The Most Advanced Nations
The following list emerged from the collation of data from 12 key aspects of a nation’s “character.” These include civil liberties, gender equality, LGBT rights, environmental stances, the level of corruption, the amount spent on education, and so on. The full list of criteria appears below the first chart. This is the direction the planet has been pursuing since the Enlightenment of the 17th Century. It’s an achievement, but there’s still about 175 other nations trying to catch up.
The Top Twenty Mauve Nations
|Nations by Rank
|8. New Zealand
|19. United Kingdom
The United States ranked 49th primarily because of its drug policies and retention of capital punishment (on the federal level as well as 32 states). If drug policies were liberalized to the same extent as in the Netherlands and capital punishment was abolished, the U.S. would rank 13th.
Scores for the Capital Punishment criterion were 10 for nations that have yet to abolish it and zero for those who have. Some exceptions were made for nations that still have capital punishment on the books, but appear to be heading towards abolishment. In those cases, a 5 was awarded. There is no death penalty for any crime in the top twenty nations.
The LGBT Rights were scored as follows: 0 for nations which have legalized same-sex marriage, 5 for nations which haven’t, and 10 where same-sex sex remains illegal. All the 0’s are in the Top Twenty, except Argentina (25), and South Africa, (34).
These scores were my own choice. The difference between a country that authorizes the killing of its own people for any reason and one that doesn’t is large. Not only does the former resist the obvious trend toward abolition in the rest of the world, it assumes a superiority of ideology over the life of a human being. Abolishment makes a statement about human life that is reflected in the atmosphere of a nation. This is difficult to assimilate when you conjure up your favorite villains. The response to monstrousness comes from deep within our primitive source of rage. But that’s the point. An atmosphere, a collective consciousness, infused with a value for life rather than a capacity for revenge, is a better atmosphere, a kinder atmosphere, which also helps mollify our fear. Surely Mandela’s “Reconciliation” with all those horrible people who ruled the country before him said it better than anything.
All of the Top Twenty nations scored equally high for political rights and civil liberties.
Freedom of the Press is highest in Sweden and Norway, followed closely by the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Denmark and Luxembourg.
Income Equality is scored by the Gini coefficient (named for its inventor, Carlo Gini), measured between 0 and 10, where 0 means everyone in a country has virtually the same income and 10 means that one person has all the income. (“It’s good to be the King!”) The numbers in between indicate how level the playing field is. But it is about much more than that. Rising inequality correlates with declining quality of life all around. Research shows that the measure of equality in a society is inversely proportional to measures of physical and mental health, age expectancy, drug use, crime rates, violence, and political stability. These are among the findings of Global Inequality: Beyond the Bottom Billion, a Unicef Social and Economic Policy Working Paper, written by Isabel Ortiz and Matthew Cummins. What is perhaps counter-intuitive is that inequality also adversely affects a country’s economic growth.
“Former World Bank Chief Economist F. Bourguignon stresses that income distribution matters as much as growth for poverty reduction and that redistribution is a legitimate goal of public policy for balancing the tendency of the market to concentrate resources,” while “more equal distribution tends to have faster impacts on reducing poverty than growth, but economic growth is also necessary to sustain the process over time.” (So much for trickle down economics.)
Denmark has the highest income equality (the lowest Gini number) in the world, followed by Sweden, Norway and Austria. Canada ranks about 30, the United States about 110.
The Global Gender Gap Index measures the inequality between men and women in four areas: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. Four Scandinavian countries scored highest, with Iceland first overall. According to the Report, the top four have “closed over 80% of the gender gap” with “women making up the majority of the high-skilled workforce.” “In Norway, since 2008, publicly listed companies have been required to have 40% of each sex on their boards.” The U.S. ranks 21, Canada 24.
The Drug Freedom Index ranks the Netherlands second in the world in liberalized drug policies, just behind Mexico. “As of August 21, 2009,” the Index says, “personal use possession of up to 5 grams of marijuana, half a gram of cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams for methamphetamine and 0.015 milligrams of LSD have been decriminalized as part of an effort to undercut the profits of Mexico’s drug gangs (which now make most of their profit from smuggling and sales in the more restrictive United States).” The freedom to do the drug of one’s choice is, based on the evidence, a human right. The evidence is explored in The War on Drugs is Not a War; It’s a Persecution. It’s not only about the lives ruined by jail terms, it’s that atmosphere thing again. Drugs are simply a form of recreation, obviously with risks, like driving (which kills thousands of people every year). The imposition of a Damoclean sword hanging over the heads of millions of drug users is a stain upon the public mood.
Denmark is first again on the Satisfaction With Life Index, followed by Switzerland and Austria. Canada is 10, the U.S. 23.
The Environmental Performance Index ranks Switzerland at the head of the list, followed closely by Sweden and Norway. Canada is 12 and the U.S. 39.
Denmark is also the least corrupt country in the world, followed by Finland and New Zealand. Canada 10, the U.S. 18.
You Can Read What Hetzel Believes Here
This was one of the last commercials that bothered me prior to my transfer to Japan. Ever since SoftBank purchased about 80% of Sprint I started to put some attention into Sprint and their challenges competing in mobile. While I see opportunities for Sprint in the US with new ideas coming from Japan via SoftBank, this ad still is a puzzle and I welcome your thoughts as to what the “I Am Unlimited” campaign was trying to accomplish. Not exactly warm and friendly.
The World Bank publishes figures on the ratio of a country’s spending on education to its Gross Domestic Product. In this category, the country of Lesotho placed first overall, followed by Cuba and East Timor, then Denmark. As of 2008, the latest figures were that both Lesotho and Cuba spent almost 13% of its GDP on education. The corresponding figure for the United States was 5.4%, for Canada, 5%.
Read more here on how advertisers are spreading fear. Fish and Crane reveals some disturbing imagery. There are no Oscars (yet) for these categories of national (relative) excellence. But in a world almost always irrational, delusional, and self-destructive, in other words—mad—they are tangible achievements of the spirit launched during the Enlightenment.
[Image of the Danish flag courtesy of gunnarbach & Wikimedia Commons]