Kentucky, but everyone “that was someone” wore name brands and drove new gas guzzling big cars or SUV’s. They thought they “had it made” when they bought a new mobile home and parked a new SUV in the driveway. (Sorry, but some stereotypes are true) At school the kids were very “label conscious”, and those that didn’t buy the label’s were treated as outcast’s. My parents were somewhat politically prominent, and just as guilty as the rest of the parents, meaning we had all the label’s and new cars and boats too, but even as a young child I remember thinking how silly and shallow it all seemed. Very few people seemed to give any thought to savings, and I don’t recall college funds ever being discussed, the only things I remember being discussed was what this one or that one had or didn’t have, or who did what with whom.

    I do see a slight shift in the way some people are living, I worry it’s only because it’s currently a popular fad, (again only doing that which impresses), but I hope the true concept will take root in some and together we can make a difference.
    We all need to take stock of what is really important in our lives, what kind of legacy do we want to leave our children? One of shallow meaningless excesses or one of responsible caring stewardship of this great planet EARTH.
    Remember we only have one life, but we also only have one Earth!

  41. metak8 says:

    Watch ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?” to learn more about why the US auto market is still dominated by inefficient gas-fueled vehicles. Recent private sector bailouts for financial services and domestic auto manufacturers confirm what the oil companies have known and enjoyed for decades: US political leaders prop up publicly-held, for-profit companies so Americans can sustain their oil and credit addictions because it’s good for our economy. If/when there is disruption in our oil supply chains, all prices will rise and Wal*Mart will be the next bailout beneficiary. After all, how could our goverment refuse to prop up the US’ largest private sector employer??

  42. TP says:

    I agree. I went to Paris on vacation and didn’t want to come back home to New York City. I couldn’t figure out why. I think you hit the nail on the head. It seems like the French appreciate life and it wasn’t as much of a rat race. But I have no idea how they stay so slim with all the great food.

  43. road warrior says:

    Ok, I think we get it but we just want to haul more stuff. I cannot imagine life without my truck and it’s hauling capacity. Since I volunteer for my sons’ Boy Scout troop, it comes in handy to haul all their gear. We can load up our boat, bikes, camping gear, kayaks, etc. and head off into the wide open spaces. Why would I want to give that up? My friends recently attempted to drive to Disney for a family vacation with their 3 kids. The Prius didn’t have enough room for them all so they ended up driving 2 vehicles (so much for the fuel savings).

    If fuel prices were lower in Europe, it is likely that more people would be driving larger vehicles. From what friends tell me, they can barely fit a child/infant car seat in those mini vehicles. I feel sorry for them when they can’t even load up the family, friends, dog, gear, etc. and hit the road for a great vacation (all in one vehicle).

    Maybe that’s why they call it the GREAT “AMERICAN” road trip! God Bless the USA!

  44. Rose Johnston says:

    Linda RH

    I have been reading your messages. And find them to be the most realistic and truthful yet. I totally agree with all you have said.

    Cheers

    Rose

  45. Rita Taylor says:

    The post have all been very interesting and being a Texan I just can’t keep my opinion to myself.
    We have the technology to build electric cars. Try to find the movie’Who killed the electric car” It was in American for a year leased out and at the end of the year took out and crushed. People wanted to buy them but they crushed them. Jay Leno has one minus the motor. I am from a rural area and was born in 1943 to a dairy Bo( a man who milks cows for a living for someone else). This life set me forth on growing food, living within my means and paying myself first. My goal was to save enough to live a year if I became unemployed. I did that my buying my needs not wants. Plus recycling,try thrift stores they are great.
    One more thing to say about our corporate giants and energy. Our electric company sent me a letter about putting a wind generator on my acre. I called them….they wanted to put it on my land and me pay them an extra $50 a month plus I would not receive any breaks in my energy bill. Greed by friend that is what runs the nation and many parts of the world. I share my gifts and play blessings to me forward without thought to who you are , what you have or what I’ll get out of it. I was the only one attend college and get my degrees . I feel blessed by what I learned on the farm, in college and through living .

  46. vince says:

    its hard to understand this mess our country is in when i hear on the news all the stupid spending the congress passed with flying colors doc, and they even voted themselves in a pay raise, seems to me they have not earned the money they were already making, maybe they should take a huge pay cut and only then stand and pat each other on the back, i would love to plant my foot where the sun dont shine on a few in congress, what are they thinking?.

  47. vince says:

    Rita Taylor i beleive General motors killed the electric car, they even have a motor that runs on water but they bought the copy rights and that motor years ago to be sure it never hits the streets in america, so i was told, and for sume strange reason i do beleive it lol, maybe im just gullable who knows.

  48. Mai-Britt from Denmark says:

    Hi Dr Phil
    I know that it has been a while since you posted this, but I haven’t seen it before. I acctually live in Denmark and perhaps is able to give you an insiders view of our great country. I’m a 21 year old girl from Jutland (the island connected to Germany).
    Even though Denmark is a small country we still have a lot to offer. The Danes IS a happy people, but we still struggle with the same problems as for example Americans. I watch the Dr Phil Show everyday and I can see myself in some of the stories. In Denmark we have a health care system, which perhaps is at least some of the explenation why Danes are so happy. When I grew up my parents paid around 42% in taxes of their paycheck. The money makes sure that everybody gets what they need. I didn’t pay for my education. Right now I’m studying at a university and it is all paid for by every taxpayer in the country. In Denmark we see it as every persons right to get an education – no matter, what background he or she might have.
    Every month I recive a paycheck from the government. Directly translated it is called: “The States Educational Support”. I get around 1000 dollars, so I can pay for my appartment, food and other stuff I need. We see an education as a job. I study (work) and then of course get paid.
    If I get injured I can go to the hospital without thinking about how I’m going to afford it, because it is all covered through taxes.
    My theory is that a happy people also is a people with little worries. I do not worry about my future, because I know that whatever might happen, then I will always have the government there to help me. That might be the great difference between Denmark and America.
    By the way I have read some of the comments to this thread and I just want to tell you that Danes live in houses just like Americans. I have been to America and we are a lot alike :)

  49. Meredith says:

    My 2 cents are quite belated, but FWIW:
    I’m an American living in Denmark for the past 7 years. I remember when this article was published, and at first I laughed, but after some reflection I determined that this is basically true. And I believe it is because Danes, in general, place importance on a different set of values than Americans do, in general. Family comes first – plain and simple. Everything else is after: friends (a very close 2nd), work (right on the heels of friends). Material possessions come after that. Granted, due to the social welfare system in place here, Danes are afforded the luxury (thru this American’s eyes) of focusing on the intangibles.
    1) 3 months’ severance by law if you lose your job,
    2) 1 year maternity leave guaranteed and you won’t lose your employment status,
    3) free medical care and education through university paid for by the state
    Those are just a few of the benefits off the top of my head.

    If Americans didn’t have to worry about the financial strain from those necessary services I just listed, imagine what the mindset of the average American could be affected?

    Yes, it irks me when I look at my paycheck each month to see 55% of it go to taxes, but as a 1st time mom (20 months ago), it gives me great comfort when I remember the 10 months maternity leave I had, the 6 weeks of vacation a year I can take (and manage to take), without having to work the 50-70 hours per week I used to when living in the US.

    Side note: I still work more than most of my Danish friends, but it rarely is more than 50 hours per week. By law, we’re not required to work more than 40. But let me say one thing, I’ve never worked more intensely and focused on the job than I do here.

    Final thought: What I value has changed over the last 7 years. I value the “who”s not the “what”s. Stuff can be replaced. People, moments and experiences cannot.

    My 2 cents. Thanks for listening

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