The 2011 Legatum Prosperity Index

A friend recently noted that the United States is in 10th place on the Legatum Prosperity Index:

1 Norway (5M)

2 Denmark (6M)

3 Australia (22M)

4 New Zealand (4M)

5 Sweden (9M)

6 Canada (35M)

7 Finland (5M)

8 Switzerland (8M)

9 Netherlands (17M)

10 United States (313M)

Does one of these countries leap out at you as an outlier in terms of size? I’d say so. If we broke up the United States into 62 countries with 5 million people each, with a few left over, how many of those countries would be much richer than the richest country on this list? I’m guessing the answer is comfortably above 0. 

Note also that the United States is an outlier in another respect: it is the only post-slavery society on the least. Is it reasonable to believe that enslaving large numbers of people, i.e., denying them access to basic human liberties and the ability to educate themselves, etc., is likely to depress future national economic performance? I’d say so, particularly if there were several more decades of violent subjugation of the descendants of those who had been enslaved.

What is really remarkable, in my view, is that the United States is in the same weight class as picayune societies that never experienced this collective trauma. One hypothesis as to why this is the case might be the fact that the U.S. has had a relatively free and open economy for a relatively long period of time, though of course that advantage is eroding in many respects. 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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