America's "Pareto Problem"

7.4.20

The Pareto principle, commonly known as the 80/20 rule, suggests that 80% of results come from 20% of sources.

I thought of this recently when I noticed a similar pattern: The United States has 4% of the global population, yet is responsible for roughly a quarter of the world’s:

  • prisoners

  • COVID-19 cases

  • cumulative carbon emissions


On July 4th, we celebrate this country’s exceptionalism. The United States has an outsized effect on the world’s economy and culture.

Yet we must also remember that with great power comes great responsibility.


I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.

– James Baldwin