The World's Leading Countries
The spreadsheet that the reader will find above is perhaps the most important ever constructed. That's because it identifies, objectively and unambiguously, the world's leading societies. The value of this lies in the fact that it provides us with models that we can learn much from. This is especially important information for Americans because we've been told, quite falsely, that the United States is the greatest country in the world. To be sure, it is the wealthiest, and it certainly has the most weapons of mass destruction; but these are largely irrelevant measures where true greatness is concerned. Indeed, an excessive military outlay far in excess of defensive needs detracts enormously from the greatness of any country and betrays skewed priorities that are anything but admirable.
Relative to the world's leading countries, the US lags farthest behind in education, and not merely in terms of test scores or money spent, but above all in terms of the basic orientation of the educational system. But this is a topic addressed elsewhere at this site. Here we focus instead upon the most basic measures of all: happiness and longevity. When Thomas Jefferson spoke of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in the Declaration of Independence, he was referring to the most basic human needs, naturally endowed. Without life itself, nothing else can matter. Without some measure of happiness, life is hardly worth having. And without freedom, one cannot pursue happiness.
We don't look at the freedom metric in the spreadsheet above, because American society is far less transparent than ordinarily supposed, and secret programs of surveillance, political suppression, and indeed even murder and torture, have long been operative in the US. Moreover, these practices have all been shamefully propagated to the other "five eyes" countries, and elsewhere as well, making "freedom" an especially elusive metric to measure at this time. But what can be said, and rightly has been said by Anu Partanen, an expert on Nordic societies, is that no one is free who is, of necessity, forever obsessed with the need of money to obtain the essentials of life - and American society is a society in which this obsession figures first and foremost, day in and day out, for all but a handful. This is far less the case for citizens of the top ten nations identified here.
The bottom line is: America is far from leading the world, even by the metric of freedom. Quite simply, even by that metric, America doesn't lead at all. Rather, it lags, and it lags very far behind indeed.
The spreadsheet displayed above shows the rank order of the countries of the world as measured by happiness and longevity. The scores were obtained by multiplying the happiness measure by the longevity measure. Especially in the top ten, the wish that one's peers "live long and prosper" is neither ironic or hollow: these countries are, indeed, where one must live in order to do both optimally.
The rank of each nation in longevity and happiness is shown to the right of the columns displaying those metrics.
The third measure shown here, the GINI, is a measure of economic inequality. The lower the number, the greater the economic equality, and the lower the ratio between the wealthiest and poorest members of society. If we take the average for each quartile (that is, each color-coded group of five nations), what we find is that the higher the economic inequality in a nation, the lower the happiness and life expectancy. Whether this reflects mere correlation or instead causation we won't attempt to determine here; but there is reason to suppose that this relationship reflects causation.
Unless the wealthiest members of society are held within normative bounds of some kind, they come to regard themselves as "individuals apart", and may then turn on the rest of society, seeing others as resources to exploit, and a burden to be shed, rather than as members of a shared society to which they are expected to contribute. Billionaire Council on Foreign Relations leader Pete Peterson, for example, devoted much of his life to attempting to destroy the social security program, and was almost single-handedly responsible for the (false) idea that that program would inevitably go bankrupt. He himself, of course, could readily afford any sort of medical treatment, and never faced the burden of anxiety that arises when medical treatment can't be paid for, or when prescriptions can't be filled for lack of funds.
Our aim here is merely to supply the metrics of success, not to ask how, concretely, the Nordic countries that stand so high in light of them were able to achieve those results. Briefly, however, it can be said that everything Americans have been told about democratic socialism of the Nordic type is false, as is virtually everything Americans think they know about what makes for educational success, or a cost-effective and successful health-care system.
If the "pundits" of American mass media fell silent for the remainder of their lives, they would be much closer to doing their jobs than they are now. The poor showing of America relative to the other advanced nations of the world is owing in large part to the disinformation they've so busily supplied - and other information that they've so negligently failed to supply.
For the truth, we refer readers to Anu Partanen's book The Nordic Theory of Everything, which is reviewed elsewhere at this site.