Vexen Crabtree 2015


Vexen Crabtree's Live Journal

Sociology, Theology, Anti-Religion and Exploration: Forcing Humanity Forwards

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Vexen Crabtree 2015

What is the Best Country?

All countries are good at some things, bad at others. It is impossible to make wide comparisons between countries in any meaningful way. It's like asking "Is Pizza or Pasta best?" There is no correct answer because the question is too simplistic.


If you WERE comparing countries, what factors would you take into account? I AM doing such an ill-conceived comparison... the issues I've raised in order to arrive at results so far, are:

* Acievement of Women's Right to Vote on an Equal Basis with Men (Source: Lisa Tuttle 'Encyclopedia of Feminism' 1986)
* Life expectancy (Sources: Anthony Giddens "Sociology" 4th edition, & CIA World Factbook 2004)
* Quality of Life (Source: The Economist's "World in 2005" publication)
* Most Competitive Economy (Source: Annual World Economic Forum)
* Gay Rights (Sources:, Stonewall, etc)
* Obesity (Sources: OECD Health Data 2004, 3rd edition and International Obesity Task Force", EU Platform Briefing Paper)

Factors that I'm DIScounting are: Natural resources, country size, population size, etc.

The five best countries so far are... three main ones plus two secondary ones... Sweden, Finland, Norway, Australia and Switzerland. Anyone care to suggest further countries or heuristics?


This page is now launched on
and further comments can be found on

  • 1
Finland tends to rank highly

... as it does in many topics, you're right! But these topics include good and bad! The country in Europe with most violent crime and the most expensive country!

If there was a category for "most great bands per ... whatever" then Finland would rank top =P

(Deleted comment)
Women's Emancipation:
1893 New Zealand
1902 Australia
1906 Finland
1913 Norway
1916 Denmark, Iceland
Not bad, all 6 countries can rightly boast about that one for at least a century, I think!

"Global Competitiveness Report" by the World Economic Forum, Country Rankings 2004-2005
1. Finland
2. USA
3. Sweden
4. Taiwan
5. Denmark
6. Norway
7. Singapore
8. Switzerland

Whether: Well whatever you're used to is normal, so I can't use weather comparisons.

Literacy! *That's* what I need stats on! But *scratches head*, how do I take into account immigration? If a country, for the good of humanity takes in lots of refugees from an illiterate country, it should score high for doing that... but taking into account illiteracy without taking immigration into account is unfair. Stats are never simple, least of all demographics and politics! Hi ho, hi ho...

(Deleted comment)
Literacy... ALL developed countries get 100%/99% (depending on how/who you count), with only a few on 98%, and the USA on 97%. The same trend exists for child literacy. In short... it's all too close to compare reasonably. Ah well.

(Deleted comment)
That is not confined to the US. Many similar occurences occur here in the UK. c.f. Lynne Truss and her book.

I don't think anything makes up for spending time in the country. Crime statistics, natural environments—you can tell a lot from these things, but they aren't everything. For example, I love France now; I know I could happily live the rest of my life here. Scandinavia looks like the perfect living environment, and in many ways it is, but in my experience it's peaceful, well-ordered and socially just a little bit boring.

And of course, different parts of the same country can be much more different than the average of two different countries.

Nothing makes up for living there, it's true. I could ask people... but I don't like limited, anecdotal evidence... I'd (being anal as I am) have to start sampling properly in order to get data based on living in the country. Luckily, lots of other people have done that already... one factor I've used is the Quality of Life report via The Economist, and that actually took into account polls on such questions as "Are you happy..." etc, and comparing results by country.

Scandanavia may look beautiful, and may be boring... but both things do depend on the nature-scape and lifestyle you're used to and looking for. Very hard to compare morally or, as to be used as an example for others to follow. I'm looking for things where other people will get inspired to improve themselves by following the example of these countries. For example I highlight Sweden's exemplary recycling record; but I can't promote it's beauty because it's very difficult to do it objectively and more, it's not something that is readily made manifest by others in their own country! (Can the UK ever, through effort, produce the beautiful landscape of Scandanavia? A comparison would be unfair...)

