I might add that one thing that tends to give a distorted picture of the situation is that the kind of Americans likely to travel to the Netherlands and other European countries are hardly socioeconomically representative. Shorto is writing from the perspective of a college educated professional, but the biggest contrast is probably found in the standard of living enjoyed by people in the bottom 25 percent of the wealth/income distribution.
Indeed. We need the economic equivalent of the Fresh Air Fund to show the American poor that There Is An Alternative. Heck, we could just send them to Canada. Definitely though when Jennifer and I were in Rotterdam we felt like kids from our neighborhood would fit in there easily and really enjoy it.
In theory you could do this virtually, but the whole "No, really, there are no poor people here," thing isn't going to make much sense. Nor, for that matter, are you going to get the candid remarks about the Roma being a bunch of drug dealers, perhaps actually meeting some gypsies or other immigrants, etc., which would be necessary to get a full picture.
BTW, I've realized lately that not only did proximity to Juniata College and the Berger family bring a lot more (German) exchange students than would be typical in a small town, but that the kids had a strong left/pacifist/intentional-community tilt, even by European standards, which had a big influence on my perception of what is permissible and possible politically. It is just the kind of that that, when growing up, you don't realize how uncommon an experience it is.