To understand how big a deal it is that the World Economic Forum is documenting the downward spiral of the once high-flying economy of the United States, we must first know what the WEF is. It is a collection of self-selected, conservative, libertarian leaning globalist business type One Percenters who are regularly denounced by anti-globalists and progressives. That ironically makes it all the more telling what they are saying about the US.
To better understand why it is a big deal that the WEF is documenting the spectacular decline of the once spectacular US economic machine remember that just a few years ago the WEF ranked the US as the most globally competitive nation on the planet. They had been doing so continuously since well back in the last century. That we placed number one year after reliable year was taken by many as sterling evidence that the US, the most libertarian capitalist nation there is, was indeed enjoying the fruits of going the furthest down the small government big wealth path of Adam Smith, Ayn Rand and Ronald Reagan. That America was indeed the land of Exceptionalism, the Opportunity Society that gave its residents the best shot at elevating themselves out of poverty up to the middle class, and with some pluck and luck maybe even into the top percent. True, there were reasons to challenge the ranking. The criteria used by the WEF were somewhat slanted towards conservative thinking, in particular in not taking into account the implications of the wealth gap between the top few percent and the rest of national populations.
To further understand how and why it is a big deal that the WEF is documenting the spectacular decline of the American Way consider that a few years ago the US slipped from first place to second. Then to third. Fourth. Last year fifth. The WEF has just released its latest rankings (http://www.weforum.org/issues/global-competitiveness). The US is plunging like a stone in a deep pond to seventh.
And to fully understand how and why it is a big deal that the WEF is documenting the dizzying decline of the most laissez faire, let-the-rich-do-what-they-please-and-hope-some-of-it-trickles-down-to-the-rest democracy, chew over that even the right leaning criteria of the WEF have forced the organization to determine that a number of progressive, big government democracies as more economically competitive than the US. Specifically, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands, and Germany. Britain is just behind the US and on its way to passing us.
Yes, Sweden, the land that President Eisenhower lambasted and slandered as the cradle to grave high tax welfare state so depressing that the unambitious and alcoholic Swedes were committing suicide enmass is beating out the American Way. And so are the pothead Dutch. And the Germans/ Well, OK that makes sense.
In other words, dear reader, it is the very kind of lefty, liberal, socialistic economies that the Republican right continues to love to denounce like a mindless ideological automaton as moribund "entitlement" societies that we Americans must strive to avoid mimicking -- perhaps you watched the Tampa convention where Reagan was worshipped and Randian Tea Partiers were fêted -- are kicking the economic ass of the United States. And it is not just lefty liberals who are saying this, it is the global economic elite who cannot avoid admitting the painfully plain truth.
But as useful as the WEF rankings are, they are technically limited because they are based on insufficiently broad criteria. In fact, there has been an appalling lack of effort to fully document and compare the overall socioeconomic conditions in the most successful nations in history, the 1st world countries, to see which of them is doing the best and why. A few years ago I took a big stab at the problem by publishing the first iteration of the Successful Societies Scale in the peer reviewed journal Evolutionary Psychology. Based on about two dozen major indicators of social and economic conditions in the most prosperous dozen and a half democracies, the initial version found that the US was at the bottom of the western pile of success, with the most progressive nations at the top. Currently I am working with colleagues with an expanded Successful Societies Scale to get an even more solid and objective result. It features 48 indicators, we threw just about every reasonably reliable measure of eufunction (optimal) and dysfunction into the mix. The analysis dwarfs anything that has gone before. Soon to be submitted to peer review, here are some highlights.
The results show that the US is in many ways number one. In outrageously high rates of homicide and incarceration, juvenile mortality that matches 2nd world levels, adult mortality with lifespans actually decreasing in the Bible Belt, absurdly excessive health expenditures, obesity, mental illness, gonorrhea and syphilis infections, abortions, teen out of wedlock pregnancy, gender inequality including mandated maternity leave, voter participation, marriage duration, exploiting resources, and in income disparity otherwise limited to 2nd world countries. America performs poorly in illicit use of drugs, divorce, leisure time, the education it once was a leader in, same for employment, personal and national debt, the manufacturing base and infrastructure. On the 0-10 scoring of the Successful Societies Scale the US scores a pathetic 3, lowest in the bunch. America is dangerously close to being a 2nd world country.
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Gregory Paul is an independent researcher interested in informing the public about little known yet important aspects of the complex interactions between religion, secularism, culture, economics, politics and societal conditions. His scholarly work (more...