Taking Stock after Independence Day

While the usual suspects, clutching guns and flags, will profess again that this – THEIR – country is, as it always was, simply the best and greatest at everything, it might be better to take a different approach: To look at this country objectively. Since simply asserting to be the best without any metrics to establish that position is foolish, let us first seek out some such metrics to compare this country to others and then see if it in deed is best and greatest.

All of us have different priorities, but it should be safe to assume that the list below in some order makes up most of the criteria for a country being the best or greatest for those living in it.

  1. Freedom – While this can mean many things to many people, it usually includes some or all of these: Freedom of movement, freedom of choice, financial freedom and free elections.
  2. Rule of Law – A system to safeguard individuals against transgressions from both other individuals as well as the state.
  3. Human Rights – How minorities are treated, how prisons are treating inmates, whether citizens are put to death, and others.
  4. Health & Medical – Quality, availability, and cost of treatments to keep the population healthy.
  5. Education System – Quality, availability, and cost of primary, secondary and post-secondary education

For the first in the list – freedom – Wombosi would refer you to the annual Human Freedom index, as published by the right-leaning CATO Institute. For the 2020 edition, the U.S. is listed in 17th place (tied with Great Britain) behind New Zealand, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Denmark, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Estonia, and Germany and Sweden (tied in 9th place) and a few more. Notice that even Hong Kong, with its current issues facing dissidents of the new Chinese rule, still fares better than the U.S.

For the rule of law, Wombosi offers the World Justice Project as a source. An organization founded and mostly chaired by Americans, boasting strategic partnerships with a litany of famous organizations in the filed of justice, such as the American and Canadian Bar Associations, the Human Rights Watch, and many others. In their list of countries by rule of law the United States ranks 21st, behind Singapore, Hong Kong (again) and just 0.01 points ahead of Uruguay.

When it come to human rights, there are two sources to consider. First, there is a set of visualization from Oxford researcher Max Roser, based on a peer-reviewed data set from Harvard, in it the U.S. ranks somewhere in the middle, in the fine company of Pacific Coast South American countries, North African countries and the bottom of the barrel of South-Eastern Europe. The second is the evaluation by Amnesty International, which found the U.S. to be one of the “10 hot spots for human rights violations” in 2017.

For the health and medical systems, there are also two sources of note. The first being the WHO, who ranks the U.S. 37th in efficiency of its health care system. The second is a study by the Commonwealth Fund, which found the United States ranking 11th — out of 11 countries studied.

When it comes to education, the go to report still is the PISA Report, in particular because it compares the U.S. to its peers in the OECD, not a long list of third-world countries. Here the U.S. last (2018) ranked 25th out of 77 for mathematics, reading and science skills of the students tested.

An analysis of the welfare system was omitted here. Mostly because data about welfare around the world is generally about the amount of money spent, not the results they yield.

So, in short, the United States fails to be “best” or “greatest” in every metric discussed here. And while it holds a respectable rank in some – when compared to all countries on the planet – it also fails in every one of these metrics, when compared to economic and political peers. America nonetheless is a good country to live in.

As a final though:
Exxon’s European brand “Esso” used to have a motto for their ads featuring oil drilling in the North Sea. In its German version it read: “Es gibt viel zu tun. Packen wir’s an.” Loosely translated that is: “There is much to do. Let’s get going.” If we would all spend the 4th thinking about how we could make this country better for all in it, it might have a chance to recoup some or all of what it lost…

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