The global niceness challenge announces a winner

Statisticians have identified the Mother Teresa of global politics.
Michael Cook | Jul 11 2014 | comment  

If you are cashed up, you can reside almost anywhere in the world. So which is the best country in the world to live? There are all sort of indices for hedonists and tax-dodgers, but until now, there was none for starry-eyed idealists who wanted to live in the country which does the most good for the world.

This gap has been patched up by Simon Anholt, an independent policy advisor from the United Kingdom, with his recently-released Good Country Index. It measures “how much each country on earth contributes to the planet and to the human race” – adjusted for the size of its GDP. The ultimate aim is to rank countries by how generously they contribute to the common good of humanity.

It’s hard to imagine a more controversial international competition. Other indices measure which country is the richest or the most powerful or the smartest. Mr Anholt is basically asking which country is the Mother Teresa of global politics.

“The Good Country Index tries to measure the global impacts of policies and behaviours: what they contribute to the ‘global commons’, and what they take away. This forms a truer and more realistic global balance-sheet than one which carries on pretending that each country sits on its own private planet. The concept of the ‘Good Country’ is all about encouraging populations and their governments to be more outward looking, and to consider the international consequences of their national behaviour.”

How is it put together? Countries with enough data are ranked in seven categories: science and technology, culture, international peace and security, world order, planet and climate, prosperity and equality, health and wellbeing. With a little statistical wizardry, they are listed from 1 to 125.

Some of the results are head-scratchers. In science and technology, the United Kingdom is ranked 1 – but 2 is Austria and 3 is Cyprus. Cyprus is a centre for fake stem cell therapy and surrogate mothers, but I wasn’t aware that its contribution to science otherwise was so high.

In health and well-being Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium are ranked 1,2 and 3. Awarding top marks in health to two countries with legal euthanasia is rather odd.

And in world security, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands are 1, 2. and 3. This makes one think that the statisticians were gathering data about the Third Reich rather than the mild-mannered Federal Republic of Germany. Still, it is the world’s third largest arms exporter, which allows it to protect world security and make money at the same time.

The United States was snubbed badly in the whole exercise. Its overall rank is 21, sandwiched between Italy (20) and Costa Rica (22). The world’s policeman was ranked 114th in promoting international peace and security, possibly because it is in arrears to the United Nations peacekeeping budget.

Trailing behind the US in 26th place is Kenya, the only African country. The statisticians praised Kenya an “inspiring example” which showed that making a meaningful contribution to global well-being is “by no means the exclusive province of rich 'first-world' nations”.  

Which countries contribute the least to world well-being? Ranking 125, 124 and 123 respectively are Libya, Vietnam and Iraq. That seems a bit hard on Vietnam; surely Yemen contributes less.

But here’s the winner, the country which is contributing the most to the well-being of humanity, the Mother Teresa of the nations, the nicest and best place on the face of the earth: Ireland! It is ranked 1 in equality and prosperity, 7 in culture and 9 in health and well-being. I am going to dust off my application for Irish citizenship tomorrow.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.

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