I'm not sure what single stat would take it into account, but concern for the environment (and actually doin something about it) should be in the rankings, as imo it shows that a country's taking a slightly more long term view of thing, and willing to make 'sacrifices' for that kind of thing.

Having a quick glance at the contires you've already got, I know Scandanavia at least has a good rep in this area, and it wouldn't suprise me if Oz and Switzerland did too.

Out of curiosity, how badly does the UK do in all this? *g*

I want to include that, and make it a weighted one too because it's very important. But there are only specific stats available. Stats for CO2 emissions on roads, in industry, etc. Stats for energy usage at home. But as you mention, there doesn't seem to be a simple stat that encompasses it all. I know!! Rank them in the chronological order that they ratified Kyoto Protocol!

And I might add petrol tax too, or at least have a look to see what the variation looks like.

Yeah Scandanavia and Switzerland both are good at environmental stuff. If was this, primarily, that make me look at those countries for being "bests", although they've topped many other lists too.

UK... is present on some of the top sections. Occassionally we do badly. Not really a contendor though.

another thing I'm curious is abut how much varience there is between the top and bottom of your list - is Sweden a bit better than Switzerland, or a *lot* better?

Too hard to say, without creating a table and granting points, the judgement is only subjective. Switzerland hasn't appeared at the top of many of the heuristics I've used though. There's not enough variation of information yet to be able to discriminate quite so well. It's all a bit fudgy, but stats of this kind are never going to simple to play with!

Rank them in the chronological order that they ratified Kyoto Protocol!

But wouldn't that be a negative? As in how easy the government concerned has succumbbed to environmental idiocy?

Well it doesn't matter what the reasons are, as long as they do "succomb". Most governments are as concerned as their populations' about the affects of our industries and pollutants on the natural world. Countries can serve as good examples whether or not they've made steps in the right direction for the wrong reasons or not. As long as we start doing *something*, it might be ok in the future.

But for the record, I know for a fact that the first 15 signaturies at least all done so for very considered reasons, not just under pressure from idiocy, but out of genuine concern for what the future is going to be like if we don't curb emissions.

The Earth's Climate has always fluctuated (cf the "Little Ice Age" of the late Medieval Period) - the amount of GH gases that are artifically produced is a tiny fraction of the natural greenhouse gases present. (

What would solve things would be to give up useless tranzi nonsense like the doomed Kyoto "Protocol" and instead, as a stop-gap until fusion gets online, to use nuclear fission. But the green luddites will not have a word of it.

Since London, summer after summer, started becoming envoloped in lethal smog during our more naive years, it has been evident and obvious that our casual use of combustion fuels was having an immediate and long-lasting affect on the environment. The yellow thick smog that used to kill dozens of people in London has gone now thanks to sensible controls. Combined with the increasing acid rain, loss of ozone layer and build-up of carbon monoxides and other poisons in the air, ground and waters around our cities, we are destroying everything and it's not nature doing it, it's US. Definately us.

AND EVEN if it was part of a natural increase in harmful chemicals, then it is very much in our interests to stop such as increase. We have to! Is your plan just to wait, and see who survives? Just to carry on and hope it's going to be ok? Because with the way we've made things, it's NOT going to be ok. In *every* environmental arena we are causing direct harm.

Kyoto is nowhere near enough. It was designed as a stop-gap protocol as short/medium term initial step. Unless we stop churning out all the crap we are (including CFCs and all the others), it is not going to be possible to reverse the climate change that we're already causing. Kyoto is designed as a quick-fix, an initial sensible step, after Kyoto we will need a much more stringent, powerful and long-lasting serious cutback on emissions in order to allow nature to return our environment to a stable state.

You say as a "stop-gap until fusion gets online"... do you really know how long it is until fusion replaces carbon fuels? Far too long. We can't give up Kyoto, it's the only sensible thing we're doing worldwide, and it's going to have to be stretched itself if it is to do enough.

