Why is it so much cheaper (factors of 2+) for me to ship a ton of goods coast-to-coast in the U.S. v. the same ton from France’s north coast to say, Nice, or just Paris to Frankfurt?
Because we’re using our tracks for freight, not for people. Europe is still using trucks. We’re using fewer and fewer long-haul trucks relative to overall shipping. And that means cheaper goods and services. So our poor can afford to consume (and do consume) as much (if not live as well as) the majority of (old) EC’s nations’ middle-class. And for our own concern about single-person transport (in)efficiencies, unless we cram people together at European city densities, at least we know one person (the driver) in a car is traveling to where they want to be (compared to the 75% in a bus who are traveling elsewhere before getting to where desired.. not counting the overhead of a driver, and the even more spectacular waste of an empty bus. Or a bus underwater with people stranded wanting to get out of the way of a (natural or not) disaster).
Markets do work. And free markets by free citizens and their enterprise require less faith in its machinery to deliver the greatest common good than all the other faiths (i.e. faith in the parent, the king, the priest, the intellectual, the central planner, the dictatorship of a majority, etc. to allocate resources for the greatest common good). The pity is that all these other faiths like to gang up on the first when what they need to do is hold up a mirror and admire their own failures before criticizing and attempting to fix v. accepting the costs of using that instrument as is.
Re: energy as fueling the terrorists. It makes no difference if the U.S. stops consuming it’s 5-10-15% share of mid-east oil if the rest of the world has unmet needs (at any price, save if we’re willing to use the military to deny it to them). Remember that replacing a fossil fuel requires competing not with the first barrel of oil pumped, but the last (the marginal price – the price of the last empty seat on the airplane 15 minutes before departure). A buggy-whip was never cheaper than when the automobile began to compete with the horse-cart. Which means the way to deny fossil-fuel rich countries their coin is to make their energy sources legacy and non-price-competitive. So any successful “alternative” has to be an order of magnitude less expensive than $2 a barrel at the wellhead – and 1 cent per kwh at the demarc. Which leaves only (and only if largely unregulated save perhaps a requirement that the owners/managers live next door) next-generation nuclear (LFTR etc.).