Hans Rosling, a professor at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, is a sword-swallowing statistician, best known for his astonishing moving graphs that bring trends to life and make "data sing." Hans founded Gapminder, which uses moving bubbles to highlight the world’s most important trends.
In the new video above produced for CNN, Hans shows us how the world has progressed in the last hundred and fifty years. The story Hans tells highlights the central idea we need to understand, which is that this new world is less about America falling behind than about the rest of the world catching up to America.
America is indisputably #1 by some key measures. But it is falling behind in many other keys areas. For example:
- The United States is the 4th most competitive country in the world.
- We’re only the 5th best country in which to run a business.
- Our infrastructure ranks 23rd, as compared to other nations.
- We’re 41st in the world on infant mortality…and 49th on life expectancy.
Perhaps most worrying, America is no longer a place where anyone can make it. In a 2005 study of social mobility across generations – basically how likely is it that you can move out of the economic class you were born into – the U.S. came last of the six countries examined, behind Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Canada and even Britain.
There is one important place where we’re #1: On our total debt to other countries.
Now, of course there are many positive places where we’re still #1, too. The U.S. is still the world’s largest economy, we are the world’s largest market for goods, we’re still #1 in innovation.
So…the picture is more mixed than the rhetoric about America as #1 suggests. The question addressed in the special is what it would take to keep America comfortably at # 1. Tune in at 8PM ET this Sunday.
Also, tune in on Sunday at 8PM ET and PT. Fareed Zakaria GPS will air a one-hour special on “Restoring the American Dream,” with scholars Niall Ferguson, Jeffrey Sachs,Dambisa Moyo and Joseph Nye (who will be taking your questions online next week).