By Dana Sherne
A groundbreaking new study, the Social Progress Index, suggests that economic development is “necessary but not sufficient” for social progress and quality of life.The bad news for America? It isn’t even close to being number one.
Each component of the rankings includes a range of subcategories that reveal a greater diversity than can be reflected in a single measure like gross domestic product. G8 countries Germany (#12), the United Kingdom (#13) and Japan (#14) fare pretty well overall. The rankings of fast-growing economies like China (#90) and India (#102), meanwhile, show that despite despite their fast-paced development in recent years, they still have more to do. And the U.S.? It comes in at 16th place.
Breaking the numbers down, the U.S. ranks 31st in one of the subcategories for basic human needs: personal safety. This measure includes violent crime and homicide rates. Indeed, in the latter category, the U.S. is tied at number 41 with turbulent countries like Ukraine and Lebanon. In the political terror sub-category, the U.S. ranks 80th, along with Venezuela, Indonesia and Cuba.
The U.S. scores especially badly in health and wellness (#70) and ecosystem sustainability (#69). Health and wellness is based on measures like the obesity rate, where the U.S. ranks, perhaps unsurprisingly, at 125. The only countries with lower scores are Mexico, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.
Fareed speaks with Michael Porter, a professor at the Harvard Business School, about a groundbreaking new Social Progress Index – and how the United States is lagging on many indicators. Watch the video for the full interview or on GPS this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
You were shocked at what you learned about America.
Yes, I think this wasn’t the picture of America that I think many of us Americans have – that we are a leader, a social leader, that we've advanced the ball in terms of opportunity and the needs of our citizens. And it shows anything but that.
So if you look at the Social Progress Index, on the whole, what's striking is the top countries are New Zealand, Switzerland, Iceland, these small countries. But basically then a lot of European countries and Canada beat the United States.
The United States is 16, Ireland is ahead of it, Japan is ahead of it, Britain is ahead of it, Germany is ahead of it.
What does that tell us? What does that measure?
So this effort tries to really, for the first time ever, take let's call it the social or community or quality of life dimensions of a society, and capture those in a rigorous measurement framework – using the best data available in the world. That's the best and objective measures of these various multiple things. But of course, social progress is a broad concept.
Right. And that's where you break it down into these subcategories. Health and wellness, Japan is number one, Italy is number two, Switzerland is number three. You have to go all the way to 70 to get to the United States.
It's an area where the U.S. – if you actually look objectively, we're just not delivering. We actually spend the most money on this of any country in the world, probably in all of recorded history, in terms of our health care budget every year. But in terms of the actual outcomes – and by the way, the Social Progress Index measures the outcomes you achieve, not how much you spend, not how much you care, not whether you have a big heart…
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
On GPS this Sunday: GPS will bring you the latest on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Then, we'll go in-depth on sanctions. Many said they would never work, and that Russian President Vladimir Putin wouldn't care. But have they actually done the trick there...and in Iran, too?
Also, Fareed will take a look at a fascinating new international ranking from Harvard's Michael Porter. The United States spends more on its military than the next nine highest spending countries combined. It has the highest GDP in the world. The rest of the world can't get enough of America's sneakers, songs, sodas, movies and iPhones. And 8 of the 10 richest people in the world are American. So why does the U.S. only rank 16th in quality of life? Fareed speaks with Porter about the study.
And, a week after three people were killed in what was an allegedly anti-Semitic attack in Kansas, Fareed will speak with Simon Schama, author of The Story of the Jews, about why Jews have been a target for more than 2,000 years.
By Tyler Cullis and Jamal Abdi, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Tyler Cullis is a policy associate at the National Iranian American Council. Jamal Abdi is policy director at NIAC. The views expressed are the authors’ own.
The United States could be on the verge of securing a historic agreement over Iran’s nuclear program, one that verifiably limits it and opens the door to further cooperation between the two countries. Yet with a diplomatic victory on the horizon, the rhetoric of those who have long opposed any diplomatic resolution is reaching dizzying heights of disingenuousness.
During a recent Senate hearing, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) hit out at reports that negotiations with Iran may produce a deal that “only” extends Iran’s nuclear breakout timeline to 6 to 12 months.
“I don’t think we did everything that we’ve done to only get a six to twelve month lead time,” Menendez lamented as he grilled Secretary of State John Kerry over the progress of the talks.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz piled on shortly after, calling such a timeline a “[U.S.] surrender to Iran” and “unacceptable.”
By Fareed Zakaria
Over the past 2 months, we have watched what has looked like a minor version of the Cold War ramp up between the West and Russia. And it has left many people wondering, "How did we get here?" Was this confrontation inevitable or did the West mishandle Russia, from the start?
In the mishandling camp is Jack Matlock, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, who watched from Spaso House in Moscow as Mikhail Gorbachev presided over the end of the Cold War and then the end of the Communism. He argues, as the title of his recent Washington Post essay puts it, "The United States has treated Russia as a loser since the end of the Cold War."
In the years right after the Cold War ended, several American statesmen and writers urged a more generous policy towards Moscow.
By Will Marshall, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Will Marshall is the president of the Progressive Policy Institute. The views expressed are his own.
