How lovely, this will enrage just about everyone

The UK outstrips the United States, Germany, France and Japan for overall progress in living standards, infrastructure and individual opportunity according to the index designed by a team of US economists.

Only Sweden scores more highly overall in the new “Social Progress Index” (SPI), which ranks 50 leading countries by combining figures on everything from health and crime to broadband access and freedom of speech.

Polly will be outraged because we are almost like Sweden and thus her life\’s work is done. Large numbers will be outraged because, well, how could anything be good as we cower under the Cameron Terror?

“If you think of Britain’s self image as straddling the best of Europe and the best of America that is what seems to be coming across in the data,” he said.

That will piss off everyone who thinks we should be more european. Or more American.

Not that this new measure is really all that good: for once you go past truly objective measures of anything then what is good or bad becomes entirely a matter of opinion? What\’s the weighting between wealth and inequality for example? Or wealth and freedom and liberty?

I, for example, think the absolute level of wealth to be more important than inequality. Famously, large numbers of people at least claim that they believe the other way around. I also thjink freedom and liberty more important than wealth: but absolutely every socialist disagrees on that, at least with economic freedom. And of course there are those who think enforced equality is more important that freedom and or liberty: another view I disagree with.

The merit of GDP is that it is just what it is. It\’s a measurement of the value added in the economy. Sure, it doesn\’t measure distribution, doesn\’t measure depreciation of natural resources, lots of problems with it but it is what it is. All of these other indexes are highly contentious precisely because they are, well, they\’re made up of contentious value jusdgements.

9 thoughts on “How lovely, this will enrage just about everyone”

  1. We have freedom of speech? The only country in Europe that was too scared to let people see the Muhammad cartoons? Loads of papers in Europe said “we too are spartacus” but our press was too scared. (Bearing in mind the number of muslims near docklands I can understand why).

  2. I reckon Polly/the Left might like this better than our host and most of his commentariat. Where the survey scores us as top is health. Yes, it appears that the NHS is indeed the envy of the world….

    I quote, without quote marks, from the telegraph: By contrast health spending in Britain is 11th but it tops the table for overall health and wellness.

  3. I agree about GDP.

    The other benefit of measuring GDP is that it measures capacity, to some extent. So people rightly point out that some poorer countries (such as Sri Lanka, when I was a student, although it’s probably gone wrong now) do a better job on healthcare than richer ones like Brazil. Fair enough. But low GDP constrains the ability of a poorer country to achieve good results in health or education, whereas a richer country does have a policy choice. High GDP is not sufficient for a good living standard, but it is necessary.

    Simply to regard it as irrelevant because other things also matter is going too far, I think.

  4. The UN Human Development Index seems a bit more objective: equal weighting to life expectancy, education and GNI (obviously there are still going to be issues with how those are calculated). And happily for us Aussies we come in at number 2 after Norway. The UK is way down at 27…

  5. Does SPI consider the right of people to own personal firearms to be a positive or negative factor in their calculations?

  6. Except that GDP is creaking – if you actually look at how we estimate value added in many service sectors, the methodology is terrible. It was a lot easier to count when the bulk of value added was tangible stuff – food, minerals, machines.

  7. Pingback: A Link to the Past 12/04/2013 | In Defence of Liberty

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