It's a U.S. presidential election year and with it comes a wealth of patriotic platitudes offered by various Republican and Democratic candidates. Chief among these bromides is the oft-repeated assertion that America is the greatest nation on Earth.
Until now, I've accepted that statement as gospel. But rather than simply take it on faith, I figured it was an appropriate time to assess and confirm its factual underpinnings.
For example, life expectancy seems like a good thing to check when considering which country is numero uno. According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. ranks number 34 in this category. So, not number one, but an average life expectancy of 79 is not bad.
Infant mortality sounds like a good metric to use. If you've got a great health care system and a healthy population, chances are your country will rank well in this category. The World Factbook issued by the CIA ranks infant mortality from worst to best, with Afghanistan being number one with the worst rate and Monaco ranking 224 with the lowest or best rate. The United States comes in at number 167, just between Serbia and Croatia.
Let's try again. Maybe the average education level is a good way to assess a nation's ranking. Surely the greatest nation in the world will have one of the most highly educated citizenry. Or maybe not, since the OECD ranks the U.S. as number seven out of its membership of 36 countries.
I don't know what's more disappointing, the fact that most of this year's presidential wannabes are wrong or that the only candidate who's got it right is Donald Trump.
So, not everything is top-shelf in America, but there's no denying that it's the wealthiest nation on the planet. OK, so maybe China is now number one in that category, but the U.S. surely still leads the list on a per-capita basis. Apparently not if you can believe the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the CIA, which peg the U.S. at number ten, nine and 12, respectively.
It could be that I'm just looking at the wrong factors in assessing America's greatness. It turns out that there is one category in which the United States is a clear leader among major nations: its prison population rate. It's more than China's, Russia's and even Cuba's, so let's just forget that metric for now.
America rightly prides itself on having the best health care system in the world, and the World Health Organization has confirmed that the U.S. ranks number one in per capita health care expenditures. Unfortunately, that same organization ranks the U.S. as number 37 when it comes to the effectiveness of its system.
But these are all objective measurements. Given that America is the only nation that has codified the pursuit of happiness as a personal right in one of its founding documents, a subjective analysis would probably be more meaningful.
Luckily, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network has published the World Happiness Report which ranks countries on how happy their citizens are. Much to my surprise, the United States only comes in at number 13.
Sadly, it looks like America is not the greatest nation on Earth. I don't know what's more disappointing, the fact that most of this year's presidential wannabes are wrong or that the only candidate who's got it right is Donald Trump.
After all, he's the one who wants to make America great again. Personally, however, I think the average American has a better chance of achieving that goal with someone like Bernie Sanders or possibly by moving to Denmark, Norway or Sweden.
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