Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Good Country Index: Countries that do the Most Good for the World

The Good Country Index measures how much each country contributes to the planet. The index is the brain child of Simon Anholt.

According to the Index, Ireland ranked first followed by Finland, Switzerland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark and Belgium. The US was not in the top 20 (it ranked 21st).

The index graded 125 countries across seven categories, including things like science and technology, world order, prosperity and equality and health and wellbeing. Each of those seven categories has five datasets in them.

Although the rankings may not be based on the most mathematically precise results, as Anholt revealed in a telephone interview, he had an agenda in creating the index. 

"The reason I’ve done it is not because I wanted to do an index but because I wanted ordinary people — not politicians — to start thinking about whether countries are good or bad. At the moment all they ever talk about or measure is whether a country is successful."  Anholt said. "We have fallen into the habit of measuring the performance of countries as if they were islands, as if they had no connection with each other, and as if one country doing well had no impact whatsoever on other countries. But of course this is the age of globalization, and the central fact of the age we live in is that every country, every market, every medium of communication, every natural resource is connected."

People fail to realize that the well being of some nations is commonly founded on the hardship of others. The index offers a way of factoring this information and presenting it in a very accessible fashion.

"We have to start asking where that growth comes from." Anholt continued. "We are screwing poorer countries to buy products more cheaply, we are raping the environment to produce more energy to drive our industry faster. Countries perform better and better but the world and planet and humanity in general are getting worse and worse. The whole system starts to look like a rapidly growing tumor. It has an illusion of health because of its growth but it’s almost as big as the host body."

When asked about what he hopes to achieve Anholt said that he would like people to consider the implications of their actions and the common good. 

"There used to be this automatic and universal relationship of love and trust between citizens and their cities or their city states, the equivalent of the modern country. What that is being replaced with today is a relationship of prostitution." Anholt said.

Nations also have a duty to respond, beyond just being beholden to their citizens, governments also have broader responsibilities. Being good is a self fulfilling prophecy regardless of what encourages that behavior.

"I’ve seen this work over and over again." Anholt said. "Someone starts behaving in a right-on way for purely cynical reasons, they’re lying through their teeth, just doing it for PR. But the moment it starts working — and it usually does work — and they start receiving some of that warmth from public opinion, it becomes the most important thing they’ve ever done. Their reputation, as soon as they start to earn one, instantly becomes their most treasured possession. They will do anything to maintain that reputation and build it further; they will even become good — even that! — in order to maintain it. That little loophole in human nature is probably what will save us all."

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