What would have us do, instead?

After Locklock, we use Nuclear Fission:

Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies and the media. These fears are unjustified, and nuclear energy from its start in 1952 has proved to be the safest of all energy sources. We must stop fretting over the minute statistical risks of cancer from chemicals or radiation. Nearly one third of us will die of cancer anyway, mainly because we breathe air laden with that all pervasive carcinogen, oxygen. If we fail to concentrate our minds on the real danger, which is global warming, we may die even sooner, as did more than 20,000 unfortunates from overheating in Europe last summer.

I find it sad and ironic that the UK, which leads the world in the quality of its Earth and climate scientists, rejects their warnings and advice, and prefers to listen to the Greens. But I am a Green and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy.

Even if they were right about its dangers, and they are not, its worldwide use as our main source of energy would pose an insignificant threat compared with the dangers of intolerable and lethal heat waves and sea levels rising to drown every coastal city of the world. We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilisation is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear - the one safe, available, energy source - now or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet.

Firstly, I am very pro-nuclear. I believe in nuclear power, especially in a modern, stable country like the UK and most of the rest of Europe. The "bad example", Chernobyl, is a one-off that will not repeat often. I think the benefits of nuclear power outweight the potential disasters, as long as we are very careful, which the UK is.

The Labour Party has said that they will revive the nuclear program next term. (I'm not voting them them anymore though).

I agree, the dangers of nuclear power are serious, but we *have* to find alternatives to combustion fuels, and nuclear is a tried-and-tested method.

I think a lot of opposition is based on ignorance. Most opinions, most the time, are based on ignorance.

Now, we should be persuing a more nuclear, less-combustion policy. Also, we should be following Kyoto. One of them working negatively by reducing emissions, the other positively by creating alternatives. Without doing both we can't win, but by failing to do one of them, we will definately lose. Everyone.

I agree with everything you said apart from on Kyoto.

I find it odd you're excluding some of what to me are pretty important metrics. I'd definitely want to include average population density (because I'm somewhat of a misanthrope and don't want to live anywhere too crowded); as an unashamed petrolhead I'd also include motorway speed-limit, fuel-tax rates and length of decent road per 100Km. of land-area.

Another worthwhile couple of metrics to me would be the percentage of population owning their own homes/businesses.

Suicide-rate per 100,000 of the population might also be worth looking at.

[My general feeling is that should I be forced to exit the UK I'd probably feel most at-home were I to take up residence in the USA or Australia.]

Population density isn't an issue... it's not the populations' own fault how big/small the country is, no personal effort on their part can change that situation, and no matter how much I proclaim that a country is "good" or "best" because of it's population density, no other country can use it as an example to follow suit. In short, it's an unfair metric and not one that improves the world by highlighting it. What people find crowded is down to what they're used to, it's not possible to compare and decide on a best density in order to rank countries.

I do want to include petrol tax, ranked in order of petrol tax. In my mind, whichever countries are taxing petrol most are doing what is best for the world.

There are stats for motorway densities, I recall Finland has the lowest in Europe. But I can't decide if that implies more efficient alternative transport (which would be good), less usage of roads (which would be good), or, failure of to developed a motorway network (which would be bad). So it's not possible to make a ranking without an in-depth study of road usage & alternatives per country.

There's no way to "rank" speed limits, because there's no "obvious" "best" speed limit off which to base a relative index.

% owning homes would be the UK, most of all, we're a nation of homeowners. But that's a peculurality of the way our society its, most countries do not have a "thing" for owning homes, that heuristic is too culturally tied up, it's not really a measure of anything and I wouldn't know whether it was better for the world if people owned or rented.

I've considered suicide rate but I don't really know what it says about a country if it has a high or low suicide rate. It seems complicated and I need to look into it.

Since posting yesterday I've added: Asylum Seeker Acceptance Rates

I do want to include petrol tax, ranked in order of petrol tax. In my mind, whichever countries are taxing petrol most are doing what is best for the world.

