Does The United States Have Its Priorities Wrong?
Posted by hkarner - 16. August 2009
aus dem Harvard Business Review Blog von meinem Freund Chris Meyer und Julia Kirby (HBR) – sie sind übrigens beide Amerikaner:
In the 20th Century, many people in the United States and elsewhere were raised on the idea that the U.S. economy led the world in wealth, health, income, innovation and education. In 1992, Francis Fukuyama of the RAND Institute published “The End of History and the Last Man,” asserting that in light of the collapse of the communist bloc, “the advent of the Western liberal democracy may signal the end point of humanity’s sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government.” The protracted growth of the U.S. economy and rapid advancement of democracy around the world did nothing to undermine that thesis.
Slowly, data have emerged that belie this notion of supremacy that make it easier to reach a clear-minded assessment of actual performance. Some evidence:
- In GDP (nominal) per capita, the United States ranks 16th, behind 11 European countries, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates (while still marginally ahead of other large advanced economies, like the UK and Germany).
- Using the GINI coefficient, a standard measure of income disparity, the United States does considerably worse: a score of 45, against Germany’s 28, Sweden’s 23, and Canada’s 32 (A higher score denotes more inequality in income). First is Slovenia.
- America, with all its riches, has 12% of its population living in poverty, while a country like Norway has 4%.
- American children aged 15 consistently rank poorly in reading, science, and math skills compared to their peers. In all three realms they fail to reach the top twenty. The story is happier in higher education, as 13 of the top 20 universities in the world are located within the United States.
- In health care, the United States ranks 1st in terms of cost and responsiveness, but 57th in financial fairness and 37th in overall quality, according to the WHO. (France – whose universal healthcare system was judged best overall–ranked 26th in terms of financial fairness and 4th in terms of cost.)
- American cities fall substantially behind their international peers in terms of quality of life, as ranked by stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. In the Americas, the top 5 cities were all Canadian. The United States consistently fails to get a city in the top ten of such rankings, with San Francisco being closest. Atlanta and Washington DC got honorable mentions in the quality of infrastructure ratings, ranking 15th and 24th, respectively.( The Economist Intelligence Unit and the Mercer Group,)
All these factors play into individuals’ happiness, so perhaps it’s no surprise to see America’s ranking on that score. In a global study people were asked, “All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?”Among U.S. residents, the happiness index was 30.1, ranking 114th globally. Another assessment of satisfaction with life ranked America 23rd, better but still underperforming most other advanced economies. And…the Congo. Costa Rica is number one. Similarly, the Human Development Index (HDI), widely cited as the best indicator of a country’s societal performance, ranks the United States 15th.
Try to reconcile scores like this with the claim that the United States has a best-of-show economy and the question naturally arises: how are we defining “best?” What exactly are we maximizing? And then: should we reconsider that?