Sundi Rose
April 24, 2015 10:46 am

If you’re reading this article in Norway right now, chances are you have a happier life than most of the other people on the planet. Social progress expert Michael Green has come up with a way to measure a country’s success that has a lot less to do with money than you would think. After all his research and all his findings, Green has determined that the best places to live are Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Standard practices for measuring the success of a country usually includes a heavy lean on the country’s Gross National Product (GNP), sometimes referred to as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). According to Ideas.Ted the GNP, “tallies the value of all the goods and services produced by a country each year,” and has, essentially become, “the yardstick by which we measure a country’s success.”

Green is not OK with this being the measure of a country’s success, suggesting that looking at a country’s economic output is a very short-sighted way to gauge happiness. In the current GNP-based model of tracking national success, the top 100 richest people can do a little better financially in a year and raise the GNP — which makes the country look better as a whole. This doesn’t take into account the other scads of people who are doing poorly or just maintaining their status quo, nor does it even consider actual quality of life or well-being.

Green’s new system, The Social Progress Index recalibrates the dimensions of measuring a country’s success to include three categories: basic human needs, foundations of well being, and opportunity. While the factors of wealth and financial matters still matter in Green’s model, they are not the sole component in deciding who’s doing the best in the world.

Green explains all of this in his TED talk (which is totally fascinating and gives a much more thorough account of these numbers and how they’re measured).

Now, let’s look at the numbers. Once thought to the be the most successful country on the planet, the United States ranks 16th when you use the Social Progress Index, putting countries like Canada, Iceland, and Norway ahead of us.

Norway tops the list for its “exceptional scores across all three dimensions, having excellent access to water and sanitation, doing very well on basic education and offering great personal freedom and choice,” according to Ideas.Ted, but that is coincidental to its high GNP.

The flip side of that coin are the underachievers, and here is where the data starts to really get revealing. Countries that exclude people, for any reason, tend to underperform. The United States is the poorest performing nation by these standards, followed by France and Venezuela.

Ideas.TED explains this, “The U.S. has some of the best healthcare in the world — but not for everyone. We see that exclusion across the U.S.’ scorecard: lack of access to health care, lack of access to education, lack of access to information, lack of access to safety and even — relative to other rich country peers — lack of access to piped water.”

Just like the current system isn’t an accurate picture of the total awesomeness of a country, the new SPI isn’t really a judge of how terrible a country is either. All this means is that we need to do better, and that we have the means to do so.

Looking at data like this is kinda hard to take, but its good for us to hear hard truths about where we are on the world stage, so we can do something about it. I’m all for living in happier country. You?

(Images via Ted, Moods of Norway)

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