But then the whole thing becomes very subjective, as there are a lot of people out there (me for example) who would disagree with you that petrol tax is a good thing ;-)

Well, higher petrol taxes decreases petrol consumption, which is good no matter what the governments' actual reasons for doing it. You can set a good example by accident!

I guess we just have different measures of "good". I'm a fan of self-mobility and view private transport as the only practicable way to achieve this in the sort of low-population-density worlds I like.

When we have nuclear, efficient electric or non-consumable energy sources powering private transport, it will no longer be necessary to curb consumption (because consumption will have decreased). But, it's not a low-population density world we live in, with the mass of humans hurtling way past 6 billion people, so no matter how much we're fans of self-mobility, the practical reality is something else. My life is about making sure we GET to the future with our morals and world intact!

Perhaps you could add contraception usage rates to your index? Is this measured or collated?

Isn't Canada meant to be one of the best places to live, or something like that?


The last major quality of life survey, thanks to The Economist, put Ireland firmly in the lead as the "best place to live", followed by Switzerland and Norway.

- I'm surprised about the amount of violent crime - yes it happens, but its mainly inside family/ wife beating under alcohol, rapes and suicides. robberies and in general use of violence with crime is rare. (relatively low amount of immigrants from non-european countries might count on this - though about 10000 is accepted each year). Also violence as political method has never been supported here - compared to Sweden where rightwing and leftwing activists regulary beat eachother.
Our education system is excellent (though crumbling all the time), lots of good nature, we have quite homogenous population united by our language (though almost everyone speaks and understands english) and the fact that each male has to do with army/civil service.

I assume we will do better than most other countries also related to peak oil - small population and large areas of land do ease self-sustainability. Infrastructure is good and affects of climatechange colder-or-warmer wont change major catastrophies here.

Cons - cold winters, high taxes, small in sense of subcultures, long distances

Number of McDonalds. ;)

Hmm, how about something that takes into account a country's creativity? Obviously it's difficult to measure, I don't think anything like the government-allocated arts budget would be useful.. number of recognised artists and bands? I dunno.. I'd also say something about nightlife, or at least entertainment in general, but again, that's not very comparable.

You seem to be looking for 'good example' type things, so your petrol tax idea seems good.. or rather, how about investment in renewable sources of energy compared to GDP?

I like comparisons like this (although obviously they're always biased in some way or other). It shows what people are looking for, and what they're really getting...

As for countries...

.. here's another vote for Iceland.

Crime rate is a possibility, though depends on what you percieve as a crime... gun crime and/or hate crime rate, maybe?

Something regarding the amount of votes in the last election that went to far right parties?

Agree with all except possibly:

Obesity (Sources: OECD Health Data 2004, 3rd edition and International Obesity Task Force", EU Platform Briefing Paper)

Not sure about this. Obesity in *some* cases is a personal choice, and it could be argued that greater incidence of obesity indicates greater economic worth.

I would add to that one very important rating you have missed out:

Freedom House Rating (

Since 1972, Freedom House has published an annual assessment of the state of freedom in all countries (and select territories), now known as Freedom in the World. Individual countries are evaluated based on a checklist of questions on political rights and civil liberties that are derived in large measure from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Each country is assigned a rating for political rights and a rating for civil liberties based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest degree of freedom present and seven the lowest level of freedom. The combined average of each country’s political rights and civil liberties ratings determines an overall status of Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.

and GDP or GNP, of course.

In 90% of cases it's personal choice. Human beings, naturally, are not obese. Genetic components are not the main factor - a hundred years ago, we did not have an obesity epidemic in the West, now we do. Genetic influences cannot have increased the incidence of natural obesity by that much over only a few generations, the increase has been massive, not gradual. Also, we *know* it's personal choice from studying the diets and habits of obese people. There are many, many rich people in many rich countries (take Switzerland & Finland for example, both very rich with some of the highest GNP per head, yet both very fit countries).

I like the Freedom House idea. Unfortunately, every country that has been appearing on my lists has scored a "1", with political and civil freedom, meaning that it's useless for differentiating.

  • 1

Log in