No country has embraced renewable energy more avidly than Germany. But a host of untoward realities – soaring electricity bills, rising carbon emissions and growing dependence on Russian gas – are intruding rudely on Germany’s green dream.
In response to such worries, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved a plan last week to trim subsidies for solar and wind power. The proposed law would also exempt fewer companies from paying a stiff renewable energy surcharge, an exemption that has come under heavy fire in Europe for giving German industry an unfair competitive boost.
In truth, the proposed energy reform law would merely slow down Germany’s drive toward green energy. It doesn’t alter the visionary (some would say utopian) goals of the country’s policy of Energiewende, or energy switchover. Launched in 2000, when Social Democrats ran the government, the Energiewende calls for abolishing nuclear power and envisions renewables providing 80 percent of Germany’s power by mid-century.
By Fareed Zakaria
“Thanks to McCutcheon, only quid pro quo corruption is sufficient to trigger any restrictions on campaign contributions—meaning, direct bribery of the Abscam or American Hustle variety, presumably captured on videotape for the world to see. The appearance of corruption? Forget about it. Restrictions on elected officials soliciting big money? Forget about them, too,” writes Norm Ornstein in The Atlantic.
“To anyone who has actually been around the lawmaking process or the political process more generally, this is mind-boggling. It makes legal what has for generations been illegal or at least immoral. It returns lawmaking to the kind of favor-trading bazaar that was common in the Gilded Age.”
“On the surface, the speed with which Iraq’s new political order has fallen apart is a puzzle. Although bombings never stopped, there had been relative stability since the spring of 2008, when Maliki, emboldened by the successful U.S.-backed Sunni revolt against al Qaeda, known as the Awakening, set out to disband the Shiite militias endangering law and order in Basra and Baghdad,” argues Ned Parker in the New York Review of Books.
“The campaign, supported by the Americans, produced a surge of patriotism among both Shiites and Sunnis. By 2010, when the country was preparing to stage its second national elections for a four-year government, Iraq seemed poised to cast off its divisions. Maliki, running for reelection, had learned to present himself as both staunchly Shiite and a leader for all Iraqis. Resisting pressure from other Shiite religious parties and Iran, he ran his own list of candidates, including Sunni tribesmen and secular politicians…Yet Maliki and his Shiite Islamist supporters were unable to shed their deep mistrust of those they believed had fought them in the past. Rather than being integrated into the political system, several dozen leaders of the Awakening ended up dead or in jail, or forced into exile.”
Fareed speaks with Helene Gayle, president of CARE USA, and Bill Easterly, professor of economics at New York University and author of The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor, about whether foreign aid is effective. Watch the video for the full discussion.
So the context here is Bill Gates did his annual letter in which he argued that our foreign aid has been astonishingly effective and that people should stop attacking it. One of the people who has attacked it and whom Gates mentions by name often when he makes this point is Bill Easterly. So, Bill, what is your response to Gates' basic argument?
Easterly: Well, you know what sends me at the moment is that foreign aid is really on the wrong side of the debate that we see going on right now in the world between freedom and autocracy. And we see, too often, the aid agencies and the philanthropists, like even Mr. Gates himself, siding with the autocrats in many poor countries against the poor people who are rising up, seeking their own freedom. But aid is not on their side.
Well, but that's not fair. What he's arguing is that the aid given to any country, particularly if it's aid for public health, which is a lot of what Helene does...I should let you. You make the case...
Gayle: I think the case has been made that aid is very effective and that being able to provide resources in the right way makes a difference. It saves lives. It educates children. It helps to feed people. And I think we know that, for instance, rates of poverty have decreased dramatically over the last decades.
And so I think the numbers are there that show that, clearly, aid has made a difference. I think the debate is really around how can we make aid more effective.
International attention might currently be focused on Crimea and eastern Ukraine, but does another territorial dispute involving a major power, this one in the South China Sea, also have the potential to flare up into full-blown conflict?
Robert D. Kaplan, chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor and author of Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, will be taking readers’ questions about China’s regional claims, its relations with its Southeast Asian neighbors, tensions with Japan, and the prospects for conflict between East Asia’s two major powers.
Please leave your questions in the comments section below.
For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Believe it or not, there is one country on earth that is home to both U.S. and Russian soldiers, the opposing nations stationed a mere 20 miles from each other. It's a landlocked, mountainous country, and its parliament has been known to sacrifice sheep.
We’re talking about Kyrgyzstan, where the Transit Center at Manas has been a main staging ground for American troops and supplies to move into Afghanistan since 2001. It's less than an hour's drive from Russia's Kant airbase – so close they could practically borrow cups of sugar. But you can see from the pictures in the video that this military neighborhood will soon come to an end.
The Kyrgyz parliament voted not to extend the American lease, and the U.S. has been given its eviction notice. It must vacate by July. U.S. forces are getting ready to go, packing up boxes and breaking down large tents.
Will this put some much needed space between the United States and Russian militaries? Actually, not so much. The U.S. will now use its newly outfitted Transit Center in Romania – 250 miles from Sevastopol, where there is, of course, a Russian base on the Crimean peninsula.